Zumba And Strong Nation Receive Spirit Of Fitness Award

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) recognized Zumba and Strong Nation with its first Spirit of Fitness Award during their annual Optima Fitness and Wellness Conference.

Laurie McCartney, president of Global Fitness & Wellness Solutions for Ascend Learning, the parent company of NASM and AFAA, presented the award to the Zumba and Strong Nation communities as part of Optima’s welcome keynote address.

Outside of its fitness platform, Zumba’s network of instructors and customers participants are actively involved in outreach campaigns. This year, Zumba partnered with The Global FoodBanking Network to deliver more than one million free meals to families impacted by COVID-19. Zumba also raised over $5.7 million to support philanthropic causes including the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Augie’s Quest for the cure of ALS.

Alberto Perlman, CEO and co-founder of Zumba, accepted the award and said, “When stay-at-home orders were first put into effect in March, we made it our mission to keep people moving, not only for a physical release but as a way to help with the stress and anxiety due to the Pandemic,” said Perlman. “Our incredible instructors around the world never missed a beat, learning the ins and outs of technology so they could deliver amazing virtual classes and eventually teaching outdoor classes to keep their communities moving and connected, continuing to create joy in a time where we all have needed it the most.”

As part of the Spirit of Fitness award, NASM and AFAA will provide 20 scholarships that Zumba will share with its instructors to support its commitment to continuing education.

ClickSafety Wins 2020 Occupational Health & Safety New Product of the Year Award 

New Online Training Provides Intensive COVID-19 Prep for the Workplace 

 

ClickSafety, Inc., an Ascend Learning company, was recently honored by Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) magazine, taking home an online training award for its new course, Returning to Work: Protecting Yourself from COVID-19 in the Workplace.

 

 “This year, we are recognizing outstanding products in 26 award categories, including a new category for products created to protect against infectious diseases.” OH&S Editor, Sydny Shepard said. “Now more than ever, it is of the utmost importance to keep workers and employees safe from emerging and existing workplace hazards.” 

 

The Returning to Work: Protecting Yourself from COVID-19 in the Workplace online training is an awareness-level course designed to inform employees and their coworkers about essential ways to protect themselves from exposure to the virus. The training is based on guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute for Environmental Health Science (NIEHS), and other reputable sources. 

 

Designed to meet a need in the marketspace, the Returning to Work: Protecting Yourself from COVID-19 course is applicable for workers in all industries who may have a potential for risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace. 

 

This new online training course from ClickSafety is one of multiple courses providing essential knowledge and fundamental training regarding COVID-19 and its effect on multiple industries. Additional courses in the COVID-19 catalog include COVID-19 Return-to-Work: Concepts for Employers, Supervisors, and Managers and Return-to-Work for Supervisors and Managers for Construction. 

 

“We are extremely honored to be recognized for best online training product by OH&S. ClickSafety helps businesses build a comprehensive safety culture and the pandemic has challenged what it means,” said Tim McClinton President of Ascend Learning Professional Education Services. “It was of paramount importance to provide our customers and their employees the training they need to implement safe return to work policies.” 

 

This is OH&S magazine’s 12th annual New Product of the Year contest, and ClickSafety joins the ranks of businesses, like ZOLL Medical, KEEN Utility, and Bradley Corp as a winner.  

 

About ClickSafety: Founded in 1999, ClickSafety became the first OSHA Outreach Training Provider to deliver both the OSHA 10-Hour and OSHA 30-Hour safety training courses online. ClickSafety employs an in-house team of Certified Safety Professionals (CSP), Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIH), and additional industry professionals to provide the most up-to-date online safety training courses available.  

Employee Spotlight: Ada Woo

From her home office in Iowa City, Ada Woo, senior director of assessment sciences focuses each day on making information, time and decision processes more efficient in the Assessment Sciences Unit, which is a shared service department within Ascend Learning. She works with a variety of teams and their business unit partners to create value for stakeholders like ATI Nursing Education and National Healthcareer Association. She loves that since she’s only been on the job for about five weeks, no two days have been the same so far! When the weekend arrives, Ada is excited to spend time with her husband and six-month-old son.

