Medical Students Focus on Frequent Users

Illustration showing medical bullseye


Vanderbilt University School of Medicine is fielding one of 10 student teams participating in a project aimed at identifying the most frequent users of health care. Called “hot spotting,” this novel approach allows health care providers to zero in on “super users” in order to identify the reasons behind high utilization and to teach patients how to overcome them.

The project, funded by the Association of American Medical Colleges in partnership with the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers and Primary Care Progress, involves interprofessional teams of students from schools across the country.

“We know that a small cohort of the population consumes a lot of our health care resources,” says Dr. Jule West, MSN’91, MD’97, assistant professor of medicine. “This program will drill down to who these patients are, why they are high utilizers, and what we can do to better coordinate their medical care and engage them in the process.”

The Vanderbilt team plans to recruit four to five patients and follow them during a six-month period, which will allow a more extensive look into patient habits and lifestyles. Students will share data through webinars and conferences as well as submit a final report they hope will play a part in developing the best health care practices.

The project is a good fit for Vanderbilt: Since 2010 the Vanderbilt University Program in Interprofessional Learning (VPIL) has created patient-focused health care teams consisting of students from various disciplines—medicine, nursing, pharmacy and social work—to work together in a clinical setting.

“The goal is not to be [the patients’] medical expert, but to be a partner with them in promoting positive, sustainable health practices,” says fourth-year medical student Andrew Wu, BE’10. “Ultimately, we are hoping that as we walk alongside them and understand their barriers to good health, we can work together to develop strategies to overcome those barriers and eventually help teach them to effectively and appropriately navigate the complicated world of our health system.”