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Online learning tools help medical students, residents hone diagnostic skills

Digital EditionOphthalmology Times: June 2023
Volume 48
Issue 6

Trainees learn to recognize key pathologies seen in fundus examinations, OCT images

Man on computer with lightbulb and glasses. (image credit: AdobeStock/TheKonG)

(image credit: AdobeStock/TheKonG)

The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted every aspect of life and forced the creation of online methods by which medical students and ophthalmology residents could continue to become proficient in establishing retinal diagnoses. In a recent study, most users of an online retina teaching tool reported that the material provided sufficient value to repeat quizzes more than once and demonstrated measurable performance improvements.

Zahra Markatia, MD, and colleagues from the University of Miami, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, evaluated the ability of the tool to help trainees recognize key pathologies seen in fundus examinations and optical coherence tomography (OCT) images. They reported their findings at the recent Real World Ophthalmology conference in Marco Island, Florida.

“Every successful retina surgeon begins by mastering medical retina,” the investigators commented. “Medical students and ophthalmology residents often struggle with the fundus examination.”

The investigators wanted to determine how well online learning helped them meet that goal.

They reported that a collection of fundus photographs and OCT scans was amassed. The images featured basic pathologic features and diagnoses and were annotated to highlight the key findings, and explanations were written describing the images and corresponding diagnoses. The images were compiled into multiple-choice quiz modules: 1 fundus module, 1 beginner OCT module, and 1 intermediate OCT module, and then published on a 100% free online web platform at EyeGuru.org.

The images were grouped into the following categories: beginner OCT, intermediate OCT, and fundus photographs.

Typical quiz and results

Markatia showed a typical quiz question on a quiz of OCT findings. An arrow points to a feature in an OCT image and the viewer is asked what the arrow indicates—in this case, hard exudates—followed by an explanation.

A total of 3048 users took the beginner OCT quiz, 1802 took the intermediate OCT quiz, and 1664 took the fundus photograph quiz. The respective numbers of quizzes taken for the 3 segments were 7127, 4660, and 4524, and the respective number of questions answered were 123,364, 64,310, and 78,821, Markatia noted.

The rates of improvements in the 3 segments from the first to the last attempts by the clinicians were substantial: 79.3%, 78.1%, and 78.7%, respectively.

Consideration of the overall user performance indicated that the average number of repetitions of the quiz by the same person was 2.6; the average change in the quiz score from the first to the last attempt was an increase of 6.8 points, an increase of 19%; and the percentage of physicians improving from the first to the last attempt was 78.6%.

Based on their data, the authors concluded that this type of learning tool that targets ophthalmologists in training fills a gap in online retina education and helps ease the individual’s transition between medical school and residency.

“Most users of this online retina teaching tool found sufficient value in the material to repeat quizzes more than once and also demonstrated measurable performance improvements,” the investigators concluded. “Ongoing efforts should be made to continue leveraging online, virtual tools to train the next generation of ophthalmologists. This is especially true in the era of the coronavirus pandemic, which has placed limits on the traditional in-person didactic training.”

Zahra Markatia, MD
P: 305-689-5555
Markatia is from the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Miami, Florida. She has no financial interest in this subject matter.
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