, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 90-94

Luxury primary care, academic medical centers, and the erosion of science and professional ethics

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Abstract

Medical schools and teaching hospitals have been hit particularly hard by the financial crisis affecting health care in the United States. To compete financially, many academic medical centers have recruited wealthy foreign patients and established luxury primary care clinics. At these clinics, patients are offered tests supported by little evidence of their clinical and/or cost effectiveness, which erodes the scientific underpinnings of medical practice. Given widespread disparities in health, wealth, and access to care, as well as growing cynicism and dissatisfaction with medicine among trainees, the promotion by these institutions of an overt, two-tiered system of care, which exacerbates inequities and injustice, erodes professional ethics. Academic medical centers should divert their intellectual and financial resources away from luxury primary care and toward more equitable and just programs designed to promote individual, community, and global health. The public and its legislators should, in turn, provide adequate funds to enable this. Ways for academic medicine to facilitate this largesse are discussed.