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The autopsy as a performance measure and teaching tool.

A survey of pathology training programs about current operations and attitudes revealed that the autopsy is underused in medical student and pathology resident teaching, is inadequately reported, often does not have a dedicated faculty, is not championed by pathologists or clinicians, is not valued as a performance measure, and is barely used as a resource for medical research. The autopsy can be reestablished as a teaching tool and performance measure, but this will require that the autopsy be recognized as a credible and valuable medical procedure. The autopsy must then be funded; and new sources of both volume and funding, such as incorporating autopsies into payment schedules, into clinical trials, and in pay-for-performance initiatives, must be solicited. Once there is reimbursement for autopsies, pathologists, clinicians, and health care administrators will embrace the autopsy as a new source of revenue and as a valid measure of physician, hospital, and health system performance. Pathologists and the pathology specialty societies must take the lead in the reestablishment of the autopsy and must, at the same time, encourage innovations such as centralization, greater use of Pathology Assistants, and application of molecular techniques. New tools for using the autopsy in medical student teaching should be embraced, and the role of the autopsy in pathology residency programs must be reevaluated.

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