Purpose: The purpose of this article is to summarize this author's view on "where we are" with standardized patient-based assessments of clinical performance and to offer three directions for further research and development.
Summary: The push for more objective outcome data has fueled proliferation of the most researched innovation in the history of medical education. Near-random clinical experiences of students do not provide consistent, repeated practice with important clinical cases to achieve minimally adequate performance on these objective performance examinations, leading to scoring "psychogymnastics" to titrate fail rates. The second area is to modify these examinations to reflect features at higher levels of professional development such as situational awareness. Theories of professional development should guide changes. The third area incorporates multiperson scenarios; a clinician with a family or a team in the operating room. Simulation of complex situations, especially those requiring rapid, accurate communication and action can reduce medical errors and improve patient safety.
Conclusions: Standardized patient-based examinations provide objective outcome data but require artificial adjustments in scoring due to inconsistent learning opportunities. Theoretical research on professional development, acquisition of expertise and team functioning provides fertile, new directions to take standardized patient-based examinations to the next level.