The power of the whiteboard

Dr. Gadget

January 31, 2017

Contributed by Wesley D. Jackson, MD, CCFP, FCFP

The CanMEDS Physician Competency Framework is an educational framework first developed by the Royal College in the 1990s and revised in 2005 and 2015. It “ ... describes the abilities physicians require to effectively meet the health care needs of the people they serve. These abilities are grouped thematically under seven roles. A competent physician seamlessly integrates the competencies of all seven CanMEDS Roles.”1

Expertise in each of these roles naturally varies from physician-to-physician, and technology allows for rapid and relatively simple distribution of great ideas and tools. At least three of the roles outlined in this framework highlight our need as physicians to educate ourselves, our patients and our peers. I would like to highlight two educational tools using whiteboard animations that are readily available to all physicians.

Dr. Mike Evans is the founder of the Health Design Lab at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute. While an associate professor of family medicine and public health at the University of Toronto, he developed a significant library of engaging, evidence-based and informative patient education videos on YouTube2 using whiteboard animations.

His first video, highlighting the importance of exercise, was called “23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?” It was uploaded about five years ago and has garnered over five million views. Since that time, he has published many other videos addressing topics ranging from hip and knee replacement to advice for those taking opioid medication. The quality of his work has not gone unnoticed; he recently has been recruited to work with Apple in California. I have prescribed his videos, such as 23 1/2 hours, What’s the best diet? and What is the single best drink for your health? to my patients as homework. I have also shown in my office, videos on concussion and PSA testing. I leave my iPad with the patient, with guided access mode enabled, while I leave the room for a few minutes and then return to answer any questions. These videos have also been enjoyed by my family, with the talk on flatulence rising to the top (pun intended) as their definite favorite. is a website that was launched in July that is “ ... designed for medical school students and practicing physicians to learn and review the fundamentals of clinical medicine.”3 It is the product of the collaboration of more than 180 leading medical professors from around the world, led by Dr. Sanjay Sharma from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. This website uses a combination of whiteboard animations, video lectures, SOAP notes and online discussion boards to help students and doctors learn in a fun and engaging way. Topics are arranged in courses ranging from cardiology to urology. Modules within these courses are short, engaging and meant to support the flipped classroom approach now used in many medical schools. Currently, there are about 100 modules available, with 100 more to be added in the next few months.

While other, more traditional lecture-based video educational tools available on the Internet continue to be helpful, the techniques in the above resources use pedagogically sound principles to efficiently teach key points while offering the consumer more detail as time and need permit. As a practicing physician, I am constantly looking for ways to improve efficiency while maintaining or even improving quality in my clinical and teaching practice. Efficient use of technology allows me to easily tap into the talents and skills of these great teachers to benefit the patients and learners in my practice while helping me maintain competence and continue to enjoy my profession.

Reader tip

Thanks to Dr. Lawrence Farries who replied with the following in response to the previous Dr. Gadget article: “Do I need a medical calculator?”

“I enjoyed your article and have downloaded and have been playing with MDCalc. For surgeons, the ACS NSQIP-based Surgical Risk Calculator is online only but has been of great utility in both reassuring and talking patients out of surgery as appropriate.

Actually, one of the fascinating things for me with the ACS Surgical Risk Calculator was that when you discuss the complications and outcomes predicted by the calculator, most patients are not too dismayed by the thought of death or of horrible sounding things like pneumonia or venous thromboembolism. However, if you tell an independent 78-year-old that following his esophagectomy he has a prediction of one in seven, or 14%, for “discharge to nursing home or rehab facility,” he may run like a rabbit. A discussion with this evidence-based information often goes differently than I would have guessed.”

References available upon request.

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