Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Acad Med. 1994 Jul;69(7):567-70.

Analysis of the costs and benefits of using standardized patients to help teach physical diagnosis.

Author information

  • 1Tulane University School of Medicine, Department of Medicine, New Orleans, LA 70112.



Although a majority of medical schools use standardized patients (SPs) for teaching or evaluating students, the costs and benefits of such programs have not been examined in depth. In 1992-93 the Tulane University School of Medicine reduced by 40% the faculty-precepted sessions in its physical diagnosis program in order to incorporate seven focused examinations using SPs to teach basic examination skills.


Costs for the revised program included costs for SPs, staff, supplies, and faculty. Faculty cost was estimated at a minimum to equal hourly salary and at a maximum to equal this salary plus potential collectible billings. An objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) was used to assess the skill acquisitions of 150 second-year students in 1991-92, before SPs were used, and in 1992-93, when SPs were used. An unpaired t-test was then used to compare the OSCE performances of the two groups of students. Chi-square analysis was used to compare the evaluations of the physical diagnosis program by the 1992-93 and 1991-92 students.


The cost of incorporating SPs into the program was $43,800. The amount of time spent teaching by faculty was reduced by 608 hours, costing between $33 (salary) and $108 (salary plus potential revenue) per hour. Thus, the total savings in the cost of faculty time was between $20,064 and $65,664. Despite the reduction in faculty involvement, the students' performance on the OSCE did not change, and the students' evaluations of the course became significantly more favorable.


The incorporation of SPs as instructors in the physical diagnosis program was accomplished at a minimal cost and resulted in an increase in students' enthusiasm for the purpose, with no loss of skill acquisition as measured by the OSCE.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
    Loading ...
    Support Center