By Marcia Horn Noyes, Golden Asset Media, LLP
Tweaks to medical school education have altered the type of physician skills produced from medical training; that training and the resulting skills will not only impact patients, but also affect staff physician recruiters. Learning about current training for medical students can assist physician recruitment professionals in pinpointing the 21st century skills required to best fill hospital staff vacancies.
Three trends staff physician recruitment professionals should be aware of include innovative use of technology, cost awareness training and the introduction of the humanities into medical school.
Doctors acquiring expanded technology vision
In times past, physicians shunned electronic doctor-to-patient communication and abhorred patient-to-doctor communication, except those that came through nurse messages. Conversely, this current crop of medical students is more open to email, text and other forms of communication. In the 10th annual Epocrates Future Physicians of America survey published in September 2015, 74 percent of medical students queried said they would email a patient through a patient portal. Ninety-seven percent of those same medical students said they would also recommend a monitor device for a patient.
Part of this willingness to embrace the “digital data decoder” role for patients could stem from the value found in innovative technologies used in medical training. In an August 2015 NueMD article titled, “Doctors making use of wearable technology,” reporter Kevin McCarthy points to hospitals like Stanford University Medical Center that have used Google Glass technology to guide residents through surgery. Likewise, University of California San Francisco (UCFS) performed its own Google Glass trials to provide real-time views of surgeries to faculty and students.
Technology advancements like these are impacting medical students and ushering in sweeping patient monitoring potential. Along with a proliferation of wearable technologies that have gone mainstream (seen in fitness-based products like FitBit, Jawbone and Nike Fuel Band), medically-oriented wearables that monitor blood glucose levels, blood pressure, heart rate, sleep cycles and more will inevitably make an impact. This two-way communication has the potential to produce better patient outcomes while providing enhanced patient value.
Doctors prepared for cost discussions with patients
Doctors learn many skills during medical training, but one skill that has become increasingly important is patient communication — specifically as it relates to treatment costs. Previously, physicians drew a hard line between offering best quality of care in exam rooms while procedural cost discussions took place in the front office. Today, patients are demanding cost information. As a result, talking to patients about treatment costs has quickly become an integral part of bedside manner that is weighing heavily into a patient’s perception of value-based care.
According to a recent National Public Radio (NPR) news segment, medical schools are now training students how to discuss care costs with patients. Whether in elective or required courses, medical training institutions have seen the benefit of offering “cost of health” training as part of their medical education. This is due in part to the sweeping changes that have come from the Affordable Care Act that rewards high-value care over numerous tests and procedures previously part of the fee-for-service healthcare model.
One institution, University of California, Los Angeles, is mentioned in the NPR story. That medical school began integrating cost themes into daily lessons last year. To illustrate how that’s done, NPR interviewed Reshma Gupta, MD, the doctor leading that effort. She said this about the students, “In the everyday teaching they get about clinical medicine, what medications to prescribe, what’s the name of this diagnosis, we’re going to add a layer to every discussion about the value part of that as well.”
Honed observational skills through art appreciation
Despite ongoing questions from students and medical educators about the value of humanities curricula in medical school, some schools are weaving the arts and social sciences into the curricula. According to a September 2015 article in Harvard Crimson, Harvard Medical School boasts seminars that focus on reflection through literature.
Assistant Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School Elizabeth Gaufberg, MD, said that when the arts are incorporated into medical education, they can “help the developing student figure out how to navigate both kinds of intelligence.” She defines those intelligences as empathetic understanding and scientific objectivity.
According to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), medical student Jeffrey Campbell took Harvard Medical School’s elective course “Training the Eye” in spring of 2012. During that course, he said he learned a skill set that is virtually impossible to acquire in the classroom. Campbell said, “Learning how to communicate what we see is extraordinarily helpful when we then have to describe X-ray images or MRIs.”
Other medical schools, such as Boston University School of Medicine, the University of South Florida, the Carolinas Health System, as well as other teaching hospitals now mesh arts education with clinical training programs.
Art appreciation and its benefits have also been examined for fostering empathy and diagnostic skills. In a 2008 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, researchers found that after eight paired sessions of art observation, class participants increased their total mean number of observations compared to controls. They also had increased sophistication in their descriptions of artistic and clinical imagery.