Experts advocate for a digital shift in medical education

Continuing COVID-19 research, other emerging disease threats, and questions about just when the next pandemic may strike as well as concern over the nation's preparedness for it are still top of mind for many healthcare professionals. But in a field where emergencies happen daily, and drastic changes can occur overnight, will these unceasing aspects translate into medical education curriculums fast enough? 

Artificial intelligence is one way to help, some experts say. The technology's use is booming across several industry sectors including healthcare, where it holds promise of improving workflows, diagnoses, educational simulations and more. 

To keep pace with the continually evolving field and new technology supporting it, medical leaders told Becker's that it is imperative for medical education to keep pace. 

Here's what curriculums should prioritize in 2024, according to experts:

Cristy Page, MD. Executive Dean at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and chief academic officer of UNC Health (Chapel Hill): We are living in a time of rapid scientific discovery and technological advancement. Students need to learn to embrace and lead through change to better the health of our patients and to enable a fulfilling career in medicine. One current example is the use of AI in medicine. As educators, we must ensure that our students understand how to utilize it most effectively in practice and are aware of the latest trends in this area. At the same time, we are actively working with counterparts across our university to establish policies and protocols for the use of AI by students in their coursework.

Adele Webb, PhD, RN. Executive Dean of Healthcare Initiatives for Strategic Education (Herndon, Va.):: As we move into the future, medical education must adjust training to the rapid changes in healthcare. There must be increased focus on how augmented intelligence and virtual reality can be used to safely support health care delivery and train practitioners. As more care is shifting into home and outpatient settings, clinical experiences must adapt to the new realities. And given concerns for the future of general practitioners, students should be educated on the value, satisfaction and importance of a general practitioner role.

Janelle Sokolowich, PhD, MSN. Academic Vice President and Dean of the Leavitt School of Health at Western Governors University (Salt Lake City): In the future, I think nursing will continue to have more integration of virtual reality simulations. So far, with [the implementation of] our simulation experience, we've found that one part of simulation that does really well is building the self-confidence in students' abilities. … We know that we have to continue to build confidence in order to build clinical decision-making ability.

Keith Mueller, PhD. Director of the Rural Policy Research Institute and the Health Management Policy Department at the University of Iowa (Iowa City): There are models in some programs that could be more widely adopted. These are changes in both the content and modality of education that would better prepare physicians as co-leaders of person-centered medical homes functioning under new payment models.

  1. Including instructional material focused on the evolution of payment from volume-based to value-based methodologies will better prepare physicians to understand reasons for pressures to understand patient needs for services beyond those offered in the clinic. I’m thinking of asking physicians to refer patients to other services, sometimes with a formal prescription… Training in public health, changes in delivery modalities (including hospital-at-home), and finance (increased income for the clinic or other healthcare organization related to measures of health) will be needed as part of the medical curriculum.

  2. Increase contact hours during medical education that are undertaking in interprofessional training. Physicians need to collaborate with other members of patient-centered teams (including social workers, public health workers, and administrators) in order to optimize results for the persons (patients) they serve.

  3. Include a variety of opportunities in experiential learning that include serving different population groups (including historically underserved) and in different settings (including rural clinics and hospitals). The degree to which institutions move learning sites out of the immediate environment of the medical school can, and should, vary given the mission of the institution. Having said that, we should encourage those institutions with missions to serve entire states to develop site-specific training to meet the needs of all residents of their states.

Responses have been edited for clarity and length.


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