Emerging technologies in health


Keeping abreast of new and emerging tech forms part of the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) programme vision at Health Education England (HEE) so that we continue to train our staff to the highest standards, using contemporary pedagogy and tools proven to work.

In this WeCommunities Twitter chat, we explored the opportunity, implications, and readiness of some of the latest technologies identified through our recent scanning activity with #WeNurses community.


The TwitterChat was held on 28 September 2017 between 8pm – 9pm.  With a total of 70 contributors, 356 tweets and a reach that extended beyond 4 million people @HEE_TEL were delighted with the levels of participation.

What follows is a summary of findings taken from the tweets.


The #WeNurses community was invited to vote for which trend they felt had most potential for healthcare education.  The poll received 257 votes.  The top-voted trend was personalised and adaptive learning (54%) followed by virtual/augmented/mixed reality.

When asked, there was uncertainty about the outcome and supporting evidence for all the emerging tech trends cited, yet most were philosophical about the need for change.

Despite common agreement of the potential benefits for each technology trend, uncertainties about their widespread adoption for healthcare education included.

  • financial climate
  • lack of investment
  • digital literacy of staff
  • lack of evidence base
  • will it improve quality of care?
  • will it reduce cost?
  • speed of technological change
  • acceptance of the technology (AI)
  • skills loss
  • lack of understanding around the newer technologies (specifically AI and VR).

One contributor remarked that “uncertainty is a given” and that we should “encourage [a] spirit of experimentation!”

I think that virtual reality could be an amazing tool for education and learning. Also for patient experience!

Personalised and adaptive learning

There was common agreement that personalised and adaptive learning holds most potential for nursing.  Many of the student nurses supported this view; saying it would be most beneficial.  One suggested that they wanted personalised and adaptive learning to meet NMC standards.  Another remarked that personalised learning may become increasingly important for students who no longer receive a bursary.

Contributors provided broad insight on how personalised and adaptive learning may affect the education of health professionals by 2021.

  • Increased accessibility to more remote areas
  • Broader, deeper learning
  • Less pressure to learn just to pass exams
  • Improved learning outcomes
  • Professionals able to excel in ways that suit them best
  • Better patient care
  • Greater knowledge about how people learn
  • More confident learners
  • Competent staff
  • No “one size fits all” approach to learning
  • Improvements to the learning process.

#WeNurses listed several desirable outcomes regarding use of personalised and adaptive learning. These were:could encourage broader, deeper learning, less pressure to learn just to pass exams,use of #simulation to bridge knowledge gap

  • improved patient safety and outcomes
  • reduced costs
  • improved staff skills
  • better quality of care
  • person-centred care
  • MDT learning and working together
  • sustainable and mindful practice.

Yet if things went wrong with it, they were worried about having a suitably stable and modern IT infrastructure, with a system that could capture and store learning data with adequate data protection and security.  Some were concerned about the level of digital literacy of staff and that some staff may choose to leave the profession because the technology intimidates them.  An interesting point was raised about the acceptance of personalised and adaptive learning approaches by the regulators.

Looking at internal systems, #WeNurses offered their thoughts on how these might need to be change to support use of personalised and adaptive learning for healthcare education.

  • Systems must change to recognise the individual and not the job role
  • Support innovation
  • Have an acceptance of risk
  • Communicate what works
  • Provide access to external learning resources
  • National joined-up thinking
  • Provide smoother access to e-learning
  • Improve firewalls to prevent external manipulation
  • Stronger internet signal
  • Build confidence to use different learning modes
  • Organisations must be supportive of learning and development.

Visit http://www.wecommunities.org/tweet-chats/chat-details/4055#/chatSummary to view the complete transcript.

Resources cited by contributors: