Rocky Vista University announces first Digital Health Track to be offered in an osteopathic or allopathic medical school in U.S.

ST. GEORGE — Rocky Vista University has announced a new Digital Health Track, the first of its kind to be offered at an allopathic medical school in the U.S.

With the integration of technology into health care, with everything from telehealth to fitness trackers, RVU has decided to pilot a new Digital Health Track to help future generations of doctors best administer medicine through digital platforms. 

“I think the university is really excited about it,” Communications Coordinator Catherine Saenz said. 

The track will be offered at both Colorado and Southern Utah campuses starting in 2020 and is being led by Dr. Cole Zanetti, the primary care section chief for veteran affairs for the eastern Colorado health care system, and Dr. Regan Stiegmann, vice president of medical affairs for Owaves and graduate of RVU, both of whom specialized in Preventive Medicine. 

“This is a labor of love from both of us because we’ve both taken the road less traveled in our medical careers, and we’ve both flourished as a result,” Stiegmann said. “It’s sort of just the passions that we each have, in this case of non-conventional medicine.” 

Digital health is considered to be any kind of hardware or software that is used to help health care professionals and patients treat medical issues or promote health and wellness. 

Rocky Vista University students and doctors practice using digital health technology in preparation for a new Digital Health Track, Ivins, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Rocky Vista University, St. George News

The Digital Health Track is being designed to provide current undergraduate medical students with a more in-depth knowledge of medical technology and will teach them about the combination of clinical and digital practices, how digital medicine is delivered to patients as well as the outcomes resulting from it. 

Only 12 students from each campus will be selected to participate in the program. Stiegmann says they are trying to emphasize that the course is not just for those with a background in digital health or technology and anyone with an interest is welcome to apply. 

“We really want to make this a familiar and comfortable space for people,” she said. “So much of this content is new for everybody.” 

The track will incorporate education on artificial intelligence, remote monitoring, clinical informatics, telemedicine and telehealth, population health analytics, entrepreneurship in healthcare, social media in medicine, systems change, personalized medicine and genomics, and nanotechnology in healthcare. Each module of the course will also discuss the ethics of digital health.

“We’re integrating a lot of the ethics components within every one of the modules, which is pretty neat because a lot of people aren’t necessarily thinking about the ethical implications of something like digital health, and I think that’s a really important fact that we’re definitely touching on,” Stiegmann said.

Rocky Vista University students and doctors practice using digital health technology in preparation for a new Digital Health Track, Ivins, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Rocky Vista University, St. George News

Students in the track will meet for class once a week to go over a variety of learning modules, which, since the track is all about digital applications, will be online. 

“That teaches students how to build relationships with patients who they’re communicating with on a telehealth platform. It teaches students how to read those nuances when you don’t have a human body sitting in front of you,” Stiegmann said. “Those are some of the most important relationships that we’re going to have to learn to build.” 

The track will involve a lot of hands-on, interactive learning sessions as opposed to traditional lectures. While the track will involve some traditional learning techniques, such as projects, papers and presentations, students will mostly learn through application. 

Because the program is the first in the nation, it has already attracted a large number of interested professionals in the field to give guest lectures.

Rocky Vista University students and Dr. Regan Stiegmann practice using digital health technology in preparation for a new Digital Health Track, Ivins, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Rocky Vista University, St. George News

“It’s really neat because we’ll be able to provide some of the most engaging, cutting edge personnel in this field from an international audience, a wildly renowned national audience, to just form a variety of different mediums,” Stiegmann said.

The track directors have involved students in their planning since the beginning, and intend to use student feedback on the pilot course after its completion.

In addition to completing the coursework for the track, students will be required to complete two digital-related externships during their clinical years. 

“It’s beautifully sort of organically unfolding with respect to how many externship opportunities are growing as a result of just sort of the familiarity that, yeah, there is a digital health track at a medical school in this country. So people are very eager from the standpoint of getting involved 

Stiegmann says that while they’ve already received community support in offering these externship opportunities, they’re currently looking for more partners. They’re also hoping to collaborate with “any and all other institutions” to share and develop their curriculum. 

Applications for the track will open in October. More information about the tracks RVU offers and how to apply can be found here. For more information about the track or how to partner in it, email rstiegmann@rvu.edu or czanetti@rvu.edu

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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