But, in most cases, doctors decide what their particular areas of weakness might be.
In their review, Davis and his colleagues in Canada and the United States decided to see what the accumulated data had to say about the accuracy of physician self-assessments. To do so, they focused on 17 studies comparing doctors' self-assessments against those of an objective, external reviewer.
"In two-thirds of those studies, it appears as though physicians, without any outside means of observing their behavior, misjudged their competence," Davis said.
David Davis, a professor of health policy management and evaluation at the University of Toronto, Canada, and lead author of the study, points to a system such as the U.K.'s appraisal system, "in which peer physicians sit down with a colleague, go through some charts, and say, 'You know, as a GP, you seem to be very skilled in geriatrics or pediatrics, but I wonder about obstetrics?' for example," Davis said. That doctor would then be recommended to concentrate on obstetrics in his or her next round of CME."