Welcome to the “Age of Assessment” in health professions education! From the Institute of Medicine report “To Err is Human” to the ACGME Outcomes and Milestones projects, to the public’s outcry for accountability from its health care system—the emphasis in medical education is shifting.
Medical educators have placed a great deal of importance on medical knowledge. They have developed an excellent system of assessing learner success in acquiring the content expertise necessary to understand and evaluate patients’ symptoms and signs. Having established trusted mechanisms to determine what our learners KNOW, we now must improve our assessment of what they DO.
Faculty need to know how effective their teaching is; is the curriculum working to produce learners with the knowledge, skills and attitudes they need to provide excellent patient care, to continuously improve and adapt to change, and to contribute to improving the health of our communities? Our system of course evaluation does not always provide good data for teachers.
Learners (and we are all learners) need to self-assess; they need good data on their strengths and weaknesses, the ability to create ongoing, dynamic personal learning plans, and the resources to improve and grow throughout their professional lives. Our system does not always provide authentic feedback, and therefore good data, for learners.
Patients need to know that the profession is mandating and monitoring the competence of its members, and is accountable when problems exist or occur. They are aware that health care is not a “high reliability industry,” and expect us to make intentional strides to change that. Our system has not had adequate transparency for patients, and therefore has not always enabled them to access the best care.