Someone has been listening to me. Or rather, to me and a growing number of voices that are questioning the requirements for admission to medical school. I have argued in a past blog that you won’t get more good primary care doctors, who practice a lot of humanities in addition to the science, if the only people you admit to medical school are scientists. Two medical schools and the American Association of Medical Colleges are beginning to agree.
Pauline Chen gives a good overview of what’s happening in this area here. Essentially, Boston University and the medical school at Mt. Sinai have made pretty radical efforts to apply either more than the traditional evaluation points to their admissions process, or different ones altogether. Mt. Sinai, in particular, has an extraordinary an early-acceptance program for college sophomores and juniors in which they can get into medical school without the MCATs, and without a few of the standard pre-med science and math requirements. In return, the accepted students have to continue to major in an humanities-related field and maintain an adequate GPA. They also have to undergo intensive science enrichment courses prior to matriculation. BU hasn’t gone quite that far, but they have included many more “holistic” data points into their admissions decisions, a process that is extremely labor intensive for the schools’ admissions staff.
Both schools have great ideas that are showing some promising results. I see a couple potential problems:
1. Mt. Sinai seems to be sort of cramming in all the old science requirements in off-hours, allowing students to pursue wider studies in college. I would rather see a larger decrease in the science and math requirements. Basic chemistry and biology are probably necessary, but no one has ever explained to me why you need physics. Or calculus. You don’t need most of this stuff in medical school. All you need in medical school is the ability to put your head down and push through the memorization. You don’t need math, you just need patience. The thing is, the only way to get rid of the math and science is to get rid of the MCAT, because believe you me you can’t get through that behemoth with an english major. Then, even if you do that, you eventually run into Step 1, the first of the three-part exam you take in medical school to pass medical school. The Mt Sinai kids might need more “enrichment” courses to get through that. If those hoops are eliminated, you might find some great doctors underneath those mountainous requirements.
Continue reading “I Was Told There Would Be No Math”
Filed Under: Physicians, THCB
Tagged: AAMC, Boston University, Medical Education, Medical School, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Physicians, Shirie Leng
May 5, 2013
Everybody hates curbside consults – the informal, “Hey, Joe, how would you treat asymptomatic pyuria in my 80-year-old nursing home patient?”-type questions that dominate those Doctor’s Lounge conversations that aren’t about sports, Wall Street, or ObamaCare. Consultants hate being asked clinical questions out of context; they know that they may give incorrect advice if the underlying facts and assumptions aren’t right (the old garbage in, garbage out phenomenon). They also don’t enjoy giving away their time and intellectual capital for free. Risk managers hate curbside consults because they sometimes figure into the pathogenesis of a lawsuit, such as when a hospitalist or ER doctor acts after receiving (non-documented) curbside guidance and things go sideways.
There is some evidence to support this antipathy. A recent study published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine examined 47 curbside consultations by hospitalists, in which formal consults by different hospitalists (unaware of the details of the curbside encounter) were performed soon thereafter. Conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Colorado, the study found that the information given to the curbside consultant was incomplete or inaccurate roughly half the time, and that management advice offered via the two forms of consultation differed 60 percent of the time. (In those cases in which the consultant was given inaccurate or incomplete information, the advice differed more than 90 percent of the time!) This is not the first warning about the dangers of such consults (see also here and here), and it won’t be the last.
Continue reading “A Call For a New Model For Generalist-Specialist Information Exchange”
Filed Under: OP-ED, THCB
Tagged: Bob Wachter, curbside consults, FutureMed, generalist-specialist information exchange, health care delivery, Hospitalists, Hospitals, Journal of Hospital Medicine, Medical Education, Patient Safety
Apr 29, 2013
At a time when one in three Americans report difficulty paying medical bills, up to $750 billion is being spent on care that does not help patients become healthier. Although physicians are routinely required to manage expensive resources, traditional medical training offers few opportunities to learn how to deliver the highest quality care at the lowest possible cost. While the gap is glaring the problem is not new.
In 1975, the department of medicine at Charlotte Memorial Hospital initiated a system to monitor medical costs generated by house officers. In the Journal of Medical Education leaders of the Charlotte initiative described how simply being aware of how clinical decisions impact the costs of care could decrease inpatient length of stay by 21%. Over the last four decades there have been dozens of similar efforts to educate medical students and residents about opportunities to improve the value of care. Some interventions were simple like the one in Charlotte, and simply revealed the cost of routine tests to their trainees. Others provided more sophisticated didactics, interrogated medical records to give trainee-specific feedback on utilization, or creatively leveraged the hospital computer order-entry systems.
