ABSTRACT: A Call to Investigate the Relationship Between Education and Health Outcomes Using Big Data
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.