Close to half of all surveyed GPs and specialists consider the current Continued Professional Development (CPD) requirements to be more than is necessary to maintain proficiency, arguing it deprives them of time to treat patients and curtails their earning capacity.
The pain point for medical practitioners centres around the Medical Board of Australia’s quota – 50 hours of CPD per year – and much-maligned periods of self reflection as well as onerous paperwork. These current obligations have been stipulated as a requirement since October 1, 2016.
Despite this, when it comes to CPD’s place as a learning and professional development initiative, the vast majority of medical practitioners believe it needs to be continued. There were 58.1% of respondents who considered it essential and 34.2% who considered it quite important. Just 5% labelled CPD unimportant and 2.6% believed it to be very unimportant.
CPD and the right dosage
When Australian medical practitioners were asked what they considered the optimum quota of CPD per annum, the largest cohort, numbering 46.5% said that the status quo (50 hours) was their preference.
However, a not dissimilar number of respondents, totalling 44.1%, advocated for a lower hourly quota of CPD. There were 6.2% who opted for 40-50 hours, 11.4% who voted for 30-40 hours and another 13.7% who suggested 20-30 hours – the largest individual cohort outside those voting for the status quo.
Another 7.1% thought 10-20 hours was sufficient and 5.8% believed no more than 10 hours of CPD was needed. At the other end of the spectrum, there were nearly a tenth of respondents (9.4%) who felt that more than the current 50 hours of CPD per annum was called for.
Males and females largely tended to correlate on their views of CPD, although males were more prominent at the extremes. There were 13% of males who believed more than 50 hours of CPD was required, compared to just 3.1% of females. Another 6.7% of males thought no more than 10 hours of CPD was needed, compared to 3.2% of females.
More females were happy with the status quo of 50 hours of CPD (51.6%) compared to males (43.5%).
Medical practitioners often cited the nature of CPD requirements as much as the length of time it took up as being a factor in their frustrations. A typical response from a female GP in the 25-34 age bracket stated, “Personally I prefer to be updated with specialist presentations and case studies, supplemented by published clinical data. I find auditing and reflective learning to be time consuming and of no value most of the time.”
CPD – To Have or Have Not
There are signs that a number of respondents who cited CPD as useful in small quantities might, in truth, not be that enamoured with it. When given the binary choice, nearly a quarter of those polled (22.5%) said they would be in favour of scrapping CPD altogether.
It is a reasonable assumption, however, given that over 90% of respondents said they believed CPD was essential or quite important, that some of the above cohort would only see it scrapped in favour of another initiative.
When given the chance to dispense with CPD, males were more likely to condemn it, with 24.6% saying it should be scrapped, compared to 18.2% of females.
There was little difference between GPs and specialists in their desires, with 23.7% of GPs in favour of its removal compared to 21.3% of specialists.
Australia’s older medical practitioners appear more content with their breadth of knowledge, and were considerably happier to be rid of CPD. There were 33.3% of over 65s in this camp, while all other younger age bands had a maximum of 25.4% of respondents who felt this way.
“We should return to the system as it was before compulsion was introduced. Most doctors and specialists are aware of what they require to keep up with proficiency and go to conferences of their own volition,” said a male GP over 65.
Weighing up the pros
When polled on the benefits of CPD, 71.1% said it keeps them up to speed with new developments and practices, 58.4% said it brought things to their attention they wouldn’t have previously considered and 57.2% said it allowed them to better treat patients.
There were 41.5% who said it gave them greater confidence in their role and 16.7% of CPD sceptics who said they considered none of these things to be beneficial. Among these, more men (17.9%) were likely to see no benefit from CPD compared to women (12.6%).
When asked to identify the single most worthwhile aspect, 43.1% of respondents said it keeps them up to speed with new developments and practices.
GPs and specialists aged 25-34 strongly over indexed with this response – 63.6% of those polled considered it the most important benefit. It appears that less experienced practitioners are those who feel the strongest need to keep up their proficiency and learn further.
Many of these younger medical practitioners, unsurprisingly, were also eager for an increasingly modern approach to CPD. “I would like to see more online learning portals, conferences, dinners, podcasts and webinars to assist us in completing our requirements,” a female GP aged 25-34 stated.
And the cons…
When asked to list all relevant drawbacks of CPD, the amount of time required to satisfy Australian Medical Board requirements was the major bugbear, with 70.1% of respondents citing this factor.
A further 41.6% said time spent on CPD requirements was time that could be better spent on patient needs. And time, as they say, is money. Some 41% of respondents lamented the lost earnings from time devoted to CPD, with women feeling the hip pocket reflex more. Nearly half of all female GPs and specialists (48.1%) cited this drawback, compared to 37.9% of males.
There were a further 14.9% of ardent CPD supporters who felt none of these aspects were drawbacks. Among these, a greater number of men felt that none of these aspects were drawbacks (16.8%) compared to women (11.7%).
When asked for the single biggest frustration with CPD the response was again clear cut – the time obligation was selected by 48.7% of all medical practitioners.
For many, the drawbacks of CPD simply outweigh the benefits. “I am happy to continue the current CPD format but the 50 hour quota will not dramatically improve standards. What it will do is significantly impact GP time, patient care and income,” said a female specialist aged 45-54.
EKAS’s Key Findings
– Australia’s GPs and medical specialists overwhelmingly consider CPD a positive initiative, with large numbers citing it as essential (58.1%) or quite important (34.2%).
– However, nearly half of all medical practitioners would like to see requirements scaled back, with 44.1% of respondents supporting fewer than 50 hours of CPD per annum.
– When given a binary choice, nearly a quarter of respondents (22.5%) were happy to dispense with CPD in its current form.
– The greatest advantage of CPD for medical professionals is that it keeps them up to speed with new developments and practices, with over 70% citing this as an advantage. However the time required to complete CPD requirements is a major drawback with a corresponding 70% lamenting this aspect.
– The solution – insofar as the research suggests – would appear to be a scaled back CPD program that is less onerous on medical professionals in terms of time and paperwork, with the required annual hourly contribution reduced.
This CPD survey polled 517 Australian medical practitioners. There were 259 who identified as GPs and 258 who identified as specialists
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