There exists an assumption that improving medical education will improve patient care. While seemingly logical, this premise has rarely been investigated. In this Invited Commentary, the authors propose the use of big data to test this assumption. The authors present a few example research studies linking education and patient care outcomes and argue that using big data may more easily facilitate the process needed to investigate this assumption. The authors also propose that collaboration is needed to link educational and health care data. They then introduce a grassroots initiative, inclusive of universities in one Canadian province and national licensing organizations that are working together to collect, organize, link, and analyze big data to study the relationship between pedagogical approaches to medical training and patient care outcomes. While the authors acknowledge the possible challenges and issues associated with harnessing big data, they believe that the benefits supersede these. There is a need for medical education research to extend beyond that of training into practice and clinical outcomes. Without a coordinated effort to harness big data, policy makers, regulators, medical educators, and researchers are left with sometimes costly guesses and assumptions about what works and what does not. As the social, time, and financial investments in medical education continue to increase, it is imperative to understand the relationship between education and health outcomes.
S. Chahine is research scientist, Centre for Education Research & Innovation, and assistant professor, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada; ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0488-773X.
K. Kulasegaram is scientist and assistant professor, Department of Family & Community Medicine, Wilson Centre, University Health Network & Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
S. Wright is assistant professor, Department of Family & Community Medicine, and scientist, The Wilson Centre, University Health Network & Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto and Michael Garron Hospital, Toronto East Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; ORCID:https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6636-4822.
S. Monteiro is assistant professor, Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, and education scientist, McMaster Education Research, Innovation and Theory, Faculty of Health Sciences Program, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8723-5942.
L.E.M. Grierson is scientist, McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences’ Program for Education Research, Innovation, and Theory, and Associate professor, Department of Family Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
C. Barber is assessment and data analyst, Undergraduate Medical Education, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada.
S.S. Sebok-Syer is a postdoctoral fellow, Centre for Education Research & Innovation, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada; ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3572-5971.
M. McConnell is assistant professor, Department of Innovation in Medical Education, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8721-2107.
W. Yen is senior researcher, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
A. De Champlain is director, Psychometrics and Assessment Services, Medical Council of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-2472-798X.
C. Touchie is chief medical education officer, Medical Council of Canada, and Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7926-9720.
Editor’s Note: This is an Invited Commentary on Triola MM, Hawkins RE, Skochelak SE. The Time Is Now: Using Graduates’ Practice Data to Drive Medical Education Reform. Acad Med. 2018;93:XX–XX.
Acknowledgments: This commentary reflects the personal views of an unofficial community of researchers, informally known as the Barcelona Consortium.
Funding/Support: None reported.
Other disclosures: None reported.
Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.
Correspondence should be addressed to Saad Chahine, Western University, Health Sciences Addition, Room H110B, London, Ontario, Canada, N6A 5C1; telephone: (519) 661-2111, ext 85431; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @saadchahine.