The Education Game: Engaging HIT Learners for Successful Adoption – Breakaway Thinking

The following is a guest blog post by Sara Plampin, Instructional Writer from The Breakaway Group (A Xerox Company). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.
Sara Plampin - The Breakaway Group
Your hospital is transitioning to a new EHR, and you are responsible for organizing training. To accommodate your staff’s busy schedules, you arrange several interdepartmental classroom sessions. However, after providers complete training, they tell you that they still do not feel ready to use the new application. They complain that much of the instruction was not relevant to their role, and their time would’ve been better spent caring for their patients.

It’s a common dilemma in healthcare – how can you make EHR education effective and engaging? E-learning is one alternative to traditional classroom training. However, for e-learning to be successful, it must do more than simply transfer classroom materials to an online format; it must utilize the technology in new and innovative ways to make learning more engaging. One of the most effective e-learning techniques is simulation. Clinicians frequently use simulations to practice new techniques on “patients” without putting real people at risk. The same principle can be applied to EHR applications; simulations mirror the live application, allowing providers to enter orders and document patient data just as they would with live patients. This interactive, hands-on learning method has been shown to improve clinicians’ proficiency while simultaneously reducing the amount of time spent in training.

To increase learner engagement, many simulations employ the concept of gamification. Gamification is the incorporation of game principles into traditional learning and e-learning methods. Not to be confused with game-based learning (the use of actual games to teach concepts), gamification identifies the elements of games that make them so compelling – including rewards, goals, and progress tracking – and integrates them into simulations to grab learners’ attention and keep them engaged.

Reward is one of the most common elements of games. Extrinsic rewards such as leaderboards, badges, trophies, and prizes can trigger a learner’s sense of competition and provide motivation to complete their learning. These elements can easily be incorporated into simulations for a game-like experience, encouraging friendly competition among providers or between departments. However, critics of gamification complain that competition and badges aren’t enough to improve learning outcomes. Studies have shown that intrinsic motivation is more effective for learning than extrinsic rewards alone. Intrinsic rewards are the positive feelings associated with playing a game. After all, you don’t just play for the prize; you play for fun. In addition to providing entertainment, games can improve self-confidence as users overcome mental and physical challenges. Learners who enjoy their education are more likely to return to it, reinforcing their knowledge of application workflows and best practices.

For healthcare professionals, one of the biggest intrinsic motivators is the patient’s wellbeing. Simulations satisfy providers’ natural care instincts by incorporating another common game element – the story. Stories transform abstract concepts into concrete goals that directly relate to the learner’s job. For instance, instead of lecturing a clinician about every allergy function in the application, a gamified course might present the following scenario:

While recovering from orthopedic surgery, patient Ashley Jones has a mild allergic reaction to her morphine. You need to add morphine to her allergies and communicate this to the rest of Ashley’s care team.

Adding a human element allows learners to connect with the subject matter on a more personal level. The course is no longer just a module they have to complete – it is a realistic scenario that they might encounter every day. According to an eLearning Industry article, “successful learning is a combination of three elements: 70% from real-life and on-the-job experiences, tasks, and problem solving; 20% from feedback and from observing and working with peers and role models; [and] 10% from formal training.” Story-centric simulations allow us to transform the 10 percent into the 70 percent, making learning more effective by mimicking real-life situations and problem solving. By focusing on tasks and goals, simulations also reduce the amount of time clinicians spend learning about extraneous features and workflows that do not relate to their job roles.

Simulation also makes it easier to measure learners’ proficiency. Classrooms often rely on paper tests to evaluate the success of training. While these types of tests are useful for assessing a learner’s understanding of workflow and policies, they do not evaluate whether the learner can actually use the application. Organizations may not notice issues until weeks after go live, when clinicians start using workarounds to complete tasks they didn’t fully understand in class. On the other hand, simulations can track clinicians’ progress throughout the course of learning, enabling organizations to identify common issues and trends before go live. Progress tracking also serves as a motivational tool for learners. New tasks, badges, and leaderboard rankings provide instant positive feedback; the more successful the learner feels, the more motivated they will be to complete their training. Negative feedback can be motivating as well. When learners feel a goal is clear and attainable, they are more likely to repeat the task until they get it right.

The healthcare industry is constantly innovating, and its education methods should follow suit. Research from companies like The Breakaway Group has shown that simulation and gamification have the power to revolutionize healthcare education, increase proficiency in EHR applications and other technology, and save time. Better education means that providers can adopt technology quickly and get back to what they do best – caring for patients.

It’s time to move on from traditional training methods and embrace technology to improve learning. Consider your own EHR training. How could you incorporate simulation and gamification principles to improve adoption?

Xerox is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts.