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Does Your Health System Have a Chief Learning Officer?

February 10, 2016
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Learning management systems automate training provision, compliance reporting

As health systems grow larger through mergers and acquisitions, providing training and keeping track of training requirements has become a greater challenge. As in other industries, organizations are starting to hire chief learning officers to oversee implementations of learning management systems.

Last week I had a chance to speak to Al Cornish, system vice president for learning and organizational development and chief learning officer for Norton Healthcare in Louisville, Ky. Norton is the largest integrated health care system in Kentucky with more than 12,500 employees at five hospitals and 90 physician practice locations. Cornish said all of Norton’s clinical professionals are required to complete a number of continuing education units in order to maintain their licenses and certifications.

Two years ago Norton installed a new learning management system from a company called NetDimensions. “The LMS allows us to maintain a transcript for each employee,” Cornish explained. “As they complete courses that we develop or offer through a third-party provider, they are tracked online and the information automatically goes into the transcript, so at the end of the year, it is easy for a nurse to go to the LMS and print off the transcript and provide it to the respective accrediting agencies.” The system also provides an audit trail for regulatory agencies such as the Joint Commission to follow, if necessary.

The LMS offers single-sign-on to make it easier for employees to access. The system is integrated with the human resources system nightly so new hires are automatically enrolled. “We are implementing a feature right now so that when nurses are hired, for instance, the LMS automatically populates their record with the competencies and courses they need to complete,” Cornish said. Self-service and notifications allow users to register for learning and receive reminders of their learning requirements.

The Norton LMS features close to 2,000 synchronous and asynchronous courses that the organization has designed internally, many specific to an individual department or function. They could cover anything from new equipment installed to annual employee training.

Almost all the training courses have an associated quiz to check that the employee understood the material. “In healthcare and life sciences, it is a matter of life and death,” Cornish said. “You want to know they know what they are doing before they go out on the floor. We have extensive checks to verify competencies, to make sure they understand the didactic information and also can apply it.”

Cornish has been a chief learning officer for 10 years. Ten years ago, there were few CLOs in healthcare, he said, but now the concept is catching on across the country and he is now part of an informal network of CLOs. He said larger health systems need an LMS and a CLO.  “Once you get up to 1,000 employees or more, you really need to have an LMS because of all the regulatory requirements,” he said. “You can do this using spreadsheets, but it is very difficult.”