An Approach to Economic Evaluation in Undergraduate Anatomy Education

Anat Sci Educ. 2021 Mar;14(2):171-183. doi: 10.1002/ase.2008. Epub 2020 Sep 2.


Medical education research is becoming increasingly concerned with the value (defined as "educational outcomes per dollar spent") of different teaching approaches. However, the financial costs of various approaches to teaching anatomy are under-researched, making evidence-based comparisons of the value of different teaching approaches impossible. Therefore, the aims of this study were to report the cost of six popular anatomy teaching methods through a specific, yet generalizable approach, and to demonstrate a process in which these results can be used in conjunction with existing effectiveness data to undertake an economic evaluation. A cost analysis was conducted to report the direct and indirect costs of six anatomy teaching methods, using an established approach to cost-reporting. The financial information was then combined with previously published information about the effectiveness of these six teaching methods in increasing anatomy knowledge, thereby demonstrating how estimations of value can be made. Dissection was reported as the most expensive teaching approach and computer aided instruction/learning (CAI/L) was the least, based on an estimation of total cost per student per year and assuming a student cohort size of just over 1,000 (the United Kingdom average). The demonstrated approach to economic evaluation suggested computer aided instruction/learning as the approach that provided the most value, in terms of education outcomes per dollar spent. The study concludes by suggesting that future medical education research should incorporate substantially greater consideration of cost, in order to draw important conclusions about value for learners.

Keywords: cost of education; educational value; financial evaluation; gross anatomy education; medical education; undergraduate education.

MeSH terms

  • Anatomy / education*
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / economics
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Dissection / economics
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / economics*
  • Humans
  • Students, Medical*