Even though Dr. Welby was a fictional physician, he embodied what every patient wants to see in his or her doctor; he was smart, caring, and outwardly committed to his patient’s well-being. In today’s complex health care system, often patients do not see this type of doc. Though most of us trust that our physicians have sound medical knowledge, many doctors fail to properly communicate with patients and colleagues, often to the detriment of patients’ health. To some, the allure of being a successful doctor is more important than having good and communicative relationships with patients. Poor communication between doctors and patients and between medical providers has too often led to preventable deaths and complications. This trend needs to change, and a new medical school admissions process may facilitate the transition to better quality care.
Traditionally, medical students have been chosen based on strong academic records and performance in a standard, one-hour interview. However, medical school admissions officers are beginning to understand that medicine is changing, and our future physicians need to reflect these changes.
An article in yesterday’s New York Times describes how 13 medical schools in the US and Canada are now using a new innovative admissions process to choose medical school candidates based not only on academic performance and standard interview competence, but also their ability to respond to difficult ethical and social situations.
This new process is referred to as the “multiple mini interview” or MMI. Akin to speed dating, candidates show up for a process of mini situational interviews, in which they read an ethical scenario and have 8 minutes to discuss how they would proceed with the situation. There are multiple scenarios, and each is discussed with a different interviewer. There is no right or wrong answer to these situations, but if an applicant jumps to conclusions, fails to listen to an opposing argument, or communicates too strongly, he or she will be graded harshly because these behaviors indicate the candidate may not work well in a team, and may disregard a patient’s opinion in favor of his or her own.
Though this process is grueling for applicants, it allows interviewers to assess a candidate without bias, and will more easily identify character or communication flaws that would be difficult to discern during a standard, one hour interview. Applicants who are successful in this process will likely become excellent doctors who communicate well with their colleagues and patients.
As patients, we need intelligent doctors who know what they’re doing medically, but we also need doctors who we can talk to and who will listen to us. The outcome will be the coveted doctor-patient relationship that is the key to quality care.