Digital CPD – Reflections from Physiotherapy 2019

First up is a huge thank you to Naomi McVey, Janet Thomas, Paula Manning and Jack Chew for making our session awesome. 

It has been some time since I was stood on stage as part of the Digital CPD Focussed Symposium at Physiotherapy UK 2019 in Birmingham. I’ve taken quite a while to sit down and complete this post but, now I’m here I’m going to write about some of what was covered in the talk and during the Q & A. The aim of my talk was to explain why I am passionate about digital CPD and frame that around Physioplus with some of my own thoughts and finally briefly compare two e-portfolio platforms: the CSP e-portfolio and Physioplus from Physiopedia.

Why I’m Passionate About Digital CPD

Optimisation of knowledge delivery is how I think about digital CPD. It offers incredible value for money and is accessible around the world which means it is a leveller for those in different socio-economic areas (even more so for Physioplus as discounts are available). This means it allows us to connect with colleagues we usually wouldn’t be able to.

By linking up our global profession we get exposure to clinical reasoning considerations we wouldn’t otherwise be able. It also helps break down academic and scientific racism – something I find it hard to believe our profession to be exempt from.

If we take these thoughts and look at how they relate to Physioplus – at the point of writing the presentation there were over 75,000 inter-professional forum posts. The wealth of knowledge in these forums is incredible and unparalleled and even reading a few will change your perspective on a number of things and get you thinking in creative ways. Take trauma for example – elephant attacks as a cause for fractures?

The optimisation doesn’t end at delivery of educational content. Digital platforms are easily updated and corrected as new evidence emerges whereas traditional CPD methods are often outdated at point of creation and rely on diligence of course presenters to continually update their content.

The real challenge remains the same for both online and offline content – the application of theoretical knowledge to your own practice. Clearly this is the advantage of in-person education but there is a scenario where on-line can compliment. Consider doing a weekend course on manual therapy you will spend half the time doing theory and half doing practical. Why not blend the two and do the theory before the practical day and have more time doing the practical during the face-to-face. This is the epitome of knowledge optimisation – online and offline education working together in our profession.

Microdosing Continuing Professional Development

By ‘microdosing’ CPD what I mean is engaging in very frequent small learning events as an alternative to having a ‘macrodose’ of learning during a fixed and longer period of time. I’m not saying one is better than the other as both are normal ways of learning, but technology is changing the way we engage with both.

It is easier than ever to dip in and out of a virtual learning environment this is especially true with Twitter and the Physiopedia app which are available 24/7 and offer continually updated and dynamic environments.

There is a growing concern that although we have access to all this information we become over reliant upon instant information which disrupts diagnostic reasoning and clinical understanding. There is also the argument that microdosing CPD and reference apps only enable superficial learning and knowledge isn’ committed to memory.  Personally I’m not sure this is the case. What we are seeing is an evolution in the way we are working and perhaps physiotherapy education should incorporate information at our fingertips as part of the clinical reasoning process.

For me the solution is a learning strategy called active recall – something which is inbuilt into flashcard apps such as Anki or Quizlet – this is something I would love to see inbuilt to the Physiopedia app. In a way it is similar to the quizzes which are already available but this is the next step.

As an example of this whole process – lets say I’m looking at a knee x-ray and I’m not sure if there is an abnormality or not. I can look up the relevant information to confirm or refute my suspicion, use this information clinically in the moment, finish with my patient, then later in the day reflect on the case and create a flash card using active recall.

Keeping The Balance

Work by Professor Marie Asberg in Sweden has shown that our brains cannot differentiate between employment related tasks and other work-like tasks such as planning activities, competitive hobbies or social media. This is linked to the increasing rates of burnout and is something we need to take seriously particularly in the context of micro-dosing CPD and social media.

By having  separate professional and personal accounts you create boundaries between work and fun therefore reducing the risk of burnout. For example I use Whatsapp for personal chat, Siilo for professional chat, a professional Twitter account and Physioplus for e-learning.

Having boundaries between social and professional is also important for professional etiquette as there is less risk of accidentally sending a message to the wrong group or getting into unprofessional public arguments.

Evidencing CPD – Why Not Go Digital?

During my talk I briefly compared the CSP’s e-porfolio system and the Physioplus platform. In my opinion there isn’t really much competition here as the Physioplus platform is feature rich, includes clinically relevant courses created by experts in their field and is clean and simple to use whereas the CSP offering is clunky, unintuitive and has some sketchy privacy settings. The Physioplus platform is excellent and I’m not surprised as it has been created by the most underrated person in our profession – Tony Lowe.

The privacy concerns on the CSP platform were of particular concern as I could easily see private reflections and paperwork created by others who use the portfolio. To make things worse it was difficult to change the settings and it’s unclear if you can make your account private – I don’t think I need to explain why this is a serious concern! A few months ago I did notify the CSP of my concerns but I haven’t heard from them about this issue. It’s fair to say this would never happen with Physioplus!

Feel free to look at my presentation in full via this link.