OBJECTIVE: To develop a system for measuring the teaching effort of medical school faculty and to implement a payment system that is based on it.
DESIGN: An interventional study with outcomes measured before and after the intervention.
SETTING: A department of internal medicine with a university hospital and an affiliated Veterans Administration hospital.
INTERVENTION: We assigned a value in teaching units to each teaching activity in proportion to the time expended by the faculty and the intensity of their effort. We then calculated total teaching units for each faculty member in the Division of General Internal Medicine and for combined faculty effort in each subspecialty division in the Department of Medicine. After determining the dollar value for a teaching unit, we distributed discretionary teaching dollars to each faculty member in the Division of General Internal Medicine and to each subspecialty division according to total teaching units.
MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: The distribution of discretionary teaching dollars was determined. In the year after the intervention, there was a substantial redistribution of discretionary teaching dollars among divisions. Compared with an increase in total discretionary dollars of 11.4%, the change in allocation for individual divisions ranged from an increase of 78.2% to a decrease of −28.5%. Further changes in the second year after the intervention were modest. The distribution of teaching units among divisions was similar to the distribution of questions across subspecialties on the American College of Physicians In-Training Examination (r=.67) and the American Board of Internal Medicine Certifying Examination (r=.88).
CONCLUSIONS: It is possible to measure the value of teaching effort by medical school faculty and to distribute discretionary teaching funds among divisions according to the value of teaching effort. When this intervention was used at our institution, there were substantial changes in the amounts received by some divisions. We believe that the new distribution more closely approximates the desired distribution because it reflects the desired emphasis on knowledge as measured by two of the most experienced professional groups in internal medicine. We also believe that our method is flexible and adaptable to the needs of most clinical teaching departments.