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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 103-107

Role of smartphone technology in medical education in India

Centre for Community Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission21-May-2019
Date of Decision09-Sep-2019
Date of Acceptance16-Oct-2019
Date of Web Publication19-Dec-2019

Correspondence Address:
Sanjeev Kumar Gupta
Centre for Community Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Ansari Nagar, New Delhi - 110 029
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/IJCFM.IJCFM_42_19

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Introduction: In this era of technology, a smartphone has become a powerful tool. It is often used in communication and entertainment. It has a significant role in medical education, too.
Objective: The objective of this study was to discuss the use of smartphone in medical education, its advantages and disadvantages, and challenges to its widespread use in this field.
Material and Methods: A review of the literature was done in PubMed and Google Scholar for the articles related to our objective. Results: A smartphone can help a student in acquiring the study material (books, videos and updates), making better notes/record and for searching answers. It has the advantage of easily fitting into the pocket, improving the accessibility to the internet, and can be used as a mini-computer to edit documents. In the field of medical research, a smartphone can ease the review of literature and data collection. It is beneficial in resource constraint settings; help in integration of specialities and uniformity in teaching. However, it has certain disadvantages like being a costly device with a limited lifespan, prone to theft or damage, can cause dependency, information overload, distraction during class, increase in screen time, and can cause straining of eyes or sleep disturbances. Several studies have shown medical students using it for studies and they have a positive attitude toward it.
Conclusion: Smartphone technology can be revolutionary for medical education if used aptly. There are certain challenges in the implementation of a smartphone in medical education in India which can be addressed through certain measures.

Keywords: Internet, medical education, smartphone, teaching

How to cite this article:
Chandra A, Nongkynrih B, Gupta SK. Role of smartphone technology in medical education in India. Indian J Community Fam Med 2019;5:103-7

How to cite this URL:
Chandra A, Nongkynrih B, Gupta SK. Role of smartphone technology in medical education in India. Indian J Community Fam Med [serial online] 2019 [cited 2021 Oct 25];5:103-7. Available from: https://www.ijcfm.org/text.asp?2019/5/2/103/273523

  Introduction Top

With advances in technology, the cellular phone got evolved to smartphone, and it increased the accessibility to the Internet.[1] The first smartphone was designed by IBM in 1992 as Simon. Since then, various companies are manufacturing smartphones, namely, Apple, Samsung, Nokia, and Blackberry.[2] Smartphones are equipped with communication facilities, wireless network, internet access, camera, applications, multimedia, microphones, big screen, large memory, and faster processor.[3] A smartphone can be considered as a handheld computer rather than a simple mobile telephone.[4]

Recently, the Medical Council of India has revised the undergraduate (MBBS) curriculum to a competency-based curriculum.[5] Smartphones can play a vast role in the medical field in areas of patient care and monitoring, health education, communication, education, and research.[6] With the advent of smartphone and the internet, opportunities have expanded in education and have enhanced the learning experience for students.[7] These days, students are well versed with smartphone technology, and the numbers are increasing day by day.[1],[8] It is anticipated that smartphone may eventually replace traditional textbooks.[9] Smartphone technology can play a vital role in the delivery and acquisition of the knowledge among medical students.[10] The objective of this article is to discuss the use of smartphone in medical education, its advantages and disadvantages, and challenges to its widespread use in this field.

  Uses of Smartphone in Medical Education Top

Smartphones can be used for accessing textbooks, medical podcasts and news, medical journals, online lectures, and tutorial videos. They can be used as medical calculators, for taking notes, defining unfamiliar terms, and communication.[9] They are also used in answering medical questions, patient management, and for taking decisions for treatment.[11] Simulation applications can develop the clinical skills and better concepts.[12],[13] Pimmer et al. reported that students have adopted mobile technology in resource-constraint environments (limited books and teachers) of developing countries to enhance their learning, for documentation and for sharing of cases, and description of procedures and instruments in the form of photograph or video.[14] They can be used for learning clinical examination and preparing for objective structured clinical examination by watching related videos.[15]

Based on the operating systems of the smartphone, there are two dominant platforms for applications – Apple app store (iOS) and Google Play store (Android). Seabrook et al. in 2012 reported 4561 medical applications, 15% of which are targeted on medical students; majority of them are free.[16] There are a wide range of applications available for medical education purposes [Table 1].[8],[9],[15],[17],[18],[19],[20],[21]
Table 1: List of smartphone applications and their uses

Click here to view

  Advantages of Using Smartphone Technology for Medical Education Top

A smartphone is portable; therefore, it can be used while commuting. It provides rapid access to resources and multimedia, enhances flexible communication, and helps in efficient time management.[9] Smartphone can be used to complete work-based assessment without computers and maybe with higher completion rates and reliability. It not only makes it easy to maintain a logbook, but also preserves important pictures and diagrams.[22] Internet connectivity in smartphone provides instant answers to queries and facilitates quick revision, especially when someone is not carrying a textbook.[1] It can help a student in making better notes, create more opportunities for group learning, and it can provide updated information from the latest resource.[23] The burden of teachers also reduces as they do not have to teach everything; students can search themselves, and if in doubt, they can ask their teachers.[14] Scornavacca et al. found that short message service of a cell phone can be used efficiently for a large class interaction and for feedback from students.[7] Smartphone applications can improve the quality and ease data collection in medical research.[17] With access to journals and databases on a smartphone, it is easier to undertake a review of literature and research-related work.

