Top of mind for med students? So much

Results of annual Epocrates survey zeroes in on what worries most students
By Bernie Monegain
09:33 AM
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Medical students

The 10th annual Epocrates Future Physicians of America survey reveals that medical students have plenty to think about.

[See also: Are med schools failing future docs?]

The results of the survey released this week by athenahealth reveal the opinions of more than 1,000 medical students on medical school training, the future of technology and industry challenges.

Most urgent? Interoperability.

The students see the ability for technology to easily exchange information as an imperative.

Almost all students believe that easily sharing patient records among care teams is critical to improving patient care, yet 44 percent are concerned about the ability to do so within a hospital or practice and 73 percent worry about the ability to share patient information across unaffiliated practices.

The medical students see fragmented care as the No. 1 safety risk for today's patients. The remedy, as they see it, is to improve meaningful patient data sharing.

Other key takeaways:

  • 96 percent of respondents see the ability of EHR systems to access patient data from other systems as important to providing better patient care, while the improvement of collaboration with extended care teams follows a close second. This mirrors results from an athenahealth survey of practicing physicians earlier this year, which found 96 percent of physicians believe in the importance of accessing relevant patient data from other EHR systems
  • 95 percent of physicians experienced a delay or difficulty delivering medical care because patients' health records were not accessible/shared.
  • 87 percent of students support creating a universal patient record.

[See also: High expectations for high tech and Survey shows future docs all about IT.]

"As a registered nurse, I've found it's nearly impossible to synchronize patient information obtained by different providers," said Kenneth Iwuji, fourth year medical student at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, in a press statement. "Health systems all use a variety of vendors and none seem to talk to each other. In order to gain critical information about the patient, we are still stuck using phones and faxes, which aren't helpful in emergency situations. These barriers need to be broken down; there's no reason why information shouldn't flow freely and securely."

[See also: EHR uptake disrupts mobile growth.]

The survey also found:

Students embrace digital medicine but are lukewarm on telemedicine, preferring face-to-face visits: 98 percent of medical students would prefer to see their future patients face-to-face for the initial visit as opposed to virtually. Even for follow-ups, 89 percent of students favor the traditional face-to-face exam.

Burdensome documentation is overwhelming: 71 percent of third and fourth-year students report they spend more time documenting encounters than seeing the patients themselves. What's more, 80 percent expect they will continue to document more than interact with patients when they become physicians.

Dissatisfaction with practice management training continues: For the fifth year in a row, medical students said they have been inadequately prepared to run a successful health care practice. Only 8 percent feel equipped to manage a practice, and only 4 percent to bill and code. Perhaps as a result, only 12 percent of students plan to work in a solo or partnership practice, continuing the trend toward employment by hospitals and large group practices.

This survey was sent to more than 18,000 medical students who use Epocrates. 75 percent of the 1,026 respondents were third and fourth-year medical students. More information about results of this year's Future Physicians of America survey can be found here.

Brian Anderson, MD, a family medicine physician and senior manager of clinical content at athenahealth, will also lead a webinar discussion of the results on October 8.