By Nicholas Borgert

How would you provide training on a new sophisticated data management system for 10,000 medical technologists with a wide range of backgrounds and skills? For Dade Behring, manufacturer of clinical diagnostics equipment, the traditional classroom approach was projected to cost more than $3 million and would require a commitment of 3 years or more to complete the training for lab workers on the company’s LabPRO™ data management system (DMS).

Nick Payne

Bill Strelke

Nick Payne, director of the North America Training Organization, says Dade Behring has used classroom training before with great success. Yet an in-depth analysis revealed that the classroom approach would not work for LabPRO training.

“We realized that continuing to use just traditional training methods would not meet the needs of our customers. Even with investments in additional training personnel, capital equipment, and facilities, it would have taken 3 years to reach all customers with this training. Also, the labor impact of laboratories sending medical technologists away to training classes can have a huge impact on lab efficiency. With online training, all customers have immediate access to educational support for the LabPRO system. The online learning solution is also used to keep customers informed with product updates, and it also provides ongoing refresher information,” Payne says.

Dade Behring first started considering ways to integrate online learning into its learning support strategy about 4 years ago. After reviewing the credentials of several online learning providers, Dade Behring chose a customized program developed by Knowledge Anywhere Inc, of Bellevue, Wash.

“The online training tool cost us less than $160,000,” Payne says. “Online learning is the perfect solution for our needs. It enables Dade Behring to provide a complete learning package for all medical technologists in the laboratory. The modular concept of the online training allows the learner to pick and choose to complete modules based on his or her job role in the laboratory.”

The success of the training has prompted Dade Behring to include Knowledge Anywhere in its future strategic plans. The company selected Knowledge Anywhere because of its strong focus on designing high-level interactive courseware. Currently, Knowledge Anywhere is helping the clinical diagnostics provider adapt custom training courses for chemistry, special chemistry, and hemostasis for use in its global markets.

“At Dade Behring, we want to offer our customers innovative products in every area. Online training is an innovation that brings value. Our belief is that if it brings value to the customer, to the employees, and to Dade Behring, then we are compelled to do it,” Payne says. “Knowledge Anywhere had taken the time to be partners by understanding our business and how it’s unique, and they also want feedback from those who are being trained so they can make certain that this is the best possible online training solution we can offer our customers.

Aside from the cost savings, Dade Behring decided in favor of e-learning because it was the best approach for providing training to a diverse group of employees with different skill set levels and ongoing needs, Payne says. “We still conduct classroom training, but we use the online learning component as a continuing education tool. We even offer PACE-approved CEU credits for medical technologists who complete the online programs,” Payne says.

 Online learning enables Dade Behring to provide a complete learning package for all medical technologists in the laboratory.

Another benefit: Online learning helps bridge the timing gap between when the training is completed and an actual application takes place. “Very often a lab employee will receive training on a new instrument, but won’t need to apply that knowledge right away,” Payne says. “Months later, when the instrument malfunctions, lab techs need a resource where they can gain access, run through the appropriate steps to fix the problem, and then apply this learning to the problem at hand.” As a result, online training has impacted another function: There has been a reduction in the number of calls coming into the tech assistance center as well. This saves both customers and Dade Behring time and money, Payne says.

Instruments in today’s laboratories are becoming more complex. “More informatics are involved, and manual technology is being automated. Because of this, we have a knowledge gap; the implementation of online education support tools will help fill this gap,” Payne says.

Just Anytime Learning
Founded in 1998, Knowledge Anywhere uses innovative technology to offer a broad base of products and services. These include custom and mobile content development as well as virtual classrooms. Clients use Knowledge Anywhere programs to deliver proprietary knowledge, employee instruction, and product training to dispersed audiences via the Web.

“We recognize that the developers of clinical diagnostic and laboratory equipment can benefit from e-learning and blended learning solutions,” says Bill Strelke, Knowledge Anywhere’s executive VP, marketing and business development.

“Providing training to every lab technician and technologist can be very expensive, if done in traditional, face-to-face ways. We have designed a system to make it easy and cost-effective to internationalize and customize e-learning content so the manufacturers of clinical diagnostic equipment and their customers, including hospitals and other health care organizations, don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time they want to make training available,” he says.

Strelke says online learning at his company is often referred to as “just anytime learning.” That’s because as long as employees have access to the Internet, whether at home, at the office, or even in a business center, they can access the training. Access is easy. A worker needs only to log on to the program through the corporate Web site and enter his or her password. The program keeps up with individual progress records.

“You can also print out your progress report and share it with your supervisor. As you look at the index listing the training modules, you’re able to see how long each one will take so you can plan your schedule accordingly,” Strelke says. “Depending on the structure requested by the customer, generally the training modules include a learning piece followed by tests to make certain the material has been understood and assimilated by the lab employee.”

Online learning is beneficial not only from the learning aspect, but it also creates an atmosphere of mentoring in the lab that is difficult to create using classroom-only training, Strelke says. “When a lab supervisor receives training, the supervisor is then able to direct his or her employees to the online learning module and provide further one-on-one input in the lab setting,” he says. “The lab employee is now partnering with the supervisor to help manage the lab’s productivity, and this opens up new areas of growth for all concerned.”

E-learning gives lab technicians and technologists instant access to additional sources of information such as archives, digital repositories, and reusable applications. Time savings and convenience are other issues for lab workers who can easily complete training during lab downtime. With the new learning technologies, hospitals save money by providing e-learning onsite. They avoid the high cost of lodging and travel to distant training sites.

The Knowledge Anywhere approach enables a client company to successfully “train the trainer.” One laboratory technologist can attend the classroom program, participate in the online training, and have a readily accessible tool to educate the other 10 to 20 instrument operators in the lab on operations and troubleshooting. Increasing productivity has universal appeal for the company and its laboratory customers. The advanced technology can overcome language and cultural barriers to provide fast, thorough training and retraining.

For Dade Behring, Knowledge Anywhere developed new training modules and integrated the company’s existing materials with the new modules. “Of course, each client has his or her own unique product aspects or needs, and we are positioned to not only handle the expectations of our customers, but to apply creative process thinking to produce a great product that helps our customers to run their businesses more effectively,” Strelke says.

Strelke says the Knowledge Anywhere custom e-learning programs can prove to be as valuable to small companies with modest training classes as they are to the largest firms with thousands who require training.

Nicholas Borgert is a contributing writer for Clinical Lab Products.