How to do it ... information technology

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Acquiring a software package completes one process for providers, but it also initiates another: A quest to enhance staff knowledge and skills for using the new information technology. In this special “How To” article, experts offer advice on how to best train employees who will be working on new software systems. 

Savvy managers realize that change management skills need to be introduced and honed, says Randell Johnson, of Prime Care Technologies.

“Change management should be an integral part of the training itself,” Johnson says. This means that each user must, at his or her own pace: understand clearly what the change is; deal with the emotional consequences (sense of loss, for example) that commonly arise; let go of the “old”; and embrace the change.

“Too often as an administrator, I witnessed in-services during which staff learned about something instead of learning something,” Johnson says.

American Data President John E. Ederer notes this is a “procedure issue” rather than I.T. specific.

Indeed, before attempting to roll out a new system, there must be buy-in at all levels. To encourage this, for example, AOD Software provides clients with a toolkit designed to guide them in change management (and assist staff in other ways), notes David Burr, the company's COO.

An effective training program should take into consideration learning styles and opportunities for hands-on practice in a student-centered environment, Burr says.

Various training plans “tailored to different generations” of workers should be offered, adds OnShift's Mark Woodka. 

“They value different things in the workplace,” he observes. “Our experience has shown that one-size-fits-all training does not work for everyone.”

A range of online training/resources and in-person training is the best approach, Woodka says.

Taking time upfront to plot how staff will be educated and map out change management initiatives is critical to everything that comes after, adds David Lohmann of Redilearning.

“If you don't consider how your workforce will learn and utilize the software, you are undercutting all your hard work,” he says. “New software and their new processes are one of the major items identified when associates complain about change.”

After mapping plans, managers should monitor how the software is used, and note specific outcomes. Is the new software reducing errors, and actually saving time?

Lohmann endorses a “Tell Me, Show Me, Let Me Practice!” approach. Such “layered” learning allows individuals to retain more of what they experience, he says.

“Make sure your training is geared to which functionality they will actually use, and why,” Lohmann says.

Darren Johnson of HealthMEDX says “the best” approach he's heard about includes self-check videos that could be activated in the field.

 “I worked with a health system that developed its own internal videos,” he recalls. “They included automated testing after the videos. The videos were put on field devices so the clinician could reference them whenever they needed a refresher.”

Don't try to bite off too much at once, advises Yvonne Wenzler of NTT DATA Long Term Care Solutions Inc. Her company records software demonstrations that last about only 15 minutes each.

“That means we can focus on software tasks, not the whole application,” Wenzler explains. She notes providers prefer to see a function rather than read about it.

Once things are up and running, it is critical to regularly assess what training needs are still required, AOD's Burr reminds. And, of course, supply resources to offer on-going training and refresher courses.

Perhaps the final, and deepest, mistake for many providers is conducting training and then not immediately making good use of it.

“At all costs, minimize the downtime between training and implementation,” Lohmann says.

Mistakes to Avoid:

Not vetting a vendor thoroughly as to what training support it will offer.

Offering a fully standardized program, and not recognizing different groups of workers will learn differently.

Neglecting to show the functionality of the training.