Online education: Users call it thorough and consistent

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Accredited providers are well-accustomed to the challenge of creating and documenting comprehensive employee training programs. But when accreditation becomes mandatory in 2007, all providers will most likely face the same burden.
More and more providers are turning to online education to provide employee training that they say is thorough, easily tracked, and consistent across locations and job descriptions.
"I could not provide this kind of consistent education to my employees without doing it online. No small business could," said Ann Marie Engelhardt, director of healthcare services at Bernens Convalescent Pharmacy in Cincinnati, Ohio. "Before (beginning online education), I was doing in-services for my employees, which were costly, time-consuming and ineffective."
Engelhardt trains Bernens' 60 employees using DMETrain, a company that offers online education programs designed for the HME industry. The VGM Group and MED Group also offer online courses to their members for an additional fee.
Although it's not clear what percentage of the industry studies online, all three organizations report steady growth in enrollment. In fact, DMETrain President Robert Thompson said the company recently delivered its 500,000th course and currently has 25,000 employees from 1,715 provider companies enrolled in its system. The VGM Group and MED Group have another 474 and 240 companies signed up for their services, respectively.
Courses in all three systems range from customer service and reimbursement to delivery procedures, disease and disability basics. Employees log onto a Web site loaded with the courses specific to their job description and can take the courses at their pace. They take a test to prove retention of the material, and supervisors can view results through an administrative Web site. Some courses are CEU-approved.
Engelhardt said she's seen tangible improvements in employee performance as a result of DMETrain.
"A driver who had seen evidence of elder abuse in a home came to me and said 'I learned on DMETrain that I'm supposed to report this to you,'" she said. "DMETrain makes them responsible for their own knowledge."
While its growth will likely continue, will online education eventually replace other methods? Although he's a proponent of online education, Don Clayback, MED Group's senior vice president of networks, doesn't think so.
"There are some things you can't convey through a book or a computer screen," he said. "Providers should try to accomplish as much as they can online and augment with other types of education."