Healthcare is a knowledge and technology driven enterprise. These drivers accelerate both in volume, in force, and are dramatically disrupting and reshaping the face and character of healthcare. The educational infrastructure preparing and supporting members of the healthcare team to remain current and competent is moving steadily away from a preoccupation and focus on initial professional preparation to an education that gives an emphasis to continuous professional development over a lifetime of practice. As with a battery, a single initial charge will not sustain a professional over a lifetime of practice.
21st Century education must align with the daily and immediate problems and needs of clinical practice. Aided by data mining of the digital patient record archives, education can be customized for a specific organization and the problems of care encountered. This is in contrast to the generic expert opinion of “one size fits all” continuing education activities, driven by industry interests external to one’s practice organization. The emerging system must leverage the creative talent of professionals within the organization rather than rely upon activities solely developed and presented by faculty outside of the walls of the organization. The curriculum of the organization, ideally, is premised to provide optimal patient care within its own setting and circumstances.
Healthcare services organizations have traditionally devoted some level of activity and calendar to addressing the learning needs of its professionals. Some combination of appointed leadership, education committees and classroom “grand rounds” type activities characterized 20th Century continuing education. A 21st Century vision employs communications technologies to turbo charge the education structure and potential to blend “doing” and “learning” at the point of care. An organization now has the potential advantage of engineering its own custom learning organization.
Further, the forward facing learning health services organization is enlightened with a team education philosophy. Research has vividly established that safe and effective care is team care. An inter-professional learning team addresses a fundamental safety crisis – fragmented patient care.
Facing the onslaught of exploding knowledge and technology, today’s professional must demonstrate and document maintenance of competence. Continuous education is a core component of addressing re-licensure and maintenance of specialty certification. A 21st Century services organization will provide a relevant program of learning activities addressing specific problems of that organization, while at the same time fulfilling these requirements as an employee benefit.
The challenge and expense for most health services provider organization to develop and operate a professional education program that can do the following:
To meet this challenge, the provider organization has two options – Seek to become an accredited provider of education for physicians, nurses and pharmacists, or establish a joint provider partnership with an accredited education services organization to develop and operate an efficient and effective program custom to the needs of the organization and its healthcare team.
The path is optional, the need is certain.