The growing deficit, a sluggish economy and rising healthcare costs have focused attention on cutting healthcare spending, and since Medicare is a primary source of funding for graduate medical education, residency training could take some budget hits, according to an article published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.
"I think the GME [graduate medical education] cuts are going to be very real; our institution ... has started to cut positions," study author Martha Mainiero, M.D., told AuntMinnie.com. "I think it's going to be very institution-specific, which programs and how much is cut. And the point of the article is that a lot of people have no idea what's going on."
The amount of support given by the federal government to graduate medical education is substantial. In 2010, for example, the federal government, through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, provided $9.5 billion in graduate medical funding, as well as an additional $2 billion in matched dollars.
According to Mainiero and Robert Ward, M.D.--of the department of diagnostic imaging at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, R.I.--radiology programs could be particularly vulnerable to reductions in federal support for education and residence training programs.
"For radiology to be as well-positioned as possible in this new era of declining funding and healthcare reform, we must demonstrate that we add quality and value, by first defining best practices in the discipline under the new drivers for healthcare and then adopting, modeling, and teaching these practices to our trainees," they wrote.
Threats to graduate medical education funding have been discussed for several years now. Reductions in funding as high as 50 percent have been recommended by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.
According to an article published last summer in American Medical News, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, after surveying graduate medical education programs, estimated that a 50 percent reduction in Medicare graduate medical education funding would result in the closing of 2,551 residency and fellowship programs nationwide, and the loss of more than 33,000 positions.
When funding cuts do begin to hit, it will be up to radiologists, residents and radiology departments to make the case for continued funding by demonstrating the value of what they do, Mainiero said.