What higher ed can learn from healthcare
**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**
A guest column by Edgar Wilson
Healthcare is undergoing reform in order to hold care providers more accountable for the quality of the care they provide. This is the emerging standard to replace volume-based service, whereby hospitals and doctors are compensated for how many tests and treatments they order, without any consideration of the patient outcomes that result from treatment.
Education needs to similarly move toward tracking academic outcomes to prove that it is actually worth the expense. Recent graduates offer a bleak review of the value they feel they are currently getting. Institutions should be held accountable for what academic and professional accomplishments their students are able to achieve. Whether it is proficiency at the next level of education, or employment in a career relevant to the student’s area of study, there needs to be a clearer link between outcomes and educational inputs. This may fall short of holding individual teachers and professors accountable for student performance, but it can certainly serve to better enable students and their families to evaluate prospective schools, programs, and balanced the associated costs against the opportunities.
Break Down Legacy Instruction
Doctors and nurses need more leadership training, better preparation to lead and participate in health teams. Technological disruption, breakthrough research, and a tenuous regulatory atmosphere mean clinicians are challenged to be nimble and adaptive.
Teachers, likewise, need better instruction and empowerment to not just cope, but to drive cultural change and innovation in the classroom. The world doesn’t just need more expert individuals in the classroom and ER, it needs collaborative leadership and creativity to ensure the delivery of these critical services continues to advance alongside the rest of society. Continuing Education standards for both classes of professionals emphasize the need to keep up with a dynamic, ever-changing field; leadership training would empower them to be proactive innovators, rather than reacting to the external forces at play around them.
Embrace Technology – Join or Die
The legacy systems and individual approaches to records technology in healthcare has made the mandatory shift to digital currently underway a long headache. While patients are enthusiastic and receptive to the new norms, many clinicians are still resistant to the change, and the gap is a significant obstacle to improving engagement. Patient health depends on their engagement with clinicians, and technology can help bridge the divide between clinical expert and patient.
Modern students are similarly more receptive toward emerging technology, from mobile to virtual platforms and tools. Teachers need more than instruction in the latest methods and tools—they need a combination of incentives and some amount of external pressure to become more proactive in integrating technology into the classroom, and leading student engagement with digital tools.
Students require the same sort of engagement to ensure comprehension, retention, and learning are all actually taking place. What is more, both doctors and teachers need to learn to get as comfortable with technology as their patients and students are, and use them to maximize engagement to reach the full population they serve.
This isn’t just a matter of rewarding the individuals who are proactive about learning, understanding, and communicating, but ensuring everyone who is access both education and healthcare is receiving the full value of that exposure. Learning and health maintenance alike continue well after such encounters, and telemedicine and distance learning platforms show a lot of promise to increase exposure, if not engagement.
Books are Drugs
Drug companies have too long a history of raising medicine prices without account or controls, and the doctors prescribing them to patients with no alternative are all captive to the choices of their care providers.
In academia, cadres of textbook publishers have a similarly captive market with no recourse and no obvious alternative. Not only should instructors be enabled and rewarded for taking advantage of lower cost digital, open source, or otherwise liberated resources through greater technology integration, but the schools and university systems that guarantee demand for books should exert greater pressure on publishers to stop taking advantage of the system. Students, like patients, are not positioned to be their own best advocates to control prices; the systems they patronize out of necessity must take up the role on their behalf, and challenge the status quo that has gone on unaccountable for far too long.
Maintenance is Key
In spite of the pace of change in the 21st century, the standard model for education starts in childhood, climaxes with impossibly-expensive universities, and then is relegated to the individual to acquire “on-the-job” training and mentorship. Resources are limited to the classroom, and after commencement, remain exclusive. That is like a diabetic seeing a doctor once and being counted on to successfully manage the condition indefinitely, and catch up with changes in science and medical technology independently.
In a perfect world, emergency medical interventions would be displaced by the tendency for people to take better care of themselves, prevent the escalation of minor ailments and conditions, and only visit their doctors for routine services, instead of reactive treatment. Instead, patients habitually neglect their health, postpone visits to the doctor as long as possible, and seek emergency care for conditions that started out as casual lifestyle choices.
Education, like health, is cumulative. Eating one healthy meal does not lead to weight loss, until it becomes a regular habit. Lifelong learning—or continuing education—is often relegated to a specific class of professional (doctors and nurses, as well as teachers, are all expected to keep abreast of best practices and emerging knowledge in their fields), rather than embraced across the spectrum of professionals. Given the intrusion of technology, communications networks, and globalization in virtually every field, few can claim that knowledge and skills in their profession has remained static, immune from these disruptive influences. Continuing education deserves the resources and public-private support to become standard for all skilled professions.
Edgar Wilson is an Oregon native with a passion for cooking, trivia, and politics. He studied conflict resolution and international relations and has worked in industries ranging from international marketing to broadcast journalism. He is currently working as an independent analytical consultant. He can be reached via email here or on Twitter @EdgarTwilson.