It has taken almost two years to develop the Academy's first interactive CD-ROM program - The Athlete's Knee-which allows users to be tested on actual patient case studies to gain continuing medical education credit. But according to the orthopaedic surgeons involved in the development of the project, it was time well spent.
"Our initial discussions focused on the Academy's interest in offering a complex, interactive CD-ROM program that allows orthopaedic surgeons to be tested on multiple educational levels," said Robert Poss, MD, past chairman of the Committee on Electronic Media Education. "We wanted it to be viewed as an important educational tool, something that orthopaedic surgeons would want in their libraries.
"It was from these preliminary discussions that the concept of The Athlete's Knee was developed."
One of the toughest decisions faced by the members of the Committee on Electronic Media Education, who were responsible for producing the CD-ROM, was choosing the topic area.
"We took a lot of time debating what orthopaedic subject area would be the best," said Raymond S. Gruby, MD, member of the Committee on Electronic Media Education. "The knee was chosen because it had universal appeal among the orthopaedic community."
The committee then decided that a major objective of The Athlete's Knee CD-ROM program would be to provide users with the most realistic clinical setting possible. Committee members were assigned to develop sections on patient history, physical examination, and treatment for each case. "Making each case study as realistic as possible was a challenge," said J. Whit Ewing, MD, member of the Committee on Electronic Media Education. "A lot of research and long hours of discussion went into formulating the content of each section."
The next area of concern was compiling the vast amounts of information that orthopaedic surgeons would need to complete each case study. "We had to know the answers to every question that users might have about the case studies," said Dr. Gruby. "It sounds easy, but once we felt we had answered every possible question, 10 new questions would arise."
It was equally hard to make each case challenging enough for all levels of users. "Special challenges are found in each case, so that the learning experience is heightened," said Dr. Gruby.
There also was the task of developing instructive comments to guide users through the program. "We had to develop statements saying they were on the right track as well as include statements asking-what about this aspect of the case?" said Dr. Ewing.
"Providing so many options helps the teaching. We are testing users on numerous options, and it is their decision to choose the correct one."
A unique feature of The Athlete's Knee includes special "tools" that can be used throughout the program for help. The "tools" are articles, videotape footage, and photos (i.e., X-rays, MRIs and anatomical graphics). They are found in a special reference section, and users can access material ranging from anatomy to biomechanics, and lateral meniscus rupture to cruciate ligament instability.
Long hours went into developing the "tools" for each case. Committee members were asked to provide comprehensive listings of journal articles that could be referenced by users. They also were asked to approve special photos and videotape footage. "We found that along with developing a unique, interactive CD-ROM program, we also were providing a comprehensive resource list of articles and images on athletic knee problems for users," said Colin F. Moseley, MD, chairman of the Committee on Electronic Media Education.
A demonstration of The Athlete's Knee will be on display in the Resource Center at the upcoming Annual Meeting in Atlanta. The program will be completed by early April. It is expected that more interactive CD-ROM programs will be developed by the Academy. "We are already at work on our next topic," said Dr. Moseley.
Whatever topics are chosen, committee members believe that CD-ROM programs greatly contribute to orthopaedic surgeons' learning experiences. "The CD-ROM can offer a huge amount of material and interaction not possible with other educational tools," said Dr. Moseley.
"Once again, the specialty has set the standard in continuing medical education," remarked Dr. Ewing.