Lorre Wisham is president and CEO of Health Technology Training Solutions of Tucson, AZ.
Tell me about yourself and the company.
I’ve spent almost two decades in a wide variety of operations leadership roles in healthcare IT. I am a problem solver and a process person. Years in a customer-facing role taught me to look for solutions.
HTTS was the vision of my late husband, Josh Wisham, who had a long and successful career in healthcare IT. Three years ago, he did some research into the most successful HIT solutions and found that training is always a key element. He partnered with McKinnon-Mulherin, a Salt Lake City-based company that focuses on instructional design and training development. Liddy West, a long-time friend and colleague, signed on to lead sales and marketing. HTTS then started to deliver solutions to the challenges of customers — inadequate resources or skills, short deadlines, and customer demands. Those customers loved the result.
After Josh passed away last summer, I stepped in as CEO. We’ve updated our website, added a catalog of services, and sponsored the coolest blog in the industry. [laughs]
What’s have you seen, good and bad, with vendor-developed training?
There is a broad spectrum here. I think some vendors do a great job with their training and others don’t. Generally, I would say the greatest positive is that the person creating the training is a subject matter expert and knows the product inside and out.
At the same time, that very thing can also be the greatest negative. Someone who knows something so well often assumes a level of understanding that customers may not have. And in many cases, vendor training people don’t have instructional design skills or understand how adults learn best.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again. Training is typically not well planned and is often an afterthought or a rush in the eleventh hour before a new release or product has to go out. When that happens, the outcome is somewhat negative because training is just a checkbox or a line-item cost for the client and vendor.
When training is done right, it delivers positive outcomes in many areas, from adoption to satisfaction to reduced call center costs. We know that.
Give me a few examples of how you’ve worked with customers.
HTTS has delivered effective training solutions to a number of healthcare IT companies. We have done everything from evaluating training programs and resources to designing and developing of e-learning modules for a retail pharmacy company.
I think what allows us to create the right solutions is our approach. We do an assessment first to understand the current state and the needs. We can suggest where we can help the most. We want to fill the gap. We don’t want to take over and do what the existing training department is there to do.
We mentor or supplement or we do it all. It varies so much from one company to the next. Every one of us at HTTS has been on the customer’s end of the conversation in our careers, and we work to make it as easy and impactful as possible.
How would instructional designers with expertise in training technology and adult learning principles approach new version user training differently?
It seems to me that no matter what company you are looking at, training is something that gets put off until the last minute. When product management is thinking about a roadmap for a new release, they might mention training, but it usually isn’t really an active part of the project until the product is almost ready for GA. Everyone on the vendor side is sighing with relief because they’re done and ready to move on to the next thing.
Training is often rushed and incomplete. Because the people creating the training know the content so well, they assume everyone knows as much as they know, so training can miss some of the fundamentals. Or worse, the training is organized according to the way developers designed the product rather than how customers will use it.
When instructional designers look at the product, they don’t assume anything. They aren’t subject matter experts. Instructional designers create the training for people who are seeing the product for the first time. Considering how much staff turnover and system replacements we’re seeing on the client side, the odds are pretty good that they are working with new applications and devices regularly.
Beyond that, instructional designers know how different people learn and how their work and learning environments can impact that. Think about how training needs to be different for a physician in the office versus a nurse in a busy emergency department. IDs are trained to think about those differences and to go beyond a lecture or demo. The result is training that is more engaging, more applicable, and longer lasting.
What metrics can be used to measure the effectiveness of a training program?
Interesting you should ask me that because it is something we are spending a lot of time on so we can quantify ROI. Most learning professionals are fully aware of the steps we need to take to evaluate training effectiveness, but getting the metrics can be a little tough.
How do you measure customer adoption of software? That is a critical aspect of what we are talking about here. If a customer knows how to use the product and takes full advantage of it, how do you measure the value of that compared with another customer who doesn’t? Satisfaction, probably, but how can you be sure it can be attributed to training?
The one obvious metric we discovered when working with an imaging company was the reduction in support calls. Luckily, they were already capturing the “How do I?” questions in their CRM. They told us those training-related calls were reduced by 35 percent after HTTS delivered the new version training. For them, that was huge.
Not all clients are able or willing to provide benchmarks. There is risk in measuring ROI and some benefit in not knowing. It lets you keep doing things the way you’ve always done them. One of our goals is to encourage clients to capture and share benchmark data on adoption, sales, customer satisfaction, and support calls and then compare it to post-training numbers. That way, we can measure not only the effectiveness of training, but also the value that good training delivers.
Can training programs be a competitive differentiator for vendors?
Absolutely. But the trickier question is, does anyone think of it that way? I’m sure many of your readers follow the KLAS reports. Most vendors read the comments their customers wrote about their products. But who focuses on the training comments? Often the implementation manager reads them, but it is probably not his or her area of responsibility.
I can’t think of a customer I have encountered in my career who has said, “Wow, the training was amazing, and I feel so much more prepared to use your software.” Epic customers come the closest to that because Epic forces them to become certified in using and administering their system. It is brilliant. They are happier users and good references because they are able to integrate the system more naturally into their workflows.
How do you see software training evolving over the next few years and how will the company address those changes?
The biggest changes will come in delivery methods. While many in healthcare are just barely getting their minds around Web-based e-learning modules, other industries are already delivering their training on mobile devices. They are taking advantage of social networking to create learning communities where knowledge is shared in faster and more dynamic ways, right when and where the user needs it.
Our job is to help healthcare bridge the gap between where providers and vendors are today and where they can be tomorrow. We know what’s possible with today’s rapidly evolving learning methods and technologies, but we also know the unique needs of the healthcare IT environment. We are going to keep nudging vendors and providers forward so they can benefit from these changes while not losing sight of the real-world complexities they face right now.