Healthcare is global. The challenges of the “triple aim”–achieving high-quality healthcare, maximal value, and an excellent patient experience and outcomes–are universal. Medical education is similarly global with worldwide efforts towards competency-based reform, the adoption and adaptation of accreditation standards, and the expansion of international collaborations between healthcare organizations (HCOs). The focus of many of these efforts centers around recognizing education as a talent pipeline to serve local and global healthcare needs. Accordingly, many U.S.-based academic medical centres are pursuing an increasingly global footprint by developing international partnerships between HCOs. The educational leadership at the Cleveland Clinic (an HCO that has ventured internationally in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates) has adopted a “systemness” approach to medical education collaboratives. Systemness describes the ability of academic health systems to leverage existing structures, expertise, and other resources to address broadly shared educational needs across geographies, disseminate best practices, and ultimately improve the care that is delivered. The rationale for systemness, a concept derived from the healthcare administration and business world, affords the opportunity to achieve educational outcomes through synergy that exceeds the capability of any single component of a system. In this perspective, we posit a “systemness” taxonomy to be used to assess the performance and success of international collaborations in medical education and provide examples of its application to existing international partnerships in medical education. This framework is grounded in developmental assessment approaches, akin to those used in assessing learner performance, and defines levels of educational collaboration proficiencies, ultimately towards the alignment of these efforts with the health needs of the communities they serve. As global medical education collaboratives advance, ongoing assessment of existing partnerships and further research will be needed to define competencies and integrative activities that define high-performing medical education partnerships.
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