A quick and easy intro to designing an EHR training program

Think for a moment about the skills that you depend on most heavily in your work.

Now think about how you learned those skills. I imagine that for most of them – leading meetings, communicating decisions, developing strategy – your education didn’t take place in a single day. Most likely, you gained the skills over months and years of repetitive action.

And I imagine your education didn’t just take a single form. Instead, you learned via many different experiences in many different settings.

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We intuitively understand that information must be varied and reinforced to be learned effectively. So why do we frequently approach EHR training as a one-time-only, one-method-only event?

I’ve learned over the course of many years, implementations, and training programs that the most effective approach uses different education styles that are then reinforced over time. Below, I’ve included a few pointers that you can use as you think through your training program. If you have questions or you’d like to discuss your training strategy, please reach out and I’d be happy to chat.

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Tailoring your education to the skill you're teaching

Learning to use an EHR requires many different skills, and not every skill should be taught in the same way. A blended training program combines different kinds of learning – e-learning, personalization labs, tip sheets, and classroom learning – to teach all the skills that combine to form proficiency.

One of the biggest mistakes I see organizations make is an over-reliance on classroom learning. People sometimes assume that classroom learning is the most effective because it involves human interaction, but in fact classroom-learned information, if it’s not studied and practiced after class, can be difficult to retain. It’s also one of the most expensive forms of learning and can quickly blow through your training budget.

I’ve found that classroom learning is most helpful for teaching topics that will likely spur discussion or questions of the attendees. These types of topics take advantage of the interaction available with the instructor. It’s important when designing classroom-based training to remember that once you’ve gone over your concepts in a group, you need a way for people to practice in the live system, ask questions, and further personalize the EHR to their specific workflows.

Before students attend a personalization lab or a workshop, I recommend giving them “homework” to complete, such as a pre-requisite class or e-learning, so that they come in with a basic understanding of the lab’s content. That will help you dive into individual work and one-on-one instruction without a lot of upfront explanation. For instance, ensure they have been trained on the basic concept of a SmartText, then have them work with trainers in the lab to personalize their own, ask questions, and build their skills.

If a topic is hitting a wide audience and is repetitive, it’s a good subject to train via e-learning. For example, entering an order is relatively easy to do, requires repetitive practice, and is a skill that most users will need to learn. E-learning is also useful for skills that are done very infrequently and have multiple steps, such as blood admin. E-learning can walk you through many complicated steps without you having to dig up a tip sheet, which is time-consuming for a task you only complete once a month.

Tip sheets are useful for quick, easy-to-read reminders that people will have to refer to regularly, and are best suited for roles that have easy access to these tools throughout the workday. If it doesn’t fit on one sheet, it probably doesn’t belong on a tip sheet.

A tip sheet is rarely a good substitute for other types of training. Instead, it’s best used to reinforce information or communicate small updates that don’t require a full training, and is best suited for roles that can easily access a hard copy at their workstation or an electronic copy during their workflow.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a blended training program. Because people learn differently from each other – and not all skills are learned the same way – a blended training program will ensure that people have the chance to learn in a way that works for them.

Reinforcement over time

Reinforcement is just as important as the concept of blended training. In many organizations, EHR training is focused only on new hires because of budget and time constraints, and everyone else is given training updates via tip sheets.

The problem is, new hires are already overburdened with information, from the layout of the building to their colleagues’ names to the day-to-day work they’ll be doing. Because of this, information learned in the first few weeks on the job is often poorly absorbed and poorly retained.

And while tip sheets can be useful in reinforcing information, they can’t be the vehicle for every update, initiative, or optimization technique. Have you ever stopped looking at a certain email because you receive so many that feel irrelevant to you? The same is true of tip sheets. If you inundate your users with them and they aren’t always useful, your users will stop paying attention to them.

The key to reinforcement is to make it consistent but surprising. Think about the ways you can deliver information to your different audiences. The delivery method should change based on the audience’s appetite for learning, bandwidth, level of familiarity with the information, and work setting. Sometimes an at-the-elbow visit from a trainer for one afternoon can be more valuable than 10 emails from the education coordinator.

At the end of the day, your EHR is a significant investment, and you won’t realize ROI until your users are proficient in the system. Perhaps the most important consideration is how to maintain these strategies with a reduced budget and in the face of many competing priorities – for example, upgrades, rollouts, and new hire training. Either way, we’d love to discuss.

Click the link to continue the conversation.

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Topics: go-live, training, Epic training, Epic implementation

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