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Addressing the inequality and environmental impact of Continuing Professional Development

Continuing Professional Development is essential for all Healthcare Professionals to revalidate, yet finding relevant, accessible, good-value CPD in time to secure leave is often a challenge. Richard Hixson shares his solution to the issue.

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All Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) are responsible for identifying their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) needs, planning how these should be addressed ensuring activities are relevant to both professional development and practice. Although it is a relatively simple task for HCPs to ascertain what CPD is required following annual appraisal, there is a considerable challenge in finding ‘external’ CPD with HCPs often discovering educational opportunities purely by chance. Course marketing currently includes a wide range of media including print, online, email and social and it is simply impossible for HCPs to browse these regularly in search of specific CPD. Although larger CPD providers utilise comprehensive resources and booking platforms, busy HCPs can still find it difficult to keep track of all CPD offerings especially if their educational requirement is highly specific or linked to an alternative specialty.

The unmet need, therefore, is the lack of a single central CPD repository with a resultant mismatching of CPD offerings with the educational needs of HCPs.

Following a personally frustrating ‘CPD finding experience’ in 2017, I decided to conduct a national survey, utilising LinkedIn, Twitter and email contacts. The results from 270 HCPs (medical and nursing of various grades) revealed that:

  • 70% miss educational opportunities through lack of awareness
  • 30% panic book for points/hours rather than content (just to satisfy revalidation requirements)
  • 90% would prefer to undertake CPD closer to home or electronically to minimise time away from family and work
  • 70% of nurses state the main barriers to undertaking education were the inability to secure time off work followed by location and cost.

The unmet need, therefore, is the lack of a single, central CPD repository with a resultant mismatching of CPD offerings with the educational needs of HCPs. This leads to missed opportunities and, from a medical perspective, leaves budgets being utilised for inappropriate education.

Designing a solution

CPDmatchMy solution is CPDmatch, a website-app combination, designed to work across both desktop browsers and mobile phones, and is free-to-use for NHS-associated CPD organisers and staff.

HCPs browse the platform using filters to find CPD options which match the user’s profession, specialty and clinical interests, budget, timing and preferred location (think Trivago for CPD). Once set, filters remove the ‘white noise’ and the user is only notified of courses which match their specific requirements. Users can set and change filters at any time including during appraisal, safe in the knowledge they will be alerted of future opportunities in time to book.

The platform supports cross-specialty training, an essential aspect of education as individuals in one specialty (e.g. surgery) may be required to undertake study in another area (e.g. critical care) for exam purposes. These opportunities can be difficult to find when the individual is not a member of an associated society. CPDmatch also allows you to remove filters once the CPD has been undertaken, which supports HCPs who wish to consider a career move by developing their portfolio through new clinical areas.

CPDmatch supports HCPs who wish to consider a career move by developing their portfolio through new clinical areas

The aim is to accommodate the needs of everyone, including those without regulatory bodies, and through proactive notifications of relevant, affordable and geographically accessible options, reduce the present inequalities in finding and securing time off to attend educational opportunities.

CPDmatch directs the user to the organiser’s own website to book, so no internal software changes are required. It takes just a couple of minutes to list a course on the platform, with all previous courses stored for easy relisting. Electronic CPD (eCPD) is also accommodated with access available for all users whether from the UK or overseas. It’s also compatible with many older mobile phones and browsers, improving educational opportunities for those in developing countries.

Reducing the environmental cost

Hotspot mapping enables course organisers to plan CPD venues through a UK map showing geographic demand by profession, specialty and interest. This enables course organisers to cater to locations with the highest demand and supports the agenda of some national course organisers (e.g. The Royal College of Anaesthetists) who plan to host increasing numbers of courses outside London in the future.

Matching CPD based on geography will also reduce the environmental cost of undertaking external courses

Matching CPD based on geography and including eCPD completed on a computer or mobile device, will also reduce the environmental cost of undertaking external courses. The platform provides clear indication of the carbon cost of travel/accommodation associated with attendance and assist users in making sustainable decisions. As the platform matures, I intend to utilise a proportion of the generated surplus to invest into environmental schemes such as reforestation programmes.

The software is presently in construction and the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) will be complete October 2019. Whilst development is ongoing, I have been meeting with individuals across the NHS including the Royal College of Anaesthetists (my College), the Royal College of Nursing, NHS Digital, the AHSN NE&NC and Health Education England to seek support.

The main challenge for adoption is securing both course organisers and HCPs to use a new platform and for CPDmatch to become the default ‘go to’ place for all healthcare CPD. A strong, recognisable brand is essential and the attached registered trademark has been developed in conjunction with McCallan Marketing. This will be used for the URL/app icon visible on all websites, NHS/primary care computers and mobile phones.

The positives associated with CPDmatch are significant: a single CPD repository, free-to-use, captures the needs of all healthcare related professions. Courses, categorised and filtered, enables proactive relevant notifications, accommodating both physical and eCPD, permits overseas users to undertake eCPD. Geographic filters, hotspot mapping and a carbon cost calculator supports the wider sustainability agenda, which dovetails with the appraisal process and facilitates cross-specialty education.

The equality and sustainability aspects of the platform are the main drivers to development. The challenge however is to become a large enough presence within the NHS CPD arena to ensure that every course organiser and HCP is aware of and using CPDmatch.

What challenges have you found when searching for CPD opportunities? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.


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