It has been estimated that healthcare knowledge doubles every 70 days. With advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, that pace will quicken. The result? Universal education gaps that could tie community health outcomes to how well a region can keep up.
Closing the Knowledge Gap
It’s not enough to just invent and distribute innovations, like the world’s smallest, leadless pacemaker, or to increase the adoption of minimally invasive surgery. Doubling down on education and advocacy to increase health knowledge can close the immense gaps between the latest evidence-based therapies and point-of-care realities.
Like patients, every culture, community, and health system has unique challenges and opportunities. When we partner with local governments and health systems to understand the needs of the people and the patients at the ground level, we create greater access to healthcare knowledge and technology.
For example, in Rwanda we partner across the health system to accelerate the country’s transition to minimally invasive surgery. For teaching hospitals, we contribute surgical equipment and laparoscopic trainers. For surgeons, our Guided Learning Pathway training curriculum builds skills to help improve patient outcomes. And for patients, our partnerships with all stakeholders lift financial burdens and make the future of minimally invasive surgery more effective and accessible.
Better Medical Education, Made Local
By combining a powerful global network with local health knowledge from community innovators, we share knowledge with nuance. In fiscal year 2020, we invested over $145 million in capacity building and training for medical professionals, reaching more than 63,000 healthcare practitioners across our network of Medtronic Innovation Centers and training sites. In 2021, we opened a Medtronic Innovation Center in Chengdu to expand our advocacy, education, and therapies into Western China.
Door to Door, Community to Community
The Medtronic Innovation Center Chengdu is home to our latest medical education and training site for regional healthcare providers. Beyond that, our employees in China volunteer their time to help people in need.
In 2020, employees:
- Trained more than 6,000 clinical and nonclinical health workers
- Provided American Heart Association-certified CPR training for students, employees, and families of employees across 13 cities, reaching a total of 2,000 people since the program started in 2015
- Partnered with China’s Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education to expand first aid and CPR awareness
- Developed easy-to-read textbooks and taught health courses to more than 650 students through the Angel Loves Tech program
The Power of Virtual Training
COVID-19 challenged us to move more medical training programs online. Although it can’t replace hands-on experience, virtual training is more than a short-term fix — rather, it’s an opportunity to permanently expand access to health knowledge.
From Myanmar to the U.S. Virgin Islands, from nurses to ministers of health, we developed a COVID-19 community health curriculum and virtually trained more than 2,000 people in partnership with Brown University. This effort opened doors for our Medical Surgical team, who can now reach 12 times as many physicians than it could a year ago. From live-streaming laparoscopic surgeries to incorporating Smart Glasses and augmented reality, we continue to invent effective and engaging ways to train at a distance.
But virtual training is far from new at Medtronic. With Touch Surgery, all you need is an internet connection to access a wealth of healthcare knowledge — more than 200 surgery simulations across 17 different specialties. With five million-plus users, the app found new use in the United Kingdom in 2020: training clinicians on COVID-19 response.
Empowering Patients and Communities
To become their own advocates for the best treatment options and to build networks of health knowledge and support, patients and community health workers need to be up to speed, too.
In 2019-2020, the Medtronic Foundation surveyed just over one thousand people living with chronic illness to understand their experiences and gauge their interest in giving back and helping others. Inspired by Medtronic co-founder Earl Bakken’s dream, the Medtronic Foundation launched a community where thousands of people living with chronic illness or medical technology could “pay it forward.” The resulting digital platform, named Life. Amplified. Inspired by Earl Bakken, gives patients a space to share stories, access emotional wellness tools, learn new skills, and find opportunities to leverage their voices as advocates and engage their community. The platform also helps Medtronic employees support patients through volunteering and giving. Launched with a two-day virtual conference for people living with Parkinson’s Disease, their caregivers, and patient advocacy groups, the platform is creating new ways to empower patients everywhere.
In addition, being treated by someone who reflects your culture and lived experiences makes all the difference. Through global partnerships with nonprofits, the Medtronic Foundation supports frontline health workers who support their local communities. One partnership with a community provider in Faribault, Minnesota, connects underserved patients with chronic conditions to community health workers. Those teams customize care needs and support patients through home visits and by helping them navigate social determinants of health, such as access to secure sources of food and reliable transportation.
Partnerships for Local Innovation
When we train and advocate through diverse global partnerships, healthcare knowledge and innovation flow both ways. Our medical knowledge grows through on-the-ground collaboration, as we discover new training formats to meet local population needs and uncover health access gaps that innovation can close.
In Africa, mid-surgery power outages can leave both care teams and their patients stranded. At our training-center partnership with the University of the Free State in South Africa, cutting off the operating room generators midway through a simulated procedure can mimic a full power outage. Preclinical insights and novel training methods like that emerge every day, from our Physiological Research Laboratories in Minneapolis to Bloemfontein, South Africa.
The Health Knowledge Ripple Effect
When the care that even a few doctors provide evolves as a result of training, those doctors have a significantly positive impact on healthcare systems — and on patients. And when even a few patients, community health workers, or educators become champions of the latest health knowledge, they create a ripple effect of change throughout whole communities and healthcare infrastructures.
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