Expansion of Surgical Graduate Medical Education Training Programs: A Return on Investment Analysis

J Surg Res. 2020 Oct 8;258:278-282. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2020.08.078. Online ahead of print.


Background: The productivity of surgical departments is limited by the staffing of attending surgeons as well as surgical residents. Despite ongoing surgeon shortages, many health care organizations have been reluctant to expand training programs because of concerns about cost. We sought to determine the return on investment for the expansion of surgical training programs within our health system.

Methods: This study was completed as a retrospective review comparing two independent surgical departments at separate hospitals within a single integrated health system, including complete fiscal information from 2012 to 2019. Hospital A is a 594-bed hospital with large growth in its graduate surgical training programs over the study's period, whereas Hospital B is a 320-bed hospital where there was no expansion in surgical education initiatives. Case volumes, the number of full-time employees (FTE), and revenue data were obtained from our health systems business office. The number of surgical trainees, including general surgery residents and vascular surgery fellows, was provided by our office of Graduate Medical Education. The average yearly net revenue per surgeon was calculated for each training program and hospital location.

Results: Our results indicate a positive association between the number of surgical trainees and departmental net revenue, as well as the annual revenue generated per physician FTE. Each additional ancillary provider per physician FTE resulted in a positive impact of $112,552-$264,003 (R2 of 0.69 to 0.051).

Conclusions: Regardless of hospital location or surgical specialty, our results demonstrate a positive association between the average net revenue generated per surgeon and the number of surgical trainees supporting the department. These findings are novel and provide evidence of a positive return on investment when surgical training programs are expanded.

Keywords: Graduate surgical education; Return on investment.