Millions more students worldwide could train as doctors and nurses using electronic learning, which is just as effective as traditional medical training, a review commissioned by the World Health Organization has found.
Researchers at Imperial College London who conducted the review said on Monday that wider use of e-learning might help make up for a global shortfall of 7.2 million health workers identified in a recent WHO report.
Josip Car, who led the study, said that the use of electronic media and devices in education - already used by many universities and workplaces to allow "distance learning" to support campus- or office-based teaching - could enable greater access to education, especially in poorer countries where the need for health professionals is greatest.
He said the barriers were mostly in access to computers and Internet connections.
Car's team carried out a systematic review of 108 existing studies to assess the effectiveness of e-learning for undergraduate health professional education.
They also conducted separate analyses looking at online learning, requiring an internet connection, and offline learning, delivered using CD-ROMs or USB sticks, for example.
They found that students gain knowledge and skills through online and offline eLearning as well as or better than they do through traditional teaching.