Background: While much is now known about how to assess the competence of medical practitioners in a controlled environment, less is known about how to measure the performance in practice of experienced doctors working in their own environments. The performance of doctors depends increasingly on how well they function in teams and how well the health care system around them functions.
Methods: This paper reflects the combined experiences of a group of experienced education researchers and the results of literature searches on performance assessment methods.
Conclusion: Measurement of competence is different to measurement of performance. Components of performance could be re-conceptualised within a different domain structure. Assessment methods may be of a different utility to that in competence assessment and, indeed, of different utility according to the purpose of the assessment. An exploration of the utility of potential performance assessment methods suggests significant gaps that indicate priority areas for research and development.