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Knowledge Shot: Could you get an MD online

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Transcript

Today, you can get an online degree in a variety of fields in the healthcare system—everything from paramedic training, to medical billing, to dental hygiene, to phlebotomy.

Within the field of nursing, there are over 300 programs that offer bachelors, masters, and even doctorate degrees.

Of course, if the training involves patient care these programs also require hands-on training in a clinical setting.

There is one healthcare degree that is not offered online, however, and that is the Doctor of Medicine or MD.

For more than a century, MD training in the United States has included 2-years of preclinical training that’s largely done in the classroom, followed by 2-years of clinical apprenticeship.

The classroom-based teaching is usually done with passive lectures that are more often than not inefficient and unpopular.

In many schools fewer than one-third of the class even attend these lectures after the first semester.

Further, a recent study has shown that in-class attendance doesn’t predict how well a medical student will perform academically.

So, if the majority of future physicians aren’t attending class, what are they doing?

The answer is that these students are learning online.

Many students stream their professor’s lectures at 1.5x – 2x speeds while at home or at a coffee shop.

They also invest in external resources such as osmosis.org to enhance their comprehension and retention of their class materials—not to mention increasing their test scores.

While there are examples of innovative models of medical education, there is no “online medical school” that enables completion of parts or all of the preclinical training virtually.

This is in part due to the stringent requirements by the Liaison Committee for Medical Education (LCME) which accredits medical education programs.

But there are a few trends that suggest there’s growing appetite for innovation in physician training.

First, the vast majority of medical students are digital natives, meaning they have never known a world without the internet, and students are already spending a lot of their time learning online.