Make your training real-world ready and promote the patient voice

Written by Briony Frost, Learning Development Specialist, and Sophie Officer-Thorley and Rebecca Case, Senior Account Managers on Friday 28th May 2021

Effective translation of your team’s learning to successful real-world practice within the healthcare industry means professional development solutions have to look beyond data and scientific content delivery within knowledge-enhancement training programmes. So, how can you use industry best practice benchmarks and patient case studies to get your teams real-world ready?

Healthcare is a fast-moving field in which patient outcomes and experiences depend on the professional expertise of all involved, directly or indirectly, in their care. Medical affairs trainers must closely consider the situations and scenarios in which training will be used to ensure that knowledge enhancement also drives behaviour change and skills development, and promotes the confidence to apply these competencies. In this article, we are going to explore three key areas within medical affairs learning development that will enable you to maximize the application of your learning programmes and support patient-centric learning.

Competency frameworks

Competency frameworks are used to define performance excellence, linking individual or team successes to their organizations. These frameworks provide clarity for individuals about company expectations and required professional attributes, and offer managers standards against which to support evaluation, reflection and progress. Competency frameworks can assist with building Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for teams and individuals and with linking these to your organization’s Critical Success Factors (CSFs). As we have previously discussed, these can then be connected to the intended learning outcomes of the training programmes that you invest in to help ensure that they are aligned to your strategic objectives.

Competency frameworks often include a mixture of:

  • Core competencies: these support the organization’s values and mission and apply to all internal roles.
  • Technical competencies: these apply to specific roles or functions within the organization. Technical competencies define the levels, depth and breadth of knowledge and skills expertise.
  • Behavior competencies: these include benchmarks for internal and/or external interactions, activities, ethical standards and processes.

We have spoken before about the importance of a detailed needs analysis when designing and implementing a learning solution. The utilization of competency frameworks in the needs analysis processes ensures training programmes are closely aligned not only to the standard of knowledge, but also to the behaviors and skills individuals require after they leave the training environment. It considers the performance expectation of learners as well as the strategic goals and vision of your organization.

Practice, practice, practice

This simple yet crucial message is easy to overlook in training design, buried beneath the hard data and clinical content that needs to be conveyed. But separating skills training from knowledge training is never as effective or engaging as running the two in tandem. When your learners take part in training, whether they are encountering brand new information and activities or building on knowledge and skills already held, it is vital to create opportunities for practice, reflection, feedback and refinement.

Deliberate practice reinforces knowledge and skills development, increasing automaticity – the learner’s ability to apply knowledge and skills automatically – without having to link previously disjointed pieces of training together or dwell on technical and application-based details. It builds the learner’s capability and confidence, driving their ability to engage in more effective and then more complex interactions.

Opportunities for practice can be created in a variety of settings. Role plays, roundtable discussions and assessments are all forms of practice that improve learning. Role plays also provide rehearsal scenarios that may be used to bring in the patient voice and perspective. An example of this kind of role play could be if a learner’s peer or superior takes the role of a patient with a needle phobia, and someone else takes the role of the HCP helping them navigate this anxiety by explaining to them how their self-administration injection device has been designed so that they feel confident using it safely and effectively. You may even include a third voice, such as that of a MSL, who interacts with the HCP to provide them with the information that they need to explain the device to the patient, translating the technical details of the product into a clinical setting. Role play practice such as this increases learners’ confidence during the real-life delivery and application of knowledge and skills.

Assessments also encourage learners not just to recall data, key concepts and information, but also to consider their application in the real world. Assessments should provide instant feedback and knowledge or competencies reinforcement as a means of continual and applied learning. Assessments either during or at the end of a module are a powerful opportunity to use scenario-style questions that reiterate the priorities of the end users (the HCP and the patient) and the impact that learners’ increased knowledge and skills will have on them.

Promoting the patient voice

As we have discussed in a previous article, medical affairs professionals are now recognised as providing a crucial link between healthcare companies and healthcare decision-makers, which include the physicians, payers and patients. Understanding the patient experience and recognising the role of patient agency and choice are increasingly critical considerations in the delivery of effective training for HCPs.

There are many ways to embed patient experience and patient voices within your training programmes. A handful of these include:

  • Virtual patients: using a patient and/or HCP avatars to help learners navigate patient experience-related content. Having a virtual patient, or patient and carer, to remind learners about their feelings, reactions, choices and consequences provides helpful context for the data and scientific information, reminding the learner that there are human beings behind the statistics and economic costs who the HCPs have to support, inform and empathise with when making the right choice for each patient.
  • Patient speakers, videos and podcasts: patient interviews, although tricky to set up, are another powerful tool to help your learners understand the above, but also to provide a forum in which your HCPs or MSLs may be able to ask questions and orientate themselves to patient needs, anxieties and priorities. Patients need to be carefully selected and appropriately compensated within the limits of your local regulations and any organisational anti-bribery policies – at the very least, the patient must not be exploited. However, there are very few more powerful ways to get your learners to connect with what they really care about: the patient, their journey and their outcomes.
  • Workshop events: planning learning activities as well as assessments that require your staff to put themselves in the shoes of the patient, to examine trends of transforming patient priorities or map out the pathway of an individual from diagnosis to treatment and side effects is also a strategy for getting learners actively involved in distinguishing between the priorities of the HCPs and the needs of the patient, which can help to enhance the impact of your learner’s interactions.
  • Reusable content: even at the level of content delivery, such as slide decks and resources on Learning Management Systems, designing your resources so that they can be reused by HCPs in their professional practice can be helpful. When done well, it will be possible for your learners to pull out key messages for different types of future user and can facilitate the development of skills-based learning, such as identifying and communicating key messages, which is essential in the translation space between healthcare organisations and decision-makers.

Make sure your learners are not just training when you invest money, time and energy in a development event or programme – draw on benchmarking and the patient voice to ensure you are helping them to become real-world ready instead.

OPEN Health’s L&D team brings together unique skill sets and a wealth of healthcare training and communications experience, which means we can offer high-quality, bespoke, self-directed learning programs to our clients. If you would like to hear more about how we collaborate with our clients to design, develop and deliver competitive training programs, please get in touch.

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