Free open course to help doctors join the eHealth revolution

30 August 2016

Australia is in the midst of an eHealth revolution and medical practitioners who don't adopt new technology in their healthcare delivery risk being left behind, according to a University of Sydney expert.

eHealth MOOC

"eHealth isn't going to replace clinicians, but it will replace clinicians who don't use it," said Inaugural Professor in eHealth, Tim Shaw, from the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Professor Shaw is leading the University of Sydney's first dedicated health-related Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), a free and accessible primer aimed at encouraging medical practitioners to integrate eHealth into their clinical care.

Launched on 29 August, the eHealth MOOC is run through the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Health Sciences, drawing on cross-disciplinary expertise and real-world case studies from across the University.

"We have apps that are promising to cure everything under the sun, but with little evidence of whether they work or not," said Professor Shaw.

"At the same time eHealth is seen as quite threatening to some people and many clinicians still complain that electronic medical records are adding to a clinician’s workload rather than providing any real support for clinical decision-making.

"Our MOOC is about grounding real health professionals to see what the implications of eHealth are for their practice, and then how they can start at all levels – from young, technologically-savvy clinicians through to more established practitioners – to build this into their work in a comprehensive and cohesive way."

eHealth affords patients the opportunity to take healthcare into their own hands, from mobile apps storing personal health data through to SMS coaching between patient and practitioner. Yet we are only just beginning to scratch the surface of what's possible with these innovations, said Professor Shaw.

"eHealth is already transforming the way that healthcare is delivered. Our MOOC is designed as a starter pack to help health professionals understand the key issues and how they can start to get the most from health data, work with their patients in the use of apps and devices, and find new technology-enhanced ways of communicating and practicing."

We need to integrate the explosion of wellness-type applications such as Fitbit with chronic disease management, to keep people well and out of healthcare.
Professor Tim Shaw

The course showcases several innovative projects at the University of Sydney, including new apps and e-tools developed by mental health experts at the Brain and Mind Centre to help improve young peoples' mental health and wellbeing, while giving practical examples of how to incorporate such mobile technologies and virtual tele-consultation across the full spectrum of healthcare.

The eHealth course is part of a rollout of seven MOOCs at the University of Sydney, with the first course on teaching music in the 21st century launched in April this year. A second health MOOC on chronic disease prevention, also developed at the Charles Perkins Centre, is due to launch later this year.

The courses are offered through Coursera, a leading global massive open online course provider.