by Traci Frazer, MS, Ed.S
Whatever your age, gender or size, there is a limit to how much weight you can lift, how fast you can run, and how high you can jump. Some people’s limits are higher, some lower, but every one of us not born on the planet Krypton has a physical limit somewhere.
In the same way, like all things physiological, our brains have limitations,1 which makes the connection between neuroscience and training professional adults a fascinating topic. In Healthcare at Home, this comes up most often during clinical and technical training.
Learning can be limited by cognitive overload or by a mismatch between the learner’s preferred – or inborn – learning style and the educational methodology deployed by the employer’s training department or software vendor’s training program.
Because the brain has finite processing capacity available at any moment, a training program not designed to accommodate natural human limitations can lead to overload, which in turn causes the learner to miss part of the information. An otherwise well designed training program that causes overload can result in incomplete – or worse, incorrect – learning, which in turn can result in documentation errors and financial losses.
Most of us have experienced this, even if we are not specifically aware of the cause and effect. When inadequate training manifests itself, possible reactions include blaming the learner (I covered the material; I can’t help it if they didn’t grasp it.) and investing in repeat training, including the additional costs from reduced productivity.
As in healthcare, prevention is superior to cure/ Nip the problem in the bud by building your training program around pedagogical principles of adult learning. Among these are:
Successful training benefits agency and vendor
In my experience as a ContinuLink Client Success Manager, I have noticed that online courses, which facilitate repetition and review, contribute to a more successful implementation; and, in turn, successful implementations directly impact future sales.
How? Happy customers are not only the best references a company can have, but it is also true that informed, knowledgeable customers sell your product for you. Home healthcare agency owners and staff talk to each other at state and national association meetings, on listservs, and over the phone. Also, users refer to other users to ask questions on daily operations and product use, seeking to enhance the benefits of using a system.
Mutual transformation, like a marriage
Healthcare workers adapt their assessment, prognosis, treatment methods for rehabilitation of persons with illnesses or chronic conditions when new technologies are introduced. Conversely, most modern software can be customized to the idiosyncratic needs of each user organization. Therefore, during the software implementation and training process, the organization and the technology transform each other until both are operating at their optimal level.
When I work directly with clients to bring about this mutual transformation, I insist on using more than one education model, in order to meet the needs of every learning style. Some people are listeners, some readers, others hands-on experimenters. Whatever model fits each trainee best, however, the goal is always the same, bridging the gap between healthcare and technology, which can be a challenge.
It has been proven organizing vast amounts of information increases retention. In addition to organizing information, deploying multiple education models when training healthcare workers to use technology increases knowledge retention and improves user performance. A knowledge-based approach builds a foundation for growth.
Specific, experienced-based recommendations
Consider these components when designing a training program, keeping in mind that what I have found to be effective during software implementation can be applied to all of your staff education programs, whether technology is the subject or not.
Use online or embedded tutorials to supplement the in-person trainer's efforts
Presenting lessons in two formats helps meet the needs of those who are more comfortable learning on their own, at their own pace, as well as those who prefer to have an instructor guide them through. The trainer remains available to provide guidance and clarify questions from independent learners and online lessons remain available for review after the instructor has moved on.
Provide time and equipment so that trainees can play with a new software system in advance.
Many organizations have found success making these online lessons available in advance of classroom training. Trainees get a “head start” on the lessons, which makes the most expensive training hours more efficient, and they benefit if they can come to training sessions having already acquired the knowledge to determine what specific questions to ask. Sometimes one does not know until spending time in daily operations, even if simulated on a demo data set, to figure out the “what ifs.”
Personally, I prefer having a guide that allows me to refer to Frequently Asked Questions that includes screenshots in the answers. Screenshots are our best friend because they not only provide procedural steps, but also previews “what it looks like on the screen” as a guide. Considering that most of us are visual learners, this helps most learners get through the steps with comprehension. Reading a bunch of text leads to overload. Simplicity is key.
Intra-disciplinary team learning
Clinicians relate to clinicians, administrators to administrators, sales to sales and executives to executives. Each has different goals. What is important to one is not a priority to the other. A tactic I have found effective is targeting software training to one homogeneous group at a time. This allows everyone to learn the system as it pertains to their particular field.
Having a super user within each area will also provider clearer direction and a stronger, lasting implementation. Super users are the hands-on contact support persons within the organization; they provide support after vendor trainers have gone home. Placing topical super users in each job description area establishes additional tiers of support.
Keep it going.
Ongoing refresher sessions, perhaps in the form of regular “Lunch and Learns,” are helpful as reminders and when new features are released. Continuing education is one of the most effective methods to extend the positive impact of a successful implementation. One benefit of creating the most successful implementation possible is that it decreases support issues once the agency goes live with new software. The benefit continues when new employees are hired because it maintains consistency over time.
It turns out that ongoing refreshers are most effective when provided with all of the tactics mentioned above and when employees are rewarded for keeping up with their lessons. The best way to accomplish this is by deploying online training backed up by a Learning Management System that supplies management reports. Bonuses or other perks can be based on successful completion of designated training targets, which managers track through an LMS.
Considering the rate at which competition for the attention of hospitals and physicians is accelerating, maintaining a highly-trained staff of clinicians and other technology users is becoming a survival issue.
1Mayer and Moreno, 2003
Traci Frazer, M.S., Ed.S., has been a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a teacher and consultant for the Alabama Department of Education until she was drawn to the healthcare software industry. She currently serves as Client Success Manager for the Procura Group, whose software offerings include ContinuLink, Procura, Igea and Progresa. She can be reached at TFrazer@procura.com or on LinkedIn.
©2015 by Rowan Consulting Associates, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO. All rights reserved. This article originally appeared in Tim Rowan's Home Care Technology Report. homecaretechreport.com One copy may be printed for personal use; further reproduction by permission only. email@example.com