As of Monday, April 14, 2003, entities covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 must be compliant with the Privacy Rule associated with the act. HIPAA is a group of standards established by the federal government that are designed to ensure that health care and insurance transactions are secure and that individual medical data is kept private. The Privacy Rule was established by the Department of Health and Human Services in order to implement the requirements of HIPAA. The standards established by the Privacy Rule cover the use and disclosure of individuals’ health information. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, one of the main goals of the privacy rule is to ensure that health information is protected while at the same time permitting the flow of information necessary to high-quality health care and to protect the public’s health.
Covered entities, which include all kinds of medical service providers, from clinics to insurance companies to the companies that partner with them, are required to train their workforce on privacy policies and procedures. Duke University Health System uses Lotus LearningSpace from IBM, and it employs the technology to offer the blended training program that has educated around 20,000 employees on the HIPAA standards.
Duke University Health System is a nonprofit, academic health care system that includes Duke University Hospital, Durham Regional Hospital, Raleigh Community Hospital, ambulatory surgery centers, primary and specialty care clinics, home care, hospice and skilled nursing care, wellness centers and community-based clinical partnerships. Duke University Health System is integrated with the Duke University School of Medicine and the Duke University School of Nursing. Being so closely integrated with a major university, Duke values learning and development.
Duke University Health System implemented LearningSpace in 2001, and it is used by employees throughout the system for training on HIPAA compliance as well as other kinds of training. Terry Seelinger, e-learning manager for Duke University Health System, Corporate Information Services, works to provide the technical and background support, rolling out LearningSpace to various user groups that need to deliver training. “Our philosophy is really to empower users to control their own e-learning destiny, if you will, by focusing on the substance and not having to worry about theoretically what’s going on the background,” said Seelinger.
Seelinger explained that it is not just the HIPAA training that takes place via LearningSpace. Some smaller subsets within the system use LearningSpace for clinical training, and other use it for applications training, This is e-learning that shows employees how to use some of the internal applications, such as a common clinical data repository or an application for creating hospital notes. “We’ve created content for new users to learn how to use these systems,” said Seelinger, “and they’re a combination of simulations and instruction.”
One of the old challenges in getting the employees at Duke University Health Systems trained on HIPAA and on other issues is the amount of time it takes to get students in and out of the classroom. Nowadays, Seelinger said, the challenges are more related to ensuring that employees have the technology they need to get the training done. This includes making sure everyone has access to workstations and ensuring those workstations are up to date on software. Seelinger also said that it is still a challenge to make sure that people can take the time they need to do training, even in brief period. “That’s still a challenge because in a clinical setting, when you’re delivering care, the patients and the service comes first,” he said.
In the case of HIPAA, Duke needed to train its employees by April 2003, a large workforce to get up to speed in a relatively short period of time. But compliance training is not new to Duke, according to Seelinger. Employees are used to training requirements that address safety issues or compliance surrounding diversity and harassment issues, so extending compliance training to another area is not a real stretch.
In addition, Seelinger said that Duke has been offering a program for eight or nine years called “Mum’s the Word.” The program deals with patient privacy and protecting patient data. “They do it in the autumn when the chrysanthemums are blooming,” said Seelinger. “The way it’s helped in our HIPAA efforts is that this business of patient privacy and protecting their confidential data is not new. It’s more like common sense, and people realize that not only is it now the right thing to do, but it’s also the law.”
By using Lotus LearningSpace, Duke has been able to keep track of the progress of its employees, and employees are able to learn at their own speed and at the time that is most convenient to them—critical in the service-oriented clinical and hospital environments where much of the learning is taking place. Seelinger stressed the convenience of doing HIPAA training via e-learning. “Even if it’s a longer type of content, it still takes less time for someone to sit down at their computer and log in,” he said. “And generally, if it’s long they can always pause and come back to it at a later time.”
Seelinger added that Duke is aware of the lower costs associated with providing learning online. “Although we’re not concerned too much about ROI, we know that it’s a lower overall cost in terms of travel and loss of productivity and other related elements,” said Seelinger. “We don’t have any question that e-learning is a more efficient way of getting the content across.”
Emily Hollis is associate editor for Chief Learning Officer Magazine. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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