How The Physiopedia MOOCs Contribute To Digital Health Transformation

Digital Health Week, which takes places between the 29th November and 3rd December, is a global week of action to advocate for digital health and its critical role in providing health for all by 2030.

Access to high quality education is an essential part of a strong and sustainable health system which serves the needs of the population. For most clinicians around the world accessing education is simple and readily accessible however for some, particularly but not exclusively in low income settings, it is more challenging. High costs, poor transport links and political factors make accessing training difficult for large parts of the world.

The annual Physiopedia MOOC is a great example of how technology and digital transformation can help make access to education equitable. Through the use of basic and accessible technology we have been able to deliver training to thousands of clinicians around the world and make education equitable for all. Most importantly though, we have been able to help clinicians meet the needs of their patients.

What Exactly are MOOC’s?

If you are unfamiliar with MOOCs, these are free web-based courses that run in an online environment available globally and open for anyone to participate in. There are many different varieties of these types of courses and are created for a wide range of reasons.

Physiopedia MOOCs are created in relation to identified needs in low resourced and developing, or conflict / disaster contexts and are rehabilitation centric. Our hope is that the education directly connects to health and social care professionals who need it the most. 

Digital Transformation in Action

MOOCs help us address some of the current profound and unmet needs in relation to rehabilitation globally through free, innovative and quality online education and continuing professional development, ensuring equality in access to education on a global level.

Over the past 5 years, 63,489 learners from over 140 countries registered to participate in Physiopedia MOOCs, with 3072 learners residing in low income countries. Of those that have registered, over 50,000 or 83% were physiotherapists with experience ranging from student learners (27%) to clinicians with over five years of experience (16%). Other health care professionals have also registered included occupational therapists, medical doctors,  nurses, prosthetists and orthotists. 

Many clinicians have explained how their clinical practice has been directly impacted by the courses. From large service re-evaluation to individuals who have been motivated to try to make changes in their service delivery, the MOOCs have led to changes which make lasting impressions for the users of the services.

The Lower Limb Amputee Rehabilitation Course for example, motivated an multidisciplinary team in South Africa to develop a post prosthetic rehab program as they felt their patients were not properly trained after discharge from our hospital. 

The team used the knowledge gained during the course to change their practice and the nurses have now changed from using soft bandages to semi rigid bandages. They are also helping patients speed up their healing process by giving dietary advice which has wider lifestyle benefits.

This course has affected every single member of my department, I can see it in the way they are treating, assessing & referring their amputee patients. – MOOC Participant

The accessibility of the MOOCs also has the ability to empower other rehabilitation professions to learn new skills and adapt to fill gaps in services when required. A participant of the most recent rehabilitation in health systems MOOC works in a setting which doesn’t have access to enough speech and language therapists. The knowledge gained during the course provided them with the understanding of their scope of practice to provide interventions which they felt was outside of their scope of practice.

Following completion of the Understanding Rehabilitation MOOC validated that I can step up and provide different interventions within reason in order for my patients to achieve their optimal capacity. – MOOC Participant

Over the course of the past five years Physiopedia has shown that MOOC’s offer an opportunity to provide quality and accessible education for rehabilitation professionals worldwide. Furthermore it demonstrates that digital health transformation doesn’t have to rely on the latest technology to have a lasting impact.