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Population health prioritized as key aspect of medical training


The AMA and medical schools across the country are placing new emphasis on population health management and value-based care.

In a nod to the growing importance of population health management and value-based care, the American Medical Association (AMA) is working with medical schools to help students prepare. The organization is collaborating with 32 medical schools, creating the Accelerating Change in Medical Education Consortium, to infuse curriculums with leadership, technology, economics and policy in healthcare training.

James L. Madara, MD, CEO of AMA, says that “third pillar” of medical education is health system science, joining basic and clinical science, and it is an essential skill that medical professionals of the future need

“We know that the way healthcare is being delivered is changing, but until now those changes have not been widely incorporated into the way we teach our physicians,” Madara says. “Our medical schools are very good at preparing students for the basic and clinical sciences that are paramount to providing care to patients, but what is largely missing is how to deliver that care in a complex health system.”

Susan Skochelak, MD, vice president of medical education of AMA, says a large part of health system science education includes leadership training in the work environment and communicating in teams. “There is a major emphasis on working with patient panels and population health in communities,” she says. “Another big part of the education is chronic disease management. Understanding patient behavior and communication skills are a part of those broader skills that will help future doctors be more attractive to employers.”

New skills needed

Skochelak says that medical students have been requesting more education surrounding technology and leadership that will help them become well-rounded medical professionals.

In 2014, Deloitte University Press surveyed current physicians about important skills for physicians in the future, and 81% named health information technology and electronic health record (EHR) tools; 74% named leadership, strategy and financial management skills; and 74% named value-based care expertise.

“The reason the AMA put out the initiative is because we knew the gaps between medical education and the industry,” Skochelak says. “Employers are delighted that new hires can function in the clinical environment, be leaders and make improvements.”

Also, as more professionals with medical education move into CEO roles at startup companies and other businesses seeking to solve population health issues, emphasis in a broader skill set increases employment opportunities, Skochelak says.

“Medical students know they need to understand this new set of skills to determine what career path to take,” she says, adding that physicians are creating EHRs, mobile apps and becoming business professionals as well as clinicians. “Understanding population health helps medical students understand the challenges of innovation.”

Focusing on health system management should be at the core of medical education, says Skochelak.

“The most used tool of physicians is the electronic health record (EHR). Some studies suggest that the EHR is used more than the stethoscope. No school would graduate a student who doesn’t know how to use a stethoscope, so why are medical schools graduating future doctors who don’t know how to use EHRs?” Skochelak says.

Next: Programs in practice



Programs in practice

The AMA consortium of medical schools started in 2013 providing 11 medical schools with $11 million to fund research and curriculum to innovate medical education. From the grant dollars, Penn State College of Medicine created a $1 million program for first-year medical students that embedded them in clinical sites to teach them about health system management and chronic care.

The Brown University Warren Alpert Medical School received a $1 million grant, and created a Doctor of Medicine and Master of Science in population medicine dual-degree program for primary care physicians.

The consortium also worked with the AMA to create a medical school textbook, “Health System Sciences,” released in December 2016. The textbook focuses on health system science and how patients access and receive care.




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