Student specialty plans, clinical decision making, and health care reform.
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Health care reform aims to increase evidence-based, cost-conscious, and patient-centered care. Family medicine is seen as central to these aims in part due to evidence of lower cost and comparable quality care compared with other specialties. We sought evidence that senior medical students planning family medicine residency differ from peers entering other fields in decision-making patterns relevant to these health care reform aims.We conducted a national, anonymous, internet-based survey of senior medical students. Students chose one of two equivalent management options for a set of patient vignettes based on preventive care, medication selection, or initial chronic disease management scenarios, representing in turn evidence-based care, cost-conscious care, and patient-centered care. We examined differences in student recommendations, comparing those planning to enter family medicine with all others using bivariate and weighted, multilevel, multivariable analyses.Among 4,656 surveys received from seniors at 84 participating medical schools, students entering family medicine were significantly more likely to recommend patient management options that were more cost conscious and more patient centered. We did not find a significant difference between the student groups in recommendations for evidence-based care vignettes.This study provides preliminary evidence suggesting that students planning to enter family medicine may already have clinical decision-making patterns that support health care reform goals to a greater extent than their peers. If confirmed by additional studies, this could have implications for medical school admission and training processes.