Will a new generation of med schools catch a “med ed 2.0” wave?

February 25, 2010 at 11:23 am | Posted in Communications strategy, Health 2.0, Medical education, Medicine 2.0, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Word that we’re on the verge of a dramatic jump in the number of US medical schools – perhaps two-dozen schools are said to have recently opened or might soon, the most in 30 years – raises all sorts of interesting issues.

Reports about this have, rightly, asked why we’re seeing this surge after years of stasis (though there was a bump years back in the ranks of osteopathic schools of medicine). A recent New York Times story said these new schools are seeking to address a long-standing imbalance in American medicine where many bright students, denied admission to US schools, studied abroad or gave up medicine altogether. The irony, the Times noted, was that at the same time, US hospitals had to use foreign-born or trained physicians to fill many residency slots. This was particularly true in inner-city and rural areas.

The Times notes that there are market forces at work here too, given a growing US population, the Baby Boomers’ march toward retirement, the thinning of the ranks of US physicians as they age as well, and so on.

Supporters of the expansion say more doctors will mean better care and expanded access to needed services, plus a more robust supply of primary care physicians to balance out the growing ranks of specialists. Critics wonder whether newly minted docs won’t just fall into the same patterns we’ve seen in the past – more specialists, concentrations of physicians in affluent areas – and whether the increased supply won’t just make the world’s most expensive health care system even more so.

All important questions, none of which I can claim to answer (though I do have opinions). So I’ll ask another one.

Being the first wave of medical schools to open in a truly digital age, might these new institutions be bold enough to provide a disruptive “med ed 2.0” experience, not just in the science they teach and the technology they offer but in culture of practice they provide? After all, established medical schools are already highly wired; incoming students have shown up for years on day one of class with laptops, now handhelds, at the ready. And there’s no lack of opportunities to fold the latest scientific advances into core studies.

But might this new crop of schools take the next step and be the places where curricula are built from the ground up to not only pass on the latest scientific knowledge and clinical techniques but to embrace “e-health” best practices,  fully shared patient-physician decision-making, effective information-sharing, and routine use of electronic records and related systems as tools for enhancing health as opposed to being efficient bulk storage devices.

I’m certainly not the first one to ask how the medical education experience might be different in the Web 2.0 world. Blogger Bertalan Meskó, a newly minted Hungarian physician now pursuing a PhD in personalized genomics, has written about this for a while and even launched a university credit course focusing on web 2.0 and medicine for medical students.

But I’d like to think that with a couple of dozen new homes available to train eager medical students who have come of age in a wired world, the result really will be worthy of a “2.0” label, or beyond. How about you?

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