Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Factors influencing the effectiveness of multisource feedback in improving the professional practice of medical doctors: a systematic review

Julie Ferguson12*, Judy Wakeling1 and Paul Bowie1

Author Affiliations

1 NHS Education for Scotland, 3rd Floor, 2 Central Quay, 89 Hydepark Street, Glasgow G3 8BW, Scotland

2 Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh EH21 6UU, Scotland

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:76  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-76

Published: 11 April 2014



Multisource feedback (MSF) is currently being introduced in the UK as part of a cycle of performance review for doctors. However, although it is suggested that the provision of feedback can lead to a positive change in performance and learning for medical professionals, the evidence supporting these assumptions is unclear. The aim of this review, therefore, was to identify the key factors that influence the effectiveness of multisource feedback in improving the professional practice of medical doctors.


Relevant electronic bibliographic databases were searched for studies that aimed to assess the impact of MSF on professional practice. Two reviewers independently selected and quality assessed the studies and abstracted data regarding study design, setting, MSF instrument, behaviour changes identified and influencing factors using a standard data extraction form.


A total of 16 studies met the inclusion criteria and quality assessment criteria. While seven studies reported only a general change in professional practice, a further seven studies identified specific changes in behaviour. The main professional behaviours that were found to be influenced by the feedback were communication, both with colleagues and patients and an improvement in clinical competence/skills. The main factors found to influence the acceptance and use of MSF were the format of the feedback, specifically in terms of whether it was facilitated, or if narrative comments were included in the review, and if the feedback was from sources that the physician believed to be knowledgeable and credible.


While there is limited evidence suggesting that MSF can influence professional performance, the quality of this evidence is variable. Further research is necessary to establish how this type of feedback actually influences behaviours and what factors have greatest influence.

Systematic review; Multisource Feedback; Physicians; Assessment; Revalidation