Teaching medical students about different health care systems: An international exchange program
Understanding how different health care systems are organized and financed is rarely taught in medical school. In 1997, several U.S. and European medical schools formed an ongoing, innovative, and collaborative exchange program to enable their medical students to gain an insight into the dynamics of another country's health care system. One student from each participating institution completes a month-long rotation at a host medical school under the supervision of a faculty mentor. Selected target diagnoses serve as the basis for comparative case studies. To enable the student to effectively study the host country's health care system, each is assigned a patient with the preselected specific diagnosis. The students view the patient's care within the context of the host country's delivery system rather than being limited to the clinical diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Matching the student with a patient permits the student to see how medical care is delivered and financed in the host country. Each student is required to prepare a written report focusing on costs; organization and delivery of care; quality and outcomes of care; politics, culture, and ethics; and learning. The case studies permit comparisons of health care systems among the participating U.S. and European Union countries, as well as opportunities for institutional and individual learning.