For years, New York Medical College has offered perks to primary-care physicians who've agreed to take students under their wings. The "preceptors," as they are called, earn faculty appointments entitling them to use the medical school library and computer system. They get discounts on continuing medical education and reduced tuition on degree programs.
"We've offered a lot of things but not cold cash," said Martha S. Grayson, M.D., senior associate dean for primary care at the medical school in Valhalla, N.Y.
But when the new academic year begins, some primary-care physicians who provide office-based training to students will find a little something extra in their capitation rates.
In a joint venture announced last week, Aetna U.S. Healthcare said it will pay primary-care physicians for training New York Medical College students in the principles of primary-care medicine, patient education, preventive care and teamwork. Payments will be built into the per-member, per-month rates that Aetna U.S. Healthcare negotiates with physicians who serve as mentors to the students. Richard Bernstein, M.D., the plan's medical director, said participating physicians could potentially earn $700 to several thousand dollars per year for training one student.
Of the more than 200 primary-care doctors who currently serve as preceptors to students attending the medical school, 106 participate with Aetna U.S. Healthcare. This summer and fall, the managed-care company will begin compensating those physicians for time spent training first- through third-year medical students, and others may be recruited to participate as well. Each first-, second-, and third-year class represents about 190 students.
Under the agreement, doctors must attend a one-day faculty development program where they will learn such things as how to teach and supervise medical students and how to inform patients about the presence of students in the office. Additional workshops designed to help physicians improve the way they interact with patients are planned, too.
Medical students will be placed in the offices of physicians who practice general internal medicine, general pediatrics and family practice, where they'll observe patients being counseled on nutrition and osteoporosis prevention, for instance, "as opposed to end-stage kidney disease or diabetes," Grayson said.
Training future physicians to treat patients in a managed-care environment isn't a new concept, but it is spreading.
Last month, for example, Cornell University Medical College, New York Hospital and New York Hospital Care Network received a grant to build managed-care education into their residency training programs. In part, the $600,000, 2 1/2-year grant from Pew Charitable Trusts, Philadelphia, will be used to establish a rotation for residents at Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The grant is one of three new partnerships funded by Pew nationwide.