Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why aren't medical students taught about health care policy?

Happy to have been interviewed by and mentioned in this very timely article at Slate.com which asks the question "Why aren't medical students taught about health care policy?"

There is so much to cram into 4 years of medical school, it's hard to imagine that we could teach students more. However, some basic understandings of health care policy are needed. Students need to know a little about policy because:
1. The way medicine is practice is (for the most part) dependent on how health care is paid for, which comes from health care policy. In primary care, we need to rush and see patients in 15 minute slots not because we want to, but because we have to see that many patients to make ends meet. The medical home is one of many policy solutions that might fix this.
2. Policy makers listen to physicians, especially when we tell them what is good for patients (and not just our own interests). Having a voice is really not that hard. Through minimal participation in medical societies, like the America College of Physicians for Internal Medicine (my specialty), you can get behind those who share your opinions and can go up on the hill and fight for you.
3. Students in particular need to know about policy that regards to work force issues. Though we have a shortage of physicians, with calls to expand medical school class size, there is not likely going to be an increase in residency slots. This means that it is going to be much harder for students to get into the lucrative specialties they might desire.

I am very proud of some the initiatives we have taken at our institution, including bringing the entire 3rd year class to the Hill. However, we need to do more to incorporate policy into the current curriculum (and we will0>


Figaro said...

I'd like to ask whether Dr. Mintz could write a piece regarding his views about the public option/co-ops in the current healthcare reform debate. May be, you have written on it and I missed it; if so, please let me know where I can read it.


Dr. Matthew Mintz said...

I am very dissappointed that the pubic option looks like it's not going to happen. Medicare and Medicaid are similar entities, and though there are problems with them, most patients who have one or the other are probably glad to have them. Thus, having a 3rd such public option makes sense to me.
That said, we need something ASAP. In my opinion, the 2 most important things are radically changing the way physicians are reimbursed and true malpractice reform. Both of these are the major players in terms of escalating health care costs and both will be necessary to control costs. Without these two pieces (public option or not), there will be no real change.