The healthcare sector has never been under more pressure to adapt to a rapidly changing world.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put strain on healthcare workers globally, forcing doctors, nurses, cleaners, receptionists, manufacturers of medical equipment, pharmacists and more to change their working practices at a moment’s notice, and right now, there is no business as usual.
But that’s just one of the many challenges facing healthcare organisations today.
Ageing populations here in Europe mean increasingly complex health issues - and when budgets are being squeezed across the board, organisations are struggling to plug the skills gap with staff meeting an ever-changing range of requirements. And on top of this, the healthcare sectors in many countries are losing workers, pushed out by low wages, long working hours, uncomfortable and unsafe working conditions and a lack of vital training and equipment.
While we can’t expect budget to appear from nowhere, L&D teams have a vital role to play in improving the quality and consistency of care, while also ensuring teams are agile enough to keep up when healthcare needs change continually.
So what can L&D do to help? And what are the benefits of e-learning for healthcare workers?
Faster access to life-saving learning
As any healthcare worker will know, IT systems in these organisations are generally very outdated, clunky and slow, and even within the same organisation, systems very often don’t communicate with each other as they should. This is obviously far from ideal when you need access to life-saving information, whether that’s patient data or just-in-time learning, in a hurry.
A key concern for L&D teams should be removing barriers to accessing this data without compromising security and patient confidentiality. This is, of course, a massive challenge, but one that could save lives when decisions come down to the wire.
L&D and IT teams need to work closely together to find smarter ways to connect healthcare workers to the information they need when they need it. Large healthcare organisations don’t generally have the budget for lots of major IT system overhauls, so smaller quick wins may be needed.
Can healthcare workers have more access to mobile devices? Can they access essential learning offline?
Obviously this should all be considered in the context of the stringent data protection laws in place around patient confidentiality, ensuring that the technology chosen supports employees and patients alike without compromising security and ensuring compliance.
44% of organisations in high-consequence industries, like healthcare, do not feel thoroughly prepared for a compliance audit.
Compliance Training 2017, Brandon Hall
Boost efficiency with medical technology
Technology is obviously a hugely important tool for healthcare organisations - not just in terms of the IT infrastructure, but also the actual medical technology. The COVID-19 situation has highlighted the importance of getting employees up to speed with medical technology as quickly as possible, with many hospitals drafting in medical professionals from different specialisms to learn to use ventilators and personal protective equipment.
Along with this, evolving IT infrastructure and medical technology go hand in hand. The rise in self-monitoring and self-managed care means that many patients rely on their personal medical equipment and devices to talk to their healthcare team’s systems for improved consistency of care.
The L&D implications of introducing pioneering new treatments and technologies into the mix include the fact that L&D professionals working in healthcare must be able to upskill workers (and, often, patients) very quickly.
For instance, when the UK’s NHS introduced flash glucose monitoring for patients with type 1 diabetes in late 2017, this required a period of rapid upskilling and training, not just for medical workers but also for the patients who would be using this new technology. This was delivered to end users in face-to-face training sessions and online via an LMS and knowledge portal to maximise the value and impact of this relatively expensive technology.
For L&D teams, creating an extended enterprise LMS ensures that patients can stay clued-up on new technologies and ensure that they are making the most of their medical devices, and helps lower barriers to this important information.
Empower healthcare workers and patients
The consumerisation of healthcare is proving massively disruptive for a sector so focused on the expert/patient relationship.
Nowadays, many patients have the means to track their own heart rate, blood pressure, sleep patterns and more, which is both a blessing and a curse. Used and interpreted correctly, this self-management can help relieve pressure on an overstretched health system, but often this data does require the expert opinion of a medical professional.
Online symptom checkers are becoming increasingly popular, providing useful signposting towards treatment for minor conditions, giving people easier and faster access to treatment and empowering medical professionals to focus on more urgent cases.
Giving power to the people is about more than just patients. It’s also about empowering healthcare professionals to stay agile in a fast-moving sector by taking charge of their own learning.
As a learning professional, this could mean providing access to performance support on mobile devices, receiving push notifications about new e-learning courses or information or giving easy access to complex information in the middle of a busy night shift.
Empowering busy healthcare workers to take control of their own learning wherever and whenever they need it will help improve the care they give to patients.
Want to find out more about how learning professionals can support their healthcare organisations? Then download Totara’s free guide all about the digital age of healthcare for practical tips and advice.