The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advancing a new, innovative approach to training health care workers – scalable e-learning tools combined with high-impact dissemination strategies. This was recently announced in a new CDC request for applications (RFA), Using Evidence from Science and Community Practice to Develop Web- and other Technology-Based Tools for Service Provider Organizations to Improve Linkage, Retention, and Re-engagement of HIV-Positive Persons in Care.
The underlying rationale for the RFA points to very simple insights into supply and demand and sound business judgment. I have spent more than 15 years of my career in HIV service delivery. Now as a consultant, I am able to reflect on my experiences through a broader lens. In order to achieve the goals of the National/HIV AIDS Strategy, thousands of HIV health care workers must improve their skills to link and retain patients in care. The fact is that traditional classroom training can’t meet this demand. The smart and efficient way to reach these targets is through the use of the web platforms and other forms of digital technology. Moreover, the business case is clear – e-learning is more cost effective than other modes of training, it can reach more learners, and it’s convenient.
When I was a program manager, the costs associated with classroom training in terms of staff time and travel were often challenging or prohibitive if these expenses were not covered by a grant or contract. Moreover, a one-time classroom training often left my staff in need of refreshers several months later. My staff needed access to self-directed training modules that they could use at their own pace and revisit. They needed educational opportunities that were fun, interesting and grounded in what we know about how adults learn.
Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ USA also came to the same conclusion: in order to improve linkage and retention rates in the U.S., health workers need scalable training solutions that are based upon evidence informed strategies. Bridge2care.com is a Merck & Co.-sponsored innovation that was designed to extend the reach of promising practices in linkage and retention published by the CDC and the National Quality Center at the New York State AIDS Institute (NQC).
The bridge2care.com innovation integrates two emerging trends in healthcare e-learning – patient-provider simulations using video and game mechanics – to create an immersive, fun experience to enhance training and motivate participation. Working with a multidisciplinary team of HIV experts, curriculum writers, digital developers and videographers, the Community Health Team at Rabin Martin worked with Merck & Co. to create five realistic learning modules that allow users to experience the patient journey through the treatment cascade – from HIV testing through care initiation and follow-up.
Prior to the public launch of bridge2care.com at the XIX International Conference on AIDS in Washington, DC in July 2012, discussions about the use and dissemination of this resource took place with the Office of National AIDS Policy at the White House, the CDC, the NQC and other stakeholders.
CDC’s RFA and Merck & Co.’s bridge2care.com points to a promising and emerging trend in U.S. public health – both public and private stakeholders have key roles to play in developing innovations that will train and develop the health care workforce of the future.