State-of-the-art technology transforms clinical education

Goodbye, One-Size-Fits-All Instruction

The Center for Precision Dental Medicine is built on the idea that computational power will help dentists provide better care. In the Center for Precision Dental Medicine, every aspect of a student’s clinical work (and pre-clinical simulation training) can be understood through passively-collected information.

By incorporating constantly-updated information on each student’s progress, educational content can be customized for individual learning styles and paces. We can address areas for improvement with a level of specificity not possible until now. Students also have new opportunities for self-driven learning by reviewing their own metrics and video of their work.

Through access to so much rich information, we are preparing our students not just for the procedures they will perform upon graduation. We are equipping them for an increasingly data-rich future where a clinician’s ability to analyze, understand, and deliver care based on that data, will be critical to their success, and to patient outcomes.

Ultimately, we are building a learning health care system within the Center, where we consistently learn from, and improve upon, our performance.

Unprecedented, Less-Intrusive Faculty Supervision

Careful supervision is critical when it comes to hands-on education. To maximize observation time, each custom-designed dental chair contains two video cameras and multiple devices collecting patient and procedure data. This stream of information allows an instructor to closely watch dental care from multiple perspectives, including inside the patient’s mouth, in real time. Faculty can step in before something goes wrong, but just as important, observe unobtrusively when treatment is going well. The aim is tailored instruction that doesn’t needlessly interrupt a patient’s care or the student’s learning.

Additionally, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are attached to dental instruments and soon to wearable IDs for both patients and providers. This wireless technology helps track everything from instrument use and sequence to patient wait times. This allows faculty to provide quantifiable, objective feedback to students on performance based on robust data streams and recorded video, something new in dental education.

Our commitment to our students is the most important factor in all of these advancements. They will be in practice for decades, so we giving them the most comprehensive and tailored feedback during their time at the College for Dental Medicine is of primary importance.

Evidence-Based Recommendations

Using big data to provide evidence-based recommendations has the potential to transform learning for students the same way it will transform care.  We can use predictive analytics to uncover a wealth of information on which treatments will work best for which patients, and also develop information to understand which method of instruction suits which student. We are creating a healthcare and learning environment that is constantly adapting.

Recommendations don’t just stop at treatment techniques. Data captured can help instructors provide feedback on instrument and supply use, safety precautions, and even how well a student connects with and responds to a patient. That important information will help dentists going into practice, since it affects patient satisfaction, safety, as well as their bottom line.

Simulation Learning

All first-year Columbia dental students begin their journey toward patient care by practicing on mannequins through simulation.

Students work to “treat” these mannequins in the very place, using the exact tools, and following the exact same protocols they will as clinicians. Preclinical faculty also use the highly sensitive data-gathering technology in the clinic to teach with a level of specificity not possible through traditional observation and demonstration.

Because the students are in the very same environment where care is offered, they develop comfort with the very tools, technologies, and environment they will practice in.

We have taken simulation learning a step further by taking it out of the sim lab.

In a setting that’s not just realistic, but actually real, simulation feels more authentic. And in turn patient care feels more familiar from the moment a student meets the first patient.

This experience is invaluable not just to our students, but to our patients. More precise teaching leads to better patient care.

Focused Research

The wealth of data collected will unleash limitless research possibilities.

Columbia University’s Center for Bioinformatics & Data Analytics in Oral Health draws on the data from the Center for research concentrated on three areas: translational informatics, clinical treatments, and public health informatics. Other academics, including many dental students, post-docs, and faculty, will be able to access the de-identified data for scholarship as well.

Research can help develop real-time provider feedback and predictive analytics for precision care. By tailoring treatment to address diseases rather than symptoms, we can help patients avoid some painful and costly procedures, allowing them to maintain rather than repair teeth and gum tissue.

Another area of research is stress. New chair technologies measure data linked to stress levels, helping us better understand and address comfort during care, and at the larger scale, understand the connection between a person’s resilience to stress and long-term health outcomes.