A Blended Learning Approach to Improving Patient Outcomes and Experiences

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

By Eric W. Heckerson, EdD, RN, FACHE, Senior Manager of Learning & Content Development, HealthStream

Virtually every hospital and healthcare organization is attempting to improve (or sustain) an optimal experience for their patients and visitors. There are countless tools and tactics available for leaders to use to shepherd their efforts. And, those reading this blog are likely interested in learning anything new that might assist in achieving their patient-centered aspirations and goals. To that end, let’s consider how applying the principles of adult learning might be applied to any patient experience roadmap.

One-time Training Is Not Sufficient.

No matter what tools are used to enhance the patient experience, the staff and leaders expected to implement them must be taught those tools---and held accountable for using them consistently. Unfortunately, many organizations rely upon traditional or a one-time training session to teach new tactics and set expectations to then rely upon trust and hope for compliance.

While there are certainly rockstar educators in the world more than capable of conducting high quality training sessions, the reality is that no method of training, no matter how good, in and of itself rarely changes behavior. In other words, countless studies support the notion that learners must hear something multiple times in order to truly “get it” and absorb it into their practice.

A Blended Learning Approach is Optimal

A more effective approach for teaching any new tactic or technique is a layered or blended learning approach. This method employs multiple modalities to engage the learner in a variety of ways over the course of time to ensure the message is sent, received, and firmly implanted in the learners’ mind and applied accordingly. The three main ingredients of the blended model are courseware or digital learning, traditional classroom training, and coaching/mentoring (all of which would be supplemented by printed materials).

Computers and online learning are becoming ubiquitous in the modern era. The latest generation of learner expects and is very adept at using computer and digital resources to learn or reinforce something they have learned. Using courseware, videos, and micro-learning (defined here as digital learning under 15 minutes) can be used to introduce a topic as a preview, reinforce it following classroom training, or refresh training a year after learning something.

Traditional classroom training continues to play a role in teaching adult learners. Despite the advancements in technology, nothing thus far can take the place of human-to-human interaction. Such training, however, should be focused, interactive, and only as long as it needs to be to meet the objectives. And it should not be the only exposure that a student has to a new topic. The Ebbinghaus forgetting curve (YEAR) reminds us that most of what we learn is forgotten over the course of time---unless there is effort made to hardwire that learning into the long-term memory. 

Counteract the Forgetting Curve

One way to counteract the effect of the forgetting curve is through the concept of “dripping,” in which content is figuratively dripped out over the course of time to keep the new information fresh in the learner’s mind. Dripping could be done through taking an online course, watching a quick video, or through the third element of the blended learning model---coaching/mentoring. In this element, the human interaction from another person acts as the catalyst to continue the learning process. It might be a leader, a peer, or someone in a formal coaching or mentoring role. Regardless of exactly who it is, the process is a highly effective adjunct to courseware and in-person training.

While there can certainly be slight nuances in the way adults prefer to learn, the vast majority benefit from any model that employs variety and choice in its approach. A blended learning model is ideally suited to develop any adult and can also be applied to the process of teaching skills needed to improve the patient experience at your facility.

Learn more about HealthStream Training Solutions.