[eGuide] Choosing the Right CME Online Learning Platform

Find out how to do something really important with this free eBook!

You’ll learn:

  • Obstacles to CME
  • The Solution: Online CME
  • Choosing Online Learning Platforms: Best Practices
  • Choosing Your Platform
  • Hosting Your Course
  • Demo Your Platform

Excerpt

The Ultimate Guide to Something Important

A significant differentiator of quality employment is the availability of professional development. As healthcare institutions become more competitive and operate on smaller margins, attracting and keeping talent is critical to the bottom line.

Continuing medical education ensures that staff is knowledgeable about the latest best practices in the healthcare field and advances in technology that are so important for research and diagnostics. They can brush up on patient care principles and come back ready to implement new knowledge.

Professional development is so vital that a recent survey from EdAssist suggests that it could affect retention across the board. According to the survey, 60% of millennials in the job force would choose a job with substantial professional development opportunities over a job with regular raises.

That’s a game-changer. Considering that it can cost up to 200% and over of an employee’s annual salary to replace that employee, investing in professional development is critical.

In another study specific to the medical field, BMC Medical found that physicians who attended online CME courses were up to 48% more likely to make clinical choices based on current evidence, as opposed to those who did not participate.

Between these two factors—having the potential to attract and retain top talent and improving overall patient outcomes—creating a robust continuing medical education offering is a long-term boon to the performance of a health institution.

So, what’s the problem? Online course hosting is available and ready, but there are a few obstacles to overcome. Let’s break down the issues with current CME programs and what it will take to create a thriving educational experience with the right online learning platforms.

Obstacles to CME

Building a robust CME system has long-term advantages for the hosting institution. It not only offers a reliable way to attract and keep talent but also increases the overall reputation of the organization. But why is it so difficult for physicians, healthcare practitioners, and other healthcare workers to get continuing education regularly? Let’s go over common obstacles.

It’s Expensive

Continuing medical education has associated costs that make it difficult for healthcare institutions to say yes. While continual training does have long-term benefits, institutions are continually balancing those benefits with the immediate cost of CME.

The course itself costs money. The organization pays for registration, lodging, transportation, and follow-ups. These costs add up if more than one person is attending. It also depends on the location and length of time of the course.

Soft costs add up as well. For every person out of the office on CME leave, someone has to cover the gap. This often equates to extra compensation and associated costs with downtime, mistakes, and any incidentals that arise from shifting roles around.

In some cases, these costs are too difficult to manage for either the organization or the staff involved, but these can lead to gaps in professional development that can cost you in the long run. Keeping the balance between costs now and benefits later is enough to frustrate any healthcare administrator.

It’s Difficult To Plan

It’s not only the budget that requires mental gymnastics. The sheer effort of planning these logistics for small healthcare institutions without an exhaustive staff is difficult. Large healthcare institutions pay the price for the disruption in normal operations.

The logistics for staff returning to work is also in question. Institutions must provide time for returning staff to catch up on operations and to dispense any knowledge or training they need to the group

Even the necessary logistics of attending CME takes a toll on administration. Hotel, airfare, daily transportation, and food costs are required, movable parts that need attention from the budget and the staff doing the planning.

Faulty Record-keeping Makes Tracking Difficult

You need a trail of records to support all CME for your staff, but records have been a nightmare in the past. In some cases, it relied on the issuing institution to send a paper trail. In other cases, staff coming in from other institutions needed complete copies to transfer along with their records.

Regardless of the reason, there are often gaps in record-keeping because the system doesn’t issue automatic records or follow-ups. Like many things, this can lead to expensive mishaps with lapsed certifications or late follow-ups, putting the institution and patients at risk.

For each staff member who attends CME, that’s a record that must be updated, maintained, and filed accordingly. It can become a burden without a logical and automatic system.

Lack of Administrative Support Kills The Course

All these obstacles can lead to inadequate support from the administration if no solution helps ease the burden. You may want to provide robust CME for your staff, but without an administration that’s wholeheartedly on board, your options will be meager at best.

You must find a way to tackle these obstacles head on in order to garner the support you need from your administration to put in place a thriving CME opportunity for attracting talent and retaining employees. Once you’ve addressed them, you have a real chance of getting the administration to support better, broader CME efforts once and for all.

