Technology & The Changing Face of Medical Education

Anyone who’s in, or been through, healthcare training knows that it employs a “memory-based curriculum.”  In other words, you’re tested on what you can recall.

However, it’s impossible to remember the vast amounts of information you learn over time.  When a physician doesn’t know something, he/she either looks it up or asks someone who does.

Soon, however, KevinMD mentions there may be another option:

“Physicians will have easy access to a Watson-like computer with vast medical knowledge, where they can simply ask  a natural language question, and the computer will come back with a medically accurate answer.”

With cheers from students, one implication to all this is that closed board exams may become obselete:

“Instead of sitting in a testing room, doctors should be evaluated on how well they can find the necessary information — not how well they can recall something they memorized. Board certification tests should be open-book, or, at least, provide the resources ready for physicians if they can’t recall an obscure medical fact.  Just like real life.”

Of course, some people may not be ready to scrap the way training has always been done just yet.  Certain fields (like emergency medicine) deal with unstable patients where there is not always time to look up information, for example.  Computers go down, and, it may also be some time before the super-computer proposed above is at the level it needs for it to be useful.

Still, with this technology on the horizon, it seems that some changes are coming.  Would you welcome them?  Let us know what you think in the “comments” section.


About Bryan Stoudt

On my personal website (, I help Christians follow Jesus in a noisy, broken world. I also have the privilege of helping Philadelphia's healthcare students and professionals do this as Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA). More information at On a personal note, I'm fortunate to be married to my wonderful wife, Sharon. Together, we have four fantastic children. In my spare time, I enjoy roasting coffee, running, reading and learning foreign languages.
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