Original Publication
Open Access

Teaching the Cost of Hospital Care to Medical Students

Published: August 26, 2010 | 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.7787

Included in this publication:

  • Instructor's Guide.docx
  • Economic Autopsy.pptx
  • Appendix I Pre-test.doc
  • Appendix II Post test.doc

To view all publication components, extract (i.e., unzip) them from the downloaded .zip file.

Editor's Note: This publication predates our implementation of the Educational Summary Report in 2016 and thus displays a different format than newer publications.


Physicians significantly influence health care spending, yet little time is spent in medical education addressing the financial costs of health care. This resource is a 2-hour case-based instructional session that aims to impact students’ knowledge and attitudes regarding the integration of costs into medical decision-making. A survey of medical students revealed that most believed that the cost associated with diagnostic testing was infrequently considered in medical decision-making. Moreover, students felt that only a minority of residents or attending physicians routinely discussed the cost of care as a component of patient management. This case describes a common clinical scenario (severe pneumonia) and provides several typical decision points where incorporation of financial costs and evidence-based medicine into the decision-making process may alter the choices made. Specifically, the patient has evidence of significant pneumonia at the time of admission. As the facilitator sequentially presented the case, students were asked to expand the differential diagnosis and determine which tests to order, justifying each test they chose. Their decisions were compared to the narrative of the real case, and the real cost of each test was revealed. Students then discussed the costs of the tests and whether they were worth it. Postmodule, students answered four sample questions testing knowledge of health economics, showing an improvement over the premodule test. While students did not change their opinion that diagnostic accuracy is more important than cost, more students reported both that a patient’s ability to pay should be considered and that the cost of a test should be discussed with the patient.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this session, learners should be able to:

  1. Understand the present cost of a hospital stay.
  2. Break down how physician decisions affect patient costs.
  3. Discuss appropriate resource utilization in light of stated costs.

Author Information

  • Eva Aagaard, MD: University of Colorado School of Medicine
  • Ross Wagner: University of Colorado School of Medicine
  • David Jackson: University of Colorado School of Medicine
  • Mark Earnest: University of Colorado School of Medicine

None to report.

None to report. 

Prior Presentations
Jackson D, Wagner R, Earnest M, Aagaard E. Teaching the cost of hospital care to medical students. Poster presented at: SGIM Annual Meeting; April 9, 2008; Pittsburgh, PA.

Wagner R, Jackson D, Earnest M, Aagaard E. Teaching the cost of hospital care to medical students. Presented at: WGEA Annual Meeting; April 28, 2008; Pacific Grove, CA.


Aagaard E, Wagner R, Jackson D, Earnest M. Teaching the cost of hospital care to medical students. MedEdPORTAL. 2010;6:7787. https://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.7787