RCGP's Essential Knowledge Updates

These updates are ideal for self-learning and testing. By Dr Dirk Pilat and Ms Dragana Milosevic

The content of each update summarises guidance in clinical areas
The content of each update summarises guidance in clinical areas

It can feel like the amount of information supposedly vital for GPs has increased significantly over recent years, and over the past decade GPs have adopted online learning as a preferred medium to keep up to date with this overwhelming amount of information.

For the professional development board of the RCGP this development presented a challenge to develop a tool that would deliver a regular concise synthesis of the most important documents aimed at GPs repr­esenting new and changing knowledge.

Online resources
The methodology to identify and synthesise new and changing knowledge for GPs was developed in 2007 by a steering group under the chairmanship of Professor Sean Hilton and was piloted in 2008.

Since then a dedicated RCGP Essential Knowledge Updates (EKU) team together with the editorial board and a pool of EKU writers have produced two updates each year. The sixth update has recen­tly been released.

The content of each update summarises guidance (including newly published NICE and SIGN guidelines) in clinical areas of national significance where there is consensus about best clinical practice, as well as the latest information about changes to legislation or new ways of working. 

An update consists of a ser­ies of online learning modules on different topics which are divided into major items and briefings. The major items exa­mine the source document (for example, the NICE guidelines) in detail, giving practical app­lications in practice, further reading and a self-test quiz. The briefings report the outcome of the source document.

Each update has an associated Essential Knowledge Challenge (EKC), an applied online knowledge test, which is issued six months after the relevant update. This voluntary self-assessment process allows GPs to test their learning and to download a certificate as evidence for revalidation.

The programme’s purpose
The primary purpose of the EKU is to:

  • Provide GPs with a quick and accessible way of updating their knowledge on new and changing information relevant to the GP specialty and encourage effective application of that knowledge in clinical practice.
  • Enable GPs to meet previously identified and unrealised learning needs
  • in relation to new and changing knowledge and information relevant to general practice.
  • Be a key element of a GP’s annual CPD folder that can be self-accredited or accredited by peer review.
  • Contribute as part of the managed CPD scheme, to the provision of evidence of a GP’s learning and application in their personal portfolio for revalidation purposes.

The process
A continuous and rigorous literature search generates about 200 potential sources for each update, which are rated for relevance and importance by an editorial board. Each update is divided into eight major topics and around 20 minor items (or briefings).

The written content of the major topics includes text, scenarios, self-test multiple choice questions and practice-based exercises. At the end of each section there are suggestions for audit, practical tips and a number of links to other relevant sources.

Briefings either summarise new and changing knowledge in discrete aspects of general practice, or signpost readers to more detailed updates. The modules are written by a strong team of experienced, committed GPs who work to clear
guidelines. After the content has been created, the updates have to pass two levels of quality assurance by a panel of GPs.

After release, EKU and EKC content stays current for 18 months on the RCGP online learning environment, before being re-purposed and assimilated into existing knowledge resources.

The RCGP online learning environment enables a sophisticated presentation and allows users to give instant feedback. EKU renders well on mobile devices and can easily be used on the go. 

To immerse the user even deeper into the material, a podcast has been released with the latest update, EKU 6, in which the authors discuss the most important aspects of their respective topics.

In addition to a standard e-learning format, associated PowerPoint slides for the main items of EKU have been des­igned for use in educational workshops. Faculty-based educational workshops delivering content from EKU have been held since the start of 2010.

Essential Knowledge Challenge
The EKC is a 50-item app­lied online self-assessment knowledge test, with questions sourced from the major updates, briefings and reference material found within the relevant EKU modules.

Each challenge is released six months after the related update. The question format includes single best ans­wer, extended matching questions, clinical photograph and statistical graph interpre­tation, as well as clinical algorithm flow charts.

GPs can use the challenge in two ways – either to test their existing knowledge without any prior reading of the modules, or to test their retention of newly acquired knowledge having read the modules first. Scores in excess of 70 per cent on the challenge are eligible for a certificate to use towards appraisal and revalidation. Many doctors choose to re-sit the challenge in order to improve their score having first time round found it highlighted areas of unmet educational needs.

EKU and EKC have been chosen, written, checked and rev­iewed with frontline GPs in mind and give each of us the opportunity to keep up to date with the essential knowledge necessary for general practice.

It is likely that the completion of an entire EKU (and associated EKC) would generate 10 to 15 CPD credits.   

  • Dr Pilat is the RCGP clinical lead for EKU and Ms Milosevic is the education manager, RCGP

Reflect on this article and add notes to your CPD Organiser on MIMS Learning

These further action points may allow you to earn more credits by increasing the time spent and the impact achieved.
  • Identify some areas of clinical practice were your knowledge is lacking. Spend some time researching this area and complete an Essential Knowledge Challenge.
  • Form a study group with some colleagues and allocate an Essential Knowledge Update to each member. Ask each member to present back to the group on their area and discuss how your new knowledge can change your clinical practice.
  • Look into other reputable online tools and share with colleagues by presenting to them at a practice meeting.

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