  Disadvantages of Smartphones Technology for Medical Education Top

Pimmer et al. and Wallace et al. have found that smartphone may cause superficial learning without internalization, as students may copy-paste the content from the Internet without using their own brain and can lack basic knowledge.[9],[14] Among students, it can increase the dependency on smartphones than on personal knowledge and skills.[24] Smartphones can cause distraction due to frequent notification and social media use during classes.[1],[9],[24] Students may use smartphones more for social communication and entertainment than for an educational purpose.[18] There might be an unreliable source of information providing inaccurate and wrong knowledge, which can substantially hamper the quality of education or students.[24] Chase et al. have reported disadvantages of the device such as high-cost factor, a risk of theft/loss, information overload, unable to work in the absence of the Internet, and distracts students from patient and clinical environment.[23] It also may cause blurring of boundaries between personal and professional life through frequent and informal communication.[9] Use of smartphone can increase the screen time, which predisposes to obesity and depressive episodes and affects the quality of life.[25] The heavy use of smartphone among medical students can cause sleep disturbance, memory impairment, headache, and concentration problems.[26] Small text size or small screen of mobile devices requires greater concentration for reading e-books, which can strain eyes.[1]

  Barriers in Using Smartphone Technology for Medical Education by Students Top

Jebraeily et al., Safdari et al., Masika et al., and Subhash et al. have reported the barriers in using smartphones by the medical students as lack of accreditation of medical apps, lack of technical skills, lack of device, suboptimal internet access, cost of acquiring the apps, financial constraints, small screen, time constraint, lack of perceiving the advantage, lack of support and update of applications by their developers, lack of motivation in using applications, lack of encouragement through professors, problems related to security and confidentiality of information, and lack of easy use of applications.[18],[27],[28],[29]

  Smartphone Technology among Indian Medical Students for Education Top

A smartphone is a common mode of using the internet for medical information among Indian medical students.[15] Mobile learning (M-learning) is complementary to Electronic learning (E-learning).[30] E-learning has been as an effective tool for education in various disciplines of medicine such as ophthalmology, dermatology, pharmacology, anatomy, biochemistry, and community medicine; smartphones can be the mode for e-learning.[31],[32],[33],[34],[35],[36] Patil et al. found that by using an M-learning group, students acquire a deeper knowledge and learning rather than surface learning.[31] Students perceive the importance of smartphone as for effective learning and have a positive attitude toward it.[19],[31],[37] Rohilla et al., Gavali et al., and Subhash et al. reported that approximately 94%–96% of MBBS students own a smartphone, 56%–93% of them use smartphone for academic purposes, and approximately 80% of students feel that a smartphone should be introduced in the medical education course.[1],[18],[19] Sahanaa and Mishra reported that medical students enjoy using smartphone application for their medical research as an effective tool for data collection.[17]

  Addressing the Lacunae of Indian Medical Education Through a Smartphone Top

There is a perceived lack of integration of various streams and specialties.[38] Smartphone technology can help in the coordination of various specialties and deliver video modules for teaching. Collaboration between institutions to enhance educational quality and productivity can be done.[39] It can help in large group discussions and interactions. Ineffective assessment system of learning can be addressed by frequent assessment, group assignments, and feedback through smartphone technology.[40] Shortage of faculty in institutions can be addressed through an online course provided through smartphone application.[41]

  Introduction of Smartphone in Medical Education – impact and Challenges Top

Various studies in developed and developing countries have shown that medical students perceive the importance of smartphone as a tool for mobile learning (M-learning)/e-learning and have a positive attitude toward it.[1],[14],[18],[19],[23],[31],[37] Most of the disadvantages of smartphones are related to the Internet and social media, than specifically to a smartphone. However, effective utilization of smartphone for self-learning and accessing information was seen when a smartphone equipped with telemedicine applications and internet access was provided.[42] Chase et al. found that M-learning has a positive impact on the learning experience of a medical student, especially on the clinical environment, but universal access to the Internet remains a big challenge.[23]

Introducing a smartphone in medical education may be costly and unaffordable for some students.[43] The challenges will be in development and providing a reliable smartphone application and in providing internet connectivity. With the introduction of smartphone technology, there will be a need for faculty training in using mobile technology for teaching, learning, and support.[37] Smartphones need to be replaced or refurbished after a particular duration, as they have a limited lifespan and are more prone to damage.

  the Way Forward Top

Smartphones are ubiquitous, and a pragmatic approach needs to be adopted for their use in medical education in India. Most of the disadvantages and barriers to the use of smartphones can be addressed by providing the smartphones at low cost or subsidized prices with internet access and authorized applications, training of medical teachers, and implementing some rules such as restricting the time limit or duration of mobile use in the campus or silent-mode phones during classes. The financial constraints can be overcome by the provision of financial assistance.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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