Continue reading “Teaching Value: Medical Educators Need to Take Charge and Help Deflate Medical Bills”
Filed Under: Physicians, THCB
Tagged: ABIM Foundation, Choosing Wisely, Christopher Moriates, Costs, FutureMed, Medical Education, Neel Shah, Teaching Value and Choosing Wisely Competition, Vineet Arora
Apr 7, 2013
Each year, medical students incur more than $166,750 in medical school debt, according to the AAMC. Despite the organization’s conclusion that medical student debt is not a determining factor in choosing a medical specialty, the cost of education is a major concern for the future of health care. Medical students and physicians across the US have made extensive time commitments during their 20s to mastering the foundations of medicine and completing a residency. New physicians today face an exorbitant amount of debt that takes anywhere from 10 to 30 years to repay. We must continue to attract the brightest and smartest students into medicine without deterring them by cost. All Americans and the newly insured 32 million US citizens are counting on my generation to become the future of medicine. We cannot afford to let a price tag deter us from this responsibility.
When a friend and I created our medical school’s first student state lobby day, the solution proposed by many legislators was to find a side job or take out more student loans. As any physician would know, medical students already work and study for more than 70 hours a week, which does not allow for earning a substantial side income.
I propose a unique business model, “Invest in a Medical Student’s Tuition Program,” (IMSTP) to help mitigate student loan debt. I began working on this idea three years ago, after I presented it to the AAMC’s Organization of Student Representatives. My goal is to create a new venture that would eliminate one of the two financial problems facing students: cost of tuition and interest rates. Because the cost of tuition is set by the university, I decided to tackle the 6.8 percent interest rate set by federal government Direct Loans.
Continue reading “Could Private Investment Be A Game Changer For Med Student Debt?”
Filed Under: Physicians
Tagged: AAMC, Costs, Invest in a Medical Student's Tuition Program (IMSTP), Medical Education, private investment, Shady Henien, tuition
Apr 5, 2013
Recently, I was having a discussion with a colleague about being a doctor. She confided in me that if someone asked her about becoming a doctor, she would tell him or her to become a nurse practitioner. After reading the emotional open letter to our policymakers in Washington DC, it may sound like a reasonable suggestion. After all, why go into this much debt and spend so much time in training if your prospects are not much better? More recently, the New York Times article points out job prospects for radiology trainees are thinning, meaning the well known “ROAD” (Radiology, Ophthalmology, Anesthesiology, and Dermatology) to success may soon become a road to nowhere if there are no jobs.
There in lies the question, why become a doctor? If the answer is to make money or to have an easy life, then you probably need to look for a new profession. With healthcare payment reform, doctors can expect lower salaries as bundled payment and cost cutting measures are instituted. Moreover, the demand for healthcare will go up as more patients have insurance, leading to higher patient volumes and the expectation to see more patients with the same amount of time.
Continue reading “Why Become A Doctor?”
Filed Under: Physicians, THCB
Tagged: FutureMed, Medical Education, Physicians, Residency, Scope of Practice, Vineet Arora
Mar 31, 2013
After the mayhem and jubilation of celebrating a successful match at the Pritzker School of Medicine with our students, I went onto Twitter to follow the #match2013 hashtag to understand what the reactions were. Most were positive, but one headline caught my attention ‘In Record-Setting ‘Match Day,’ 1,100 Medical Students Don’t Find Residencies.”
It is true this was the largest match because it was “All-in” – programs either were in the match for all their positions (including international medical graduates or IMGs) or they were not. Obviously, many programs put more positions up for grabs in the Match. After I reposted this article to Twitter, there were many theories and questions about who these unmatched students were and why – some of which I have tried to answer to the best of my ability below. I welcome your input as well.
Who are these unmatched students? Why didn’t they match?
-Are these IMGs? This number is US Senior medical students who have been admitted and graduated from US medical schools but now have no place to go to practice medicine.
-Does this include those that entered the “scramble” now called SOAP. Technically, those that entered SOAP and were successful would have been counted as “matched” on Friday. Last year, 815 Us seniors went unmatched after the SOAP.
Continue reading “What the Early 2013 Match Day Numbers Tell Us About Where We’re Going”
Filed Under: Physicians, THCB
Tagged: graduate medical education, Match Day, Medical Education, Residency, Vineet Arora
Mar 18, 2013
“What does the 21st Century Physician look like?”
Lisa Fields (@PracticalWisdom) cc’ed me on a tweet about this; it’s the featured question at www.tomorrowsdoctor.org, an organization founded by three young professionals who spoke at TEDMED last year.
I’ll admit that the question on the face of it struck me as a bit absurd, especially when juxtaposed with the term “tomorrow’s doctor.”
Tomorrow’s doctor needs to be doing a much better job of dealing with today’s medical challenges, because they will all be still here tomorrow. (Duh!) And the day after tomorrow.
(As for the 21st century in general, given the speed at which things are changing around us, seems hard to predict what we’ll be doing by 2050. I think it’s likely that we’ll still end up needing to take care of elderly people with physical and cognitive limitations but I sincerely hope medication management won’t still be a big problem. That I do expect technology to solve.)
After looking at the related Huffington Post piece, however, I realized that this trio really seems to be thinking about how medical education should be changed and improved. In which case, I kind of think they should change their organization’s name to “Next Decade’s Doctor,” but I can see how that perhaps might not sound catchy enough.
