Unpopular opinion: Social distancing is the best thing to happen to EHR training

SarahRosebrockThe social distancing requirements that came with the COVID-19 pandemic have been difficult for every aspect of healthcare – both delivery and operations. Training programs all over the world, an essential part of ensuring physician and patient connection, had to shift how their offerings were delivered to continue empowering end users to efficiently use technology. Amidst the challenges, the education goal continued: provide end users with enough electronic health record (EHR) know-how so that patients could remain the primary focus. Social distancing has forced a re-examination of existing approaches to training and provided an opportunity to design a holistic, efficient, and sustainable education program. As healthcare leaders are focusing on delivering a more decentralized care model, training leaders now have the chance to shift into spaces that foster learning through multi-modal education experiences.

Healthcare training programs have traditionally been delivered through in-person, multi-hour sessions. Participants sit in a classroom, go through training, and the end user is sent on their merry way. Pre-COVID-19, some organizations had been shifting to eLearning and reducing the trainers’ time in the classroom. Time in the classroom or watching an eLearning course does not automatically equate an effective learning experience, however, and a single end-of-course assessment does not automatically equate retention of information. System adoption and workflow retention is gained with after-class reinforcement and ongoing education.

The opportunity to integrate new learning into workflows after a class session can be rare and requires organizational support, additional curriculum, and resourcing to provide the education. Training teams often find themselves in a common predicament: the demands for shorter class times and reduced end-user engagement are often louder than the request for reinforcement activities. After the class is finished, end users turn to their peers for workflow knowledge, and the cycle continues.

Out of necessity, and to comply with the need for social distancing, many organizations moved swiftly to a virtual format without time for restructuring the curriculum in a way that enhances the learning experience. In this type of format, asking questions to shape the program and curriculum design is a critical first step in achieving more impactful system education: How are participants engaged? Are the assessments a good indicator that workflows have been learned? Is there a way to teach this lesson more efficiently? How is the end user performing after class? How can the trainer’s time be maximized for one-on-one time with end users?

This past year alone, healthcare organizations have been taking advantage of the opportunity to reimagine and create programs better designed for their culture and needs. With careful planning, leveraging best practices will result in:

  • Education programs becoming more integrated with their Super Users
  • Additional reinforcement programs for end users
  • Incorporation of adaptive learning technology and workflow-based assessments
  • Refreshed education programs with end-to-end workflows at the center of training
  • Education programs that are more sustainable for the organization’s future

But back to social distancing – how can EHR education be just in time AND tailored AND remote?

One of the biggest mistakes healthcare organizations make regarding training programs is the choice to take a program someone else designed and implement it without making significant adjustments based on the unique needs and culture of the group adopting the program. Many variables come into play when creating a training program: geographical spread, existing confidence of end users, size of the organization and training team, end-to-end workflow requirements and systems leveraged, union agreements, and so on.

If it tastes like chicken, you’re doing it wrong.

When convincing someone to try a new food, we’ll often say, “Try it – it tastes just like chicken!” The person tastes the food, and it inevitably tastes nothing like chicken. And it shouldn’t! There are so many flavors possible with each new food we invite into our diets. If it tastes like chicken, you’re doing it wrong. And so it is with your healthcare education program.

Ask questions. Ask all the questions! Once all the questions have been asked, take the design to the drawing board. Yes, leverage lessons learned from your colleagues. Yes, leverage best practices and industry standards, but assess how well they fit your organizational needs as you go. If your healthcare education program looks identical to another organization’s, you are missing the opportunity to tailor the approach to exactly what your employees need to succeed.

Asking questions is just the beginning, but it creates the space to provide education that is tailored, just in time, remote or in-person, and effective.

Social distancing guidelines have shaken up routines and asked teams to educate in new ways. Truly impactful learning is a product of an entire program of offerings with multi-modal techniques and ongoing reinforcement. Now is the time to create that program. There is an opportunity to use this time wisely; redesign and embed assessment of the learner, the instructor, and the program throughout the educational system.

Education is an iterative process. End users change. Systems change. Needs change. If your program is still operating the way it was five years ago, it still tastes like chicken. What ingredients do you need to add to satisfy your organization’s educational palate?

Topics: EHR, training, featured

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