Medical schools with health information technology-rich programs could be setting students up for a tough transition to the real world, according to a report from the Vanderbilt University Medical School.
Loss of Safety Net
More than 300 former Vanderbilt medical students responded to a survey that forms the basis for the report. Eighty percent said they were now working in a facility with less-integrated information technology than the place in which they trained. They reported feeling less capable of providing the same level of care to patients in their new setting.
The respondents also reported less ability to work effectively and to share and exchange information with others.
The study’s lead author says this is the first time the effect of health information technology in the classroom has been evaluated. He thinks the findings have implications for the learning curve med students experience once they hit the real world.
“Going from being a medical student where somebody is always watching after you to a role where you could potentially make a mistake that could actually harm a patient is already hard enough,” said Kevin Johnson, M.D., associate professor and vice chairman of Vanderbilt’s Department of Biomedical Informatics, in a press release.
“But when you get there and realize that the systems they have are less functional and less pervasive than the systems with which you are familiar, there is an entirely new set of challenges you have to master,” Johnson continued.
Study Not Diagnostic
The transition may not be as difficult for residents who work at a variety of locations throughout their educational program, the study suggested. Such variety allows residents to gain experience in a number of working environments, preparing them better for hospitals with less health information technology.
For other residents, however, the transition from school to work can be quite difficult, the study found.
“The Vanderbilt health IT study tells us medical school graduates trained in a school with a high investment in health IT are disappointed when they go to practice in an office with low investment in health IT,” said John R. Graham, director of health care studies at the San Francisco-based Pacific Research Institute.
“However, it does not tell us how this affects patient outcomes or costs,” Graham noted. “Nor does it tell us why they do not demand that their future practice invest in health IT.”
Vanderbilt’s medical school has begun offering lectures on the health IT transition to fourth-year students and plans to survey enrollees about their knowledge of health information technology in the workplace in order to create a series of courses on the topic.
Aricka Flowers ([email protected]) writes from Illinois.