The Application of Animations in Medical Education
Animation has been optimized widely in the medical industry with various applications covered in patient education, drug mechanism of action, surgical planning and training, cellular and molecular studies and more. With the emergence of the newer generation of healthcare companies, a need has arisen to present information in a visually appealing and informative format.
Why do animations work in medical education?
Our brain is pretty much an image processor. It can memorize the visual experiences automatically before you realize what it is doing. For example, you can recall your life event, like a first kiss at a prom without trying. Nevertheless, such thing as texts and words you learn during our school day can be forgotten no matter how much effort you put into memorizing it. Moreover, text information is much more complicated and abstract for our brain to retrieve. Obviously, a video or image of how a machine work is much easier to remember than reading about it. Audiovisual materials in learning could help people retrieve the information better, and reduce their time learning.
There are countless types of visual materials we can include in the learning courses like images, charts, and videos. However, in medical training, video materials could result in much better learning outcomes than mere words or static illustrations. An online experiment was conducted to test the effectiveness of animations on people with different levels of health literacy by comparing animated materials with static resources. The study shows that:
- Spoken animation is the best way to communicate complicated information regardless of the audience’s health literacy.
- Narrated information resulted in better attitudes to the information, especially among people with limited health literacy.
- Animations could bridge the gap between low and high health literate individuals.
The study also indicates that animations alone cannot do the trick. They need to be supported with audio and text narration. The narrated animations help learners with low health literacy recall the information almost as much as higher health literate people do. Therefore, animations are not only used in professional training but also well adapted to patient education when most patients have little or no medical education.
The application of animations in medical education
All we have before technology was the documents supported by medical illustrations. Nowadays, the video teaching materials make it easier for practitioners by showing the procedure instead of making them read about it. Educational animations would make an effective visual aid to the traditional teaching methods of books, journals, and tutorials.
Besides the physicians, the patients also need the medical education to well understand their health situations. However, this task is not easy for even experienced doctors when they need to explain complicated medical concepts to people with limited health literacy. That’s why educational animations are such a helpful tool for patients in their medical education.
As mentioned above, narrated animations with audio and texts could help bridge the gap between low and high literate people. They give learners – patients multisensory learning experiences and help them understand the concept faster. For example, a 47-second video like this could easily explain a heart attack just like any other 1000-word document.
In professional training, animations are used in a wide range of medical areas:
- Medical Simulation: A virtual representation that gives practitioners experiential learning.
- Cellular and Molecular Animation: illustrate microscopic and sub-microscopic processes taking place at the cellular and molecular levels.
- Pharmaceutical Mechanism of Action: display the new drug binding to cellular structures
- Emergency Care Instruction: instruct novices on how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation in an emergency
- Forensic Reconstruction: MRI-assisted virtual autopsy or “virtopsy” of dead remains that are too damaged to be reconstructed otherwise, can be carried out
- Electronic Learning: demonstrate the exact target of how a new drug will act on it, and even display the outcome (expected), making the effect of the drug absolutely clear to the investor.
- Surgical Training and Planning: explain everything from complicated surgical procedures to the mechanisms of action of pharmaceuticals.
The best feature of animated videos is that they could deliver complicated information in details, especially 3D animations. 3D animations describe the medical processes with high accuracy, even those that cannot be seen by naked eyes. Accuracy is such an important factor in medical training when it has a direct relation to the matter of life. When students have more practical experiences, they would have better learning outcomes than just imagining the procedures in their mind. By giving them the visualized information right away, animations help learners understand the process easier, and remember all the information better.
This advantage also applies to other science subjects. For example, engineer students would benefit from educational animations in helping them understand the complicated mechanisms.
3D animations are a must in visualizing complicated subjects that need accurate details like surgical training. The only drawback of 3D animations is that they require a large amount of time and economic resources. One minute of 3D animation would cost thousands of dollars by a professional medical animation studio in US-UK, and it takes about 3-5 months to finish. Then another affordable option is 2D animation.
2D animations are a better learning material than texts regarding engagement and retention. And it is more reasonable resources than 3D videos in terms of pricing. The 2D animation shows the process in a less realistic way. However, it can also give learners an engaging multisensory learning experience, as well as 3D animated videos. It sets the tone of the videos, with gentle, serious or even hilarious atmosphere.
Case study: The application of 2D animations in nurse training by IntelyCare
IntelyCare is a staffing company focused on providing an innovative healthcare staffing solution for skilled nursing facilities. They address the nationwide nursing shortage with a workforce of healthcare professionals with on-demand software, machine learning, and smart matching tools. They also build a mobile-based training program for nurses to expand their knowledge around their time. The course provides nurses information about appropriate communication techniques and early interventions to deliver the highest quality patient care.
Healthcare knowledge is sometimes overwhelming even to nurses with medical education. The content must be informative and accurate. The problem is how to improve the learning outcomes with such complicated information in a short course, and how to engage learners.
IntelyCare has resorted to animations as ”a way to break the traditional sense of healthcare training being long and tedious”. The script is written thoroughly to deliver the information in full context. Animations are narrated with audio and text help nurses understand the concepts faster and easier. The medical illustrations are also designed carefully to prevent any misleading and to beautifully present the lesson in a less tension way.
Animations are a helpful visual aid to medical education. We need something more than a plain document or illustration to deliver the information in a creative way. Depending on the type of the medical subject and areas, we could choose either 2D or 3D animations. If we apply and combine those types of animated videos correctly, then the result would be a cost-efficient and cost-effective training course.
- Meppelink, C. S., van Weert, J. C., M., Haven, C. J., & Smit, E. G. (2015). The effectiveness of health animations in audiences with different health literacy levels: An experimental study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 17 (1), e11. doi: 10.2196/jmir.3979
- Haig Kouyoumdjian (2012, July 20). Learning Through Visuals: Visual imagery in the classroom. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/get-psyched/201207/learning-through-visuals
- Alastair Buick (2009, December 14). Video Animation in Medical Education. https://company.meducation.net/blog/3-Video-Animation-In-Medical-Education
- Henna Malik (2017, April 26). 3D Medical Animations: Areas of Application. http://www.scientificanimations.com/3d-medical-animations-application
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