Technical Medicine: Designing Medical Technological Solutions for Improved Health Care

Marleen Groenier (Corresponding Author), Julius Marie Pieters, Helene A.T. Miedema

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Complex medical technology is rapidly being introduced in health care, aimed at improving diagnosis and treatment. However, mistakes in the use of medical technology show that adequate expertise to apply it safely is often lacking, let alone to improve patient care through innovative technology use. We argue that a new health care professional, the Technical Physician, should be trained to have the expertise to translate medical technology use into improved patient-specific procedures.

An educational design model was followed, consisting of analysis, design, construction, implementation, and formative evaluation. Analysis of technology use in health care and the required expertise was conducted to derive the professional profile and core competencies. Adaptive expertise theory and research-based design form the foundation of the professional profile. Cognitive integration, self-directed learning, and technical medical design projects were selected as leading instructional principles.

The curriculum was implemented in 2003 in the Netherlands. Over 300 Technical Physicians have graduated since 2009. Internal evaluations showed that curriculum changes were necessary to (1) address the application of mathematical principles, (2) enhance reflection by increasing experience-based learning, (3) support development of adaptive expertise related to basic technical skills, and (4) aid faculty in translating their knowledge and skills to the Technical Medicine domain.

We recommend a strong focus on supporting both faculty within the Technical Medicine program and the Technical Physicians in clinical practice with the translation of knowledge and skills between the technical and medical domains. Future research should systematically evaluate the design and effects of the Technical Medicine curriculum.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)621-631
JournalMedical Science Educator
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Technical physician
  • Patient safety
  • Research-based design
  • Medical technology use
  • Adaptive expertise


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