How do I find these people?
June 8, 2009 11:00 AM   Subscribe

I am about to become a first year medical student (YAY!). I am trying to figure out how to get involved in projects dealing with healthcare and IT. Are there any good online resources to finding this type of information? Or should I just start randomly emailing companies?

I have worked on an EMR project for about 1.5 years and have some good experience in that, but I would like to now become involved from the medical side, as that will be my future career. It would also be interesting to work with people who develop new software or hardware for the medical community.
posted by senseigmg to Technology (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You're not going to have time for any of that while in med school.

Don't take on "in addition to my studies" work for awhile until you realize how busy you'll be, especially after the first couple of years.
posted by rokusan at 11:59 AM on June 8, 2009

1) rokusan is right: medical school is basically supposed to kill you, and if that doesn't residency certainly will. "Extracurriculars" aren't really a huge part of medical school the way they are with, say, law school, business school, undergrad, etc.

2) If you do insist in pursuing this crazy path, just talk to the IT department at the hospital to which your medical school is attached. I'm sure they'd be happy to talk to you. But you might consider talking to various deans first; there may be some way of getting credit here, if you can come up with a compelling program and they're willing to work with you.
posted by valkyryn at 12:38 PM on June 8, 2009

First, congratulations! And second, I'm sorry. Because medical school is tough.

I agree with rokusan. Your time will be burned up with studies, meetings, clubs, etc. As you'll hear, you're going to be attending classes with people just like you: those who graduated in the top 10% of their high school and went to college, then graduated in the top 10% of their class in college. Driven people. People who spend the entirety of their free time studying.

You're going to undoubtedly want to do well. So is everyone else. You'll have licensing exams to study for, which aren't a joke for anyone. You're going to find interest groups and clubs pertaining to medicine, and you'll be attending them with people who are trying to extract as much sycophantic benefit as they can from them. You'll be competing with "gunners," who will meet and debate with professors after each exam to get a couple of extra points on questions they answered incorrectly. You may become a gunner yourself, and spend the next four years of your life at an emotionally developmental standstill.

So I recommend spending whatever free time you have doing things you really enjoy: reading, attending concerts, dating, finger painting, etc. This that will keep you grounded in your humanity and things that'll make you a great physician.

Now, all that being said, I think it's admirable to explore aspects of medicine that connect you to larger issues in healthcare. There are a lot of exciting changes occurring now and in the near future that could result in a lot of good for a lot of people. I think EMRs will play a very large role in shaping the future of healthcare. You'll have a bit more time and a better understanding of how they fit in the larger scheme of things when you enter residency and have to deal with things like coding, billing, follow-up of care and record-keeping. Things you could pursue now include:
- meeting with department heads to see how they're integrating EMRs into their practices. Many medical schools have EMR "champions," whose role is to lead the integration of and migration towards EMRs. See if you can arrange a meeting with this person
- gaining a better understanding of the current issues of medicine: how pay for performance relates to EMRs, the struggles of primary care coverage and the recent discussion of proposals for change, to start
- analysis of the cost/benefits of private versus open source EMR systems, and how they relate to your medical school, community and the nation at large
- the question of interoperability of EMRs in the competitive marketplace
- familiarizing and involving yourself with Obama's plans for EMRs
- querying the basic IT issues of tech support, network and computer upkeep/modernization
- and, yes, e-mailing random companies and people.

Please keep in mind that the issues with EMRs don't just apply to the US. A friend of mine went to Zambia and worked as a programmer for an EMR system for their AIDS program.

As you can see, there are many areas to explore when it comes to EMRs. There are a lot of issues in medicine worth pursuing, period. If you find yourself having time to look into them, great. But don't let them get in the way of the basic studies and exams, or more importantly, your personal development as a human being and great physician.
posted by herrdoktor at 1:02 PM on June 8, 2009

I'm not totally clear what you know from your EMR project or how it's different from what you envision the medical side to be. The medical side is learning to use a system and putting/pulling data into/out of it.

I disagree with the above posters, many medical schools encourage community participation and research among their students. Med school should not "kill" you for the first few years at least. Life gets harder as it goes.

Rather than try to crack into the literature by yourself, try to get in touch with the relevant dean of your medical school and ask to speak to some researchers at your new school working on the topic. While there are open-source developments of EMR, much of the software and hardware development happens in the private sphere.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 1:14 PM on June 8, 2009

Response by poster: I've basically already done a year of med school in my masters program, so I definitely know what I'm in for. I'm not looking for something fulltime, maybe just something where I can work with somebody once a week or so.
posted by senseigmg at 3:59 PM on June 8, 2009

Response by poster: I worked on implementation and training physicians/nurses. I'd like to go into something along the lines of development, and making it easier and more useful for healthcare workers to use. Also, I'd love to be involved in testing it on portable devices (new iPhone...).
posted by senseigmg at 4:03 PM on June 8, 2009

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