Introduction: Little is known about the overall appropriateness and value of the various programs available internationally for assessment and remediation for individual physicians whose performance in their clinical practice has been identified as giving cause for concern.
Method: A questionnaire was e-mailed to members of the International Physicians Assessment Coalition and/or the Coalition for Physician Enhancement--organizations that were thought to provide this type of assessment (n = 20). Questions covered the aims, organization, methods, and outcomes of assessment programs and associated remediation.
Results: Responses came from 15 regulatory bodies, universities, not-for-profits, and health service organizations in 5 countries. The assessment programs and remediation activities identified were small in scale. Their focus ranged from a narrow concern with identifying and repairing specific knowledge and skills deficits to a wider interest in the biopsychosocial functioning of the physician as a whole. Both "diagnosis" and "treatment" of problems focused on the individual physician. Less attention was given to broader systems or contextual factors that might impact performance. Although progress through remediation was carefully monitored, none of the programs undertook regular systematic follow-up to ascertain the success of their interventions in the longer term.
Discussion: This field of activity is characterized by the use of sophisticated methods for measuring performance/competence, but provision of remediation is more patchy and variable. The small scale of these programs raises questions about the relationship between scale of provision and potential need for remediation. Gaps in information about impact and outcomes mean that the overall impact and value of this type of assessment and remediation is hard to determine.