Radical changes in healthcare have been initiated by the advancement of information technology, digital technology, and online media. More and more people are gaining access to medical knowledge through the Internet. Online communities empower patients and contribute to a more equal doctor-patient relationship. This requires a different kind of doctor-patient relationship than before. This is why we must invest now in training the doctors of the future.
From reactive to preventive healthcare
In the 21st century, the old hierarchical patterns of the doctor-patient relationship are a thing of the past. The next generation of physicians will have to be trained differently in order to be ready for the patient who is equal. Easy access to medical knowledge and the development of digital health technologies are changing the balance in the doctor-patient relationship. This technology allows patients to measure vital signs at home without having to see a doctor. We face an aging population, rising healthcare costs, and a shortage of healthcare workers. The paradigm shifts from disease treatment to prevention through healthy living. All this means a lot for the work of our future doctors. There are different demands regarding knowledge and skills and the relationship with the patient also changes.
Medical students need to get a realistic picture of the challenges that await them before starting their studies. In the year 2040, doctors are expected to fulfill different roles: In addition to being a medical practitioner/expert, they will also be an empathetic and trusted trainer and translator of medical knowledge online for the patient. In addition, the doctor of the future is a network partner with other healthcare professionals and, finally, an innovator who aims to improve the quality of the profession. These roles are interchangeable and depend on the context in which someone works. Being a doctor doesn’t mean you always do the same thing.
Future physicians should be open to acquiring new skills during their training
Jobs can meander, so I began my career as a physician assistant in Dutch hospitals, in the course of training as a tropical doctor in both surgery and gynecology. Then I left for Africa to put into practice what I had learned as a district doctor. After my return, I got an MBA from the Rotterdam School of Management and then worked in various management positions, including in health insurance companies and GGDs, and also changed operations in hospitals and municipalities. Continuous development is important to me. You have to keep in touch with the practice. That is why I also pursued the Doctor + Community specialty during my working life and later obtained my registration as a Company Doctor. And I still work, in addition to my managerial work at KNMG, as a company doctor. At every step of my career, I take the experience of my previous workplace with me. I experience this broad view as a tremendous added value, for myself but also for my work environment. For me, lifelong learning is not just about learning new skills. My focus is primarily on having the tools as a professional to stay relevant and agile in a changing work and social environment.
If we see that our profession is changing and we want to give people the opportunity to be flexible in their career, then we need to train generalists. Those who are able to think and act outside the boundaries of their profession. The future doctor must be able to work together in a changing work environment, which places high demands on adaptability and flexibility.
Doctors outside the hospital
Given the challenges healthcare will face in the next 20 years, professional distinctions outside the hospital will become increasingly important in meeting the healthcare demands of society. Almost half of all medical students actually end up in a career outside the university walls. However, according to research, they seem more interested in more clinical training.1 Internships often take place in a hospital. This can give the false impression that there are few other options as a physician in addition to established hospital specialties and general practice. Only 32.1 percent of all medical students deal with social medical professions such as insurance physician, corporate physician, or community + health physician through their studies.1 Medical students are less likely to consider choosing a psychosocial profession if insufficient information is provided about it.2 This is unfortunate because there are many interesting opportunities outside the walls of the hospital. Disease prevention and prevention is becoming increasingly important, and there is a shortage of general practitioners, geriatrics, and pediatricians. But the unknown makes the unpopular. Therefore, students should be given the opportunity to network with medical professionals outside the hospital early in their education.
Medical education must evolve because our future physicians will meet their patients in a very different healthcare context than today. We are increasingly focusing on prevention and avoiding unnecessary care, where the patient is treated as an equal partner. Constantly innovative knowledge and technology requires lifelong learning. Our incoming doctors should already start with a broader orientation about the profession during their training and be open to acquiring new skills. So that our community can continue to rely on the best possible care in the future.