Medical Education is Changing Too

By Jill | Editorial

Trends in medical education are being affected by the collision of two big numbers—30 million and 76 million. Thirty million represents the number of formerly uninsured people who are expected to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act a.k.a. Obamacare. Seventy-six million is the number of baby boomers who will turn 65 during the next 18 years—that’s 8,000 a day. Those numbers add up to an older, sicker population that is changing the parameters of medical education.



With the Affordable Care Act providing increased access to health care for the underserved, hospitals and medical groups are actively seeking primary care physicians and general internists. The good news is that about 1/3 of the 20,000 medical school students entering residency in 2013 chose to train in internal medicine, family medicine, and pediatrics. These doctors will be needed as healthcare providers try to be “everywhere all the time.” In the coming decade, there will be a proliferation of free-standing emergency rooms, retail clinics, and community healthcare facilities will all employ physicians. This trend is also translating into an increasing demand for non-physician practitioners, including physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs).

Newly insured patients are expected to seek more tests and non-emergency treatments at hospitals for chronic conditions, which will boost patient volume. Medical schools are addressing this trend by training more hospitalists who specialize in reducing the length of hospital stays and preventing medical errors and hospital readmissions. With the emerging quality-based payment systems, hospitalists are central to providing patient satisfaction, an important metric in the Affordable Care Act.

With an aging patient population increasingly treated by the youngest doctors, medical educators are being asked to include more training in empathy and compassion. With a growing, less affluent clientele, medical schools are being asked to expand training sites to non-hospital settings such as community healthcare clinics. Schools are also moving to focus on preventive care to reduce the number of patients requiring hospitalization.

In order to adequately prepare physicians for future practice, graduate medical education is moving to address a healthcare system that is expanding and changing at an unprecedented pace.