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April 5, 2021

Length of Medical Education is Less Important Than the Relevance of the Current Education Model

Hugh Greeley addresses the topic of medical school in this blog.

Four topics are covered:

  • Weighing the pros and cons of three-year medical school programs
  • Addressing the primary care practitioner shortage
  • Examining the current education model
  • Encouraging experimentation in education programs

There is mixed sentiment regarding a three-year medical school program vs. the standard four-year term to complete medical school for an MD status. Filling the need for practitioners by reducing the amount of time in an educational setting is not as viable a solution as it seems at first glance.

Is Length of Time a True Measure?

What should be at the heart of medical education is the content and relevance of the curriculum. A deeper look at the three-year programs vs. the four-year programs could reveal that the institutions offering three-year programs are simply missing core elements of medical education.

The following is contributed by Hugh Greeley, author of Hugh’s Credentialing Digest

Those interested in the qualifications and competence of physicians including medical staff service professionals (MSPs), human resources directors, and physician leaders may find the emerging development of three-year medical school programs to be of interest.

Medical education experts have mixed opinions about these programs. Some believe that the movement toward a three-year curriculum is simply a natural extension of decades-old programs that combine a BA and an MD degree into a single seven-year course of study. Others believe that physicians should be required to have more education, not less. Often cited reasons supporting each position are listed below.

Arguments in FAVOR of a three-year curriculum include the following:

  • The need for additional primary care physicians
  • The cost and time commitment required for traditional medical education
  • The fact that the current four-year model was first promulgated nearly 100 years ago and has not kept up with advances in both learning technology and online clinical research capabilities
  • Recognition that all students do not learn at the same rate, which suggests the need for tracks of varying lengths designed to accommodate students with different learning skills
  • Residency is perhaps more important than medical school and the length of residency training in the U.S. has increased to the point that many physicians do not enter practice until well into their 30’s

On the other side are these points AGAINST the plan:

  • The belief that students require greater training and education in areas such as team leading, health policy, performance improvement, population medicine, and in clinical areas, due to advances in both diagnostic and treatment modalities
  • Well-observed “burnout” among students enrolled in the few three-year programs now in existence because of continuous studying over a period of 34-36 months
  • Reports from residency directors that current graduates (from three-year programs) are not adequately prepared for the demands of residency programs
  • Credentials chairs have opined that current residency graduates in some programs do not have nearly the same clinical experience as those from earlier years, thus creating the need for well-organized mentoring programs for initial appointees to the medical staff

Is There a Reasonable Solution to the Practitioner Shortage?

It does seem abundantly clear that the nation is in the throes of a practitioner shortage, with particular emphasis on primary care. It’s also evident that the adoption of advances in clinical knowledge is not keeping up with its development. Clearly, the practice of medicine is changing from one of individual “lone” experts to one of teamwork and dependency upon expert or artificial intelligence support systems. In addition, the current educational model is in need of careful evaluation and we can see that careful experimentation should be encouraged, not discouraged.

Medical Education in Focus

Hugh Greeley encourages exploration of medical education and the transition to clinical training. Everything about the practice of medicine has evolved with the speed of technology, delivery methods, and innovations in diagnostics. It stands to reason that the education system should stay ahead of what an MD will be facing in a career of medical practice.

The Consortium of Accredited Medical Pathway Programs CAMPP offers three-year and other accelerated educational programs that lead to an MD degree. It was founded in 2015 with eight medical schools with the idea of reducing student debt while improving medical training curriculum.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) published an article in 2019 examining the assumption that a three-year program does not properly prepare the medical student to practice medicine. What the article explains is that the three-year program doesn’t leave anything out, it just condenses all the educational criteria into a shorter time, so it is an accelerated form of education. It makes for a good option for those wanting to save the additional tuition for the fourth year while learning at a faster pace.

Accelerate Education, Accelerate Time to Practice Through Expedited Credentialing

For those medical practitioners who desire to take charge when it comes to medical education and eventually onboarding through an expedited credentialing process, the MedPass® is the breakthrough digital credentials profile created through the CheckMedic® medical credentialing platform.

Hugh Greeley Written by Hugh Greeley
Credentialing and Healthcare Industry Expert
HG Healthcare Consultant
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