Globalization of Continuous Professional Development for Better Health Outcomes: From Theory to Practice

By Samar Aboulsoud, MD; and Chitra Subramaniam, PhD 

Introduction and Aim

The growing interest in recognizing continuing professional Development (CPD) and globalization of CPD accreditation standards has prompted several initiatives, including international collaborations and partnerships, publications of research data and recognition of international CPD accreditation systems, CPD providers and programs.  

The aim of this article is to help explore initiatives that were successful in promoting the concept of globalization of CPD and, hence, the learning and continuous improvement of physicians and other healthcare practitioners across the globe. 

Hypothesis and Rationale 

Globalization of CPD standards with international collaborations is important because it helps identify and address national challenges in healthcare delivery systems and consistency in application of regulation of evolving CPD Provider organizations and CPD activities/programs. Globalization supports evidence-based learning and professional practice that will ensure patient-centered care.  It opens doors for healthcare professionals (HCPs) to attend international CPD activities to improve their competence and convert credits for recording.  It provides opportunities to advanced learning with focus on needs of HCPs with transparency and accountability.  Globalization of CPD standards promotes collaborative engagements to support internationally qualified workforce in delivering high quality patient care. 

Global Practical Translation of Widely Recognized Theoretical Principles in CPD 

We believe that the CPD globalization process is driven by common educational principles and management trends. This should be reinforced through instructional methods, clinical teaching, assessment, communication, as well as through CPD societies and accreditation bodies that manage and provide oversight for the process. 

Experiences depicting global diversity of cultural, generational and educational resources will highlight current CPD challenges and help overcome them. We are hoping to achieve a CPD system that is informed by best scientific evidence with globally accepted standards. This is in alignment with the concept of health professions education without borders ensuring quality of CPD provision and promoting substantial equivalency of systems via international collaborations reflecting hallmark of cultural diversity. 

Below, we describe a suggested roadmap that might support realization of the concept of CPD globalization. Suggestions are based on lessons learnt and practical tips gained from practice as well as literature and interactions with CPD professionals from around the world. 

Roadmap to a Universal CPD Framework: 7 Logical Steps 

  1. Define gaps
  2. Appreciate our crucial role in CPD
  3. Build effective relationships
  4. Plan for the future
  5. Plan and provide meaningful learning
  6. Embrace cultural diversity
  7. Support globalization 

1.  Define gaps
The aim is to explore what is currently happening versus what can be achieved in CPD; in other words, current performance versus unrealized potential.This includes identifying and addressing national and international challenges in healthcare delivery systems and consistency in application of regulation of CPD.
2.  Appreciate our crucial role in CPD 
Encouraging a different way of thinking and sharing success stories that support the globalization concept opens doors to CPD professionals to play a more effective role in the healthcare system.
3.  Build effective relationships
Reinforcing relationships amongst CPD stakeholders at national and international levels is instrumental to achieve progress in CPD globalization. There are many players within the CPD team and without aligning our plans, agreeing on our goals and understanding our roles within the system it is not possible to move forward.
4.  Planning for the future
This should support a more permissive system that embraces creativity and innovations. This includes but not limited to virtual reality, social media and artificial intelligence.
5.  Meaningful learning
It should be emphasized that meaningful CPD should enable the demonstration of the impact of education and learning on patients and communities. Crucial elements that are instrumental in achieving outcomes are individualized learning plans, strategies to support changes as a result of CME/CPD, creativity and innovation in the evolution of CPD programs, and supporting contextual CPD.
6.  Embrace cultural diversity
Effective, dynamic and interprofessional CPD should be dedicated to the needs of a diverse target audience; providing meaningful content and longitudinal engagement. Understanding regional and generation differences as well as personal and work characteristics are key factors in embracing diversity in CPD.
7.  Supporting globalization
It is important to acknowledge that a unified CPD system is not our goal. Full harmonization of CPD frameworks and accreditation systems is neither possible nor required. System differences would also be expected and accepted. An alignment approach rather than a consensus to system details should be entertained in our discussions. The expected result are shared principles and values with substantial commonality.

Challenges and Way Forward 

If we are to translate theory to practice, realistic understanding of the current challenges and being ready, flexible and innovative addressing them are of foremost importance.

Challenges that might be hindering to the CPD globalization movement can be summarized under two categories: learners and systems/organizations. 

1) Learners

  • Learners’ needs are changing fast.
  • Healthcare professionals primarily attend to get the credit, rather than learn.
  • It’s hard to engage HCP in quality initiatives.
  • Healthcare professionals’ burnout threatens CPD providers’ mission.
  • CPD professionals are under-appreciated and CPD is under-funded.

2) System/organizational

  • Culture
  • Financial
  • Technology
  • Bureaucracy
  • Resistance to change
  • Multiple stakeholders

Conclusion and Key Messages 

Achieving globalization practically is possible through effective international collaborations, facilitation and reinforcement of global standards in CPD, and innovative approaches to advanced learning and tiered level of healthcare system with focus on needs of HCPs with transparency and accountability. 

HCPs should be enabled to obtain meaningful learning and credits for different local, national and international organizations that require CME/CPD not only for maintenance of status purposes but more importantly for ensuring patient safety and enhancing accountability and transparency. 

This should promote collaborative engagements to support internationally qualified workforce delivering high quality patient care.


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