Future of Health: Distance Learning

Future of Health: Distance Learning

The development of faster mobile networks and improved device technology is enabling access to the web’s entire library of video tutorials and how-tos on handheld devices and can lead to the creation of virtual classrooms that can happen anywhere.

Scott Lachut, PSFK Labs
  • 2 august 2010

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This post is part of a PSFK Consulting project aimed at providing insight into the Future of Health. Distance Learning is one trend of fifteen that appears in our exploration of  how technology and access to information play a vital role in the ways that people will understand, manage and receive care whether that’s at home, in hospitals and clinics or in doctor’s offices.


The development of faster mobile networks and improved device technology is allowing for an unprecedented level of quality content to be streamed to and viewed on consumer handheld devices. This is enabling access to the web’s entire library of video tutorials and how-tos and can lead to the creation of virtual classrooms that can happen anywhere. This will evolve to include live person-to-person video chats on mobile phones, allowing for a level of real-time interactivity that will bring new opportunities to how and where people learn.


  • Anywhere, Anytime Classroom – Citizens can learn proper care techniques in home, rather than travel outside, for up-to-date medical information
  • Reusable Learnings – Multiple people can receive training and learning from one information source.
  • Remote Guidance – Treatment can be augmented with guidance from highly trained medical professionals in emergency situations.
  • Improved Training – Training can be made faster, cheaper and more efficient by using virtual classrooms to teach courses remotely.

Supporting Examples for Distance Learning

Mobile Video Assists Home Visits

Mobile Video Assists Home Visits
Two projects are leveraging the power of mobile video to supplement work in the homes of developing countries. First Days is a project by the Berkeley Institute of Design that gives healthcare workers in India short videos related to maternal health to show to their clients and help guide consultation. In Tanzania, healthcare volunteers are being aided with mobile video tutorials during home visits by a collaboration of D-Tree International and BRAC Tanzania.

Distance Learning 02

Connecting Distance Hospitals To Improve Treatment
In late 2009, hospitals in Sierra Leone launched a satellite link-up to connect doctors in the country to doctors in India where there is better equipment for data analysis. this facilitates real-time consultations between doctors in the field and specialists in hospitals.

Distance Learning 03

Mobile App Helps Doctors Explain Conditions
The Blausen Human Atlas is an app for the iPhone and iPad that contains a library of 150 interactive 3D animations, 1200 images and over 1,500 medical terms to help explain human anatomy, common medical conditions and treatments. the app was designed to improve communication between doctors and patients by providing a visual method for understanding complicated diagnoses and procedures. Human Atlas can also be a useful tool which can be shown to patients to help explain conditions out in the field.

Distance Learning 04

Web Video Tutorials
Altus Learning Systems recently launched vSearch Mobile, a cloud-based service that allows users to search and access audio and video content from internet connected devices including the ipad, iphone, BlackBerry and Android handsets. the service enables an organization to create a repository of searchable cloud-based content, delivering knowledge to large, geographically-dispersed audiences.

Distance Learning 05

Learn Anything Anytime On YouTube
The Khan Academy is a non-profit dedicated to the idea of democratizing education by making quality tools available to everyone in the world. To that end, the organization has created over 1400 videos accessible on YouTube that cover a breadth of topics from basic arithmetic and science to more complex subjects such as business finance and medicine. over 70,000 students visit the site every month and 35,000 videos are watched every day. Other organizations have also begun distributing copies of Khan’s videos on offline servers to rural areas in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

Distance Learning 06

Virtual Self-Help Groups
PatientsLikeMe is a collective website that allows people with life-changing conditions to connect with one another. It provides a platform that helps people who have certain diseases to share their experiences and teach coping strategies to those who have been recently diagnosed. By taking away geographic boundaries, users can learn first hand about how to deal with sicknesses that those in their immediate vicinity might not have experience with.

About PSFK’s Future Of Health Report


PSFK’s Future of Health Report details 15 trends that will impact health and wellness around the world. Simple advances such as off-the-grid energy and the introduction of gaming into healthcare service offerings sit alongside more future-forward developments such as bio-medical printing. The report includes concepts for UNICEF based on the trends provided by the world’s leading advertising and design agencies. It is our hope that this report will inspire your thinking and lead to services, applications and technologies which will allow for more available, quality healthcare.

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