The Medical Board of Australia will demand more individually targeted education planning from medical colleges and doctors under a new CPD framework to take effect in January 2023.
The key reforms are that self-directed CPD will no longer be allowed: doctors will be required to complete a professional development plan annually and have a CPD “home” to help them record their strengths, weaknesses and performance outcomes – and that private providers may compete with the colleges to act as CPD homes.
But apart from a statement announcing Australian health ministers’ approval of the regulator’s proposal, the Board has revealed little about how the new rules for continuing professional development will work in practice.
In an appearance at the AMA national conference the day after the announcement, Medical Board chair Dr Anne Tonkin said the authority was caught by surprise by the approval and now faces a “tight” timeframe to firm up details of the plan in the next 18 months.
“Our goal is to get more value from CPD for both doctors and patients. The idea is not to get them to do more CPD; it’s to do better CPD,” she told the AMA’s virtual conference.
Dr Tonkin said all doctors would need to have a “CPD home” for quality assurance and complete an annual professional development plan to suit their individual needs and scope of practice.
“The changes will affect general registrants more than specialists associated with colleges. For the small number of specialists who have been doing self-directed CPD, that option will no longer be available,” she said.
She acknowledged that measuring outcomes would be straightforward for some doctors, and less so for others, but said the Board understood the need for flexibility.
“The feedback we got was that some practitioners, particularly those in non-clinical roles, may find it very challenging to identify how they might go about measuring outcomes. Doctors will be able to talk to their CPD homes about the kinds of things that suit their practice.”
Scope of practice
Dr Tonkin said that there would be opportunities for new CPD homes to be established, and that new arrangements would be needed for doctors with dual scope of practice.
“Ideally, we’d like one CPD home to cover them,” she said.
A common example of dual practice was haematologists who belonged to the colleges of physicians and pathologists, she said.
“At the moment, the colleges talk to each other and one college accepts some of the CPD from the other college, but not all of it. So the person ends up doing some common activities that count for both and some separate activities.
“Say, for example, the college of pathologists might expect a certain number of hours in the laboratory upskilling on reading slides or something like that,“ she said.
“We would envisage that they would be a member of one CPD home and that they might be able to do some activities outside their CPD home with another organisation which would certify that they’d done those activities and the first CPD home would accept those.“
Given the overlap between different scopes of practice, it would be rare that a doctor would have to do 50 hours in each scope, though they might have to do 60 or 70 hours to cover both, Dr Tonkin added.
“I think it’s going to come down to each individual and what their actual circumstances are, and coming to an arrangement.”
Dr Kym Jenkins, president of the Council of Medical Colleges, said the colleges would need to work on reciprocity agreements.
“And (they need to) think about whether the college is open to people who are not college fellows or members joining the college to do the CPD program, and the logistics and arrangements about how that can take place, and how the needs of individual doctors would fit with the college program as it stands.”
She said “market forces” would play a role in determining the cost of CPD programs, with new players in the mix.
Australian Medical Council member Professor Robyn Langham told the AMA conference that it was uncertain how many new players would apply to enter the CPD provider space.
“At the moment we don’t know how many will put their hands up, but we are hopeful that we will be ready with a series of guidelines and processes for them,” she said.
Another issue yet to be thrashed out is how medical practitioners might move from one CPD home to another.
The AMC is in the process of forming a working party to look at how non-college CPD homes would operate and how they can be aligned with college-based programs, Professor Langham said.
All panel members emphasised that doctors’ professional development plans would be entirely confidential, with regulators having no “line of sight” into individual practitioners’ reflections on their goals and shortcomings.