Should health policy be mandatory for medical students?

With health reform upon us, it would be helpful if future doctors knew a bit more about health policy.

Although some schools give some token courses on the subject, the majority don’t. For instance, everything I learned about health policy was from reading medical and policy-related blogs over the past few years.

This piece from Slate gives one reason: medical students are too busy. Indeed, “Faced with a choice between learning about a high-paying specialty like radiology or gastroenterology or cardiology—all of which have limited residency slots—and public policy, there is no choice.”

Some schools, like Harvard Medical School, are taking steps to change that, by forcing students to take semester-long courses in health policy. And that’s a good thing. Doctors need to have a louder voice in the health care debate, since any reform has to potential to fundamentally change our professional lives.

We don’t have to agree, and to be sure, doctors aren’t even close to being on the same page, but having an informed opinion is better than having none at all.

(via Matthew Mintz)

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  • Rishi

    As a medical student, I too find myself looking at policy-related blogs and related sources for my knowledge regarding the topic. For me, it’s difficult to understand all aspects of health policy (varying perspectives, legalities, loopholes, etc.) without formal education in the field.

  • Susan H

    I do not understand why health policy education, and rudimentary medical training, is not mandatory education for all Americans.

  • Chris

    Definitely! I had an M2 health policy course that was a joke. Likewise, I’ve learned everything about health policy from the Internet, basically. I’ve been reading this blog, Panda Bear’s blog, the Happy Hospitalist, and others, for quite some time. They’re highly informative, and when some topics come up amongst my peers, I can’t believe how little some of them know about their field as a whole.

  • Brian

    I took several health policy courses as an undergraduate to provide me with a good understanding of the health care system before I start medical schools, and I consider myself more fortunate than some of my peers who only stuck with science courses during college. I agree that medical students should be taught health policy, so that when they become physicians they are not shepherded around obliviously by lobbies claiming to act on their behalf. But I’d go even further and say that health policy should be mandatory at the undergraduate level, regardless of major. Physicians aren’t the only players in the health care system. All of us, as American citizens without factoring in our occupations, have a stake as well.

  • Kyle

    During my first year of medical school, policy issues were never mentioned in an MD class, save for one ethics seminar that veered off topic. But I’m a MD/MPH student, and health policy was one of our most informative and useful classes of our MPH degree so far. I’m willing to bet most of my classmates could not describe the difference between Medicare and Medicaid beyond a simple sentence or two, or could not explain capitation and HMO’s. If all doctors are in some sense or another businesspeople as well, then you would think we should understand where our revenue comes from, and how as citizens we can affect that.

  • Kjell

    Maybe lessons full of health tips should be mandatory for all Americans so that they know McDonals and Coca Cola are dangerous for the American health system.
    What about this Mike, the former body builder that crashed his body into a truck but was able to make good money by providing excellent workout schedules on television. Mike, the guy with the pony tail. What is is name again? Whatever, stupid people have great ideas. Eat less, exercise.

  • Aaron B. Hicks

    Health Policy is absolutely something that medical students should become attuned to. Whether through formal courses or independent study, it’s the duty of medical students, as the next generation of health care providers, to have a strong understanding of the dynamic system in which they will be providing care. Additionally, as patient advocates, providers need to utilize their knowledge in order to help direct reform in the proper direction.

    Besides, it can just be fun to read about. As a first year medical student, I have quite a few books on health care policy and reform.

  • Susan H

    Well now, isn’t that something our political leaders should be demanding: that citizens who wish to receive healthcare from a public system must take courses and pass a test, like they must do before getting the privilege of a drivers license?

    There could be education about how and how much doctors and nurses are paid, and the true effects to the doc or nurse of being named party in a malpractice suit.
    Citizens could be required to learn preliminary health assessment and first responder techniques. (Tax credits for taking such courses?)
    Mandatory Medicare reimbursement rate disclosures to citizens, and required signed acknowledgement of same prior to any medical treatment.Given a knowledge of presumed pricing of medical services, citizens might make smarter choices about assenting to proposed tests and treatment plans. Citizens refusing testing (as a cost saving measure) might be presumed to hold docs harmless if eventual diagnosis turns out to be exotic.

  • Bad Medicine, Good Solutions

    Absolutely not. The course I received was nothing more than a political soap box pushing one agenda over another without a fair discourse of the issues. And at that it was superficial. The amount of time and room in the curriculum doesn’t permit a worthwhile course. We live and breath the real policy daily, and as one progresses through their training it becomes more apparent.

    We need only know how to treat the patient – and get rid of the influences that impinge upon the patient-doctor relationship. Policy is the realm of MPH, and MHA. Policy is all the “stuff” that seperates the patient from the physician. The only policy any physician should be supporting is the lack of one as seen in a free market with free choice, and freedom of innovation.

  • ninguem

    For Pity’s sake, the medical students are paying a damn fortune to learn medicine and you want to dilute it with a “policy” course that will instantly turn into nothing but Obama press releases?

  • IVF-MD

    How about inviting guest speakers with different viewpoints to give talks first? Then, the students can intelligently discuss each view with open minds. Otherwise, it’ll turn into another worthless propaganda indoctrination. Let’s hold medical education to a higher standard than regular “higher education”. =)

  • Brad Evans

    I mis-read your title. Of course, I thought, it would be nice for medical students to have a health insurance policy. Now that I read your title properly, it would be nice for medical students to learn about health policy by having a high-deductible health insurance policy. Why take a course when you can experience it first-hand?

  • joe blow

    This is a stupid idea. The amount of medical knowledge doubles approx every 10 years or so, and every policy wonk in the world makes all these ridiculous demands on med students:

    1) Autism groups want more formal education for med students in autism
    2) Abortion groups want med students to be forced to train in abortions
    3) March of Dimes wants more formal training in birth defects (even for future radiologists)
    4) NAACP and all the other racial groups want more “diversity” training for med students
    5) Geriatrics groups want more mandated geriatrics training
    6) Nurses groups demand more “integration” exercises and team-building BS with nursing students
    7) Groups like Robert Wood Johnson demand more “societal integration” training into med school

    and now they want them to do formal training in health policy, when the fact is that every med school in the country offers optional training in public health, MBAs, etc.

    If we listened to all these groups, med school would be about 20 years long instead of 4. How about we stick to the most pertinent areas of medicine instead of all the extraneous BS?

    Funny how I never see so many “concerned groups” and outside interests demand extra training for lawyers, accountants, teachers, etc. Yet everybody has their 2 cents about how medical school training is supposedly “missing the boat” on all these “critical” issues.

  • Kenneth K

    I agree. EVERY American (from pre-K schoolers to senior citizens) should be required to take a course on health care policy, issues, updates, etc. Well said.

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