Tipping point for the NHS ePortfolio?

The ePortfolio is infamous in the world of UK postgraduate training, with few fans and many critics. But where did it come from, and where is it going?  

Where did it come from?

The ePortfolio began as a pilot project, developed by a group within NHS Scotland, a special NHS Health Board. It has expanded beyond anyone’s imagination at the time and now has thousands of users across multiple specialities and multiple stages of training.

Unfortunately the perception of users is that the ePortfolio is unintuitive, time consuming, frustrating and of limited educational value. This frustration is due to views on the competency-based training and assessment system we find ourselves in, poor communication about the reasons behind and timeframe of proposed changes, as well as the software itself.

Where is it going?

A major development has occurred, which has fallen under the radar of most trainees and trainers but potentially has major implications for all. NES have recently published a review paper, in which they acknowledge that the financial and political constraints of being situated in an NHS Health Board mean they cannot do what they need to. They cannot hire the right people for the right time period, or invest in significant improvements to their product. In essence they are unable to function as a technology company and therefore struggle to effectively deliver a technology-based product.

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The review proposes three options:

Option 1:  Do nothing – NES continues to manage and operate ePortfolio directly on a day-to-day basis within the existing management structure and operating constraints.

Option 2:  Further development within NES – To identify and cost the changes required to develop management and financial arrangements within NES to help promote opportunities for the future development of ePortfolio.

Option 3: Joint venture with a third party – NES enters into a joint venture with a third party to transfer operational management of ePortfolio to a third party and retain some level of joint ownership and control over future direction.

Option 1 doesn’t sound great: the status quo is no good. Option 2 might be better but still seems very limited. Option 3 is potentially a major opportunity but includes lots of uncertainty, unknowns and possible risk. And still does not necessarily solve the problem of there being no overview of ALL ePortfolio systems used by ALL doctors and the need for interoperability and future-proofing. The option of an outright was sale is also mentioned but is the less favoured option by NES.

Third parties must register their interest by July 31st, and submit proposals by September 13th. We will then hear the results by October 31st.

All current users should follow developments with interest, and ensure their Royal College makes the right decisions on their behalf. The Royal College of Physicians has a user group and actively seeks the opinions of trainees and supervisors. Other Colleges should follow their lead. Any change potentially has major implications for the thousands of doctors who love to have the ePortfolio.

Back up now!

There is great uncertainty as to the future of the ePortfolio. Considering the importance of the data within it in terms of future job progression and prospects, I would make sure you’ve backed up your data. You’re only option is to download a PDF, but this is better than nothing. And remember to make sure anything in your personal library also exists somewhere else. You never know what the future might hold…

Read the NES Review paper. 

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