A review of methods to assess the economic impact of distributed medical education (DME) in Canada.
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Background: Canadian distributed medical education (DME) increased substantially in the last decade, resulting in positive economic impacts to local communities. A reliable and simple method to estimate economic contributions is essential to provide managers with information on the extent of these impacts. This review paper fills a gap in the literature by answering the question: What are the most applicable quantitative methods to assess the economic impact of Canadian DME programs? Methods: The literature is reviewed to identify economic assessment methods. These are evaluated and compared based on the benefits, challenges, data needs, outputs and potential for use in the DME context. Results: We identified five economic impact methods used in similar contexts. Two of these methods have the potential for Canadian DME programs: the Canadian Input-Output (I-O) model and the Simplified American Council on Education (ACE) method. Conclusion: Choice of a method is contingent on the ability to measure the salient economic impacts, and provide an output that facilitates sustainable decision making. This paper thus fills a gap by identifying methods applicable to DME. These methods will assist stakeholders to calculate economic impacts, resulting in both the advancement and sustainability of these programs over short-and long-term time frames.