New medical school model curriculum to include use of AI, big data

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The building that houses the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry

The education ministry and other entities plan to include the use of information science and technology, such as artificial intelligence and big data, as a pillar of a new model curriculum for university medical education, according to sources.

The plan is to be formally approved Monday at a meeting of an Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry panel, whose members are mainly in the medical field. AI is already being used to analyze medical image data, creating an urgent need to cultivate medical personnel capable of properly handling the advanced technology.

The model curriculum shared by all 82 medical schools in Japan is revised every six years to specify the qualifications, abilities, goals and other requirements to become doctors. Students who enroll in medical schools in and after the 2024 academic year will be subject to the new curriculum. Based on the model curriculum, medical schools will devise their own six-year educational plans.

With the latest revision, the curriculum will add to the basic qualifications and abilities needed for doctors the ability to utilize information science and technology and the mindset of comprehensively examining people and their relationships, according to the sources. Its content on infectious disease education will also be greatly increased in anticipation of epidemics such as the novel coronavirus pandemic.

AI is now being used to analyze images in tests and to help diagnose diseases, among other assistance. The new curriculum will aim to facilitate the use of information technologies, such as AI and big data, to help doctors solve problems. The curriculum will also place a focus on cultivating physicians’ ethics to ensure they manage electronic medical records and other medical information properly.

Regarding education on infectious diseases, the new curriculum will carry more content based on the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic to allow students to learn about practical medical care, such as how to deal with symptoms and how to diagnose viral infections in organs. It is intended to help students understand the role of doctors in the event of a new pandemic and comprehensively learn about diagnosis, treatment and other care under such circumstances.

Meanwhile, as the number of patients with multiple diseases increases in the super-aging society, the cultivation of general practitioners is also an urgent issue.

The section about the mindset of examining people comprehensively, to be newly set up in the curriculum, is intended to train doctors who can practice medicine without limiting their practice to specific organs or diseases. The curriculum will also place more importance on education regarding primary care, in which doctors are in close contact with patients to provide day-to-day care.

“As health care has become rapidly advanced, we want to cultivate people who can respond flexibly to unpredictable situations like the coronavirus pandemic,” a ministry official said.