How a group of medical students in the Netherlands used virtual microscopy to defy the corona quarantine

James Brown

James Brown

Sales Manager EMEA & Americas at PreciPoint GmbH

What to do, when regular microscopy training is not possible?

In light of COVID-19, the education world was shaken. No one knew what to do and how to continue especially universities. The need to continue educating was there, the only problem was they did not specifically have a solution. A global lockdown was in place and the only way to continue was to adapt and allow digital teaching methods to rise. This blog post will dive into a real-world situation where a group of Dutch medical students was in dire need to continue their education. It will highlight the problem that was faced during the COVID-19, as well as the solution that was presented by PreciPoint.

What was the greatest difficulty for the students and teachers?

Especially in the difficult times of COVID-19, digital microscopy is on the rise. During the pandemic, everything is increasingly shifting to the digital realm. The attempt to flatten the infection curve through social distancing has exponentially increased the demand for digital instruction.
Light microscopes are typically provided for students in a laboratory or classroom setting
Universities have been faced with a new problem: How to continue teaching students while a global lockdown is in effect? The only way to solve this massive problem is to teach digitally or not at all. Fortunately, many universities have begun to adopt digital teaching methods. This is especially important for medical and biology students. They regularly look at samples in labs to learn about topics that will be fundamental to their professions. Also, people who want to further their education, such as residents, don’t have the opportunity to look at samples in real life. A virtual classroom is an easy way to solve these problems. A group of Dutch residents in training (hematology/clinical chemistry) faced such a problem. These residents need to complete several specific courses to become experts in their specific field. An example of a course might be transfusion and hematology, which means that the resident is studying how to diagnose blood disorders. They learn a lot about how to transfuse red blood cells safely, so a lot of their time has to be spent in the lab working with technicians.

How did they deal with the new situation?

There was no possibility of further training because they were not allowed to work in their laboratory because of the COVID-19 virus. They decided to work digitally and have a digital database created. The digital database, implemented by PreciPoint, allowed them to work together and continue their training despite COVID-19. The students in residency who were able to continue learning with PreciCloud (Virtual Microscopy Platform) were impressed with the image quality and ease of use of the platform.
An example of a virtual blood smear in PreciCloud scanned at 100x.

We used the PreciCloud in our hematology courses. The organizer used it to present examples of hematology abnormalities. What I really liked was that using the PreciCloud allowed you to be able to look at a slide completely. There is a lot of information that you can easily find by scrolling around the specimen and zooming in and out, plus you can highlight/mark so called "regions of interest". I really like this! "

There were several sessions where colleagues from all over the Netherlands could participate and learn together. This is an example of how setting up a digital learning platform can really help medical students and even residents who need to continue their education and training. Using PreciCloud in combination with video communication software, a virtual training solution was created.

What might the future look like in education?

The pandemic has changed the world, in the process increasing the need for digital microscopy among universities, professionals, researchers, etc., thus acting as a driver of digitization, as in many fields. Digital microscopy is an important new teaching tool, a pedagogical asset, and a remarkable improvement in the way microscopy education can be delivered. It offers unprecedented convenience to both students and faculty. [1] Virtual microscopy will revolutionize medical and biological education and create more opportunities outside the classroom. Rapid advances in the field of artificial intelligence will contribute to this. Digital microscopy will then become a basic requirement for participation in technological progress.
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[1] Krajci,Dimitrolos & Pospísilová, E & Cernochová, Drahomíra. (2011). Methoden der Anwendung von Virtuellen Schnitten im praktischen Unterricht der modernen Histologie.