‘Up to $159,372 needed to produce medical specialist’

Choi Gwang-seok  Published 2020.02.06  16:06  Updated 2020.02.06 16:13


It costs a maximum of 77.6 million won ($65,818) to educate a general practitioner in Korea, and up to 187 million won ($159,372) to nurture a specialist, a local study found.

Yang Eun-bae, a professor at the Medical Education Department of Yonsei University College of Medicine, published the report in the Korean Medical Association’s Medical Policy Research Institute on Wednesday. The study estimated the production cost for clinicians per head and proposed the government’s financial support.

Nurturing doctors is considered a significant task, nationally and socially. From the perspective of the medical community, producing physicians directly affects the quality of medical training and patient safety. From an economic perspective, too, it is related to the medical education market and doctors’ social income.

Despite the high cost of medical education, few studies have estimated the cost systematically. Also, there has not been enough discussion and social consensus on who has to pay for the cost.

Yang’s research team developed a model for estimating medical training costs and calculated costs in each stage of medical education and training.

The study team divided the stages into basic medical education and medical training after graduation of a medical school (internship and residency).

Based on university accounting regulations, the researchers divided the costs into labor costs (professors, administrative staff), teaching and learning activity expenses (research expenses, student expenses, scholarships), and management and operational expenses (facility/general maintenance expenses, operational expenses).

For the medical training stage after graduation, the team applied the “standard education cost,” which was categorized into direct costs (guidance specialists, residents, department expenses, education and training departments) and indirect costs (management and operational expenses, opportunity costs).

The research team estimated that the average cost for the primary medical education at seven state-run and 12 private medical schools was between 54.1 million won and 77.6 million won per student.

The average medical training cost per intern for five training courses at four teaching hospitals was between 55.5 million won and 93.9 million won. The average training cost per resident stood at between 111.1 million won and 187.9 million won.

The researchers noted that the costs for medical training varied on a broad spectrum, depending on the teaching hospital.

They took examples of other countries that provided public support for the cost of medical education. Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. mostly supported scholarships and living expenses for medical students or provided student loans, they said.

In those countries, the government’s support for residents was active and diversified through state funds, Medicaid, and private insurance, the researchers noted. However, the Korean government rarely supports the cost of resident training, and teaching hospitals provide most of the cost, they said.

“In Korea, various financial resources have been discussed, such as the creation of a budget for nurturing doctors, the addition of health insurance coverage to supplement the cost of medical training, and the use of the National Health Promotion Fund,” the report said.

To revitalize the discussion, Korea needs to form a discussion body consisting of various stakeholders to debate how society can share the cost of the production of doctors, it added.

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