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Redesigning Continuing Education in the Health Professions
VISION FOR A SYSTEM OFCONTINUING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
An effective continuing professional development system would offer significant improvement over today’s fragmented approach to continuing education. Whereas the current funding of CE by commercial groups may hold inherent conflicts of interest that shift the focus away from improving health professionals’ performance, a CPD system would promote patient-centered care. Moreover, a CPD system would help obviate some of CE’s current fragmentation by driving coordination of activities and fostering interprofessional teams. A CPD system would be thoroughly evidence-based in its delivery, innovation, and research, representing a marked change from the current disconnect between CE theory, research, and practice that have resulted in few evidence-based activities to support health professionals’ competence and patient outcomes. A CPD system would help clinicians achieve quality improvement, while peer-reviewed studies of CE can claim to support only minimum levels of competence and have infrequently proven effective for improving the quality of care. Although CE has minimally used health information technologies in training and education, a comprehensive CPD system would foster development and dissemination of technology-based approaches.
The structure of the CPD system needs to support the system’s goals and deliver systematic and timely information to health professionals based on their learning needs and the challenges they encounter in clinical practice. First, CPD research must be driven by learning theory inclusive of insights and advances from the social, biological, and health sciences. Second, funding for CPD should be guided by sound economic principles and should set a goal of improving patient outcomes, not promoting a particular product or service. Third, implementing an effective CPD system will require mobilizing the CPD enterprise to promote a culture of learning for patient care. Fourth, the CPD system must be accountable and transparent to the public.
In a comprehensive CPD system, individual health practitioners would be committed to and take control over their own professional development and learning. Achieving this will require making the system learner-driven and more responsive to learners’ requirements and flexible enough to adapt to the learning opportunities that present with the ever-changing needs of patients.
CPD needs to facilitate health professionals’ learning beyond the classroom and professional conferences. It must be an ongoing process that occurs at the point of care, in conversations with col-