Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Medical Education and BioMed Central.

Open Access Open Badges Research article

Prognosis: the “missing link” within the CanMEDS competency framework

Vincent Maida123* and Paul M Cheon4

Author Affiliations

1 University of Toronto, 101 Humber College Boulevard, 9th Floor, Toronto, Ontario M9V 1R8, Canada

2 McMaster University, Toronto, Canada

3 Division of Palliative Medicine, William Osler Health System, Toronto, Canada

4 University of Toronto, 55 Centre Ave. Unit 1207, Toronto, Ontario M5G 2H5, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:93  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-93

Published: 13 May 2014



The concept of prognosis dates back to antiquity. Quantum advances in diagnostics and therapeutics have relegated this once highly valued core competency to an almost negligible role in modern medical practice. Medical curricula are devoid of teaching opportunities focused on prognosis. This void is driven by a corresponding relative dearth within physician competency frameworks. This study aims to assess the level of content related to prognosis within CanMEDS (Canadian Medical Education Directives for Specialists), a leading and prototypical physician competency framework.


A quantitative content analysis of CanMEDS competency framework was carried out to measure the extent of this deficiency. Foxit Reader 5.1 (Foxit Corporation), a keyword scanning software, was used to assess the CanMEDS 2005 framework documents of 29 physician specialties and 37 subspecialties across the seven physician roles (medical expert, communicator, collaborator, manager, health advocate, scholar, and professional). The keywords used in the search included prognosis, prognostic, prognosticate, and prognostication.


Of the 29 specialties six (20.7%) contained at least one citation of the keyword “prognosis”, and one (3.4%) contained one citation of the keyword “prognostic”. Of the 37 subspecialties, sixteen (43.2%) contained at least one citation of the keyword “prognosis”, and three (8.1%) contained at least one citation of the keyword “prognostic”. The terms “prognosticate” and “prognostication” were completely absent from all CanMEDS 2005 documents. Overall, the combined citations for “prognosis” and “prognostic” were linked with the following competency roles: Medical Expert (80.3%), Scholar (11.5%), and Communicator (8.2%).


Given the fundamental and foundational importance of prognosis within medical practice, it is recommended that physicians develop appropriate attitudes, skills and knowledge related to the formulation and communication of prognosis. The deficiencies within CanMEDS, demonstrated by this study, should be addressed in advance of the launch of its updated version in 2015.

Prognosis; CanMEDS; Competency frameworks; Quoad vitam; Quoad sanantionem; Foreseeing; Foretelling