MDtrek® Tools for Academic Medicine
Variable Milestone Evaluations
HSoft is the national leader in the development of variable milestone evaluations.
Unlike traditional evaluations, our variable milestone forms
change according to each trainee’s strengths and weaknesses. Depending on the
importance of a particular skill, you set a threshold for success and the
number of evaluations required to assure competence. Our forms will take care
of the rest: populating the forms in developmentally appropriate sequence,
keeping milestones where the learner has novice or apprentice level skill, and
retiring milestones which the learner has mastered. This helps guide the
faculty in assessing a trainee only in areas where the trainee is weak or in
areas which have not yet been evaluated. It helps focus feedback on specific
behaviors. It helps learners develop their own educational objectives. As a
program director, you can guide advancement to increased responsibility based
on clear objective criteria.
To learn more about MDtrek® Variable Milestone evaluations, please contact us to schedule an online presentation.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are milestones?
The ACGME competencies can be subdivided into subcategories
of the knowledge, skill and attitudes required for a trainee to progress to
greater independence and responsibility. Several subspecialties have developed
expected timelines for trainee development with examples of specific skills. Milestones
are measures of progress along this timeline.
Why have variable milestone evaluation forms?
complexity of managing the progression of multiple learners through hundreds of
assessment points, many programs devote significant resources to developing
situation specific forms that ultimately have little statistical weight. These
forms are difficult to integrate with each other, and have poor predictive
capacity. Because forms are designed around average learners, assessment of
those who excel or who have specific weaknesses is impaired. There is little ability to control for common
biases related to central tendency, halo effects and compensation. While there
is no perfect system for evaluating trainees, our variable milestone
methodology allows the program to automate evaluation around the learner’s
individual progression of skill.
How many milestones can be accommodated?
The number of
milestones that can be assessed depends on your frequency of assessment and
each milestone’s threshold for retirement. For instance, in one program where
interns are assessed every two weeks, and most milestones require four passing
evaluations, 83% of interns completed all 44 milestones in 12 months. Depending
on a program’s willingness to invest in more frequent assessments, a larger
number of milestones could be accommodated.
How do you assess milestones?
For each milestone,
proficiency may be demonstrated by a single observation of capacity, an average
quality of performance, or a frequency of high level performance. For instance, a milestone might be the quality
of a specific case presentation, a description of the quality of a trainee’s
case presentation on average during a time period, or the percent of
presentations that were at a high level during a period of time. Behavioral
research suggests that the final strategy is the most reliable in most
assessments, but for specific milestones trainees might be best assessed with other
criteria. The ability to set each milestone’s threshold for passing and number
of observations allows a program to coordinate and combine data from each type
of assessment seamlessly.
How many milestones are there on each form?
This is up to
the discretion of the program. Our experience is that faculty can rarely
consistently assess more than 10 -15 milestones at one time.
What do the forms look like?
The variable forms in most cases look very similar to the static forms they replace.
We have multiple question
formats which can be used, ranging from traditional likert scales to visual
analog scales with graphical sliders that emphasize developmental stages.
What if my faculty differs from each other in their assessments?
They will. Training faculty will increase inter-rater reliability,
but some variance will persist. The systematic application of repeat
assessments reduces some of the impact of this variance. In addition, a program
may want to have different milestone groupings for core faculty who can be
trained and coached, and other groupings for faculty who participate less
What if a trainee backslides?
It is not uncommon for a
trainee’s performance to decline in an area when they are being assessed in
another. We can set up a system for a program director or faculty member to
enter a milestone at a novice level for any milestone outside of the variable
milestone progression. This automatically resets the milestone, forcing a brief
retrenchment and reassessment.
How do we create summative assessments at the end of the year comparing trainees?
In most cases,
completion of all milestones for a training year should correlate with
satisfactory capacity to progress to the next level. We have several tools to
help program directors monitor each trainee’s progress. Extraordinary residents
can distinguish themselves by rapid progression through milestones or by
achievement of high average scores on each milestone. A program can design an
individualized algorithm on how to weight each milestone. They might emphasize
last performances of a milestone or define excellence around the most advanced
milestones. Ultimately, proof of capacity will come from a subjective
evaluation by the faculty team regarding their assessment of a trainee’s total
performance. The variable milestone form can help inform and buttress this
process in whatever form.