Is digital health bad news for academic medicine?

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Here’s an interesting piece about the emigration of medical students from top-tier West Coast medical schools and into digital health startups.

Bay Area-based medical students from Stanford and UCSF have among the very lowest rates of pursuing residency programs after graduation compared to the rest of the country. Stanford ranked 117th among 123 U.S. medical schools with just 65 percent of students going on to residencies in 2011…UCSF is 98th on the list, with 79 percent of its graduating students going on to residency…“We’ve seen that many of these Bay Area-based medical students are drawn to startup opportunities,” said Jeff Tangney, CEO of Doximity. “It used to be biotech, and now it’s more often digital health.”

This is tough news for medicine – both clinical and academic.

It will be tempting for some to de-trend these findings, questioning whether these emigrees should’ve ever entered medical school in the first place. Others might argue that these departures are actually good news for future patients. But these perspectives miss the underlying trend.

It used to be the case that if you were interested in improving patient care and creating better, more efficient treatments, you went into academic medicine. If you found innovation more compelling than full days of patient care, you could find an academic position, secure a more limited clinical role, and start creating. Today, given funding restrictions, beauracracy, and the long [long] road to impact, the startup economy is a more attractive option.

In short, I wonder if people are running to digital health, or running away from academic medicine.