August 13, 2021

Wayne State University receives award from Association of American Medical Colleges for telehealth equity efforts

School of Medicine students and faculty perform a virtual visit with a Standardized Patient as part of the Interprofessional Team Visit program.

The Association of American Medical Colleges has recognized Wayne State University’s outstanding efforts to incorporate telehealth into its curriculum by awarding the Telehealth Equity Catalyst Award to an interdisciplinary team of faculty from the School of Medicine and the College of Nursing. The $15,000 award will fund the creation of additional health care cases to be used in interprofessional telehealth skills training incorporating Standardized Patients.

To address disparities in care, WSU developed with the Michigan Area Health Education Center a telehealth curriculum for health professional students from the School of Medicine, College of Nursing, College of Pharmacy, and School of Social Work. The MI-AHEC, headquartered at the School of Medicine, received CARES Act funding from the United States Health Resources and Services Administration last year that provided technical support to enhance the readiness to respond to COVID-19 through telehealth technologies.

Virtually, Standardized Patients presented with specific symptoms, to help students learn to provide care and diagnoses.

“We are building upon the virtual encounters with standardized patients,” said School of Medicine Associate Professor of Internal Medicine-Geriatrics and Director of Community Engagement Jennifer Mendez, Ph.D. “These videos were an outcome of the CARES Act Interprofessional Teams telehealth program that we engaged in early 2021.”

The curriculum is part of a university-wide effort to enhance interprofessional education, or IPE, across all professional schools, with the larger aim of using IPE and interprofessional practice during health professional training to address bias, structural racism and health disparities experienced by the local community and across communities in Michigan.

The AAMC funds will help prepare and train clinicians and students in the delivery of telehealth.

In addition to Dr. Mendez, the winning team includes the School of Medicine’s Professor and Vice Chair of Medical Education in the Department of Internal Medicine Diane Levine, M.D.; MI-AHEC co-principal investigator and Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences Tsveti Markova, M.D.; and Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Clinical Medical Director of Academic and Student Programs Joshua Collins, M.D.; and College of Nursing Assistant Professor Wanda Gibson-Scipio, Ph.D.

“Telehealth, although available for years, has become an important way to deliver care to patients, particularly during COVID. Telehealth is here to stay. Learning how to engage patients in a telehealth visit is one of the new competencies for physicians. We want to ensure our students are prepared to competently deliver health care using telehealth,” Dr. Levine said.

Students and faculty from the School of Social Work and the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences also will participate in the telehealth curriculum efforts.

“This project will have a significant impact on our student nurses. They will use telehealth technology with a team approach, which will enhance their ability deliver appropriate and equitable health care to diverse populations,” said College of Nursing Associate Dean for Academic and Clinical Affairs, and Associate Professor Ramona Benkert, Ph.D., co-principal investigator of MI-AHEC. “The technical skills are important, but it is also worth noting that team-based care has been found to be essential to improve patient care and safety as well as reduce errors.”

The WSU program was one of five the AAMC selected for the award because of a demonstrated positive impact on barriers associated with telehealth and health technology across clinical delivery and medical training, particularly for underserved and vulnerable populations.

“This curriculum will teach students not only how to provide telehealth visits but, using the lens of equity, will teach them how to work in interprofessional teams to provide optimal care in a patient-centered way, addressing social determinants with the goal of decreasing health disparities in our communities,” Dr. Levine said. “Each of the professional schools at WSU graduates amazing health professionals. This interprofessional curriculum will ensure our health professional students, including our medical students, can work together to recognize and address bias and structural racism, decreasing health disparities – whether seeing patients in person or virtually during a pandemic and afterward. We want our students to be prepared for the future, whatever that holds.”

“Between February and March 2022, medical students and other disciplines from the Interprofessional Team Visit program will participate in virtual telehealth training with Standardized Patients,” Dr. Mendez said.

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