Designing a system for performance appraisal: balancing physicians' accountability and professional development

Elisa Bindels*, Benjamin Boerebach, Renee Scheepers, Annemiek Nooteboom, Albert Scherpbier, Sylvia Heeneman, Kiki Lombarts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background In many healthcare systems, physicians are accustomed to periodically participate in individual performance appraisals to guide their professional development. For the purpose of revalidation, or maintenance of certification, they need to demonstrate that they have engaged with the outcomes of these appraisals. The combination of taking ownership in professional development and meeting accountability requirements may cause undesirable interference of purposes. To support physicians in their professional development, new Dutch legislation requires that they discuss their performance data with a non-hierarchical (peer)coach and draft a personal development plan. In this study, we report on the design of this system for performance appraisal in a Dutch academic medical center. Methods Using a design-based research approach, a hospital-based research group had the lead in drafting and implementing a performance appraisal protocol, selecting a multisource feedback tool, co-developing and piloting a coaching approach, implementing a planning tool, recruiting peer coaches and facilitating their training and peer group debriefings. Results The system consisted of a two-hour peer-to-peer conversation based on the principles of appreciative inquiry and solution-focused coaching. Sessions were rated as highly motivating, development-oriented, concrete and valuable. Peer coaches were considered suitable, although occasionally physicians preferred a professional coach because of their expertise. The system honored both accountability and professional development purposes. By integrating the performance appraisal system with an already existing internal performance system, physicians were enabled to openly and safely discuss their professional development with a peer, while also being supported by their superior in their self-defined developmental goals. Although the peer-to-peer conversation was mandatory and participation in the process was documented, it was up to the physician whether or not to share its results with others, including their superior. Conclusions In the context of mandatory revalidation, professional development can be supported when the appraisal process involves three characteristics: the appraisal process is appreciative and explores developmental opportunities; coaches are trustworthy and skilled; and the physician has control over the disclosure of the appraisal output. Although the peer-to-peer conversations were positively evaluated, the effects on physicians' professional development have yet to be investigated in longitudinal research designs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number800
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Aug 2021


  • Continuing professional development (CPD)
  • Revalidation
  • Maintenance of certification (MoC)
  • Re-registration
  • Performance appraisal and assessment
  • Multisource feedback (MSF)
  • Coaching
  • Design-based research (DBR)


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