There’s no question technology has changed the way we save lives over the last decade. However, the effectiveness of live-saving technology is dependent on an agency’s adaptability to provided tools; you can’t adapt without proper guidance and training.
As chief operating officer for OPEN Inc., an EMS technology company, I’ve seen the difference proper training plays in new technology adoption. Even though everyone learns differently, there are key principles that can be used during training to make sure technology adoption and execution are swift and seamless.
For the last 20 years, agencies around the world have been converting paper reporting to electronic patient care reporting (ePCR). Part of an initiative under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act encourages the healthcare industry (EMS included) to adopt ePCR as a way to improve quality, safety, efficiency and access. For agencies that bill for services, Title IV of the act offers financial incentive to organizations that adopt and use certified ePCR systems. Conversely, organizations that fail to implement conversions to electronic operation by 2015 will be penalized by a reduction in Medicare payments.
Whether your agency is transitioning to an ePCR system or upgrading from an old one, it can be daunting to think about the learning curve for yourself and fellow staff to learn an entirely new system. Lack of IT expertise can be a major barrier when agencies are considering adopting a new ePCR platform. However, lack of IT know-how shouldn’t be a barrier because even those not-so-tech-savvy individuals can take solace in the fact that with the help of your vendor, the learning process should be easy and painless. The better your personnel understand how to use new hardware and software, the better you and your team will be able to serve the patient in those first critical moments, because you’ll be focusing on the patient and not the paperwork.
It’s also important because errors or poor prehospital patient care documentation have a ripple effect on the patient and can impact the continuation of care once a patient is transported. On a larger scale, poorly documented ePCR’s can affect health studies, data mining and place an agency at risk for potential lawsuits. It can also make tracking disease outbreaks increasingly more difficult.
ePCRs are a way to improve quality, safety, efficiency and access in EMS. Photo Vu Banh
Before you select your technology vendor, make sure you ask about the training process and find a program that fits your agency’s needs. There are typically two types of training models: those where a company representative trains the entire staff and those where only the training director is trained (to later teach the rest of the crew).
In the first model, the company should provide tenured EMTs or paramedics who use and know the system. Make sure to ask the vendor who will be doing the training about the general process they use and the time needed.
A qualified vendor will spend time with your agency assessing the processes, workflow, terminology and learning goals. Select a vendor who has experience with this type of model and has a proven track record and references. It can be intimidating to relinquish control to a third party; however, asking the right questions ahead of time and understanding the process can help ease any concerns about putting the training process and program into someone else’s hands.
In the second model, the agency is responsible for the training. There are certain benefits to this model, including the ability to take what you’ve learned from the vendor to create a custom training model that works best for your agency. Many larger agencies choose this model to minimize costs and allow training to be spread out.
Regardless of what model you use, understanding the training options can help you select the proper implementation method for your new technologies and systems.
Before you jump to the new, look at the old. Know the process of your current system (the one that is being replaced) and determine how users can apply the old process to the new technology. Try to incorporate common terms and processes into the new system to allow for easy transition. Since everyone learns differently and there will be a learning curve, make adjustments based on feedback and observations from the users.
The following are key principles that one of our most senior trainers identified to be critical in the technology training process:
- Attitude: An instructor must have a positive attitude about the information he or she is instructing. A positive attitude is contagious, but unfortunately so is a negative one.
- Delivery: The delivery of new information must be energetic and dynamic. A boring or uninteresting subject can be entertaining and effective with good delivery.
- Proof: If you can provide evidence of the new technology’s worth, your agency will be more likely to listen to the new information about operating it.
- Ease: This is a tricky area due to different experience levels in your audience. Make the information easy to absorb by focusing on the essential uses of the ePCR and not on every bell and whistle. The proverbial “KISS” (keep it simple, stupid) principle applies here. Repetition and breaking information into small steps builds confidence in your audience.
It’s important to get clear information on what will happen after the initial training is complete. While the vendor should always be there as a support system and available to help with servicing and issues that you encounter, it’s recommended the organization’s leaders have an active approach by checking in and monitoring adoption and proper use.
Set up a group email or monthly discussion sessions where you set aside time with field personnel and the vendor to voice questions and concerns in a zero-pressure setting. Experienced vendors can provide a host of training materials including quick training sheets, training guides, videos and other documentation, so be sure to reach out to them for support. Vendors often set up client email groups or calls for agencies to reach out to each other to share ideas and help work through challenges. There’s no better resource than another agency that’s been through the process and can provide experience-based feedback.
Technology changes rapidly, making the ability to adapt more important than ever. As with any skill, with time and practice you’ll become a stronger and more effective trainer and user.