The Solution: Online CME

Online CME options can address each of these obstacles and offer accessible solutions for your staff’s continuing education needs. Online learning:

  • Can happen anywhere—Your staff won’t have to do backflips in scheduling to make up for out-of-service employees. Instead, employees can take courses on their own time in highly accessible formats for easier learning.
  • Is immediate—Employees can begin applying new principles and best practices immediately instead of waiting to return to the office in a week. This helps new information disseminate more quickly and makes it easier for your staff to retain that information through action.
  • Integrates with existing systems—Record-keeping that’s automatic? Absolutely! Online CME courses and certifications can issue automatic follow-ups and reminders, provide simple online payments, and save records that export/import to whatever system you use already.
  • Is learner friendly—In terms of automation, online learning streamlines the sign-up process for learners, allows them instant payment options, and is a more accessible format for learners with disabilities or special needs.

Once you’ve decided to explore online options, you don’t have to worry about training to be a tech enthusiast. Existing CME course hosting providers can gently guide you to an accessible, realistic, and most importantly, dynamic online course option that encompasses everything you want from your CME choices.

Deciding to switch to online CME hinges on choosing the right online learning platform for you. Let’s take a look at what you need to know.

Choosing Online Learning Platforms: Best Practices

Online learning has a reputation for being disappointedly boring. However, modern online learning platforms can change that perception with features and support designed to create your vision and bring it to fruition. Let’s take a look at the multilayered concepts required to choose a platform, create and deliver courses, and change minds about online learning.

Online Learning Myths

It’s time to address the reality of modern online learning solutions. Your administration and even your learners could have preconceived notions about online learning, but it’s time to begin changing minds.

Myth #1: It’s time-consuming for administration

If you’re asking your administration to retrain, becoming web developers, tech troubleshooters, and customer service agents, you’re not going to get anywhere. This is a real fear when someone introduces online CME: the idea that staff members will have to take on roles beyond their job description without the extra time or compensation associated with these new responsibilities.

Fortunately, you don’t have to hire new staff to make your vision happen. New hosting providers can offer custom-built courses with everything already integrated. Your courses enjoy new forms of automation designed to keep everyone on track without adding the extra burden on your current team.

This automation includes follow-ups, reminders, and verifications. Courses come with back-office support for updates and troubleshooting, monitoring your course for branding consistency and any interruptions or downtime experienced on your site.

You also get expert tech support to help direct learner questions and issues without opening up your office to inquiries outside your staff’s comfort level. It also provides you with monitoring and support as you create, maintain, and update courses—no more hesitation or late-night bug-fixing.

Myth #2: It’s boring and passive

Online courses do come with a reputation. If your staff or attendees are hesitant about online learning because they believe in-person options are the only way to receive cutting-edge training and education, you can gently prove them wrong.

Online courses now have multimedia options. You can upload videos, build interactive components to your training, and offer thriving discussion and message boards. Testing and certifications can take multiple formats, and learners are able to access and engage with the course much the same as they would in-person trainings.

You also have the choice to customize your courses to align with the professional development goals of your staff and your institution. Change the benchmarks to suit your unique situation and integrate courses with well-known certifications. These options allow learners to build tracks of knowledge and provide long-term inspiration and goals for your overall CME plan.

Even better, discussion boards, video chats, and messaging allow learners to interact directly with each other, carry out research despite distance, and make use of valuable community wisdom during the course process. You can build CME online without isolating or boring your learners.

Myth #3: Courses will always feel dated

In-person CME isn’t the only way to get cutting-edge professional development. Comprehensive support from hosting providers allows you to build courses quickly and efficiently, putting out new training for the latest equipment, for example, or updating courses to account for new research data.

These dynamic platforms are made for updating and customization. You can use drag-and-drop methods to alter course content or add new information, and if you make a wrong turn, customer support can get you back on track.

Course creators can access courses directly to make changes and build solutions while retaining the expertise of tech support from the hosting provider.

Myth #4: Logistics are frustrating for learners

Simple logistics can be frustrating for learners navigating professional development. Online course hosting provides full integration for getting learners in the course, onboarding them, and helping them complete it.

Your online hosting provider should offer integrated payment solutions with some of the most common virtual payment methods. Learners shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to register and pay, and they should receive records to turn in for reimbursement. 

