Digital Education for Health Professionals: An Evidence Map, Conceptual Framework, and Research Agenda

Lorainne Tudor Car, Selina Poon, Bhone Myint Kyaw, David A. Cook, Victoria Ward, Rifat Atun, Azeem Majeed, Jamie Johnston, Rianne M.J.J. van der Kleij, Mariam Molokhia, Florian V Wangenheim, Martin Lupton, Niels Chavannes, Onyema Ajuebor, Charles G. Prober, Josip Car

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Health professions education has undergone major changes with the advent and adoption of digital technologies worldwide. OBJECTIVE: This study aims to map the existing evidence and identify gaps and research priorities to enable robust and relevant research in digital health professions education. METHODS: We searched for systematic reviews on the digital education of practicing and student health care professionals. We searched MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane Library, Educational Research Information Center, CINAHL, and gray literature sources from January 2014 to July 2020. A total of 2 authors independently screened the studies, extracted the data, and synthesized the findings. We outlined the key characteristics of the included reviews, the quality of the evidence they synthesized, and recommendations for future research. We mapped the empirical findings and research recommendations against the newly developed conceptual framework. RESULTS: We identified 77 eligible systematic reviews. All of them included experimental studies and evaluated the effectiveness of digital education interventions in different health care disciplines or different digital education modalities. Most reviews included studies on various digital education modalities (22/77, 29%), virtual reality (19/77, 25%), and online education (10/77, 13%). Most reviews focused on health professions education in general (36/77, 47%), surgery (13/77, 17%), and nursing (11/77, 14%). The reviews mainly assessed participants' skills (51/77, 66%) and knowledge (49/77, 64%) and included data from high-income countries (53/77, 69%). Our novel conceptual framework of digital health professions education comprises 6 key domains (context, infrastructure, education, learners, research, and quality improvement) and 16 subdomains. Finally, we identified 61 unique questions for future research in these reviews; these mapped to framework domains of education (29/61, 47% recommendations), context (17/61, 28% recommendations), infrastructure (9/61, 15% recommendations), learners (3/61, 5% recommendations), and research (3/61, 5% recommendations). CONCLUSIONS: We identified a large number of research questions regarding digital education, which collectively reflect a diverse and comprehensive research agenda. Our conceptual framework will help educators and researchers plan, develop, and study digital education. More evidence from low- and middle-income countries is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere31977
Pages (from-to)e31977
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2022


  • conceptual framework
  • digital education
  • evidence map
  • health professions education
  • mobile phone
  • research questions
  • systematic review


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