E-learning: 4,800 hours of coverage costs saved
Fewer hours of classroom training needed
On a regular basis, patient access managers at Minneapolis-based Hennepin County Medical Center had to provide coverage for staff members pulled out of the department to attend eight to 16 hours of classroom instruction.
Doing so was stressful for managers and costly for the department, says Steve Nilson, MEd, CRCR, project manager for revenue enhancement. "It was very difficult, because you had to pay floats to provide coverage," he says.
After e-learning modules were developed, less classroom training was needed. With 400 patient access employees no longer attending an average of about 10 classroom hours of training, e-learning resulted in a significant cost savings. "The cost saving was mostly the salary of clinic coverage," says Nilson. "Putting a dollar figure on it is a little hard because staff salaries can vary, but at $20 dollars an hour, the savings would be $96,000."
Newly implemented monthly webinars have successfully reviewed important information on the registration process at OSF Healthcare in Peoria, IL, says Jessica Atkinson, a patient access services representative III. "It enables us to have a meeting environment without having to physically be together," Atkinson says. "Since various webinar times are offered, it has allowed us to get almost everybody's participation."
A question-and-answer session is offered after each webinar, and answers are posted so that later webinar participants can see the responses. A summary is distributed, so anyone unable to attend can keep it for future reference. "Somebody else may have had the same question, and they just didn't ask it," Atkinson says.
"Because different departments do different things, some sites may see certain things less often, or not at all, in comparison to other sites," she says. A recent webinar reviewed organ transplant processes, for example.
While many patient access employees enjoy receiving information via webinars, others prefer to receive it in person. "If something is brand-new or complex material, we give the option for both," says Atkinson. When trainers presented a recent webinar on the Affordable Care Act, some staff chose to attend in person.
"Some people were in the same building, so it made sense for them to sit in the conference room," she says. Atkinson herself was out of town when there was bad weather, so she watched the webinar remotely.
The webinars save money on traveling expenses and food and drink that previously was ordered for large group training sessions held in conference rooms.
"We also cut down on overtime, because we don't have to make sure anyone's hours are covered to allow them to attend a meeting," says Atkinson.
I5 minutes or less
Although nine e-learning modules are available for patient access employees at Hennepin County Medical Center to view at any time, they're cautioned not to watch them all at once.
"We recommended that no one sit down and watch all of them in a row, which would end up being two and a half hours," says Nilson.
Retention of knowledge is much greater when staff members receive information in short "bursts" of 15 minutes or less, he says. Staff members can access this education at the beginning of their shifts or during downtimes.
The modules range from 15 to 20 minutes, but future modules might be as short as 10 minutes. "When we redo the program, we will work hard to get them even shorter," explains Nilson.
Nilson emphasizes that the department uses e-learning only for refreshers. "It's a great way to give tips and tricks and reminders," he says. "But I wouldn't ever recommend it for the new employee who knows nothing about our system."
New hires still attend a four-day instructor-led class. "We still feel that is the best way to deliver brand new knowledge," says Nilson.
Two trainers wrote scripts for the e-learning modules. These were approved by a review committee with representation from patient access services, the emergency department registration, admitting, and ambulatory services. "We went line by line to make sure all the information was accurate," says Nilson. Once the script was approved, the trainers developed the e-learnings.
The nine modules now can be updated as needed. "We put a lot of time and effort in developing them," he says. "Moving forward, we have a nice foundation, so the build for next year's refresher will be much smaller."
The plan is to add two or three modules each year. Future modules will cover complex patients, auto accidents, worker's compensation, and patients who are wards of the state. "With our next run, we will expand it to the patients that you don't see as often," he says.
Modules are especially helpful when quarterly audits, which are done on all access staff, identify areas where someone is struggling.
"Rather than sending someone to a whole day training class, the online module can help them bridge the knowledge gap they are missing," says Nilson. "If that doesn't work, we can escalate it to full-day training. (See related stories on how e-learning allowed trainers to be reallocated, p. 45, and how one department plans to improve its e-learning modules, p. 46.)
- For more information on online training in patient access areas, contact:
- Jessica Atkinson, Patient Access Services Representative III, OSF Healthcare, Peoria, IL. Phone: (309) 683-4360. Fax: (309) 683-4786. Email: Jessica.N.Atkinson@osfhealthcare.org.
- Steve Nilson, MEd, CRCR, Project Manager, Revenue Enhancement, Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis. Phone: (612) 873-2483. Email: Stephen.Nilson@hcmed.org.
- Diane Ward, Assistant Director, Enterprise Patient Access Services, UK Healthcare, Lexington. Phone: (859) 323-2590. Fax: (859) 218-7526. Email: email@example.com.