By Joyce Frieden, News Editor, MedPage Today
AUGUST 6, 2015 – Two years ago, the American Medical Association said medical education needed a shakeup, citing “gaps between how medical students are trained and how health care is delivered,” and put up $11 million to fund experiments in closing those gaps.
Now that effort is beginning to bear fruit.
The AMA gave grants of $1 million apiece to 11 medical schools, together forming a consortium called the Accelerating Change in Medical Education consortium, and using the grant money to fund creative ways to prepare students better for their physician careers.
In the first of a three-part series, MedPage Today looks at what four of those schools are doing.
Big Uses for Big Data
New York University’s (NYU) School of Medicine has chosen to teach tomorrow’s doctors how to make better use of health data to not only improve community-wide health but also to make a difference for their individual patients, according to Marc Triola, MD, director of the Institute for Innovations in Medical Education at NYU.
“We’re at this amazing time where federal and local governments are releasing health data through initiatives like data.gov, and medical schools have access to data about the healthcare delivered by doctors in the community,” he said in a phone interview. “With the changes happening in healthcare and the changing role of technology and data, teaching these [data analysis] skills seems more important than ever.”
NYU medical school students are now given access to some large clinical data sets, including a database of every admission to every hospital in the state — about 2.5 million visits per year to the state’s 227 hospitals, Triola explained. The database contains information on each patient’s ethnicity, reason for admission, procedures performed, and charges incurred.
“We created a website in which we downloaded all this data for two years … so students can look at the most common reasons patients were admitted to the hospital, what medical conditions are the reason [for the admission], and how much charges can differ from one hospital to another,” Triola said. “It’s fun and they love it because it’s real data.”
Students learn about the data’s power and its limitations as they work in teams to come up with a clinical question they can ask the database, such as variations in charges, or differences in quality or length of stay. Students work on the projects for five weeks.
“This exercise has been extremely eye-opening,” said Triola, who notes that some students have turned their projects into manuscripts that have been submitted to medical journals. “To understand what the data mean and how to improve quality are critical skills for doctors,” even down to the practice level.