5 Ways to Ensure Continuing Education Promotes Practice Change to Improve Patient Outcomes and Healthcare Quality

While many healthcare providers need accredited continuing education (CE) to maintain licensure and certification, the impact of accredited CE extends far beyond these applications. Accredited continuing education can promote practice change, which improves patient outcomes and contributes to healthcare quality. Ensure your accredited continuing education promotes practice change:

  1. Understand what practice change is needed:

To promote practice change, educational planners should first seek to understand the needs of those who will be consuming the education. Successful accredited continuing education planning begins with a needs assessment that determines the gap between the current state (what healthcare providers are doing now) and the desired state (what they should be doing). The accredited CE is then designed to close this gap by facilitating the implementation of needed practice changes. 

  1. Identify barriers to practice change during the Needs Assessment:

Implementation of practice change that improves patient care may be hindered by barriers such as time constraints, patient compliance issues, and lack of financial or organizational support. Accredited CE is more likely to successfully promote practice change when participants are provided with strategies to remove, overcome or address these barriers. During the Needs Assessment, accredited continuing education planners should evaluate the presence and potential impact of barriers. As possible, activity content should (1) acknowledge that barriers may impact efforts to initiate practice change; and (2) include strategies that address and/or overcome these barriers.

  1. Use non-education interventions:

Practice change requires not only acquisition of new knowledge and skills but also strategies and tools that can be used to put the newly acquired information into action. Non-education interventions are adjuncts, supplemental tools and handouts, that facilitate and/or enhance practice changes by linking the accredited continuing education activity material to the practice setting. These tools may include point of care resources, FAQ’s, posters, reference lists, action plans, wallet cards, fact sheets, abstracts and papers, clinical guidelines and recommendation summaries, treatment algorithms, and patient care materials. Use creativity to design and offer tools that make implementation of desired practice change easier for the healthcare provider. These tools may be in hardcopy or electronic format.

  1. Adopt an interprofessional focus:

Patient safety and outcome are highly dependent upon the entire healthcare team delivering care. Accredited CE is increasingly focused on educating the healthcare team, emphasizing team member roles and responsibilities, ethics and values, interprofessional communication, and teamwork. Educating the team together facilitates efficient and effective patient care that contributes to improved patient outcomes and healthcare quality. Practice change is easier when multiple members of the team are working together to make the same change.

  1. Encourage participants to commitment to practice change:

Once a healthcare provider completes an accredited continuing education activity, they resume their busy schedules and may not take the time to consider how they can (and should) apply the knowledge and competencies gained to affect practice change. Simply asking the participant to commit to practice change at the end of the activity is an effective way to facilitate actual practice change – and data shows that self-reported intent to change practice correlates to actual change in practice. A simple post-activity survey asking the learner if they have implemented a change reinforces both the knowledge gained and the application to practice.  It can also provide you with insight if unanticipated barriers prevented the learner from implementing change.

Deborah C. Clark, Ph. D.

VP, Professional Development

AKH Inc., Advancing Knowledge in Healthcare

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