Introducing mobile technologies to strengthen the national continuing medical education program in Vietnam
McNabb, Marion E.
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BACKGROUND: In 2009, the Government of the Republic of Vietnam adopted legislation requiring all clinicians to complete continuing medical education (CME) credits in order to maintain licensure. Several CME in-person and distance-based courses have been developed and as of 2015, a national distance-based electronic learning (eLearning) network was being established. However, the uptake of CME courses remained low despite high clinician demand. Vietnam’s high mobile phone ownership rate of 1.4 mobile subscriptions per person presents an opportunity to leverage this for CME. This study investigated how mobile technologies could strengthen delivery of distance-based CME courses and improve national CME program administration. METHODS: A literature and policy review was conducted. Qualitative methods were employed to collect and analyze key informant interviews of 52 global and Vietnamese experts, including selected policy makers. Interviews were supplemented by six focus group discussions with Vietnamese physicians, nurses, midwives and physician assistants. Transcripts were analyzed using an inductive coding methodology. A framework was developed to organize and present results for government consumption. RESULTS: Globally, examples and supporting evidence related to mobile technologies for CME were limited. Experts reported three main use cases for using mobile technology for CME in Vietnam: 1) delivery of CME courses (N=34; 65%); 2) registration and tracking of CME credits (n=28; 54%); and 3) sending alerts and reminders on CME opportunities (n=23; 44%). The national CME policy environment in Vietnam was supportive of introducing mobile technologies within the eLearning network. However, there was a widespread lack of awareness and capacity to design and deliver distance-based CME courses. Mobile phone ownership was high and health workers reported interest in acquiring CME credits via mobile. Financing options to develop and implement distance-based CME courses were limited. CONCLUSION: Despite the paucity of evidence related to mobile technologies for learning, there is potential to innovate and strengthen the evidence base using these technologies for CME in Vietnam. Introducing mobile technologies within the national eLearning network would improve clinicians’ access to CME, particularly in rural areas, and can strengthen national CME program administration. Key recommendations were developed to provide the government with concrete steps for national level adoption.