Healthcare has long been at the forefront of issues in America. It’s complicated and multifaceted. We’ve all seen the stories about the high cost of care and insurance and the challenges that face patients as they navigate the system. It’s a distressing picture of the financial realities that patients often face in America’s healthcare system, but they aren’t the only ones facing harsh financial realities.
Debt and Deterrence: The Financial Reality of Medical School
Medical school is expensive and those who become doctors often end up leaving school with an average debt of nearly $200,000. This has led to some unfortunate and unintended consequences. Many students, facing the reality of this debt, go into higher-paying healthcare career paths, or want to work in wealthier areas of the country due to the higher earning potential. This has contributed to a shortage of doctors in poorer, often rural areas, especially in certain disciplines like general practice or pediatrics. The high cost of medical school may also be discouraging qualified people from going into medicine at all.
There is a lot of discussion about these issues and possible solutions, and some are already being implemented. For example, Kaiser Permanente is opening a state-of-the-art medical school in Pasadena, California and has pledged to make it tuition-free for the first five years and to provide significant financial aid after that. They are beginning with small class sizes of just 48 students in the inaugural class. The curriculum will be based on three pillars: Biomedical Science, Clinical Science, and Health Systems Science. It will use an integrated curriculum that includes cutting-edge technology and tools as well as hands-on clinical experience almost from the start. The first class will begin their studies in 2020.
The hope is certainly that in providing a more affordable medical education, students who previously wouldn’t have considered a career as a doctor will, and that all students will be freer to choose areas of specialization based on interest rather than earning potential.
Upgrading to the 21st Century
The school is innovative in other ways as well. Recognizing the transformative effect technology is having on medicine across the board, it will utilize technology like collaboration boards, web conferencing software, AR, VR, and 3-D technology as part of the curriculum to prepare students for the future of medicine which will utilize similar innovative tools in healthcare delivery. For example, VR is already being used to simulate operating room procedures that require surgical equipment in delicate situations. The school will feature a Simulation Center where students will be able to practice foundational skills for operating procedures, response to emergencies, and clinical decision-making.
With new technology, there are learning curves, sometimes steep ones. The explosion of technology in healthcare has increased this problem. There is anecdotal evidence that this is contributing to physician burnout. Something that seems like an obvious win, like switching to Electronic Health Records (EHR), can have unintended consequences. This is one reason why training with the newest technology from the start can be so important. Kaiser is specifically putting an emphasis on a data-driven and collaborative approach for physicians at the new school.
Meeting the Demands of the Future
Kaiser is one of many organizations, made up of thousands of smart, caring people, who are trying to solve the challenges of our current healthcare system and ensure that we have medical professionals equipped to care for us all while building good careers and leading fulfilling lives. Universities across the country are trying various solutions to address the cost of medical school and everyone is wrestling with the best ways to integrate technology into medical education and healthcare delivery to produce the best patient outcomes.
Since we’re in the business of finding technically savvy people to work in the healthcare industry, we are thrilled to see efforts to help educate future members of the workforce. It is exciting to see how technology is transforming another corner of our world, with real applications for hot tech like VR and 3-D and real promise for making lives better. It’s exciting to be involved in the industry during this profound and rapid transformation.
Best of luck to the future doctors who will take advantage of Kaiser’s new school!