To fix broken healthcare system, include education reform

Half of adult patients say they’ve had problems communicating with their doctors, coordinating their care, or receiving test results.

Sadly, that’s not surprising. It’s part of a larger pattern of failure in managing health care that costs thousands of lives and billions of dollars every year.

The Institute of Medicine has done a powerful job of documenting those failings in a report released Thursday. It’s called Best Care at Lower Cost: the Path to Continuously Learning Health Care in America. The IOM describes a healthcare system with “significant shortcomings and inefficiencies that result in missed opportunities, waste, and harm to patients.”

There’s a lot to like in this report (be sure to check out the infographic.) Still, I would have to agree with Dr. Bryan Vartabedian, who notes that there’s surprisingly little here about medical education reform. It seems clear that if we are to overhaul how the healthcare system operates, we also need to change how we educate health professionals.

We emphasize humanity in medicine when our new medical students receive their white coats. 

We’re working to do that here at USF Health. The IOM calls for care that’s centered on patients. A good place to start is choosing medical students for emotional intelligence and teaching them to use those valuable skills of communication and empathy – as we’re doing in SELECT, our new physician leadership MD program.

The IOM also calls for “fostering a culture of continuous improvement” that includes continuing education. I believe we need to do more. At USF Health’s new Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, in downtown Tampa, we can teach surgeons new skills and assess whether they’re competent.  You expect similar testing of the pilot flying your plane. Shouldn’t you have the same assurances about the capabilities of your surgeon?