KyrMedu: Advancing Higher Education in Biomedical Engineering and Healthcare Management in Kyrgyzstan
Within the framework of the project + “KyrMedu: Advancing Higher Education in Biomedical Engineering and Healthcare Management in Kyrgyzstan”, since 2015, seven universities in Kyrgyzstan are implementing large-scale activities to implement the innovative educational programmes. For this purpose, the project consortium has advanced the teacher capacities, equiped the material, technical and educational capacities for practical and distance learning and strengthened the cooperation with medical institutions, economic partners, the Ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry of Health of the Kyrgyz Republic. Also, a modern medical laboratory was created with a value of more than 238.000 EUR (116.000EUR for the KyrMedu Lab at KSMA and another 122.000 EUR for the Cloud Lab infrastructure connecting the other Kyrgyz KyrMedu universities to the KyrMedu Lab) , which is designed to share for all project partner universities as a training base for practice and laboratory classes.
The final conference of the project was conducted on April 11 and 12, 2019 at Talas State University (TSU), within which a joint curriculum was developed and implemented that meets the requirements of the modern labor market and is oriented to practice. TSU is member of the consortium of the project, which includes six more Kyrgyz and three European universities. During the implementation of the project, TSU successfully launched the programme “Health Informatics and Biomedical Engineering”, where more than 20 students are currently enrolled. Favorable learning conditions have been created for them, in particular, the tele-teaching infrastructure is equipped with modern equipment, computer equipment and measuring and diagnostic devices for practical and laboratory classes. As well as more than 25 TSU teachers completed advanced training courses in Germany, Romania and Croatia. Communication with local medical institutions has been established and cooperation agreements have been signed for practice, internship and employment. TSU has made and is making a huge contribution to the sustainable development of Talas region in the fields of education and health. Recognizing such an effective impact of the project at the regional level, the final meeting of partners with the participation of project stakeholders was conducted at TSU.
The objective of the project is to solve problems in the health sector by developing and implementing interdisciplinary educational programmes. Therefore, the project consortium covers four regional and three Bishkek universities with expertise in technical, medical and medical informatics directions, as well as three European universities with expertise in the implementation of international projects in medical informatics, biomedical engineering and e-learning technologies. The purpose of the project consortium is to create educational programmes where the disciplines of medicine, information technology and management meet. Project partners: Kyrgyz State University of Construction, Transport and Architecture, N.Isanova (KSTU), Kyrgyz State Technical University, I. Razzakova (KSTU) and the Kyrgyz State Medical Academy, I. Akhunbayeva (KSMA), Issyk-Kul State University named after K.Tynystanova (ISU), Naryn State University, S. Naamatova (NSU), Osh State University (OSU) and Talas State University (TSU).
The University of Applied Sciences Zwickau (WHZ) has been actively cooperating with Kyrgyz universities since 2003. The collaboration began with the introduction of the computer science curriculum at the Kyrgyz State University of Construction, Transport and Architecture, N. Isanova from 2008 to 2015. Since 2015, work has been carried out with further six universities of Bishkek and the regions. According to the DAAD project, existing curricula have been adapted to the requirements of the labor market and new practice-oriented educational programmess have been created.
The Technical University of Cluj-Napoca (TUCN) is one of the top universities in the technical direction category in Romania. The faculties of mechanics and electrical engineering, in particular the department of biomedical engineering and the department of mechatronics and mechanical dynamics are actively involved at the project. TUCN conducted a series of trainings on biomedical engineering and sensor technology, which were attended by 42 teachers from Kyrgyzstan.
Zagreb University (UZ) also supports the project from the European side. The university implemented a successful Tempus project on managing the e-learning platform, so they acted as experts in the implementation of the e-learning portal and its management, and conducted a series of advanced training courses for 38 teachers from Kyrgyz universities.
