Clinically Speaking

On a Mission: To Clinical Excellence

Changing healthcare behaviors and practice in the United States can at times be viewed as a slow and painful process.

Despite the ever-growing body of scientific evidence that is intended to objectively direct care and treatment, much of the practice of medicine is a delicate blend of art and science. Depending on the discipline and the treatment, some are still weighted in art over science.

As we push toward outcome-oriented healthcare, pay for performance and other mechanisms attempting to improve (or maintain) the quality of clinical care while concurrently lowering the overall cost of the care, myriad obstacles appear along that path.

Information Overload for Today’s Clinicians

For many of today’s busy practicing clinicians, keeping up with the growing science, regulatory complexities, reimbursement cuts, clinical protocols and technological advancements can be pretty overwhelming.

There are literally hundreds of peer-reviewed journals producing thousands of papers per month, so keeping up with the latest published research in one’s discipline is essentially impossible for most clinicians.

Add to this the ever-changing coverage rules and regulations governing Medicare, Medicaid and other third-party payors, along with the rapid advancements in drugs and medical technology, and it is pretty easy to see where the gaps in education and training can often start to form.

In the past, many clinicians relied on attending the large regional or national clinical conferences as their primary method of obtaining continuing education. However, in the modern world of down-sized departments and shoestring education budgets, many organizations have little or no funding set aside to assist clinicians with conference attendance and continuing education.

With the increase in International Seating Symposium attendance figures this year, it is clear that those clinicians who can attend often do so using their vacation days and at their own personal expense. As a result, newer, more cost- and time-efficient clinical education models developed.

Changing Clinical Environments Lead to New Learning Opportunities

Major communication advances such as the Internet and other forms of interactive media have provided new vehicles for taking clinical education out of a single classroom or convention center to clinicians working all around the world.

In years past, nearly all of the clinical content experts came from traditional academic medical and research environments, and large clinical or academic settings. Today, many of the leading clinicians and researchers work in a variety of settings, including working for pharmaceutical and medical technology manufacturers — which only makes sense. Much of the country’s medical research and science comes from private industry, and inside such organizations are some excellent and experienced clinicians and academics.

The current state of the economy makes it ever more difficult to both afford courses and find time in crowded schedules to take them, but they’ve never been more crucial. Educators must find ways to keep courses affordable and to work with clinicians’ schedules, whether online or after hours, so we can maintain that level of clinical excellence. And we must recognize the wider scope of education needed, including management and patient- and caregiverfocused information.

Knowledge has never been more important. Across the continuum, we must be dedicated to promoting, delivering, seeking and learning relevant clinical education.

Our commitment to clinical education and the importance of patient outcomes as an industry will help change our external perception. The development and provision of clinical education programs and lectures is only one facet. A clinical focus should be refl ected in new product development, clinical research and publications, sales training, clinical marketing, industry advocacy and customer education and support.

Making this as relevant, but also as seamless as possible will ensure that the quality of clinical care is paramount.

This article originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of Mobility Management.

About the Author

Lois Brown, MPT, ATP, is the rehab clinical education specialist for Invacare Corp., Elyria, Ohio. She is a frequent presenter on seating & mobility topics at industry events.

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