Courses can also check for relevant credentials, giving administration a break and making it simple for learners to see what courses they’re eligible to take and what’s next in line in their professional development track.

Online courses can actually be easier to track than some in-person options because learners will have access to their records for self-service certificates and documentation. Courses integrate with common certifications, and learners will know in an instant what they must update and where to find relevant information.

Myth #5: Learners lose track easily

In-person instruction isn’t the only thing that keeps learners on track. With the right learner-centered methods, online courses have just as much potential for delivering quality instruction.

Online systems should allow you the chance to automate your reminders, which keep your learners on track, and send follow-ups to receive any missing or further needed information. As learners progress through the course, these actions help ensure that they don’t fall behind or miss critical benchmarks.

Along with dynamic, learner-centered materials, these gentle reminders and guidance help structure learning in ways that help learners succeed and make online courses memorable events that learners actually want to return to.

Once you’ve overcome all the primary obstacles and reset everyone’s perceptions of online learning away from these persistent myths, what’s left is choosing a robust online platform that can keep up with your needs and facilitate course creation. You shouldn’t have to become a tech expert or a jack of all trades—your medical expertise is enough. Let’s take a look at the choices you need to make.

Choosing Your Platform

Your choice of platform can make or break your course creation. Platforms can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to get distracted by so many features. While it’s nice to have course extras that allow you to expand beyond your comfort zone, some features won’t actually help you create your courses the way you need them to. Here’s how to pick the course platform that will help you reach your online CME goals.

Prioritize Content

t’s best to start with your content in mind instead of shoehorning content into a platform. Your content can help you decide what features you need, which ones are deal-breakers, and which will only distract you. Ask yourself the following questions.

What are your CME goals?

The short- and long-term goals of your CME will help you understand your hosting platform needs. If you primarily teach equipment training, for example, discussion boards probably are not necessary, but the ability to put interactive elements into your presentation might be. Alternatively, if you’re teaching cutting-edge research, you may actually require a discussion board to get learners talking.

CME goals differ for each member of staff and the overall organization. Careful articulation of these goals allows you to create unified and cohesive CME courses and find the platform that will help and not hinder the journey.

Who Are Your Current and Future Audience?

You also need to examine who your learners are at this point. The CME they need will drive your course creation and thus, the platform. However, that’s not the only consideration. When you look at the future of your organization, what type of talent are you trying to attract and what reputation are you building?

Your answers will help drive long-term CME goals and provide you with a better idea of how a platform should scale with you. If your courses are vital for learners now and in the future (bedside manner training, for example), your needs will be different than if you continually address changing research.

Will You Offer Future Courses or updates to Existing Ones?

In addition to future audiences, it’s important to think about your future content. The types of courses and the adjustments you need to make drive course design. If you don’t have access to your course’s back-end or tech support, courses can quickly feel dated.

Also, if you’ve created a new course and one element wasn’t well executed or well-received, you need the freedom to change the design before you offer it again. This shouldn’t be difficult, and it shouldn’t cause breaks in your course that cause you to hit a troubleshooting dead-end.

Assess the Platform Based on Your Answers Above

When you look at each platform from a content-first perspective, you can ask incisive questions about what each platform has to offer.

  • Features—Does this platform have the features I need to execute my course vision and facilitate success from learners? What specific features will accomplish this realistically and efficiently?
  • Support—Can my learners access the support they need to troubleshoot courses without adding burden to my administration? Are they able to access their information for record-keeping? Do you have the support to create, maintain, and update your course at the frequency you need?
  • Customization—Does the platform provide the tools you need to seamlessly blend your course with your existing website? Are you able to brand, maintain, and adjust your course as you see fit without an intermediary or wait times?
  • Updates—You shouldn’t have to monitor your own course for security patches and updates. Does your hosting platform provide continual monitoring for updates and security?
Consider Logistics

The basic logistics of the hosting platform are significant factors when making your choice. As much as we’d like to believe that learners will overlook terrible infrastructure in favor of amazing content, reality tells a different story. Do you and your learners have the following?

