Sunday, March 27, 2011

Medical Education; Fit for the 21st Century?

My personal view is that the current model of medical education is no longer fit for purpose; it is too heavily oriented to rote learning, is excessively hospital focused, pays little attention to the overwhelming needs of disease prevention, is excessively focused on providing healthcare as opposed to health, does not have a word to say about systems thinking and pays lip service to the concept of teamwork. There is no emphasis on the need to provide value, it does not provide the tools that allow professionals to continuously improve their service and has nothing to say about the economics of health and importantly our obligations as professionals to ensure money is spent to ensure that society receives the maximal benefit.
A very clever intern spoke to me recently, and I was discussing the concept of safety and quality. She told me she had never heard anyone in 6 years of medical school discuss these concepts. A shocking state of affairs.
Which brings me to the purpose of this post. A paper was recently published in the Lancet, and I will let the authors speak for themselves. Fundamentally, it is a call to arms, laying out the clear need to radically reform the model of medical education, in similar fashion to the Flexner report 100 years.

"Professional education has not kept pace with these challenges, largely because of fragmented, outdated, and static curricula that produce ill-equipped graduates. The problems are systemic: mismatch of competencies to patient and population needs; poor teamwork; persistent gender stratification of professional status; narrow technical focus without broader contextual understanding; episodic encounters rather than continuous care; predominant hospital orientation at the expense of primary care; quantitative and qualitative imbalances in the professional labour market; and weak leadership to improve health-system performance. Laudable efforts to address these deficiencies have mostly floundered, partly because of the so-called tribalism of the professions—ie, the tendency of the various professions to act in isolation from or even in competition with each other.

Redesign of professional health education is necessary and timely, in view of the opportunities for mutual learning and joint solutions offered by global interdependence due to acceleration of flows of knowledge, technologies, and financing across borders, and the migration of both professionals and patients. What is clearly needed is a thorough and authoritative re-examination of health professional education, matching the ambitious work of a century ago."

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