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ABSTRACT: Should we pay the student? A randomised trial of financial incentives in medical education

Background: Financial incentives are effective in moderating physician and patient behaviour, but they have not been studied in the context of medical education. Aim: This study assessed whether financial incentives can motivate students to acquire electrocardiogram (ECG) interpretation skills. Methods: Students enrolled for a cardio-respiratory teaching module (n = 121) were randomised to an intervention (financial incentive) or a control (book voucher raffle) condition. All students took three validated exams of ECG interpretation skills (at module entry, module exit and seven weeks later). Only the exit exam was financially incentivised in the intervention group. The primary outcome was the proportion of students who correctly identified ≥60% of clinically important diagnoses in the exit exam. Results: Financial incentives more than doubled the odds of correctly identifying ≥60% of diagnoses in the exit exam (adjusted odds ratio 2.44, 95% confidence interval 1.05-5.67) and significantly increased student learning time. However, there was no significant effect on performance levels in the retention exam. Conclusions: Financial incentives increase reported learning time and examination results in the short-term. The lack of a sustained effect on performance suggests that financial incentives may foster a superficial or strategic rather than a deep approach to learning.

via Should we pay the student? A randomised trial of f… [Med Teach. 2013] – PubMed – NCBI.

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Brian S McGowan, PhD

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Brian is a research scientist and educational technologist. He helped transform Pfizer’s Medical Education Group and previously served in educational leadership roles at HealthAnswers, Inc.; Acumentis, LLC.; Cephalon; and Wyeth. He taught graduate medical education programs at Arcadia University for 10 years. Dr. McGowan recently authored the book "#socialQI: Simple Solutions for Improving Your Healthcare" and has been invited to speak internationally on the subject of information flow, technology, and learning in healthcare.

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