  • Accreditation support—The course platform easily integrates with well-known certifications (including ACCME), customizes local benchmarks, and offers the accreditation paths that your learners need for their growth.
  • Payment integrations—Learners should be able to register and pay with one integrated account. Even better, they should be able to use the same login for multiple courses.
  • Follow-ups and reminders—In the absence of face-to-face reminders, automated ones through the digital space will help keep learners on track. These reminders happen automatically through your customized settings.
  • Record-keeping—Automatic records flow easily to your administration, and you can keep track of your learners without duplicate records or incomplete information. Learners have access to their necessary information through self-service portals.

Hosting Your Course

The right platform should facilitate each stage of course delivery. Ensure that you have the tools in place with your chosen platform to cover what you need before, during, and after the course itself.

Before Course Delivery

As you prepare to launch your course, you’ll need features to make the creation and launch process go smoothly.

  • Integrations and e-commerce—Integrate your payment plans through common e-commerce platforms to ensure that learners complete the registration process and send completed records to your organization.
  • Automatic reminders—Encourage learners to complete registration and payment to avoid abandoned carts. Let learners know which courses are starting and what they’ll need before beginning.
  • Transparent credentials—Learners can read credentials for faculty or trainers to encourage enrollment.
  • Customize course content—The framework of the hosting platform gives you the freedom to develop your course without knowing a single thing about coding or web development.

The course platform should also allow you to prepare for course delivery by using the expertise of tech support for integrations, planning, and troubleshooting.

During The Course

As your learners progress through the course, they must remain engaged. The platform must support the intricate delivery of information to help keep your learners on track.

  • Dynamic content—Get rid of the static PDFs and dry tests. Instead, allow learners a variety of content types designed to highlight the material.
  • Collaboration—Learners don’t have to feel isolated behind a screen or miss in-person CME options. The platform should be tailor-made to foster collaboration and discussion.
  • Reminders—Throughout the course, learners receive reminders for vital benchmarks and important deadlines.
  • Engagement—Each portion of the course builds on the next.

Learners will have access to dynamic course materials that further their professional goals and give them the guidance to keep the course going.

After Course Delivery

At the end of the course, learners don’t just sign off. You must still consider what they need even after the course wraps up.

  • Learner self-service—Learners always have access to their vital information, including certificates and records.
  • Automation—If learners haven’t finished essential parts of the course, reminders help them wrap things up. It can also send notifications for new available courses or the next step in a course series.
  • Follow-ups—If you need reviews or further information, you can use your records and communication to send follow-ups.
  • New courses and updates—You can begin planning your new course or updates and changes to existing courses as soon as you’re ready.

Don’t just leave learners hanging at the course’s end. Wrap things up nicely by continuing appropriate communication and supporting record-keeping/documentation.

Demo Your Platform

Before any of your courses ever go live, request a demo so you can really see the value of your top two or three platform choices.

  • Check compatibility—Ensure that the platform coordinates with your existing systems for ease of use.
  • Ask about learner-centered features—The platform should support dynamic content, and the demo must show different configurations for your course.
  • See it from the learner’s perspective—Consider automation, dynamic content, integrations, logistics, etc. How will your learners interact with the site, and what will they think?
  • See it from the developer’s perspective—Consider creation, logistics, updates, tech support, etc. Will you be able to manipulate the course structure to realize your vision?
  • See it from the administrative perspective—Consider record-keeping, automation, tech support, etc. Will your administration be excited or dread your course launch and maintenance?

from start to finish. It should make your life easier rather than more complicated with excessive features that won’t help. It should also facilitate the most important part of CME: record keeping.

Make Your Decision

Once you’ve demoed the platform and made your decision, it’s time to set up your course. With the right framework, you can create high-quality online CME courses. You’ve built a solid and reliable structure for your online course, and now it’s time to use all that support to develop your first (or next) course.

Online learning platforms can help you create courses the way that you envision, rivaling in-person professional development and growing the reputation of your healthcare facility. It’s within your grasp to have a competitive online CME option.

Contact EthosCE to schedule a demonstration of how our knowledgeable and robust platform can bring your CME visions to life. Our features are designed to put you in the driver’s seat and handle the tech aspects of delivering a course online, allowing you to create the best course that you can.

To learn how EthosCE can enhance the continuing education of your medical professionals, request a free 1-on-1 demo with one of our specialists today!

 

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