Connecting the MD´s of tomorrow with patients – today
Have you ever thought of medical students during their training as a huge resource of health care providers?
A huge resource of motivated students and MD´s, who are training case study after case study from books and the internet for up to 10 or even 14 years? (Figure 1) In this long period, they can also solve thousands of real case studies to train themselves and therefore help patients.
Figure 1: Long period of time with potential digital interaction between medical student and patient, 2016.
On one hand, we have 40,000 medical students during their training (Figure 2), who are looking for income, rewards and some extra cash. On the other hand, we have the average member of the public seeing a GP four to six times a year, double the number of visits from a decade ago (NHS Digital, 2017). And way to often, it takes weeks to get an appointment and hours in the waiting room just to spend five minutes with the GP and get two simple questions answered.
That’s not just wasting patients´ time and the GP´s time, it is also wasting millions of pounds. In times of wearables and smart homes, most health parameters can be checked at home like temperature, pulse, images of skin diseases, etc. This makes seeing the GP unnecessary in a lot of cases and the long process of getting there prevents many people with a severe disease from making an appointment.
So let us connect medical students and patients via an app.
There should be two versions, depending if you are medical student or patient. The medical student part should be open for students after their first two years of studying, for example. You can select your specialisation and research papers if applicable. An integration of test cases could also be a good idea to ensure starting requirements.
Then medical students can start to answer patients´ questions and to gather a score, supervised by a MD or a student with a high score. You can maybe even increase your score with finishing exams, medical school or the foundation year. And of course, the patient can rate the medical student.
Cash rewards are allowed after a specific score is reached. This gamification will attract students by helping patients and getting rewards for it. And there are many medical students in different phases of their training (Figure 2).
For patients, it is all about getting their questions answered in real-time and everywhere they go. They can select if they have a general concern or a question for a specialist, for example regarding a skin disease. It is also possible to select a score the medical student should have and then you get connected.
You could claim it is risky getting information from medical students with a low score. It is as risky as renting an AirBnB without reviews or buying something on Amazon without reviews, but the supervision concept will ensure safety. In cases the problem can´t be solved via telemedicine, the medical student can still refer to someone with more experience or ask the patient to visit a GP, which is then necessary.
Figure 2: Huge potential of medical students and MD´s during their training phases. General Medical Council UK, 2015
Who is going to pay for that?
I think patients would be happy to save hours of their day and get their questions answered immediately, so they can pay for advanced service or even a “flatrate” concept. Employers and the NHS could also benefit strongly from that concept, so they could be shareholders, as well. GP´s are also an interesting group of stakeholders, since lots of pressure could be taken from their shoulders.
I think this concept could revolutionize healthcare by connecting patients and medical students, who can benefit from each other. These groups are huge and at the moment, this potential is rarely used. But technology is far enough to make this direct contact happening, as it is done in many other areas, as well.
Let's continue the debate, my contact details are below :)
My background in biotechnology, project management, digital health and marketing is supported by my ability for high-precision work under time pressure. Improving my soft skills in communications, creativity, organisation and innovation thinking daily ensures productivity and efficient team-work.
Several internships, seminars and jobs in top tier industry and academia increased my expertise at the interface between biotechnology and business. To gather abroad experience, I lived three months in Lausanne for an research internship and four months in Oxford for an Erasmus semester during my master.