UNC Makes 'Grand Rounds' on the Intranet

Continuing education has become a fact of life for physicians and other medical professionals who frequently need to update their knowledge of scientific developments in their fields. The methods they use can take many forms—from conferences and seminars to “grand rounds” conducted at major medical schools. Grand rounds are weekly lectures that focus on a specific discipline, such as surgery, pediatrics, internal medicine, or obstetrics. At grand rounds, physicians present case studies for students, health care professionals, and faculty members to discuss.

Like most state university medical schools, the University of North Carolina School of Medicine conducts grand rounds for its students and statewide professionals. However, in the past, only people in the immediate vicinity of the Chapel Hill campus—located in North Carolina’s Research Triangle—or those at a video conferencing site linked to UNC via the North Carolina Information Highway could attend the meetings. Those not linked through the 200 Integrated Services Digital Networks connections usually could not participate.

Within the last year, however, UNC has launched a program that permits physicians in areas around the state to participate in grand rounds without having to travel to the Chapel Hill campus or a node of the ISDN network. The medical school is using Web-casting technology to broadcast the lectures right to desktop computers.

UNC is using the e-StudioLive 7000 Web-casting production system from e-StudioLive Inc. to broadcast the weekly presentations. Hundreds of physicians, residents, and students attend the live class, and others tune in to the broadcast and Web cast at distant hospitals and clinics. Offsite participants can see and hear the grand rounds and pose questions to the presenters. At the moment, those offsite cannot be seen by the presenters. The system also automatically archives the Web casts, allowing anyone who has missed the grand rounds to view them on the Web.

According to David Matney, director of the Video Engineering Group in the Office of Information Systems at the UNC Medical School, Web casting has a number of advantages over other more traditional delivery methods. “Web casting allows us to reach people anywhere there is an Internet connection,” he notes. “It’s a natural extension of live broadcasting and permits us to archive presentations so that busy professionals can access them anytime, anywhere. Time and place are no longer relevant.”

UNC’s medical education departments are also using Web casting for distance education. Students taking additional course work from other institutions in such areas as physical therapy, nursing, speech and hearing, medical informatics, and medical technology are attending via the Web casts. Likewise, students at North Carolina’s two-year and four-year institutions can do some course work from UNC. Although no medical school courses are currently offered in a distance-learning format, Matney sees Web casting as an integral part of any strategy for extending medical education beyond geographic limitations.

For more information, contact David Matney, UNC Medical School, at david_matney@med.unc.edu.

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