Build a better team with the right training tools
by Mike McKillip
August 21, 2017

Hiring and retaining the right people for your home medical equipment (HME) business, with the industry’s complex regulations, is challenging. In this part-clinical service industry, finding people who care about patients is key. Once you’ve found the right people, proper training and employee engagement are more important than ever for your employees and your business to be successful.

Continuing Education and Compliance

There are various accreditation agencies for the HME industry, from state agencies all the way up to the federal level with The Office of Investigator General (OIG). The OIG believes there are “seven fundamental elements applicable to an effective compliance program.” One of those seven is “conducting effective training and education” for your staff, including “continual retraining of current personnel at all levels.”

Keeping track of all the moving parts that go with compliance at all levels is a job in itself. If you are not already using a training management system, you may want to consider it.
The specifics of the OIG guidelines are used by HME industry training management systems in developing the platform, coursework and record keeping necessary for providers to be secure in meeting OIG’s compliance program requirements. Beyond compliance, have you considered that a well-trained and engaged staff can help your business grow and remain profitable?

Advantages of Continuing Education and Training


There is a saying that, “Good employees leave because of bad managers.” With employee turnover in the HME industry reaching more than 60 percent, this cannot be a reason why people leave your company.

A good manager will encourage development and continuing education, which will challenge their employees. If a manager fails to do these things, employees may not only feel stagnant and bored, but they may also feel they have no upward mobility within the organization. Sometimes employees want to expand into different areas, but are not given the opportunity. Your plans for employee development and continuing education can address these concerns and may help reduce turnover.

Continuing education and training in the HME industry is not an exact science. Learning management systems that provide education tailored to the HME industry take into account all of these topics and more. A one-size-fits-all approach will not work due to the varying degrees of knowledge your clinical versus non-clinical employees possess. For successful companies, employee training is a never-ending journey. Do not leave one of the most important elements of your employees’ growth—and your business—to chance.

To put continuing education and training in perspective, let’s look at the adult learner and how to create the best opportunity for successful outcomes.

Adult Learners Are Not Yesterday’s Students

Adult learners are not the same as students in a school setting. The practice of rote training, which involves mechanical, unthinking repetition, is of little or no value to today’s adult learner. Similarly, a trial-and-error approach is not acceptable in the HME industry; your client’s safety is an absolute must for your patients and the success of your business.

Alternate teaching methods that could be used include mentoring, where a newly hired employee shadows his or her fellow employee. Similar to this is the “see one, do one, teach one” method prevalent in the field of medicine, where the more experienced employee will help train the new employee. This may work with newly minted doctors, nurses and clinicians with years of schooling leading up to their internship, but it is probably not effective with an industry newcomer being presented with information for the first time.

All of these techniques are inefficient for various reasons. They don’t provide consistent or safe outcomes, or they require more people to perform the job. With razor sharp margins, you need to choose the most effective way to provide continuing education to your staff.

The Learning Process of Adult Learners

Adult learning theory, or andragogy, tells us adults have different learning requirements and that education directed to adults should be designed to reflect those unique requirements.

When you were in school, your classes were scheduled daily. Perhaps you had math first, followed by history, then science, etc. Monday through Friday, you would walk the same route and attend the same classes. Have you ever wondered why the school didn’t just do two solid weeks of one subject and get it over with? Researchers have found that studying items over multiple periods of time with breaks in between is more effective than the all-at-once approach. “Spaced repetition” or “distributed practice,” the practice of breaking up content into smaller chunks, was found to be better for material absorption and retention. This gives the brain time to absorb information while it shifts between various modes of thinking. With this in mind, a good approach is to allow your employees to engage with smaller amounts of material interspersed with practical application of what was studied.

Practice testing is another effective way to help the adult learner process and retain information. Many online learning management systems that cater to the HME market give the learner the ability to take a pre-test before the student even tackles the content. This helps them identify areas they may need to improve on before satisfactorily completing the assessment and allows them to become familiar with the phrases and words they will be tested on. Recalling information to mind strengthens knowledge and boosts academic performance in many age groups and abilities, including the adult learner.

A note about practice testing: Studies show immediate retaking of the test does very little to help the learner. The learner is better off revisiting the content (using spaced repetition) and waiting a bit before taking the test again. Your company’s educational coordinator should understand this and allow an appropriate amount of time for study and retesting.

Another characteristic of an adult learner is self-motivation. Adult learners recognize the need to acquire relevant and adequate knowledge to be successful in their jobs. Your challenge is to associate their assigned responsibilities to their learning objectives. Making this important connection gives employees extra motivation to be absorbed in their studies and to find ways to successfully complete them.

As adult learners, they need to assume responsibility for their choices and their contribution to the process. Collaboration is important; adult learners become more productive if their contributions are acknowledged.

Conclusion

Beyond compliance requirements, providing education and training opportunities to clinical and non-clinical employees, with material geared to the adult learner, you are providing a work environment with opportunities for your employees to learn and grow.

Engaged, well-trained employees are happy employees, and happy employees make for great advocates for your business when interacting with patients and clients. Odds are, such happy employees will want to continue to succeed and continue with you because you recognize, support and reward their efforts and successes, and ultimately contribute to the success of your company.

*Disclaimer: This article is provided by The MED Group for informational purposes and should not be considered as a legal opinion or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any matter discussed in this article or your specific business and needs, whether related to HR issues, employee certification/education issues or compliance issues.