By Kathleen Moreo, RN-BC, BSN, BHSA, CCM, CDMS, President and CEO, PRIME® Education, LLC
Continuing education often results in the largest measureable changes when it addresses an ongoing public health crisis at the local level. Tailoring content to meet specific needs and developing strategies to overcome situation-specific treatment barriers are among the most difficult, and yet the most rewarding, challenges for CE providers and supporters to undertake. Identifying, engaging and coordinating multiple stakeholders in effective program design, project implementation, and results-oriented evaluation is complicated and involves many moving parts. When done effectively, these efforts can dramatically transform patient health in local communities, and these positive changes can reverberate for many years to come. To accomplish this, CE providers must build a team of collaborators who can combine different strengths and work together toward the common goal of overcoming health disparities by delivering specific, targeted programs that meet local, real-time educational needs.
This timely topic was introduced at the 2018 Alliance meeting in the session “Getting Out of the Comfort Zone: Breaking the Silo Mentality to Address Real World Needs” by member leaders Susan Buchanan, AbbVie; Sara Miller, Med-IQ; Kathleen Moreo, PRIME Education, and Scott Williams, Gilead Sciences Inc. Case studies were utilized to support the discussion and included both ongoing and completed CE programs that have addressed or are addressing public health crises in HCV elimination and substance abuse. Findings from those projects and lessons learned along the way were shared with participants and fortified the value of collaborative partnerships to achieve real-world solutions for real-world problems.
When CE providers and supporters participate in educational programs that address real-world public health crises, they can expect to gain key insights into barriers within the healthcare ecosystem and learn how different members of the healthcare team can work together to resolve gaps in care. These insights, useful for the respective organizations, are often relevant to a wider audience. Submitting scientific abstracts at major medical meetings and publishing in peer-reviewed journals allows the findings to reach healthcare providers and stakeholders in other healthcare ecosystems who can benefit from learning about these real-world issues and benchmark the data to guide positive changes. Efforts to address a localized public health crisis can quickly expand to address similar issues at a macro level.
Getting out of one’s comfort zone to address localized healthcare crises requires the CE provider and the supporter to recognize opportunities for unique, interdisciplinary educational designs. The silo mentality rarely generates the innovative thinking needed in these types of initiatives. As a key collaborator, the CE provider connects people, processes and resources to achieve health improvement goals and mitigate the effects of the ongoing crisis — goals that may not be possible without a collaborative process. In this role, the CE provider will need to remain flexible about what different collaborators can and cannot bring to the table, and be ready to deploy alternative strategies if early ideas do not roll out according to plan.
Panelists and audience members contributed to the discussion in meaningful ways. Firsthand experiences with local public health crises were shared, providing unique insights into how educational initiatives meet (or fail to meet) current needs and the viability of specific approaches. Making significant strides at the macro level frequently starts with developing educational programs to meet specific needs at the micro level. Often, this is where supporters see the greatest successes, as providers assemble collaborators and program designs that can take a localized “deep dive” into the public health concern. Success also hinges on CE providers’ sensitivity to healthcare providers’ time constraints and ability to identify educational interventions that are manageable within the construct of the healthcare provider’s day-to-day responsibilities.
Additionally, CE providers and their supporters must recognize the limitations and strengths of different partners and collaborators. CE providers should be selecting new partnerships that make up for what is lacking in the existing team. Star lineups can take on many forms and may include partners as diverse as a public health agency, a patient advocacy organization and a technology provider — all aligned to achieve a common goal.