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People 'n' Issues

Doctors’ education must change

Given the rapid pace of technology, medical training needs to adapt quickly or risk becoming redundant, writes CHARLES EDELSTEIN, director of Executive Placements.

Recently qualified doctors may worry about where they will be placed for their community service or what medical jobs will be available. But there’s something else they should be concerned about – just how relevant their qualification actually is.

Given the rapid pace of technology, medical training needs to adapt quickly or risk becoming redundant.

Here are some of the top trends that will shape the doctors of tomorrow:

  1. The power of technology

Technology can now be harnessed to improve a doctors’ ability to make an accurate diagnosis. Healthcare systems are becoming increasingly digitalised, meaning that patients’ electronic medical records are easy to access. New technology also includes scans, robotic surgery and genomic medicine, in which DNA information is used to inform patient care. And then there’s the issue of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and whether we even need doctors – more on that later. But perhaps the biggest shift is the realisation that doctors of tomorrow don’t need to store all their knowledge in their heads but can rely on technology to help keep them informed and updated. 

  1. A new way of learning

The greatest advantage of online training is that it will enable self-directed learning. Medical education can now be personalised to reflect the student’s individual interests. However, as much as students are used to online learning – especially in the post-Covid landscape – so there’s a need for a hybrid approach in which in-person classes can be incorporated. Although Millennials and Gen X-ers spend much of their time online, they still view social interaction as important and enjoy working in groups; both in class and virtually. They also want feedback on their academic progress and emotional support from their educators. Medical institutions should respond to this need and adapt their curricula to provide more team-based, collaborative and even game-based learning types.

  1. The rise of robots

AI shouldn’t be seen as the enemy of tomorrow’s doctors, but rather as their friend. AI will reduce the need for doctors to interpret data, and will provide prompts and checklists to enable junior doctors to reach a diagnosis and make important treatment decisions. Augmented reality and virtual reality can also be used in the training of doctors to help them learn how to perform difficult surgical procedures. A good example of man working with machine is mammography. Currently two radiologists read mammograms to decide if there is any cancerous growth, but recent trials have replaced one of the radiologists with AI. The human doctor is then able to compare notes with the AI report and change his report if something pertinent comes to light. This doesn’t mean that robots will be taking away medical jobs – they will simply be helping doctors do their jobs better.

  1. The changing role of the doctor

In light of the changes mentioned above, the doctors of tomorrow shouldn’t feel threatened. Rather, they should focus on acquiring the soft skills that machines can never replicate, such as compassion and empathy. The doctor-patient relationship remains a key component of good healthcare. Patients look to doctors to reassure them when a diagnosis is not good. With the average age of the world’s population on the increase, more elderly patients will need care – and they’ll want a doctor who treats them with the dignity and respect they deserve.

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