ABSTRACT: Implementing economic evaluation in simulation-based medical education: challenges and opportunities.
Simulation-based medical education (SBME) is now ubiquitous at all levels of medical training. Given the substantial resources needed for SBME, economic evaluation of simulation-based programmes or curricula is required to demonstrate whether improvement in trainee performance (knowledge, skills and attitudes) and health outcomes justifies the cost of investment. Current literature evaluating SBME fails to provide consistent and interpretable information on the relative costs and benefits of alternatives.
Economic evaluation is widely applied in health care, but is relatively scarce in medical education. Therefore, in this paper, using a focus on SBME, we define economic evaluation, describe the key components, and discuss the challenges associated with conducting an economic evaluation of medical education interventions. As a way forward to the rigorous and state of the art application of economic evaluation in medical education, we outline the steps to gather the necessary information to conduct an economic evaluation of simulation-based education programmes and curricula, and describe the main approaches to conducting an economic evaluation.
A properly conducted economic evaluation can help stakeholders (i.e., programme directors, policy makers and curriculum designers) to determine the optimal use of resources in selecting the modality or method of assessment in simulation. It also helps inform broader decision making about allocation of scarce resources within an educational programme, as well as between education and clinical care. Economic evaluation in medical education research is still in its infancy, and there is significant potential for state-of-the-art application of these methods in this area.