German College of General Practitioners and Family Physicians: Mutual Learning Process by Practice Shadowing
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Summary: Traditional methods of continuing medical education to change the behavior of doctors in the long term have sometimes limited impact. A promising and more active approach is practice shadowing, developed in 2012 by the German College of General Practitioners and Family Physicians (DEGAM). In this scheme, family physicians (FPs) and their teams visit each other in their practices and learn from each other as equals. All necessary documents, such as checklists or practice addresses, can be found on the DEGAM homepage. Preparatory courses, which are often used in peer review procedures, are not part of this program. The practice shadowinghas four phases: the decision to participate, a phase of preparation, the visit itself, and finally a phase of evaluation and implementation in both participating practices. Depending on their interests, the visiting teams can set their own priorities during the visit. The last of the four phases may continue for months, if participants decide to implement bigger changes after their visit. Practice shadowing is therefore a longer process than the actual day of the visit. In Norway, reciprocal practice visits are a long-standing part of medical education, for both vocational training and recertification. The DEGAM currently discusses various possibilities to help establish practice visits in the same way in Germany.