 

Q. What is your favorite thing about the business unit or department you support?

A. I love the variety of assessment and learning products that are a part of the ATI Nursing Education and National Healthcareer Association offerings.

 

Q. What’s your favorite Ascend value and why?

A. Embrace change. I was impressed with how quickly Ascend adapted to meet stakeholders’ needs in the pandemic. That was actually one of the reasons why I chose to join the company about two months ago. Now as a part of the team, I am even more impressed with our agility and willingness to embrace change.

 

Q. What book, movie or television show would you recommend people read or watch?

A. I read Educated by Tara Westover recently. It is such a compelling autobiography! Born to isolationist parents, the author did not receive any proper schooling as a child. She taught herself algebra, self-studied for the ACT, and got into college! As a first-generation college student, a part of Tara’s experience resonated with me. Education changed her life; it changed mine too.

 

Q. What’s something you’ve done that most people haven’t done?

A. I moved from my hometown in Hong Kong to Alabama alone at 16 to be an exchange student. It was a wonderful experience and an adventure for sure. I love the food in Alabama. In the 90s, regional American cuisine was totally unknown in Hong Kong. Imagine the joy when I had pulled pork sandwiches, fried okra, and pecan pie for the first time. Through sharing meals and cooking together, I met many friends and learned the culture of my new city. To this day, Southern cooking still brings fond memories and it remains some of my favorite food.

 

 

 

ExamFX Named Best Overall SIE Exam Prep Course for 2020 by Investopedia

Leawood, KS, Sept. 09, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — After an extensive, independent evaluation, Investopedia, one of the largest online financial and investing education sites, named ExamFX “Best Overall SIE Exam Prep Course” for 2020. The evaluation criteria included a review of price points, class options, and product offerings and tools available across Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam prep providers.

The SIE exam was established by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in 2018 to test candidates’ foundational knowledge of the securities industry. Passing the SIE exam is a mandatory corequisite for prospective securities industry professionals seeking to become registered representatives.

Scott Barnes, ExamFX General Manager states, “Being named Best Overall in the highly competitive arena of SIE exam prep represents a significant achievement for ExamFX. It is a ringing endorsement that will resonate with professionals beginning a career in the securities industry.”

Investopedia determined that ExamFX represents the best option for candidates looking to pass the SIE exam on their first attempt. They were particularly impressed with the ease of use and friendly interface of the ExamFX interactive learning portal, as well as the fact that they offer three distinct packages — including self-study, video study, and live online study. Additionally, Investopedia noted that ExamFX offers candidates a unique “Pass Guarantee,” which demonstrates a high level of confidence in their training program. Investopedia recently posted these findings to its website in an article entitled, “The Best SIE Exam Prep Courses for 2020.”

As with all of their courses, ExamFX designed the SIE exam prep to suit every learning preference and accommodate all budgets. Their intuitive platform offers effective study tools and provides comprehensive online training to individuals pursuing a career in the securities  and insurance industries. ExamFX’s goal is to become partners in success with candidates, helping them pass their exam on the first attempt.

About ExamFX

ExamFX is an established leader in the development and delivery of online exam prep and continuing education training for the insurance and financial services industries. Since 1996, ExamFX has helped more than six million candidates prepare to pass their licensing and qualification exams. Through its learning platform, ExamFX offers candidates top-rated online training and a unique “Pass Guarantee.” ExamFX is proud to be part of the Ascend Learning family of businesses.

National Healthcareer Association (NHA) Launches Coalition for the Advancement of Pharmacy Technician Practice

The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) has formed a unique, nationwide Pharmacy Technician Coalition. The coalition is focused solely on bringing pharmacy technician organizations, industry leaders, and associations together to advocate for and implement changes to expand the role of certified pharmacy technicians (CPhT), allowing them to help with needs during COVID-19. As pharmacies continue to provide more direct patient care services and are faced with increased workload during the pandemic, CPhTs have an opportunity to help with some of the pharmacists’ duties, to be more efficient in delivering patient care.

