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Virtual Imaging Training: Combining Online Benefits with In-Person Results

Oct 28, 2021 | Articles, Siemens

For decades, the only way to provide high-quality training for imaging engineers was through in-person, hands-on courses at dedicated educational facilities. While highly effective, this method of training has several drawbacks:

  • Expense and inconvenience due to overnight travel
  • Delays caused by scheduling conflicts and course unavailability
  • Logistical challenges and financial overhead associated with managing groups
  • Potential impact of equipment failure while service personnel are offsite

The Early Days of Computer-Based and Online Medical Imaging Training

With the introduction of computer-based and online training in the 1990s, it appeared that better, more cost-effective solutions for in-person training might be on the horizon. However, the limitations of early digital technologies became apparent, and the anticipated paradigm shift never came to fruition.

Computer-based training, like CD-ROMs and early web-based content, lacked the interactivity and focus on details necessary to provide a clear understanding of course content and convey the intricacies of MRI and CT system maintenance. Students were unable to ask questions or request clarification for concepts they didn’t fully understand. At the same time, small details of the procedures or the equipment itself might be overlooked due to low camera quality, a lack of image detail, or unintentional oversights from the curriculum developer.

Improvements in online training, also known as e-learning, addressed some of these shortcomings by providing an opportunity for students to interact with instructors, ask questions, and gain a better understanding of the course materials in real time. However, true interactivity was still lacking due to the limitations of computer and camera equipment, limited wi-fi connectivity, and low data transfer rates on the internet.

True connectivity was years away and the quality of digital devices couldn’t provide the two-way high-resolution images and real-time HD video needed to create an educational experience comparable to in-person, hands-on training.

The Evolution of Interactive Virtual Training for Imaging Engineers

In recent years, developments in virtual training technology and techniques have allowed forward-thinking training providers to remove many of the challenges and shortcomings of in-person training while still retaining most, if not all, of its benefits.

Since 1997, we’ve provided imaging systems training, parts, and support to the healthcare industry. While the spare parts and technical support side of our business has gone largely unchanged for well over 20 years, the recent shortage of qualified imaging engineers, the ongoing need for social distancing, the surge in imaging procedures resulting from the widespread distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, and the diagnostic requirements of long COVID symptoms, has led us to develop a bold new approach.

The Interactive Virtual Training Academy, or IVTA, merges the benefits of both in-person and remote training modalities into one seamless program. Rather than create separate and unique curriculum models for each modality, we’ve developed one core training experience that offers two unique delivery methods. Both provide the same level of educational quality and offer an identical 45 ACI CEUs per week through our AAMI-accredited training programs.

Creating the Interactive Virtual Training Academy (IVTA)

At the heart of our dual-mode delivery system is traditional in-person training. With years of experience, we saw no need to do away with our proven method of delivering content face-to-face. General instruction still takes place in our classrooms and hands-on training still happens in our labs with dedicated imaging systems. What’s changed is the addition of state-of-the-art training technology, including multiple motion-tracking cameras, an assortment of large flatscreen video monitors, smartphones and tablets, a robust audio system, full interactive touchscreen whiteboards, and, of course, the IT and AV hardware and software needed to tie all the pieces together. This technology is the proprietary system that forms the backbone of the IVTA.

Linked to the outside world via a fiberoptic internet connection, the IVTA can connect with students anywhere on the globe. By simply logging in through a dedicated portal, virtual attendees literally become part of the class. Not only can they see and hear everything taking place in our classrooms or labs, but they can also talk directly to the instructor, interact with other attendees (both virtual and in-person), draw on the whiteboard, and view imaging equipment up-close and personal. Except for catered lunches, the virtual students’ training experience is almost identical to that of our in-person attendees. Attendance and homework are still a requirement, knowledge retention remains high due to a mix of classroom and lab-based training, and the students all receive 45 ACI CEUs per week.

What our virtual attendees don’t experience is the expense and inconvenience of overnight travel, delays due to scheduling conflicts or course unavailability, and the challenges of training within a large group. At the same time, their employer doesn’t experience the financial overhead and risk associated with sending vital service personnel offsite for a week or longer.

Another benefit of the IVTA is our ability to provide custom training programs built around your needs, which differs drastically from the à la carte menu approach used by OEM training providers. Our custom programs are a mix of in-person training, IVTA training, various workshops, and even onsite coaching at your facility. The virtual training component also provides the opportunity to divide classes into smaller segments to better accommodate your staff scheduling and coverage.

A New Attitude About Expert Medical Imaging Training

The IVTA is more than just new technologies and methodologies. It’s also a change in philosophy about what creates a high-quality training experience. Gone are the days when attending a few days of system-specific training made somebody an “expert” in imaging equipment maintenance and service. Today’s complex systems require engineers who not only know how to do routine maintenance or fix problems, but also have a holistic understanding of imaging systems, plus the skills and confidence needed to perform system diagnosis and repair in the most efficient manner possible. With the cost of individual scans well over a thousand dollars, excess downtime is no longer an option. Virtual training provides an opportunity for you to enjoy the benefits of top-notch training without the negative effects of in-person attendance.

The Remedy for Ineffective Medical Imaging Training?

Is the IVTA the ultimate solution for all your imaging training? No. Training needs and learning styles vary from person to person. In addition, some training, by its very nature, requires the in-person experience.

For example, a veteran engineer may find it beneficial to explore the equipment firsthand, build camaraderie by networking with classmates and instructors outside of the classroom, or simply immerse themselves in the training process without the interruptions of the outside world.

On the other hand, for some, working remotely introduces a variety of distractions that can severely compromise the learning experience. For that reason, we require remote students to find or create a dedicated training environment, attend classes with their cameras turned on, and take personal responsibility for their progress. We provide reports on attendance, participation, quiz results, classroom interaction, and workshop performance.

Long-Term Benefits for the Medical Imaging Community

Thanks to recent advancements in technology, improvements in our training methodology, and a long-overdue shift in perception in the industry as to what qualifies as effective training, we’re now able to provide a solution to the ever-growing need for qualified and certified imaging engineers. As a result, you’ll no longer need to choose between quality, convenience, and price when it comes to training your team.

For more insight into current trends and developing your department, imaging team, and in-house maintenance program, explore our other blog posts. And if you’re unfamiliar with our “build-from-within” 360° Solution, check it out. It’s exclusive to DirectMed Imaging and provides a clear path to independence, growth, and success for your organization.

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