Medical education is increasingly recognizing the importance of the systems-based practice (SBP) competency in the emerging 21st-century U.S. health care landscape. In the wake of data documenting insufficiencies in care delivery, notably in patient safety and health care disparities, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education created the SBP competency to address gaps in health outcomes and facilitate the education of trainees to better meet the needs of patients. Despite the introduction of SBP over 20 years ago, efforts to realize its potential have been incomplete and fragmented. Several challenges exist, including difficulty in operationalizing and evaluating SBP in current clinical learning environments. This inconsistent evolution of SBP has compromised the professional development of physicians who are increasingly expected to advance systems of care and actively contribute to improving patient outcomes, patient and care team experience, and costs of care. The authors prioritize 5 areas of focus necessary to further evolve SBP: comprehensive systems-based learning content, a professional development continuum, teaching and assessment methods, clinical learning environments in which SBP is learned and practiced, and professional identity as systems citizens. Accelerating the evolution of SBP in these 5 focus areas will require health system leaders and educators to embrace complexity with a systems thinking mindset, use coproduction between sponsoring health systems and education programs, create new roles to drive alignment of system and educational goals, and use design thinking to propel improvement efforts. The evolution of SBP is essential to cultivate the next generation of collaboratively effective, systems-minded professionals and improve patient outcomes.
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