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Best practices to advance palliative care and hospice training

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Jim Triandiflou
Jim Triandiflou

When a patient suffers a serious illness or pain from an underlying, incurable condition, a palliative care team may provide the support needed to improve this patient's quality of life. The goal of palliative care is to provide patients of all ages and in any stage of illness with relief from the pain and stress they're experiencing. If a patient reaches a point in which he or she is expected to live six months or less, hospice care begins. Both palliative and hospice care providers work in multidisciplinary teams to improve the quality of life for the patients and to provide support for their families.

Dartmouth Atlas researchers estimate there are about 90 million Americans living with a serious illness. By 2030, that number is expected to double. Yet as it stands right now, there won't be nearly enough providers to care for patients who suffer from serious illnesses or severe pain from conditions such as Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Dartmouth Atlas also notes that there is approximately one palliative-trained physician in the U.S. for every 1,200 patients suffering with these illnesses. The gap between supply and demand continues to widen despite accumulating evidence that palliative care provides a number of quality outcomes, and in some cases, may help prolong a patient's life and reduce the cost for patient care at the same time.

Enter the Affordable Care Act with its emphasis on value over volume. It's not a far cry to expect a push toward palliative care training in senior care sub-verticals and hospice facilities. But there's a difference between requiring clinicians to undergo training and actually implementing a course to better equip staff to provide palliative patient care. That difference can boil down to implementing the best Learning Management System for your team. It's the answer to “what can an LMS do right out of the box, in a plug-and-play use scenario?” But it doesn't end there. It's about asking the right questions. Here are a few to consider:

Blended training
Perhaps the biggest criticism of online education is that some education will always be better delivered live. And that is true! Your overall training program should include live training, and therefore your LMS, should include live training management capabilities in which face-to-face events and instructor-led training are part of the curriculum, and can even be leveraged alongside online training for maximum benefit.

One best practice of “blended learning” involves assigning online training as a prerequisite for live training, preparing learners for more meaningful live interactions and discussions about how the training topic is applied in practice.

Customized convenience
One of the biggest attributes of online training is its convenience. But convenience doesn't always translate into quality and isn't necessarily customized for your organization's specific needs. A good LMS will provide your organization with the tools and ability to create training customized to your specific needs, based on your organization's strategic objectives, specialties and local regulations.

Respected authors
An important question when it comes to online education providers is the quality of their content. One vendor can greatly differ from the next. You can address that concern by finding out who wrote the curriculum. Is the content researched, developed and written by national experts? How often is the content reviewed and updated? Another tell-tale sign is whether a comprehensive library is available for the interdisciplinary team and management. Is there a focus on depth of content rather than volume?

Compliance and tracking
Finally, at its core, an LMS should make your life easier and improve your compliance by automating, managing and tracking your training program. Administrators should be able to chart their goals automatically – tracking compliance and training to measure progress. In addition, using the LMS to track compliance allows management and administrators to determine if staff is meeting Center for Medicaid & Medicare Services, Joint Commission and Community Health Accreditation Program accreditation, as well as other regulatory standards.

As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, it's important for providers to realize that training is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. It involves many factors such as market dynamics, competitive differentiation for your organization, compliance requirements, adult learning, retention strategies, testing and thorough tracking.  Similarly, choosing an LMS is more about picking a partner – not just a vendor.  Once you craft your training strategy, make sure that your LMS partner can help you meet those goals – knowing that change is constant and that patient needs, CMS requirements and your organizations training goals will continue to adapt and change over time.

Jim Triandiflou joined Relias Learning as Chief Executive Officer in July of 2012. Prior to that, he CEO and President of ServiceCEO Inc. (now Insight Direct). 
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