Ideas that matter

Four Considerations for Improving Healthcare Training and Delivery

This blog was originally published in ATD’s Insights and has been posted here with permission.

In healthcare, job proficiency can have a direct impact on patient experience, safety, and outcomes. From customer service to the CMO, the ability to collect and correctly interpret patient information is critical to making good decisions about next steps.

While the specific training topics will vary based on position, department, etc., there are some very basic training considerations that are constant. For example, one of the first and most important questions for any trainer is “where do I start?” If you don’t know what competencies individuals and teams already have, you can’t address their training needs effectively.

First Consideration: Diagnosing comprehension and skills gaps

No matter how far along you are in developing new training programs – or any ongoing training for that matter – each person taking the course brings a different set of skills and competencies. A “one size fits all” approach to training sometimes doesn’t fit anyone, and resulting proficiency gains (or lack thereof) can have significant consequences in healthcare.

For instance, one of Qstream’s customers is developing a training for clinical operations teams supporting clinical trials. In general, these teams are comprised of highly skilled professionals who don’t have a lot of time for training. At the same time, clinical trials work is governed by an ever changing stream of regulatory requirements and standard operating procedures (SOPs) that must be adhered to, so understanding individual and team proficiencies is critical to success.

To make training as effective as possible, our customer started by identifying which skills and knowledge had the biggest impact on their clinical trials work, and created some quick, scenario-based training to diagnose gaps in those areas. The resulting data identified a number of SOPs that weren’t followed to-the-letter and that often had a costly downstream effect. Improving comprehension and competencies in these areas was clearly the place to start.

Second Consideration: Improving recall with regular reinforcement

You’re likely familiar with the forgetting curve, a proven concept that describes the dramatic drop off in knowledge retention over time. Studies have shown that in as little as 30 days, 79% of knowledge is forgotten. Interval reinforcement is a proven way to combat the forgetting curve.

We have many customers that deliver medical education programs for doctors and nurses designed to reinforce critical thinking for diagnosis. This training often includes a patient case presented with test results, patient history, behavior and visual cues. Using short, purpose-built challenges, our customers are seeing long-term proficiency improvements in critical areas of patient safety, including prescription medication adherence, sepsis prevention and reduction in costs for HIPPA and Joint Commission compliance.

Third Consideration: Targeted coaching for maximum impact with minimal effort

Coaching can be one of the most effective ways to improve job performance and talent development however is typically limited by time. As such, we need to help our managers make time for coaching and get the most impact from their coaching time.

In addition to understanding the underlying motivators for each person, it’s also imperative that coaches have an understanding of individual competencies and behaviors that can be changed for optimum impact. Healthcare professionals are focused on patients; they are busy and not thinking about who and what needs coaching on their teams.

As trainers, we need to make it easy for our coaches by arming them with rich data that takes into account the individualized knowledge, skills, and behaviors of their team. Armed with this info, we can “coach our coaches” with strategies for quick and effective interventions that aren’t overly disruptive on the work day. In many cases, just minutes of well spent time a day can have a big impact.

Fourth Consideration: Ongoing action and effort

Learning does not end when the course is over or the test is taken. This is especially true for healthcare professionals as the only constant is change – changes in protocol, treatments, regulations; change from consolidation and from the federal, state and local levels, etc.

One of our pharma customers has thousands of sales reps around the world and hundreds of drug products to sell. For these sales reps, it’s critically important that the FDA approved application of the drug is well understood, and that reps don’t vary from a drugs’ intended use when selling. As a trainer, you can appreciate this is a big responsibility with very real consequences for the business.

It’s also a great example of the approach described in this post. With thousands of reps and hundreds of drugs, knowing where to start is difficult. New hires and veterans have completely different training needs. Diagnosing the gaps makes it easier to deliver precision learning that is both respectful of time and effective.

Recall is critical in this example. Consistent recall is built using reinforcement techniques over time. Targeted coaching can also help streamline training efforts by addressing the most impactful challenges quickly and reinforcing the knowledge and behavior in an ongoing manner.

It all adds up to a continuous training effort using a variety of proven learning techniques strategically, so healthcare organizations can maximize learning in an industry that places a premium on training quickly, effectively, and with lasting impact.