Medical schools start teaching students about healthcare costs

Medical schools are beginning to educate would-be doctors about the cost of the healthcare they deliver and how to discuss finances with patients, according to the Los Angeles radio station KPCC.

Medical schools now integrate the cost and value of healthcare into their curricula, according to the article. It's "a dramatic change," Janis Orlowski, M.D., chief medical officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), told KPCC. An AAMC survey of 140 medical schools found that the curriculum of 129 schools required education on the cost of care for healthcare delivery.

Among the factors driving the shift is the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its emphasis on higher-value care, as well as a proliferation of higher-deductible health plans for many enrollees.

And despite the ACA bringing insurance to millions of more American households, the actuarial firm Milliman recently reported that insuring a household of four is nearly $25,000 a year. TransUnion Healthcare has also reported that consumers are feeling rising pressure from covering such costs.

The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA is one such example of the transformation, where issues of healthcare cost are regularly woven into lessons. 

"In the everyday teaching they get about clinical medicine, what medications to prescribe, what's the name of this diagnosis, we're going to add a layer to every discussion about the value part of that as well," Reshma Gupta, M.D., who is in charge of the cost integration efforts at UCLA, told KPCC.

Some medical educators have raised concerns that the issue of cost is difficult for students to absorb given their already huge courseload. But a UC Riverside Medical School student, Isaiah Roggow, encountered the issue while volunteering at a free clinic. A patient has a high level of blood protein. That isn't usually cause for concern, but he told the radio station that another doctor suggested a $400 test for cancer.

"Most of the time, when it's a positive test, it actually means we just have to do more tests," Roggow said. "And does that actually serve the patient at all? Now they're just worried because they have this abnormal test that stresses them out, maybe for nothing."

To learn more:
- read the KPCC article via Kaiser Health News
- check out the survey results