Objectives of the project
The aim of the project is to improve higher education in the field of biomedical engineering and health management in Kyrgyzstan. To this end, the following tasks were assigned to the project consortium:
- To assess the current status of the health sector in Kyrgyzstan in terms of providing IT specialists and qualifications of medical personnel in servicing medical equipment
- To identify the requirements of medical personnel for advanced training programs offered at universities in Kyrgyzstan
- To establish the level of competence and skills of specialists in the maintenance of software and medical equipment
- To develop an educational programme in accordance with the requirements of the labor market and to agree on areas of specialist training with medical institutions
- To develop sectoral qualification frameworks “Health informatics and biomedical engineering” and “Health care management”
Status Quo analysis of the health sector of the Kyrgyz Republic
In 2017, sectoral qualification frameworks were developed for the new educational programme by specialists of partner universities with the participation of representatives of the Ministry of Education and Science, and based on the results of the 2016 survey. The survey involved 156 institutions in 5 regions of Kyrgyzstan. The main objectives of the survey were to study the current status of the health sector and identify the core competencies and requirements for graduates of medical informatics, the needs and capabilities of medical institutions in the maintenance and management of medical equipment. The survey results formed the basis of the sectoral qualifications framework and curriculum. Thus, it was found that medical institutions need advanced training courses in information technology based on devices that have been used since the days of the Soviet Union. And it was also revealed that the majority of medical workers are not satisfied with the quality of personnel in the direction of medical informatics, which are issued in Kyrgyzstan. Most respondents need online courses on the use of new information technologies. An interesting fact was also established - in medical institutions, PC workstations are interconnected via an internal network, but a significant part does not have an internal communication system and information exchange via a computer network.
Therefore, the following recommendations were made according to the survey results:
- Develop and conduct a new innovative curriculum on biomedical engineering, medical informatics and management.
- Prepare highly qualified IT health care professionals
- Develop a new interdisciplinary training approach for representatives of the health sector
- Develop qualification requirements for advanced training programmes for medical workers and doctors in Kyrgyzstan
- Develop and offer certification training programmes for medical workers and doctors at universities
- Develop a programme of online courses for computer science students and medical personnel and promote their joint projects, as well as the exchange of experience and knowledge.
- Establish a medical laboratory for conducting trainings and advanced training courses for medical workers and doctors and students of the new curriculum.
Development and implementation of a practice-oriented educational programme in six universities
The Curriculum, which was developed at the interface of three areas as medicine, engineering and computer science, was approved by the Ministry of Education of the Kyrgyz Republic and introduced in 2017. Currently, a total 120 students are enrolled in two courses. This curriculum is also different in that it is focused on practice and contributes to the development of practical skills in students, which as a result allows them to quickly focus on the labor market. To do this, the curriculum provides for work experience with a workload of 20 credits and a pre-diploma practice of 15 credits. The content of academic disciplines is designed to conduct experiments, draw up observation protocols and identify learning outcomes based on practical examples and tasks. All this is possible on the basis of the Medical Laboratory, which is equipped with modern diagnostic devices such as ultrasound, ECG, endoscope, artificial lung ventilation and other measuring and diagnostic devices. Students receive practical skills by conducting simulations on themselves and on dummies. Within the framework of the project, university professors developed laboratory guidelines based on their observations and experiments under the guidance of professors from the University of Zwickau.
Setup of the Medical Laboratory
The survey of 2016 among medical personnel revealed that it was necessary to create a base for the advanced training of medical workers and doctors. Based on this result, a commission was drawn up to develop a list of devices for the Medical Laboratory. The commission included specialists from the KSMA, KSUCTA, KSTU and representatives from the Ministry of Health, medical institutions and organizations for the delivery of medical equipment in Kyrgyzstan, as well as professors in biomedical engineering from the University of Applied Sciences Zwickau. As a result of several meetings and discussions, it was decided to purchase devices for diagnostic equipment and equipment for conducting various tests and experiments as simulators, phantoms and dummies. At the opening of the Medical Laboratory on May 25, 2019, a multilateral agreement was signed between partner universities on the joint use, and on the conditions specified in this agreement. This framework agreement serves for each university as a basis for a separate bilateral agreement with the KSMA, where specific conditions of access are stipulated, a schedule and responsible teacher for coordination and management of practical work are fixed.
On the basis of the Medical Laboratory, video tutorials on working with devices with a duration of 10-15 minutes were developed as well.
Setup of the Cloud Lab
The laboratory has the ability for medical informatics to save, share and process data in the cloud, in the so-called Cloud Lab, through which data from ultrasound and ECG are sent from the Medical Laboratory to a common network, where they are stored and exchanged for educational purposes between partner universities. Claud's laboratory covered all the tasks set by the project, from the method of obtaining and receiving biomedical information, processing biosignals to electrical signals, to digitizing the signal and processing software for further archiving and data exchange.
Set up of the Hub for storing and processing the medical data
A hub was also created for specialized and professional medical data processing. With the help of this infrastructure, diagnostic equipment was installed in all universities, are united into a single network, and thus creates a platform for centralized storage of images and optimization of the process of their transmission and processing. The Hub system is a set of hardware and software (computer networks, servers, computers, workstations, medical equipment, software) designed to perform the following tasks:
- Connecting medical devices to the PACS archive
- Organization of storage and archiving of digital diagnostic images on a server acquired for general use by partner universities of the project and established on the basis of KSTU
- Organization of transferring images over the network, both between the partner universities of the project and medical institutions, and within KSTU.
