Preparing future primary care physicians for the New Health Economy

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Medical education programs need to better prepare students for successful careers in a New Health Economy, where primary care is key to improve health outcomes at lower costs. A dramatic shift in the curriculum is needed, away from one that overemphasizes treating acute problems in silos, to one that rewards whole health, care continuity and coordination. Medical education programs that fail to graduate students with these skills will risk their future reputation.

Progressive medical schools follow these principles to better prepare future primary care physicians

The New Health Economy requires physicians care for consumers in the communities where they live, improve patient populations’ health and understand the environmental and social aspects that affect health. However, most medical school and residency training focus on disease treatment rather than prevention and management. Many students are exposed to inpatient settings and residency training at academic medical centers that attract unusually complex patients who are not representative of the general population. Leading medical schools such as Case Western Reserve University, Johns Hopkins and Standard Medicine immerse students in underserved communities, integrating a whole health and public health focus into the curriculum., They create partnerships that offer joint medical doctorate and master of public health degrees.

The New Health Economy demands that primary care providers broaden their team of nonphysicians to cater to the specific, holistic needs of consumer segments. However, HRI found medical schools are falling short on training students alongside the professionals primary care doctors want on their teams especially with mental health, community health and social work professionals. Florida International University’s The Green Family Foundation NeighborhoodHELP program, one of the most highly interdisciplinary training programs in the US, brings together medical, nursing, social work, law, education and public heath students to provide care and social services in the homes of low-income Hispanic communities.

Primary care training in the New Health Economy must expand to ambulatory or community settings and building relationships with patients over a long period of time. However, many medical schools’ clinical rotations lack continuity and offer minimal time outside of inpatient settings. Vanderbilt University requires students participate in Interprofessional Learning, in which medical, nursing, pharmacy and social work students follow a panel of patients providing and coordinating care, coaching, and helping them access community resources over two years.

The New Health Economy forces primary care physicians to be well versed in the business of healthcare. Future primary care physicians will need to efficiently coordinate all aspects of care while keeping a sharp eye on scarce resources. Increasingly, they must make data-driven decisions, relying on a growing number of data sources. Cooper Medical School at Rowan University in Camden, N.J., emphasizes process improvement and lean principles. First-year medical students train with Cooper Health System Lean Six Sigma black belts to become yellow belts while learning management techniques in areas such as central sterile supply and systems engineering.


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