Effective accreditation in postgraduate medical education: From process to outcomes and back

Glen Bandiera, Jason Frank, Fedde Scheele, Jolanta Karpinski, Ingrid Philibert

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: The accreditation of medical educational programs is thought to be important in supporting program improvement, ensuring the quality of the education, and promoting diversity, equity, and population health. It has long been recognized that accreditation systems will need to shift their focus from processes to outcomes, particularly those related to the end goals of medical education: the creation of broadly competent, confident professionals and the improvement of health for individuals and populations. An international group of experts in accreditation convened in 2013 to discuss this shift. Main text: Participants unequivocally supported the inclusion of more outcomes-based criteria in medical education accreditation, specifically those related to the societal accountability of the institutions in which the education occurs. Meaningful and feasible outcome metrics, however, are hard to identify. They are regionally variable, often temporally remote from the educational program, difficult to measure, and susceptible to confounding factors. The group identified the importance of health outcomes of the clinical milieu in which education takes place in influencing outcomes of its graduates. The ability to link clinical data with individual practice over time is becoming feasible with large repositories of assessment data linked to patient outcomes. This was seen as a key opportunity to provide more continuous oversight and monitoring of program impact. The discussants identified several risks that might arise should outcomes measures completely replace process issues. Some outcomes can be measured only by proxy process elements, and some learner experience issues may best be measured by such process elements: in brief, the "how"still matters. Conclusions: Accrediting bodies are beginning to view the use of practice outcome measures as an important step toward better continuous educational quality improvement. The use of outcomes will present challenges in data collection, aggregation, and interpretation. Large datasets that capture clinical outcomes, experience of care, and health system performance may enable the assessment of multiple dimensions of program quality, assure the public that the social contract is being upheld, and allow identification of exemplary programs such that all may improve. There remains a need to retain some focus on process, particularly those related to the learner experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number307
JournalBMC Medical Education
StatePublished - Sep 28 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Accreditation
  • Clinical outcomes
  • Competency frameworks
  • Outcome measures
  • Process measures
  • Societal accountability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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