University of Leeds student doctors swap textbooks for iPhones

28 August, 2010

The University of Leeds is issuing smartphones to all fourth and fifth year medical students, giving them access to progress files and assessment modules built by MyKnowledgeMap.

The University of Leeds is issuing smartphones to all fourth and fifth year medical students, giving them access to progress files and assessment modules built by MyKnowledgeMap.

This will be the first time that a UK medical school has provided undergraduates with all the tools they need to study off-campus via mobile phone technology.

MyKnowledgeMap provided the suite of applications for the smartphones which allow the students to undertake assessments.  It also provided the institutional software application to allow the management of assessments and the review of student responses.

"This is a fantastic scheme and one that Leeds should be proud of," said Professor David Cottrell, Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds. "By equipping our students with smartphones, we are putting a whole suite of training tools and educational resources in the palm of their hand."

How the scheme works

Under the pioneering scheme, 520 medical students will be loaned an iPhone 3GS 16GB for the remainder of their course. At this stage of the Leeds medical degree, undergraduates typically spend much of their time in hospitals, GP surgeries and community health clinics. They can find it difficult to keep in regular contact with tutors and have to carry around any reference manuals or record books that they might need during their work placement.

Both of these problems will now be resolved. The smartphones will be pre-loaded with a range of dedicated 'apps' that will let students record notes on interesting cases whilst still on the wards, and test their knowledge of procedures or protocols they have just observed.  Copies of key medical textbooks and reference works, including up-to-date guidelines on administering prescription drugs, will also be distributed as iPhone apps. A range of other relevant medical apps that can be downloaded free-of-charge or purchased will be provided too.

Going mobile

The package includes unlimited mobile broadband connectivity from O2, so that students can keep in regular contact with their University tutors via email. Student accommodation sites at Airedale, Calderdale, Huddersfield and Harrogate will be equipped with wireless networks to support 24/7 access to the online resources. The phone and text function will be available on a pay-as-you-go basis.

The sight of smartphones on the wards is no longer uncommon.  Mobile phone technology is increasingly being used by doctors and healthcare workers, and the range of medical apps is growing. As an example of this trend, more than three million doctors have downloaded an app that turns an iPhone into a stethoscope.

"No other UK medical school is taking advantage of the virtual learning environment to such an extent," said Professor Trudie Roberts, Professor of Medical Education at the University of Leeds. "It is vitally important that medical students continue to develop their skills and record their progress when they are in practice, as well as when they are on campus. Mobile phone technology means that students can do this quickly and easily, wherever they happen to be working."