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Letters to the Editor

A Digital Health Preclinical Requirement for Medical Students

Chandrashekar, Pooja

Author Information
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002685
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To the Editor:

Digital health is gaining momentum within clinical practice but remains poorly understood by many physicians.1 Though medical schools have a responsibility to prepare students for an increasingly digitized health care system, few integrate digital health training into required curricula. For digital tools to enhance medicine, physicians must be comfortable navigating the digital health landscape and engaging with technical experts. Moreover, because many digital health innovations are implemented without sufficient evidence, physician oversight is crucial.2 Yet, medical schools rarely provide concrete opportunities, apart from isolated lectures or informatics-focused curricular tracks, for students to learn about digital health.

To address these gaps, medical schools should consider creating a digital health preclinical requirement. This course could encompass (1) types of digital health technologies (e.g., health information technology, wearable devices, mobile applications, telehealth); (2) theoretical frameworks for evaluating technologies; and (3) introductions to the language and communication styles of technologists. Content should be tailored to clinical scenarios. For example, when prescribing a disease management mobile application, what functionality and design should physicians look for? Though not comprehensive, modules on digital privacy and security, evidence standards, and human-centered design could help students answer such questions.

The timing of this course is important. By situating this digital health course during the preclinical years, students could apply learnings during clerkships and residency training. It is also imperative that this course be required rather than offered as an elective. Since every physician will confront digital health in future practice, medical schools must commit to increasing digital literacy among all students. The course “BIOL 6677: Digital Health” at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University is an excellent model.3

As the environment of medicine changes, so must the training of future physicians. To help students “develop the competencies that the profession and the public expect of a physician,” medical schools should recognize the importance of digital health education.4

Pooja Chandrashekar
Fulbright Scholar and Student, Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts;


1. Banerjee R, George P, Priebe C, Alper E. Medical student awareness of and interest in clinical informatics. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2015;22(e1):e42e47.
2. American Medical Association. AMA CEO outlines digital challenges, opportunities facing medicine. Published June 2016. Accessed October 18, 2018.
3. Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. BIOL 6677: Digital Health. Accessed October 18, 2018.
4. Liaison Committee on Medical Education. Functions and structure of a medical school. Revised March 2018. Accessed October 19, 2018.
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