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University of Utah School of Medicine Wins Spot on National Consortium With Plan to Improve Quality, Reduce Costs for Undergraduates


(Salt Lake City)–A University of Utah School of Medicine plan to lower the costs and increase the quality of undergraduate medical education has earned it a spot on a national consortium working to transform the way future physicians are taught.

The American Medical Association on Wednesday announced the U was one of 20 schools that will receive $75,000 over the next three years to implement a variety of projects as new members of the Accelerating Change in Medical Education Consortium. The consortium launched in 2013 with 11 founding member medical schools that developed and shared curricula innovations.

Proposed by University of Utah School of Medicine co-principal investigators Sara Lamb, M.D., associate dean for education, and Janet Lindsley, Ph.D., assistant dean for foundational science curriculum, the U's project, "Bending the Cost Curve: Developing a Metric to Optimize the Value of Undergraduate Medical Education," will determine the actual costs of each component of undergraduate medical education and compare them with educational outcomes to define value.

University of Utah Health Care's nationally recognized Value Driven Outcomes tool, which aggregates data to define clinical costs down to a patient-visit level, will be used to determine direct professional and faculty costs for different types of medical education. The information stands to help schools across the nation fill a distinct informational void.

"There are great initiatives being launched that are changing the landscape of medical education, but there is not a lot of discussion about what implementing them will mean for your academic medical center or private health system's ability to carry out its organizational mission," says Lamb. "Each hour faculty and researchers spend with students has an associated cost for the institution that we must clearly identify in order to allow us all to make informed decisions about the best use of their time and student's time."

Students themselves are driving much of the change in medical education as they seek more flexibility in their learning and lower tuition costs. In 2014, medical students had an average indebtedness of $176,348 nationwide, and the pace of their debt has been outpacing the rate of inflation for the past two decades.

One cost-saving approach could be creating a single set of interactive, online education for the ever-expanding quantity of core science content undergraduate medical students must master.

"We're asking, why can't we do this as a collaborative and agree that this core curricula is a shared resource among schools that gets edited by national experts," said Lamb. "We feel there is a lot students can learn on their own time, and they should be given the opportunity to do so and be tested as they are ready as opposed to traditional medical school methods where a faculty member lectures, they memorize it, and we test it."

Finding more efficient ways to educate students on the basics makes more room to add curriculum that will prepare them for a rapidly changing health care landscape. To succeed tomorrow, today's students will need inter-professional practice and health care quality improvement skills.

The U will collaborate with other schools to define what types of curriculum produce the best educational outcomes and highest quality experiences. The end result will be a plan for delivering a flexible, competency-based educational program that capitalizes on innovative web-based education.

"This is a bold and innovative project that addresses a key issue facing medical education: the need to define value and streamline our costs to deliver high quality in undergraduate medical education," said Vivian S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A. "The University of Utah School of Medicine is committed to the success of this program, and to transparency as we share the results of our efforts with medical educators across the country as we strive to collectively transform health care."

The now 31-school consortium will support training for an estimated 18,000 medical students who will one day care for 31 million patients each year.

"Our goal throughout this initiative has been to spread the robust work being done by our consortium to accelerate systemic change throughout medical education," said AMA CEO James L. Madara, M.D. "By tripling the number of schools participating in this effort, we know that we will be able to more quickly disseminate the Consortium schools' innovative curriculum models to even more schools—leading to the type of seismic shift that the medical education system needs so that future physicians can better care for their patients."

The full list of consortium schools, along with short descriptions of each school's project, can be found at