Aspiring doctors at the Drexel University College of Medicine now get a dose of business along with their science courses.
Vascular surgeon Michael Weingarten said he's convinced that understanding health-industry fundamentals — and some of the intricacies of insurance -- better prepares doctors to offer affordable, effective care.
When he prescribes a diabetic shoe or another medical equipment, Weingarten said it's helpful if he understands his patient's insurance situation.
"They may not have coverage for it," Weingarten said. "You really have to have an idea of what your patients can get and not get."
The business course was delivered through a series of two-hour lectures including a primer on the Affordable Care Act and a history lesson on how health insurance became so linked to employment in the United States. Drexel students also learned the difference between Medicare and Medicaid.
Weingarten gave his students a pre-test.
"Almost all the class flunked," Weingarten said. "So, it confirmed that very bright people in medical school don't necessarily know this stuff. But if you teach it to them effectively, hopefully they will walk away with basic information."
"I don't remember what my grade was on the pretest, I'm sure it was abysmally low," said Varshana Gurusamy, a third-year student from Texas.
She and other medical students are conditioned to stay super focused on their medical training, but Gurusamy said she's glad she was "forced" to sit through the business lectures.
"While every aspect of basic science curriculum might not be applicable to whatever specialty or subspecialty you go into, the business of health care is going to be relevant to you whether you are a pediatrician or a surgeon," she said.
Weingarten wants to start a new med-school tradition.
"When I went to medical school, there was not one sentence on the business of health care throughout my whole medical school curriculum. So this is really a change in the culture," Weingarten said.
A new study, published in the journal Medical Science Educator, suggests that after a short series of lectures, Drexel students were able to explain many basics of the health care industry.
Patrick Ammerman contributed to this report.