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Ann Fam Med. 2017 Mar;15(2):140-148. doi: 10.1370/afm.2044.

The Effects of Training Institution Practice Costs, Quality, and Other Characteristics on Future Practice.

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The American Board of Family Medicine, Inc, Lexington, KY
The Robert Graham Center, Washington, DC.
The American Board of Family Medicine, Inc, Lexington, KY.



Medicare beneficiary spending patterns reflect those of the 306 Hospital Referral Regions where physicians train, but whether this holds true for smaller areas or for quality is uncertain. This study assesses whether cost and quality imprinting can be detected within the 3,436 Hospital Service Areas (HSAs), 82.4 percent of which have only 1 teaching hospital, and whether sponsoring institution characteristics are associated.


We conducted a secondary, multi-level, multivariable analysis of 2011 Medicare claims and American Medical Association Masterfile data for a random, nationally representative sample of family physicians and general internists who completed residency between 1992 and 2010 and had more than 40 Medicare patients (3,075 physicians providing care to 503,109 beneficiaries). Practice and training locations were matched with Dartmouth Atlas HSAs and categorized into low-, average-, and high-cost spending groups. Practice and training HSAs were assessed for differences in 4 diabetes quality measures. Institutional characteristics included training volume and percentage of graduates in rural practice and primary care.


The unadjusted, annual, per-beneficiary spending difference between physicians trained in high- and low-cost HSAs was $1,644 (95% CI, $1,253-$2,034), and the difference remained significant after controlling for patient and physician characteristics. No significant relationship was found for diabetes quality measures. General internists were significantly more likely than family physicians to train in high-cost HSAs. Institutions with more graduates in rural practice and primary care produced lower-spending physicians.


The "imprint" of training spending patterns on physicians is strong and enduring, without discernible quality effects, and, along with identified institutional features, supports measures and policy options for improved graduate medical education outcomes.


graduate medical education; health expenditures; physicians’ practice patterns; quality of health care

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