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UConn retools med school to focus on EHRs, healthcare reforms

By Jennifer Bresnick

- While it may be reasonable to assume that the current generation of medical students are much more technologically savvy than their predecessors, having never lived in a world without the internet, training this new cadre of smartphone-addicted physicians will take more than relying on an innate sense of the benefits of technology.  It takes a medical school curriculum that reflects what these students will find in the new landscape of EHR-enabled offices, accountable care strategies, and pay-for-performance reimbursement.  The University of Connecticut is taking a big step to refine its 20-year-old curriculum to help student meet these challenges.

“The field of medicine and the expectations of our students with regard to education are changing rapidly,” says Dr. Suzanne Rose, senior associate dean for education at the School of Medicine, who has taken charge of modernizing the structure of the medical school even as the physical academic buildings are undergoing a renovation of their own.  The “explosion of scientific information” and technology, as well as healthcare reform laws,  will require students to focus more on preventative care, patient engagement, and new treatment settings.

“Medicine is changing, and so are learning methods,” added Dr. Thiruchandurai V. Rajan, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and co-chair of the Curriculum Reform Steering Panel. “We should consider whether the content we teach is really relevant. We already have the best and the brightest students pursuing a career in medicine, but are we teaching facts they will never remember or information they don’t need? Or if there is other information, like running a business or dealing with insurance companies and federal regulations, which we should include in their training.”

As the Affordable Care Act takes hold across the nation, bringing millions of new patients into the healthcare system, and rapidly aging patient populations present new obstacles to a shrinking number of primary care providers, these new strategies will be essential for helping students prepare for the harsh realities of the healthcare world.

UConn is addressing these changes by adapting traditional lecture-style classes to be more interactive, engaging, and team-based – just like the professional environment students will ender when they have completed their degrees. “We are working toward a team-based and inter-professional approach across the continuum of medical education programs,” Rose said. “Our medical school is taking action to evolve in order to match the educational needs of our students. And our students are all about making a difference.”

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