Few medical students understand health care system

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

According to a new study, less than half of medical students say they understand the economics of medicine and the health care system. The results come from a national survey that shows medical students are confident about practicing medicine, but when it comes to medical economics, health care systems, managed care, and practice management, less than half feel they have been adequately trained.

The findings, published in Academic Medicine, surveyed 58,294 graduate medical students to find 40 to 50 percent feel they do not know enough about managed health care.

Matthew M. Davis, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine in the Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit at the University of Michigan Medical School says, “Our patients expect us to understand the [health care] system. If we don’t, that can result in poor patient care.”


Dr. Davis, who co-authored the research with Monica L. Lypson, M.D., says “And if we don’t expect doctors to understand the health care system, who is going to?” Davis says it is important for physicians to contribute to dialogue about health care and health care reform. Medical students can find themselves inadequately prepared to guide patients through the health care system without better curriculum.

Medical students attending one school with a high intensity curriculum were three times more likely to understand medical economics. According to Davis, “a higher intensity curriculum in health care systems could hold the potential to overcome medical students’ perceptions of inadequate training in the practice of medicine.”

The researchers hope the findings that less than half of medical students understand the health care system, managed care, and the economics of practicing medicine, will inspire medical schools to offer the appropriate solution for medical students. High intensity courses in medical economics could prepare medical students to guide patients through an overly complex health care system, leading to better patient care.

Source: Academic Medicine: doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181b17e3e