Tag Archives: NES

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.

Screen Shot 2013-07-18 at 12.37.45

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. 

The RCP are listening – what do you want to tell them?

A few months ago I participated in the first Royal College of Physicians (London) ePortfolio reference group. This group has been established to increase the trainee voice in the ePortfolio development process, and should be celebrated and welcomed. The RCP is leading the way in engaging trainees to make sure their educational experience is as good as possible. Does your College have trainee representation? If not, you should ask them why not…..

Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 12.29.28

At this meeting we discussed many areas, and tried to keep things positive, focusing on what changes could be made that would make the ePortfolio better for trainees. The RCP agreed to take these issues forward to a meeting with the NHS ePortfolio providers NES:

1. Development of an API to allow integration with third-party tools

It is great that the RCP were willing to take this on and discuss this as a priority with NES. There are lots of apps being developed (including many at NHS Hackdays) which help trainees to capture their learning, for example in log books. There is currently no way that this data can be incorporated into the ePortfolio. Since NES does not have the capacity to create additional software, allowing third party software to interface would be a major step forward in increasing the functionality of the ePortfolio.

2.  HTML5 app to concentrate on work place based assessments

As you may be aware there is now finally an app! Amazing! But at present it can only log reflective practice and send tickets. The group agreed that WPBAs/SLEs should be the priority for the next release of the app.

3. Development of summary views of data to support ARCPs

The current summary overview is unimaginative and unhelpful for ARCPs and PYAs. I have heard too many stories of trainees still having to print their portfolio, or send documents separately. In my own ARCP last year the panel could not find all the evidence they needed and I had to send it as PDFs afterwards. There should be a better way for the trainee to curate the content of the ePortfolio on an ARCP page. It should be possible to define the requirements for ARCP fulfilment and then demonstrate how these have been met. The data should be displayed in an easy to view at-a-glance way so that ARCP panels can rapidly see and access what they need.

4. Change to how ePortfolio roles are created so they are cumulative

Rather than having to switch between roles and select one, with different access levels for each type of access account. This is particularly important for those with significant assessor roles in addition to trainee roles.

Please let us know your thoughts on these issues, and tell us what your priorities are so that we are well prepared for the next meeting, hopefully in June/July. I’m looking forward to hearing how these issues were received and what plans are in place for taking them forward.

We have a real opportunity to raise issues, focus the priorities of those with the purse strings and effect change. Don’t stay silent! 

You can give your feedback in a number of ways:

  1. Comment here (below this post)
  2. Talk to the JRCPTB ePortfolio team
  3. Talk to the your Foundation Programme school
  4. Give feedback to NES directly on Twitter
  5. Give feedback to NES about the app specifically 

Feedback from NES events

Late last year, NES who run the NHS ePortfolio, held a series of user group meetings. The objectives included “providing an opportunity for users to speak their minds and share their ideas to improve the system.

The results of the feedback events were collated by NES, and they published a summary. So what can we learn from this?

Screen Shot 2013-01-19 at 11.07.28

Firstly we must question whether the results are representative of the users of the ePortfolio. Unfortunately the feedback events were during normal working hours and very few trainees or clinicians were able to attend. It is clear from the feedback that there were a significant number of administrators present. Their views are important but are over-represented in this sample. The sample size of the feedback events is also very small. This is important considering the large number of users and the fact that the use of the system by different Colleges varies.

Despite this there is some useful information contained in the summary, which is grouped into categories:

  • what users like about the NHS ePortfolio (mainly that an ePortfolio is better than paper)
  • dislikes about the technical implementation and website design
  • dislikes related to the educational content or usage requirements of the ePortfolio
  • dislikes relating to the governance of the ePortfolio
  • what technical changes users would like made to the system
  • what new features users would like

The results are not surprising. Many of the comments align with those on this site. Users want an app, want the site to be more intuitive to use and navigate, and want it to have better and more flexible functionality. They want interoperability with other systems and they want clarity on the purpose of the ePortfolio “is it a learning tool or a recording tool?” They also want a lower burden of assessments.

NES must be congratulated for attempting to engage users and gain feedback, and for their openness in releasing the results, but I can’t believe there is anything in the comments that they did not know already. The problem is less lack of information, and more lack of action. But as NES highlights in their post “who makes decisions about the ePortfolio?” in the bigger picture the power really rests with the Colleges. 

Is it time to rethink how we use portfolios and workplace-based assessments in Postgraduate training? How can we adapt the software we have so that it works for us and we maximise the benefits of an ePortfolio for lifelong learning?