Patient Engagement

Patient Engagement in Health Professions Admissions: Assessing Readiness for Health Professions Education

The recent 2017 AMS Phoenix conference entitled – Bringing Compassion to Healthcare – Impact of Technology on the Delivery of Compassionate Patient-Centered Care – was an excellent conference. This was an outcome that I expected. However, an unexpected outcome for me related to the production of my Phoenix website profile videotape session which took place during a brief break from the conference. As part of that videotaping session I was asked a question as to the outcome I most wished for my phoenix fellowship work – and it dawned on me that my wished for outcome was a future in which patient engagement is a standard, routine and expected component of health professions admissions processes. An illustrative example that jumps to my mind is from my experience within medical school admissions. My vision foresees a future in which patient engagement is the standard and expected norm within medical school admissions as is today’s MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) in medical school admissions. The MCAT is synonymous with North American medical school admissions. Many medical schools and physicians would consider medical school admissions to be incomplete without the MCAT. My future vision for admissions is the day in which health professions schools and health professionals would consider their schools’ admissions processes to be incomplete without a patient engagement component.

To return to my MCAT example, the MCAT shapes the academic lives of tens of thousands of university students aspiring to be physicians. In 2015, more than 60,000 students completed the MCAT. Yet this is an underestimate of the true number of students’ impacted by the MCAT because unfortunately an unknown number of university students aspiring to be physicians experience the pursuit of medicine embodied in the MCAT as objectionable and turn away from medicine to pursue other academic pursuits. This is an admissions travesty. This admissions travesty has been previously articulately by Dr. Jordan J. Cohen (Past President of the Association of American Medical Colleges). He wrote 15 years ago that admissions processes overemphasize academic credentials as measured by the MCAT and Grade Point Average (GPA) with a resultant negative impact upon the admissions environment. He believes this admissions academic emphasis underemphasizes the assessment of a host of personal characteristics desired in prospective medical students including altruism, empathy etc. that are so very important to patient-centered care. Even more condemning of this admissions travesty is Cohen’s assertion that many “intelligent idealists” turn away from medicine believing “grade-grubbing Philistines” are being sought and selected for a future career in medicine. To redress this travesty, he proposes a range of ideas focused upon bringing into better focus the assessment of applicants’ personal characteristics within admissions processes. He confidently asserts that faculty and staff members can identify those medical students who are certain to one day be “the best, most caring and most compassionate physicians”. I agree with him wholeheartedly but wish to broaden this perspective to – faculty and staff members plus patients can identify those medical students who are certain to one day be “the best, most caring and most compassionate physicians”. Patient engagement in admissions processes can contribute to the rebalancing of admissions processes; bringing the assessment of applicants’ academics and personal characteristics into alignment. Furthermore, patient engagement can rekindle the interest of those “intelligent idealists” that Cohen professes are being disenfranchised by current processes. The MCAT is continuously evolving to meet its goal of being the gold standard for assessing the readiness of applicants for medical education. A future in which patient engagement in admissions is a twinned gold standard for assessing the readiness of applicants for medical education is my fellowship goal.

Yes, my example might be from medical school admissions but medicine is not the focus of my fellowship. The work and desired outcome for my AMS Phoenix fellowship is to advance patient engagement across health professions admissions and for patient engagement to be a standard, routine and expected admissions component across all health professions. The goal is to establish patient engagement within the routine and expected methods of assessment of readiness for all health professions education.

About the author

Dr. Mark Hanson
  • AffiliationUniversity of Toronto
  • Twitter

Dr. Mark Hanson is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at the Hospital for Sick Children and is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He is the Past Admissions Dean/Director at the University Of Toronto Faculty Of Medicine.

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