Purpose: To broaden the understanding of how medical schools can help students learn an approach to health care that reflects the integration of psychosocial and biomedical factors in health and illness.
Method: A qualitative research design was used, with data collected through document review and semi-structured interviews conducted in the spring and summer of 1992 with 22 faculty and administrators from 17 U.S. and Canadian medical schools. The interviewees represented the following disciplines: internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, and preventive/behavioral medicine. An analytic framework was developed, within which the constant comparative method was used on a continuous basis during and after data collection. Category development focused on (1) defining the scope and character of an integrated perspective, (2) delineating various ways to incorporate such a perspective in medical education, and (3) identifying barriers to and facilitative factors for incorporating such a perspective in medical education. Validity was assessed by having the interviewees and three other faculty members review the analyses and preliminary results.
Results: The interviewees' conceptions of an integrated perspective on health care focused on the theoretical need for a broader scientific model and on the practical need for more inclusive approaches to medical practice. The interviewees described patient-level and community-level approaches as equally important. The ideal curricula envisioned by the interviewees were patient-centered, integrated, developmental, and population-based. In addition to naming many barriers to integration (e.g., negative attitudes of faculty and administrators, diffuse organization of medical schools, ignorance of appropriate curriculum design and implementation), the interviewees identified certain facilitative factors (e.g., strong leaders, faculty development programs, and reform of the faculty reward system).
Conclusion: The interviewees envisioned an integrated model of health care that suggests that medical curricula should address the development of physicians' knowledge, attitudes, and skills regarding physicians' relationships with both patients and community.