The Challenge of Cognitive Overload Among Today’s Healthcare Practitioners

There has likely never been a more exciting time to be a healthcare practitioner (HCP), particularly in the fields of oncology and hematology. Technology is evolving at a previously unheard-of pace, allowing constant discovery of new treatments, improved understanding of disease mechanisms, and breakthroughs in patient care. While these developments ultimately help HCPs take better care of patients, they also make it an extremely challenging time to work in the healthcare field, simply because there is too much to learn, and too much new information to incorporate into practice.

Cognitive overload is a very real and challenging issue for modern HCPs. There are simply more data produced on a daily basis than any one person could reasonably consume, digest, and understand. One estimate indicates that an oncologist wound need to read more than 12,000 new journal articles each year to remain up to date in their field. Beyond the time constraints associated with such a venture, the human brain is simply not capable of processing this amount of information. According to cognitive load theory, when an individual becomes overloaded with new information, the ability to integrate new information or alter stored information becomes limited, inhibiting the learning process.

Independent medical education (IME) is a key strategy in combating cognitive overload. IME providers offer HCPs a convenient way to stay up to date with recent data by filtering through the volume and highlighting the most important updates. Often new data can be misinterpreted or incorrectly applied to patient care. IME helps with this by offering expert commentaries and clinical insights, which can guide HCPs when interpreting new data and applying it to clinical practice. Finally, even when HCPs are aware of and understand new data, they often struggle to incorporate advances into patient care. Through patient case discussions, clinical scenarios, and simulations, IME allows HCPs to practice new techniques, new treatment approaches, and new strategies for patient communication before bringing these advances into the clinic.

While the modern HCP faces a daunting task when it comes to staying updated on all of the recent releases in their field, IME can help. By creating focused, tailored activities that present HCPs with the most important new data, offer expert guidance on how to appropriately interpret and apply this data, and allow the opportunity to practice incorporating new advances into the clinic, IME can serve as an invaluable resource that bridges the gap between clinical trials and patient care.