North Carolina AHEC Program
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AHEC Tech: Regional Extension Center Training Goes the Distance with NC AHEC's VISION

VISION teleconference roomFor Ann Lefebvre, executive director of the Regional Extension Center (REC) project in the NC AHEC Program Office, the challenge was somewhat daunting. How could AHEC deliver standard training to all the new regional staff being hired across the state quickly, throughout the summer, while training content and federal guidelines were still under development? Considering the budgetary restrictions on travel, the project’s timeline, the hours of training needed to lay the foundation of how to assist practices in adopting an Electronic Health Record (EHR) system, and the diverse geography, only one solution seemed to meet her need: NC AHEC’s Video-Interactive Statewide Instructional Online Network (VISION). AHEC’s statewide videoconferencing service offered not only the ability to deliver interactive training widely and quickly, it could help keep participants engaged for the 20+ hours of content, and at the same time, foster a collegial bond among them by allowing them to see, as well as hear, each other.

This summer’s REC staff training, developed with and presented by the The Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence (CCME), was a great success by all accounts. It was also one of the most complex offerings presented over VISION to date, delivered to three cohorts of regional REC staff over the months of June, July, and August, connecting as many as eight sites at a time. Each cohort participated in seven half-day sessions over the course of three weeks. This included in-class exercises and assignments between classes where the compliment of sites selected to participate in a given month was directly related to where staff were being hired. As such, planning had to be a much more dynamic process than the single, half-day administrative meeting planned months in advance, which are the norm, according to Tony Kane, associate director for Statewide Information and Technology Services for NC AHEC.

Kane noted that the keys to the success of VISION REC training are the same as for all successful VISION videoconferences: 1) thorough planning and testing; and 2) establishing a strong partnership between the person coordinating the content and participants and his/her local VISION representative taking the lead to coordinate sites and resources. Kane credits its success to frequent communication with Lefebvre and thoroughly orienting CCME presenters to the equipment and options for supplemental technologies and planning their integration in the training. Kane remarked, “For the REC training, this ranged from their preferred screen configuration, to making arrangements to simultaneously broadcasting high-definition computer images to sites, to accommodating telephone participation on selected dates for certain individuals unable to access videoconferencing equipment. The fantastic coordination and service by the staff of the Mountain AHEC (MAHEC), which administers our central VISION scheduler and whose equipment links all the sights, cannot be understated either; their performance and support was flawless.”

Kane noted that when dealing with technology, there is always the risk of something unforeseen happening. However, he adds, “The better one plans and tests, the more one reduces the likelihood of problems. And the REC training was not immune; a laptop power failure occurred during one of the July sessions. However, it was immediately recognized by everyone involved as one of those unavoidable glitches, rather than the result of poor preparation.” And as such, he observed: “The quality and positive momentum we had established, combined with the skill of the presenters to adjust the agenda created an atmosphere of goodwill that made swapping in a new laptop practically seamless.”

“The fact that the CCME presenters were excellent certainly didn’t hurt either!” Kane was gratified that their feedback was unanimously positive, commenting that it was a very efficient and effective way to deliver the training. Shelly Crotty , CCME EHR Consultant, remarked that it was “a truly interactive experience...and I would welcome more opportunities to use videoconferencing.” Lead presenters Jennifer Anderson and Gary Balser, also with CCME EHR Programs and Services, noted that IT support “allowed us to have a much more dynamic interface with the participants” and that the technology became “virtually seamless and all the participants enjoyed the experience.”

Kane considers these to be the ultimate compliments. The success of the REC training demonstrates that with effective planning and coordination, VISION can be a terrific option for widespread dissemination of information enhanced by interactive video. When real-time feedback and two-way audio and video communication is needed, VISION will remain an important and valuable option for collaboration and engaging information dissemination for NC AHEC and its partners.

For more information on VISION, please see http://www.ncahec.net/vision