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Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine to train students with modern tech

Kaiser Permanente's new medical school will combine cutting-edge tech and a clinical setting to train future doctors.

Kaiser Permanente, a managed healthcare organization in Oakland, Calif., is opening a medical school aimed at training the next generation of doctors to adapt to the intense pace of change happening in healthcare.

The Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine will bring students into the clinical setting and will strive to make students lifelong learners so they can integrate new sources of data and new technologies into their practices years after they've completed medical school, according to Mark Schuster, M.D., Ph.D., CEO and founding dean of the new school.

Technology will play a critical role at the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine, which will open in 2020, as it will combine the latest concepts in learning sciences with new technologies and innovations, according to Schuster. Students will use augmented and virtual reality, digital 2D and 3D anatomy, and multiuser touch interface anatomy workstations in lieu of human cadavers.

Students will also start learning early on how physicians use electronic health records and related capabilities, such as analytics, as training in Kaiser Permanente's electronic health record platform will be part of the curriculum.

In this Q&A, Schuster talks about what the new medical school will offer and how technology will be integrated into the curriculum.

Editor's note: Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Why did Kaiser Permanente decide to open the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine?

A headshot of Mark Schuster, founding dean and CEO of the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine. Mark Schuster

Mark Schuster: Establishing a medical school is a natural extension of Kaiser Permanente's mission to improve the health of its members and communities and to advance health and well-being in general. Many visit Kaiser Permanente to learn about its approach to integrated, team-based care and quality improvement. Our students will be able to learn about these directly in the clinical setting.

Students will have the opportunity to focus on the social determinants of health. Why offer that focus?

Schuster: Health is influenced by a variety of factors outside of the clinic -- in patients' homes, workplaces and communities. For example, depending on where you live or your social background, you might not have access to adequate nutrition, you might be exposed to environmental hazards or you might have high levels of stress. All of these issues affect health outcomes.

Addressing patients' social determinants of health is part of providing outstanding care. In addition, social determinants contribute to health disparities, which are an enormous issue in our society. Training students to reduce health disparities is also part of our educational mission.

How will the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine prepare students to enter the field with new approaches to delivering healthcare?

Schuster: We are focusing on student well-being, and as part of our curriculum, [we] are teaching students about coping strategies. We think that this will help our students become resilient practitioners, which will prepare them for challenges they will encounter in the field of medicine. Mental health is a big problem for physicians today, and it is important for us to prepare our graduates with skills that will help them going forward.

Training students to reduce health disparities is also part of our educational mission.
Mark SchusterFounding dean and CEO, Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine

Students will train in Kaiser Permanente's innovative, integrated healthcare system. The system is distinct in that it provides both insurance and all the health services that most patients will require under one institutional roof. The structure allows for the full range of patient needs to be coordinated.

For example, a patient could receive a flu shot if they go to the doctor's office for a twisted ankle. The comprehensiveness and coordination of care allow our students to be involved in all aspects of a patient's health, preparing them to understand health from the patient's perspective.

Kaiser Permanente's electronic health record system also enables [the] use of massive amounts of data for health research and continuous improvement of care quality. Students will participate in these efforts.

What will the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine bring to the table that existing schools don't?

Schuster: While every medical school is distinct, with its own particular emphases, we all share similar educational goals: to train students to serve patients and communities and advance medicine. That said, we have the opportunity to build our school from the ground up. And we've been very lucky in that other medical schools have been incredibly supportive in providing valuable advice as we develop our school. 

Students will spend a half-day per week with a specific physician and care team in primary care during their first two years, with the addition of half-days in each of pediatrics, obstetrics-gynecology, psychiatry and surgery during their second year. 

We are paying particular attention to student wellness and to equity and inclusion. We will help our students become lifelong learners so that they can continue to learn and adapt to new information and technologies years after they've completed medical school.

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