Changing access to hospital care: Altered values at the academic health center

Abstract

Under the impact of cultural, economic and legislative forces the traditional role of the university health center is changing. The academic health center is rapidly evolving from a relatively undifferentiated general hospital, primarily responsible for the education of undergraduate students of medicine, into a center of clinical research, caring for very specialized mixes of patients, and having as its primary educational mission the training of subspecialists. The nature of the forces responsible for this change are analyzed, and some of its possible consequences for the definition of quality health care, for the shape of medical practice and medical education, and for the allocation of resources for health care are explored. This exploration suggests that the functional separation of the medical school from the highly technical, clinical research center is inevitable. This in turn may exacerbate tensions within medicine between the physician as scientist and as healer, between curative and preventive practice and between personal and public health. Although the effects of this separation on medical education remain obscure, it has already occasioned the most comprehensive review of the medical curriculum since the time of Flexner. Out of this is likely to develop a more generalist view of the education of future physicians.

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