Smart data usage in competency-based medical education (CBME)

CBME is not without its challenges, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that as an assessment methodology, it’s helping to produce well-trained doctors who demonstrate competency in all of their professional actions. The real power of this methodology is in the data — but with so much to collect and track, analyzing it in a meaningful way poses a challenge for medical schools. That’s why we’ve made it our mission to meet that challenge with our platform.

The goal of CBME is to enhance patient care by improving the learning and assessment of aspiring physicians. The intent of this learning approach is to train health care professionals who can practice medicine at a defined level of proficiency, to meet patient needs as they evolve. 

Rather than assuming a learner is competent enough to practice independently after completing the duration of the training, learners are able to demonstrate that they’re competent with a recorded progression. CBME allows for more sophisticated assessments, with the ability to target individual education needs based on their performance over time. 

The emergence of CBME is driven by a desire to establish an outcomes-based approach to medical education and training. The methodology is based on four foundations:

  • a focus on patient outcomes
  • an emphasis on learners’ abilities
  • removing the emphasis on time-based learning
  • increasing the personalization of training plans for individual learners

CBME creates large amounts of data to collect and analyze

With multiple data points in CBME, including entrustable professional activities (EPAs), multiple learners and varied criteria for each EPA, keeping track of it all is difficult. While CBME aspires to offer transparency into the learning process, making sense of all of the data can be time-consuming. 

Spreadsheets can keep data stored safely, but they don’t help in the macro context — it’s still difficult to indicate that a learner is showing a progression with an EPA. When it comes time to evaluate a learner on the status of their many EPAs, valuable time is spent by attending physicians on competence or entrustment committees preparing for meetings with extensive data analysis. The core tenets of CBME require that specific developmental markers must be sequenced correctly to indicate a learner’s progression on each skill. Progression is almost never a smooth and predictable process, so the system must also reflect that some competencies can act as the building blocks for others as a learner moves from a beginner to a trustable clinician.  

This all has the effect of a rapidly increasing amount of EPA assessment data being collected. 

The challenge is to understand, analyze, and visualize learner data, to fully realize the benefits of the competency-based approach. 

Harnessing the data to unlock the strength of CBME

The biggest challenge with CBME is also its biggest strength. With proper collection and presentation of CBME data, all of a learner’s assessments can be viewed together in one place. Evidence of skills progression or competency gaps can be easily identified. This benefits both learners and programs — both sides have full transparency into the process. 

Having a user-friendly way to record and then display CBME data can save massive amounts of time for competence or entrustment committee members evaluating the EPAs. Technology can help — using customized EPA reports and specific medical education dashboards, medical schools can embrace CBME and realize its true power. 

Academic leaders who help to solve the technology piece become time-saving heroes, while also enjoying the confidence that they are helping to produce better learners. 

Embracing technology to enable better physician training 

To help facilitate CBME in their instruction, undergrad and postgrad medical educators can benefit from keeping pace with the rapid changes in technology. In handling this valuable data, technology can assist with different visualization options that include qualitative and quantitative viewing options. Various filters and views offer both evaluators and learners the ability to interact with the data in useful ways. 

In practice, this takes the form of importing EPA results and mapping to the various competencies and milestones. Specific assessment tools can be created to help surface the data, enabling simpler ‘at-a-glance’ monitoring options that can demonstrate progression.  

Acuity’s mission to power medical education through data

As a company, our goal is to bring together all the data you collect and make it useful and usable for timely, data-informed decision making. We have always placed a focus on interpreting medical school data, so we are supporting CBME for all levels of medical education —  from UGME through residency and completion. As competency-based programs continue to evolve, so too will our tools, to meet the changing needs of medical schools. 

Want to learn more about our solutions for CBME? Read about our assessments tool or schedule a demo to see how we customize competencies, EPAs, and milestones to power the data collection and reporting needs of competency-based assessments.