AMA Backs More Healthcare Economics Education for Med Students

Kerry Dooley Young

November 20, 2019

The American Medical Association (AMA) is expanding its effort to put more emphasis on healthcare economics in the education of students and residents as a path to containing costs.

The group on Tuesday called on medical schools and residency programs to include materials on cost-effective use of diagnostic services and treatments, risk management, practice management, and quality assurance. The AMA also said schools and residency programs should present materials about the economics of medical practice in fee-for-service, managed care, and other financing systems.

Physicians clearly need instruction on healthcare economics beyond what medical schools and residency programs currently provide, according to Barbara L. McAneny, MD, the AMA's immediate past president.

"Medical students and residents with a deeper understanding of cost, financing, and medical economics will be better equipped to provide more cost-effective care that will have a positive impact for patients and the health care system as a whole," McAneny said in a statement.

The AMA said its new policy expands on its recent work on education offerings about health systems. The organization has a series of free online modules for students to help them delve into what it calls Health Systems Science.

Through its Graduate Medical Education Competency Education Program (GCEP), the AMA also offers a series of online educational modules designed to complement teachings in residency and fellowship programs — including a module on how payment models affect patient care and costs.

New Exam and "Money Games"

The AMA also said it is working with the National Board of Medical Examiners to develop a standardized exam, expected to be available later this year, regarding Health Systems Science.

In a recently released book, The Price We Pay: What Broke American Health Care, Marty Makary, MD, a surgeon and researcher from Johns Hopkins University, urges that greater emphasis be given to addressing "medicine's trail of financial toxicity."

He includes several stories in the book of younger physicians who work with him to expose and question unmanageable bills sent by hospitals to their customers.

"Patients are crying out about care being too fragmented, too rushed, and about billing practices that are ruining their lives," Makary writes in his book. "Doctors must lead the charge to restore medicine to its mission. The most logical solutions have been largely absent from curricula."

"We need broad health care literacy so physicians understand the many money games that have come to define the new business of medicine," he told Medscape Medical News by email.

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