The Transition to a Learning Management System Doesn’t Have to Be Painful
In health care, employees are so busy around the clock delivering care that they don’t always have the time necessary to keep up to date on technology trends. However, staying current on the latest developments and best practices is essential for patient safety and regulatory compliance. Moving to a learning management system (LMS) can help address these challenges and deliver many other benefits such as greater employee engagement, fewer manual processes for the education team, higher training completion rates and compliance, and, ultimately, better patient care.
However, some health-care organizations are apprehensive about implementing a learning management system. They may be concerned about leadership buy-in, employee resistance to change, integration issues, or support from a new vendor. Fortunately, the implementation process doesn’t need to be a source of anxiety if you put in place strategies to gain senior leadership buy-in, identify issues with the current process, and select the right implementation approach.
Generate Leadership Support
As health-care organizations begin the process of implementing an LMS, a good first step is to generate senior leadership support for the idea. Employee training has a direct connection to several factors related to financial health and the ability to deliver on the institution’s mission. It can be helpful to educate senior leaders about the following issues:
- Access to federal funds is dependent on employee education. Staff must be trained on certain topics to comply with federal regulations. Most hospitals require that employees complete education on each topic every year.
- Non-compliance with education requirements can lead to financial penalties and citations by accrediting bodies. If health-care institutions don’t educate employees on organization specific policies and procedures, they can face fines from OSHA and other agencies. Organizations also may be cited by the Joint Commission, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and others if they don’t conform to training requirements.
- Training deficiencies can put patients’ lives at risk. When employees aren’t trained adequately, patient safety suffers. Tracking education on spreadsheets or through paper-based systems is cumbersome at best and insufficient at worst.
Evaluate for Gaps
Once senior leadership has bought into the idea of implementing an LMS, the next logical step is to evaluate current training processes to identify gaps where a new system could help. For example, the education department may need help responding to audits in a timely fashion. When auditors come onsite, teams must be ready to quickly pull employee files and transcripts to prove that individuals were trained on compliance and competency-related topics. In addition, each year, the Joint Commission and other regulatory agencies expand their training requirements to ensure that health-care organizations keep up with new procedures. Education teams often are stretched thin and need help to extend their reach.
Advance planning is the key to an effective LMS implementation. Here are six activities that can contribute to success:
- Determine the scope of the LMS project. It’s important to determine the complexity of an LMS an organization is ready for. Consider conducting a critical audit of your institution’s learning environment. This should include an analysis of the volume of courses that will be delivered and the number of students who need to be educated.
- Develop an education strategy. This should include what content will be incorporated into the LMS, as well as how courses will be released to the organization. The education strategy should flow from the scope of the LMS project, as well as from weighing the request and needs of all the stakeholders. Rather than adding courses into the LMS without rhyme or reason, consider developing a calendar for releasing course content.
- Select the right LMS. Health care has unique training and education challenges, so an LMS that’s designed for health care is more likely to meet your organization’s needs out of the box and will require less configuration. Look for a system that enables the organization to electronically submit employee training data to agencies for compliance reporting. Other important functionality includes an integrated competency solution, as well as a system for tracking employee certifications and licensure.
- Use standards from the start. A standardized naming structure and numbering system for courses should be used from the outset. This makes reporting more efficient.
- Consider a phased introduction for employees. Instead of launching the LMS for all employees at the same time, think about starting with a small pilot first. This is useful for identifying and resolving problems.
- Ensure that employees have easy access to computers. In a health-care environment, most employees don’t have traditional desk jobs or continual access to a computer. It may be useful to install cyber cafes or employee computer labs that make it easy for staff to take required online courses.
Automating employee training is a proven way to ensure compliance, as well as to improve the quality of care that is delivered to patients. Experience has shown that investing time up front to educate key stakeholders about the value of an LMS and then developing a structured approach to implementing a system are the best techniques for deriving the greatest benefits in the shortest period of time.
Valerie Granuzzo is associate marketing manager of the HealthcareSource eLearning Library Group at HealthcareSource, a leading provider of talent management solutions for the health-care industry. She is responsible for development of educational Webinars and programs pertaining to courseware. Granuzzo can be reached at email@example.com.