The American Medical Association and the Regenstrief Institute on Wednesday launched a new training platform aimed at ensuring that medical students get real-world experience using electronic health records.

Under the AMA’s Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative, Indiana University School of Medicine received a $1 million grant to work with the Regenstrief Institute on developing the platform as a way to incorporate EHR training into its curriculum so it could be implemented by other medical schools.

“As part of the AMA’s ongoing efforts to create the medical school of the future, we are today announcing the newly enhanced Regenstrief EHR Clinical Learning Platform,” said AMA Vice President for Medical Education Susan Skochelak, MD. “Our medical schools are very good at preparing students for the basic and clinical sciences that are essential to providing care to our patients. However, many residents and young physicians are coming out of medical school with gaps in their ability to practice in the modern health system.”

Skochelak contends that medical education in the United States has remained largely unchanged during the past 100 years and has “not kept pace with the many ways that healthcare has evolved over recent decades.” She notes that “one clear need that we have identified is the fact that students are frequently entering residency training without the ability to effectively and efficiently work with EHRs—even though they are one of the primary tools physicians use in everyday practice.”

According to Skochelak, the EHR training gap in U.S. medical education is analogous to a physician graduating without learning to properly use a stethoscope.

Regenstrief Institute

Also See: AMA supports EHR training for medical students

To address this shortcoming, Indiana University School of Medicine and the Regenstrief Institute worked together to develop the EHR platform. Blaine Takesue, MD, Regenstrief research scientist and assistant professor of clinical medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine, said that the “first-of-its kind” platform uses real patient data, enabling students to “virtually care for patients with multiple, complex health conditions by navigating records, documenting encounters and placing orders within an application similar to the EHRs they will be using in their practices.”

“After more than a year of use by, and feedback from, Indiana University medical students and faculty, the Regenstrief EHR Clinical Learning Platform has been enhanced and is available for widespread adoption in both medical schools and other health profession schools,” said Skochelak.

She added that the platform has already been adopted by the University of Connecticut School of Medicine—a member of the AMA’s 32-school consortium—as well as the Southern Indiana University School of Nursing.

Suzanne Rose, MD, UConn School of Medicine’s senior associate dean for education, said the Regenstrief EHR Clinical Learning Platform has been implemented in two of its courses as part of a new curriculum launched in August 2016, including a course that introduces students to patients within virtual families embedded in the EHR to give clinical context to basic science, clinical medicine and social science principles.

Rose added that the EHR platform is essential for the UConn School of Medicine to “train the very best physicians to take care of our patients and communities of tomorrow.”

Skochelak said the platform will soon be implemented at three other schools, including Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University and Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine—both of which are members of the AMA Consortium—as well as the University of Idaho WWAMI Medical Education Program.

Reaction to the new training platform from industry stakeholders was generally positive.

“Physicians of the future will spend much of their time interacting with digital systems and data, and so building new curricula and tools to help teach physicians-in-training about how to practice digitally is a terrific idea,” said Robert Wachter, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “In light of how bumpy our rollout of electronic health records has been to date, my hope is that students will not only learn how to practice more effectively using today’s EHRs, but also be trained in how to reimagine their practices to take advantage of tools and capabilities we can only dream about today.”

Julia Adler-Milstein, an expert on health IT policy and management issues and associate professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan, said that she is strongly in favor of more HIT as well as informatics training in medical education.

“To my mind, there are two types of training that are needed: training in how to use the tools and training in informatics—the discipline,” Adler-Milstein observed. The Regenstrief EHR Clinical Learning Platform “addresses the former, and not the latter” she argued, adding that “it is likely the right place to start, but given how quickly the tools are changing and how much we want them to change—and want MDs to be leaders in driving that change—the latter is also critically important.”

Richard Loomis, MD, vice chair of the EHR Association and vice president and chief medical officer for vendor Practice Fusion, believes that “integrating EHRs into medical training is a great way to ensure that these increasingly important tools become a natural part of clinical practice and workflows, so that organizations achieve maximum value in terms of improved quality, more efficient communication, and return on investment.”

At the same time, Loomis contends that “integrating EHRs and health IT into medical education gives clinicians-in-training exposure to career opportunities in the rapidly growing field of informatics.”

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