Medical education and patient advocacy are the untapped multipliers that can boost access to technology and improve outcomes for the world.
It has been estimated that healthcare knowledge doubles every 70 days.1 With advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, that pace will quicken. How well a region stays up-to-date with new health information may dictate the region’s healthcare outcomes.
Nearly 25% of adults in the United States have low health literacy and can’t make informed health-related decisions.2
The number of on-the-job medical training organizations in the western region of China is half of what is offered in the eastern region.3
It’s not enough to just invent and distribute innovation or to increase the adoption of new therapies and techniques. We also need to double down on medical education and patient advocacy. Up-to-date health knowledge can close the immense gaps between the latest evidence-based therapies and point-of-care realities.
There’s so much potential for our training and education programs to raise the standard of care, especially when we invest in long-term, public-private partnerships.”
–Trevor Gunn, VP International Relations, Medtronic
Like patients, all cultures, communities, and health systems have 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 improve 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 ease 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 information far and wide. In fiscal year 2021, we invested nearly $70 million in capacity building and training for medical professionals, reaching more than 974,000 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 one of our latest medical education and training site for regional healthcare providers. In addition, 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 virtual training 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 about four million users, the app found new use in the United Kingdom in 2020: training clinicians on COVID-19 response.
Empowering patients and communities
To effectively advocate for the best treatment options and to build networks of health knowledge and support, patients and community health workers must be up to speed, too.
In 2019-2020, the Medtronic Foundation surveyed just over one thousand people living with chronic illness to understand their experience and gauge their interest in giving back and helping others. Inspired by Medtronic co-founder Earl Bakken, 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.™, aims to help people living with chronic illness or medical technology bring their philanthropic ideas to life.
Presenters at the two-day virtual conference for people living with Parkinson's Disease Photo courtesy of the Medtronic Foundation.
The digital platform gives patients a space to share stories, access emotional wellness tools, learn new skills, and find inspiration to engage their communities. The program also provides our employees with opportunities to support patients’ organizations 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 globally.
Through global partnerships with nonprofits, the Medtronic Foundation also supports frontline health workers who support their local communities. This allows patients to be treated by someone who reflects their culture and experiences. One partnership with a community provider in Faribault, Minnesota, connects community health workers with underserved patients suffering from chronic conditions. The 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 strand both care teams and patients. At our training-center partnership with the University of the Free State in South Africa, we cut off the operating room generators midway through a simulated procedure to mimic a full power outage; this allows care teams to prepare for a real power outage. Similar preclinical insights and novel training methods emerge every day, from our Physiological Research Laboratories in Minneapolis to Bloemfontein, South Africa.
We have an opportunity to bring together engineers, scientists, and physicians in a functioning operating room to allow innovation in procedure, device, and health knowledge sharing.”
–Ian Courtney, Senior Director, Physiological Research Laboratories, Medtronic
The health knowledge ripple effect
When the care that even a few doctors provide evolves because 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.
About Medtronic Foundation
Medtronic plc is the sole funder of the Medtronic Foundation, whose focus is on improving health for underserved populations worldwide, as well as on supporting communities in which Medtronic employees live and give. For more information, please visit medtronicfoundation.org.