Korean Med Educ Rev > Volume 26(Suppl1); 2024 > Article
Jeon: Development of a New Framework for Doctor’s Competencies in Korea
What do patients and the general public truly expect from those who hold the title of “physician”? What do physicians expect themselves to look like and be able to do when interacting with patients? What are medical schools and training hospitals really trying to accomplish as they educate and train medical students and residents?
The answer to these questions can be summarized in a single term: physicians’ competencies. Whitcomb [1] defines this concept as “the ability to provide medical care and/or other professional services in accordance with practice standards established by members of the profession and in ways that conform to the expectations of society.” Professional competencies enable physicians to respond to the needs of their patients and the public, and medical schools and training hospitals should provide medical students and residents with a progression of competencies to achieve this goal. Therefore, clearly defining the professional competencies required of physicians is of paramount importance.
Physicians’ professional competencies can be divided into two categories. First, some competencies have remained constant throughout the ages. These include the ability to accurately diagnose and safely treat patients, the ability to empathize with their suffering, and the ability to listen to and comfort them. Competencies in this category have been required of physicians since the time of Hippocrates in ancient Greece, and they will not change in the future. Second, some competencies change over time, reflecting shifts in the social environment. For instance, as social and economic levels change, so do people’s health status, life expectancy, prevalent diseases, and causes of death. Consequently, the interest in and financial resources available for healthcare, as well as the health insurance system, are in flux. Additionally, advances in basic science and. the rapidly evolving field of information and communication technology have led to the introduction of diagnostic and treatment technologies and equipment that were previously unimaginable. These innovations have transformed the medical environment from one where a single physician and nurse treat patients in an office to a collaborative setting involving a multidisciplinary medical team. Most importantly, there has been a shift in the way patients and the general public view healthcare and physicians, along with their expectations of service. Physicians are now expected to extend their expertise beyond their individual practices to contribute to the health and well-being of the broader, complex social system.
Many countries around the world, including Korea, have researched, established, and implemented professional competencies for physicians within the realms of medical student education, specialist training, and continuing education for specialists. These competencies have been regularly updated to reflect the evolving demands of the times. This special issue contains four articles on this issue, which deal with the research topic “study on how to improve the educational system of medical specialties for improving patient-centered performance” under the Patient-Centered Medical Technology Optimization Research Project funded by the Korea Healthcare Research Institute in 2020. These articles aim to clarify the professional competencies of physicians that should be targeted and promoted in residency training in Korea, as well as in medical student education and continuing medical education, with the ultimate goal of training physicians who can better meet the contemporary needs of society.
The first article introduces and explains the contents of Korean patient-centered medical competencies, which were created as a result of the above research. This article presents the definitions and concepts of physicians’ professional competencies, the framework of physicians’ competencies in Korea and abroad, and the contents of the newly created patient-centered medical competencies in Korea.
The second article presents the findings of an expert Delphi study aimed at developing a patient-centered competency framework for Korean physicians. The Delphi study was carried out in two rounds, involving a total of 28 experts. These experts comprised specialists from various clinical departments, each with over 10 years of experience, as well as authorities in medical education. This approach made it possible to gather insights from professionals active in both clinical practice and medical education within the Korean context regarding physicians’ competencies. Drawing on the outcomes of this study, a novel Korean patient-centered competency framework for physicians was established.
The third article examines trends in terminology related to physicians’ professional competencies within medical research published in Korea, employing text network analysis and topic modeling techniques. This analysis encapsulated the professional competencies that physicians are expected to possess, as delineated in numerous Korean studies, and identified competencies that should be incorporated into the newly established professional skill set for physicians. Consequently, this research serves as a foundational study for the development of Korean patient-centered medical competencies.
The fourth article is a study of the professional competencies that society and the general public expect from physicians, with the aim of establishing a framework for these competencies. Historically, the development of professional competencies for physicians in Korea and elsewhere has predominantly relied on the perspectives of medical professionals and medical education experts. While this approach was somewhat necessary given the specialized nature of the field, it also presented the issue of potentially underrepresenting the views of society and the general public regarding physicians’ professional competencies. To address this, the study analyzed articles from major Korean newspapers published between 2016 and 2020 to assess the societal demand for physicians and healthcare. The findings from this analysis contributed to the creation of the framework for Korean patient-centered physician competencies.
We hope that the newly developed Korean patient-centered medical competencies will serve as a practical and meaningful framework for defining physicians’ professional competencies. This framework can be effectively utilized in the creation of milestones and entrustable professional activities across various clinical specialties during residency training.


Conflict of interest

Woo Taek Jeon is an Editorial Board member of KMER, but was not involved in the peer reviewer selection, evaluation, or decision process of this article. Except for that, no other potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.

Authors’ contribution

Woo Taek Jeon: collected data, wrote the manuscript, wrote the references, and conducted the overall writing of the paper.


1. Whitcomb ME. Competency-based graduate medical education? Of course! But how should competency be assessed? Acad Med. 2002;77(5):359-60. https://doi.org/10.1097/00001888-200205000-00001
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