Phenomenon: In order to tackle the persistent rise of healthcare costs, physicians as "stewards of scarce resources" could be effective change agents, extending cost containment efforts from national policy to the micro level. Current programs focus on educating future doctors to deliver "high-value, cost-conscious care" (HVCCC). Although the importance of HVCCC education is increasingly recognized, there is a lag in implementation. Whereas recent efforts generated effective interventions that promote HVCCC in a local context, gaps persist in the examination of system factors that underlie broader successful and lasting implementation in educational and healthcare practices.
Approach: We conducted a realist evaluation of a program focused on embedding HVCCC in postgraduate education by encouraging and supporting residents to set up "HVCCC projects" to promote HVCCC delivery. We interviewed 39 medical residents and 10 attending physicians involved in such HVCCC projects to examine HVCCC implementation in different educational and healthcare contexts. We held six reflection sessions attended by the program commissioners and educationalists to validate and enrich the findings.
Findings: A realist evaluation was used to unravel the facilitators and barriers that underlie the implementation of HVCCC in a variety of healthcare practices. Whereas research activities regularly stop after the identification of facilitators and barriers, we used these insights to formulate four high-value, cost-conscious care carriers: (1) continue to promote HVCCC awareness, (2) create an institutional structure that fosters HVCCC, (3) continue the focus on projects for embedding HVCCC in practice, (4) generate evidence. The carriers support residents, attendings and others involved in educating physicians in training to develop and implement innovative HVCCC projects.
Insights: Strategies to promote physician stewardship go beyond the formal curriculum and require a transformation in the informal educational system from one that almost exclusively focuses on medical discussions to one that also considers value and cost as part of medical decision-making. The HVCCC carriers propose a set of strategies and system adaptations that could aid the transformation toward a HVCCC supporting context.
Keywords: High-value; cost-conscious care; postgraduate medical education; resource stewardship.