Continue reading “What Will Tomorrow’s Doctor Look Like?”
Filed Under: Physicians, THCB
Tagged: CQI, e-patients, FutureMed, Leslie Kernisan, Medical Education, OpenNotes, PDSA, practice of medicine, Quality, shared decision making, TEDMED
Mar 8, 2013
- Cause of death on this 1937 death certificate? “Senile gangrene.”
I’ve always had nagging doubts about filling out death certificates.
An excellent article in the trade paper “American Medical News” by Carolyne Krupa explores the “inexactitude” of the custom.
As Krupa points out, doctors are never taught how to fill out the documents. She quotes Randy Hanzlick, MD, chief medical examiner for Fulton County, GA:
“Training is a big problem. There are very few medical schools that teach it,” he said. “For many physicians, the first time they see it is when they are doing their internship or residency and one of their patients dies. The nurse hands them a death certificate and says, ‘Fill this out.’ ”
That’s pretty much how it works. Though sometimes the person that comes calling with the death certificate is a hospital clerk. And she will make you fill out the form carefully, using only ‘allowable’ causes of death.
Of course, everyone dies from the same thing:lack of oxygen to the brain. But you can’t list that. Nor can you list common “jargon-y” favorites like “cardiopulmonary arrest,” “respiratory failure,” “sepsis,” or “multi-system organ failure.” All of which are true, but too inexact to be useful.
It’s intimidating to be the one to “pronounce” someone dead, and be the final arbiter of the cause. Isn’t that why we have medical examiners/pathologists?
We don’t autopsy patients much anymore, a trend that concerns many in the industry but doesn’t seem likely to change. That leaves interns and residents (at teaching hospitals) and community docs (in the real world) in charge of filling out these important statistical and historic documents.
Continue reading “Quantified Death”
Filed Under: Hospitals, THCB
Tagged: allowable causes of death, autopsy, Death Certificates, John Schumann, Medical Education, medical examiners, pathology, Physicians
Jan 28, 2013
This week the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) issued a new report describing its vision of primary care’s future. Not surprisingly, the report talks about medical homes, with patient-centered, team-based care.
More surprisingly, though, it makes a point to insist that physicians, not nurse practitioners, should lead primary care practices. The important questions are whether nurse practitioners are qualified to independently practice primary care, and whether they can compensate for the primary care physician shortage. On both counts the AAFP thinks the answer is “no.”
AAFP marshals an important argument to bolster its position. Family physicians have four times as much education and training, accumulating an average of 21,700 hours, while nurse practitioners receive 5,350 hours.
It is unclear how this plays out in the real world but, intuitively, we all want physicians in a pinch. Researchers with the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews reviewed studies in 2004 and 2009 comparing the relative efficacy of primary care physicians and nurse practitioners. They wrote “appropriately trained nurses can produce as high quality care as primary care doctors and achieve as good health outcomes for patients.” But they also acknowledged that the research was limited.
There is no question that nurse practitioners can provide excellent routine care. For identifying and managing complexity, though, physicians’ far deeper training is a big advantage. In other words, difficult, expensive cases are likely to fare better from a physician’s care.
Continue reading “The Wrong Battles”
Filed Under: Physicians, THCB
Tagged: AAFP, Brian Klepper, Medical Education, Nurse Practitioners, Patient Care, primary care
Sep 20, 2012
Outside a patient’s room in the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU), a senior doctor, a nurse, and several residents in various stages of wakefulness cluster for morning rounds. Each resident mans a computer-on-wheels (once called a C.O.W., the acronym was formally abandoned at MGH, legend has it, after a patient thought it was directed at her and took offense).
One of the residents reads off laboratory test results from the patient’s electronic record. Another resident uses her mouse to toggle through the patient’s medications and share them with the group. The nurse reads aloud blood pressures and heart rates from a handwritten hourly log. As scribe for the day, I type these numbers to update a progress note that we’ll later print and place in the patient’s paper chart. Someday, these records will be completely digital, finally matching the wonderland of medical technology that is the CICU.
As the Electronic Health Record (EHR) slowly but inexorably assumes its rightful place in modern health care, obviating the ridiculous cultural norm of physicians with illegible handwriting, reducing medical errors, and making care (usually) more efficient, educators are asking the question: are we teaching this in medical school?
Not consistently, it turns out.
Anywhere from 34 to 57% of doctors’ offices and 19% of hospitals now use an EHR. While they are more often found in academic hospitals and clinics (where training occurs) than in other American health care settings, a recent survey finds that this tool doesn’t always trickle down to medical students. Only 64% of medical schools let their students use the EHR, and only about a third of those let students enter patient orders or write notes within the record, according to the survey of 338 educators nationwide that appeared in last month’s Teaching and Learning in Medicine.
Continue reading “Electronic Health Records In the Classroom?”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: EHR, Medical Education
Aug 26, 2012