- Creation of computerized workplaces of specialists equipped with functions appropriate to their status
Equipping tele-teaching infrastructure
Distance learning centers were established in all universities on the basis of the Teleteaching Infrastructure, through which universities are able to connect via online streaming to lectures and seminars, as well as conduct joint online conferences and webinars. In addition, a learning portal was created on the Moodle platform, which contains materials on the disciplines of the joint curriculum. All universities have access and have the opportunity to share materials with partners and share educational material and experience.
Development of training materials and guidelines for laboratory work
WHZ conducted a series of trainings to prepare teachers for a practice-oriented learning approach. As a result of the trainings, the teachers of the consortium were equipped with methodic-didactic tools for practical training, especially when developing laboratory guidelines with devices from the Medical Laboratory. The training was held in three parts: In June 2018, the teachers familiarized themselves with the structure and functionality of the devices and planned the development of laboratory guidelines. In February 2019, they conducted experiments with devices (ECG, ultrasound, a spirometer, an artificial lung ventilator, etc.). They recorded their observations in the protocols. During the trainings, teachers also deepened their theoretical knowledge of devices and compiled practical training protocols by conducting experiments on devices. And in March 2019, they completed the final training at the University of Applied Sciences Zwickau, where teachers participated in practical exercises, visited laboratories of biomedical engineering and management in public health, improved their knowledge and skills in creating laboratories and received impulses for their laboratory classes. So far, seven labs were developed and uploaded to the Moodle portal for sharing and further improvement and staffing.
Development of an educational portal on the Moodle platform
The project has developed the concept of an educational platform for sharing based on Moodle. The University of Zagreb conducted an educational portal management training. KSUCTA conducted training on installation, administration and advanced features of the Moodle platform for teachers and IT administrators of universities. As a result of trainings and working meetings, the structure of the portal was developed, roles for students, teachers and administrators were defined. Work programs, training materials were developed for 35 disciplines and about 10 methodological guidelines on lateral works based on medical devices were developed.
Training of teachers
Within the framework of the project, approx. 180 teachers in Kyrgyzstan, Romania, Croatia and Germany. The training at the University of Zagreb in Croatia discussed various topics related to business, health care and the development of information technology. A number of lectures on biomedical engineering, mechanics, robotics, medicine, medical informatics and electrical engineering were held at the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca.
Bishkek universities, KSUCTA, KSTU and KSMA, also conducted guest lectures for regional universities. Teachers of KSUCTA conducted lectures on computer science, KSTU - on biomedical engineering and robotics, and KSMA - on medicine. So, regional universities are prepared in all disciplines on which the joint educational program KyrMedu is based.
Within the framework of the project, the link between universities was strengthened and cooperation established. Thanks to constant contact and participation in joint trainings, teachers and university coordinators gained extensive experience in an international, interregional, and national project. On the way to achieving one common goal, they constantly interacted and increasingly united in one integral team, which served as an important factor for successful cooperation and opened new perspectives for the development of the Kyrgyz economy through innovative educational projects. In the course of the project, activities were conducted to ensure sustainability of results and impact at both the regional and national levels. A network of universities was established to train highly qualified personnel for the health sector of Kyrgyzstan. Sustainable development is provided primarily by human resources. Thus, within the framework of the project, approx. 180 teachers were trained. Secondly, the project influenced the capacities of material and technical resources, such as the acquisition and installation of medical, information and communication and computer technical devices for training. Thirdly, in order to achieve a long-term impact of the project, an educational programme and educational and methodological resources for practice-oriented training were developed and implemented.
A very important role was played by the principle of the project - the principle of interdependence. During the project, conditions were created that promote close cooperation for mutually beneficial interests and the constant exchange of experience and resources. Firstly, one curriculum was introduced in higher education institutions except KSMA. In the KSMA, in turn, the Medical Laboratory has been established for students of the partner universities. A hub has been created at KSTU for storing and processing the medical data. In all universities, an ECG with software was installed that allows to save and send data to Cloud. Data exchange and access to a common database of medical signals, images and cardiac signals are possible through the Cloud infrastructure at KSUCTA. Thus, cooperation structures are organized both at the physical and virtual levels. In KSUCTA, the infrastructure of the network cloud for data exchange, administration of the e-learning platform and communication between universities is established.