Knowing medicine is not enough to be a good doctor

Most medical schools do a reasonably good job clinically preparing medical students to be future physicians.

But they can do better, especially in our fragmented health system where millions of Americans have to contend with costs as much as they have to with their medical conditions.

In her recent New York Times column, Pauline Chen cites a study showing that students exposed to more non-clinical topics, like medical economics, health policy, and the “business” of medicine, were more satisfied with their education.

As the author of that study notes, “when you have hundreds of insurance plans and thousands of insurance groups and different hospitals, you have to be really smart about the health care system . . . Our findings suggest that we are not preparing them nearly as well for that challenge as we are for their clinical work.”

I’ve continually noted that students are not prepared for the business of health care, which today, is as important as the medicine itself. Consequently, patients suffer as doctors are not attuned to their economic realities, such as the cost of their prescription drugs and the labyrinthine bureaucracy they have to contend with.

Medical schools need to do more to prepare doctors deal with these non-clinical issues; prevalent only in our uniquely American health system.

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