Top 5 MedEd trends to watch in 2022

Healthcare and medical education (MedEd) are experiencing tremendous change brought on by the pandemic, the racial reckoning that came with, and technological developments. We summarize the top five MedEd trends you need to watch in 2022:

1. Increased interest in medical school to continue, but may fall short of 2021 record

Applications to medical schools in the U.S. jumped by 18 percent last year when the average annual increase was just three percent over the last decade. Some call it the “Fauci Effect” as the pandemic demonstrated just how important — and stressed — the healthcare system is. Infectious disease experts, clinical researchers, and ICU workers have also been prominent on the Internet and TV screens, helping to care for the sick and influence much-needed public health guidance that have inspired future medical students.

This trend of increased applications to medical school is expected to continue, but whether the volume will be the same or higher remains to be seen. Some are predicting close-to-record applications due to the ongoing pandemic, but there are challenges that could see these numbers fall short; public health restrictions that limited applicants’ ability to take the MCAT or complete important volunteer hours in 2021 could lead to them waiting another year to apply, while some applicants could turn to the Caribbean because of increased competition in the U.S. 

2. Hybrid learning is here to stay

While medical students will still need to complete part of their education in-person and interact directly with patients in a clinical setting, some parts of the program can be easily completed remotely. Research has even demonstrated that “prospective medical students are open to an increased level of online learning.” New technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can also be used for hands-on components of the program, such as learning how to perform complex surgeries and procedures. 

Hybrid learning can also facilitate more collaboration, which itself is needed in the practice of healthcare. For example, the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine developed a blended curriculum where learners were more self-directed with their studies online, but attended some face-to-face sessions to socialize their learnings. Penn Medicine is also looking at shortening lectures while incorporating more small-group discussions and team-learning sessions, and using some online tools to facilitate this process.

E-learning opportunities are particularly important for continuing education. The accelerated pace of advances in health information and technology is pushing more and more active practitioners to upgrade their skills. E-learning’s flexible and relatively low-cost nature is what makes this format the favorite for hospital/clinic management and physicians.

3. The need for integrated care will drive a more integrated MedEd curriculum

With almost one in three recovered Covid-19 patients experiencing a variety of debilitating symptoms long after their initial illness, a fully functioning integrated care model has never been more important. That’s because these “long haulers” often have a complicated set of symptoms that require the attention of multiple specialists, such as gastroenterologists, cardiologists, pulmonologists, and neurologists, as well as ongoing monitoring and treatment with their family doctors and physical therapists. 

The medical curriculum is already looking at integration in different ways. While integration has long been assumed to merely blend in-classroom learning with clinical experience, in recent years, medical schools have also approached integration in terms of incorporating material on various topics that go beyond a specific discipline. While some introduce crash courses on single topics, others see integration as moving away from single-topic crash courses and incorporating or assimilating that material over the course of the program. 

We may not see a unified approach to integrated curriculum development, but 2022 will be a year for more industry conversations and advances in this area. After all, an integrated curriculum can help produce physicians who think more holistically about the issues their patients are experiencing and collaborate with others across the system to deliver the best care possible. This is also important given one of the ACGME core competencies is systems-based practice, which requires residents to coordinate care within and across the healthcare system, advocate for quality care, work in interprofessional teams, and participate in identifying and solving system errors. 

4. Mental health of residents and patients will become a greater focus 

Even before the pandemic, burnout and mental health struggles were major hurdles for the system to tackle. An estimated 50 percent of physicians and trainees suffer from burnout, and one systematic review has found that resident well-being is lower than population well-being norms. Efforts are underway to improve resident well-being, such as establishing wellness committees and programs, evaluating workplace and workflow interventions, and adhering to the ACGME’s guidelines for duty hours. However, the prevalence of mental illness among physicians and the general population, as well as the stigma attached to it, is driving forward important conversations about improving access to mental health services and focusing more of the MedEd curriculum on mental health. At this week’s AAMC Learn Serve Lead (LSL) conference, multiple sessions will be dedicated to this topic, including:

  • Advancing mental and behavioral healthcare access through integrated and collaborative care models
  • We can’t afford to burn out: addressing well-being and supporting the role of wellness champions
  • Mental health, stigma, and families: promoting an open stance

5. Medical schools will need to change how they approach diversity, equity, and inclusion

In the last 40 years, medical schools have seen fewer Black male medical students and fewer Native American students. According to a new report, Black male students now only account for 2.9 percent of the U.S. medical student body, while Native American students account for less than one percent. There are many barriers that prevent these and other underrepresented groups from being selected by admissions committees, or even applying to medical schools in the first place. For one, the price of admission to medical school is very high; the average annual tuition for a medical student is $37,000 while the application process is over $7,500. Second, overreliance on cognitive metrics like GPA and MCAT also disadvantage underrepresented minority applicants. 

While medical schools are embracing holistic admissions models, not enough progress has been made at a fast enough pace. As part of the AAMC’s strategic plan to create a healthier future for all Americans, the association aims to significantly increase the number of underrepresented medical school applicants and matriculants, with an emphasis on those who are Black, American Indian, Alaskan Native, and first-generation Americans. Indeed, the LSL conference includes multiple sessions on how to enable equity, diversity, and inclusion in MedEd, such as:

  • Addressing the lack of diversity of applicants and matriculants for medical school: an action plan
  • A call to action: diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism in medical education
  • Admitting diverse classes: strategies, barriers, and possibilities for using MCAT scores in context
  • Deeper dive: the hidden costs of racism
  • RIME address: the inside outside vision of critical race and decolonial research in MedEd

Altus is working to make its own admissions assessments more equitable. Exciting new research on how changing the response format on the Casper SJT can decrease demographic differences was presented at LSL on November 8, which you can watch here.

Interested in learning how we’re helping medical schools with their admissions process and education program management? Watch our on-demand webinar