Saturday, November 11, 2006

Will "Googling" Replace Four Years Of Medical School?

The American Society of Medical Administrators (ASMA), the governing board that oversees medical licensure in the United States, is said to be considering "Googling" as an alternate path to a medical degree.

This new program may soon be a real option for students who complete four years of undergraduate work, and are then able to earn qualifying scores on the MCAT exam. In the past, this test traditionally determined if a candidate was eligible to enter an accredited medical school in the United States, but it may now be used to qualify a candidate for this alternative certification.

"Basically," stated ASMA spokesperson John S. Hopkins, "medical students are already overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information they must process and memorize, and we thought that their time could be better spent physically interacting with patients, and practicing surgical techniques on the cadavers."

"Since almost any medical diagnosis and treatment can be found on Google if you input the right set of symptoms, we just didn't see a need to send our doctors to the library for four years when they could be cutting people open and sewing them back up again instead."

Medical resident Lucille Carver is one of a handful of doctors participating in a pilot "Googling" program at Tufts University School of Medicine in Massachusetts. "I've got a web-enabled Motorola 'Crazer' phone with me at all times, so getting the information I need is no problem, unless I don't have reception for some reason," claims Carver.

"If that happens, I just tell patients I have to 'consult with a colleague,' and then I just go down to my office and Google the information there. After that, I usually just stroll back to the operating room, and then act like I figured it out on my own."

"With the ever-expanding body of medical knowledge we have today, it would be impossible for even the most accomplished physician to keep up with all of it," added Hopkins. "We would rather have our doctors out there concentrating on the things that really matter, like locating that missing retractor before they close their patient back up and send them on their way."


Anonymous said...

I agree that rote memorization is probably not the best approach to medical education. I'm for learning concepts, memorizing key facts, and looking up the rest. The story here paints an extreme approach, but there might be some movement in this direction (of using more online reference information as opposed to memorized facts).

Anonymous said...

One of the issues with this practice is that this makes search engines and other such service providers much more critical to the process of medical diagnosis, treatment, and cure. What additional considerations would have to be taken and what changes would need to be made in order to ensure an increased level of accuracy and availability of such services as well as the information reported to ensure that they are correct and available when needed?

All in all, it makes sense to store all information in a central location for referral later (even if it's just an index of the data) but I would not recommend using such a method in an extremely time-sensitive situation. Availability and accuracy of the information would be my utmost concern.

Anonymous said...

As a current medical student, I agree that the massive information learned can be overhwhelming. However, I don't understand why patients would prefer that their physicians skip the 4 years of medical school and instead spend all their time focused on the technical skills of their trade. If something goes wrong in surgery, do you have time to google a solution?

The first two years of medical school aren't just spent memorizing symptoms and treatment. There must be a thorough understanding of anatomy, proper tissue structure and function, and a general knowledge of how the body works. If a doctor is confused by an X-Ray, they can't just google their way out of it. For someone who has completed medical school, has a difficult case that they can't figure out, perhaps a websearch would be helpful. Forgoing 2 years of crucial training in basic science and focusing on clinical skills seems wrong, and I doubt such a program would be accredited.

Truthfully, this post is so bizarre to me, I wonder if it is not just made up. I couldn't find anything on Tuft's site about it, and the only result for lucille carver is that it is the name of a medical school in Iowa. Where'd you dig this story up at anyways?