The launch of this group is part of a proactive, collaborative advocacy campaign focused on supporting and raising awareness about the valuable role technicians play in caring for patients during these unprecedented times. Pharmacies are preparing for an influx of individuals seeking COVID-19 testing and, eventually, vaccinations. The coalition seeks to help expand the role of CPhTs – allowing them to administer vaccinations and perform necessary testing – leaving time for the pharmacist to focus on other tasks such as interpreting results and collaborating with other providers to treat, or in some cases, directly prescribe and dispense appropriate therapy.

“We know that well-trained, certified pharmacy technicians are capable of performing point-of-care testing and administering immunizations during the current health crisis and in the future,” said Jessica Langely-Loep, Executive Director of Education and Advocacy at NHA. “This coalition of key pharmacy influencers will help us get that message out, with the hope of influencing regulatory change across the country.”

As a result of the global pandemic, the supply of qualified healthcare providers is increasingly limited, and the impact is being felt now more than ever. Certified pharmacy technicians are highly skilled and trained frontline healthcare professionals but are currently only authorized to immunize in a small number of states. The coalition will take actions to expand this capability to all 50 states. With help from properly trained CPhTs, pharmacies will also be well-equipped to provide communities with access to testing, to relieve some of the burden placed on the pharmacist.

Expanding the duties of CPhTs will increase pharmacy workload capacity, thereby giving time back to the pharmacist for patient consultations, as well as will allow CPhTs to play a more important role in healthcare. There is also an opportunity to increase the number of immunizations provided by pharmacies across the country, and increase education, leading to higher vaccination adherence.

“In 2016, Albertsons Companies became the first company in the country to train pharmacy technicians to administer immunizations,” said Rob Geddes, PharmD, Director of Pharmacy Legislative and Regulatory Affairs at Albertsons Companies. “Since then, our technicians have successfully given thousands of immunizations in states where allowed and eased administrative burdens on our pharmacists as their scope of practice continues to expand. By training pharmacy technicians to share the role of administering immunizations, our company has developed new pathways for technician career advancement, increased job satisfaction, and deepened loyalty to the practice of pharmacy.”

The coalition looks to create industry collaboration throughout the entire pharmacy community and to directly engage Boards of Pharmacy in each of the states that do not currently allow CPhTs to administer immunizations. Another focus of the group is to lobby at the federal level to expand the role of CPhTs and educate the industry, legislators and State Boards of Pharmacy about the ongoing opportunity to expand the role of CPhTs. To learn more, visit info.nhanow.com/pt-coalition.

About National Healthcareer Association®
Since 1989, NHA has been partnering with allied health education programs, organizations, and employers across the nation to award one million allied health certifications. The organization offers eight nationally accredited exams, certification preparation and study materials, and specialty certificate programs, industry-leading outcomes-based data analytics, as well as ongoing professional development and continuing education.  For more information, visit www.nhanow.com.

NHA is a division of Assessment Technologies Institute, LLC, a leader in providing technology based educational, assessment, testing and certification solutions for healthcare and other vocational fields.

SOURCE National Healthcareer Association

Newly Updated Virtual Mental Health Training Equips College Students to Support Peers in Distress

Enhancements to Kognito’s higher education simulation better address the needs of today’s college students through skill-building.

NEW YORK, July 16, 2020 — As colleges and universities prepare to meet the mental health needs of students—who may or may not be on campus in the fall due to COVID-19—many are looking to virtual solutions. Kognito, a health simulation company, announced updates to its evidence-based virtual simulation At-Risk Mental Health for Students as a flexible online mental health training to help colleges improve students’ ability to succeed in 2020 and beyond.

The new 40-minute At-Risk simulation emphasizes building skills that promote positive coping, help-seeking, positive self-concept, and growth mindset. Students engage with virtual students to recognize signs of distress in themselves and peers, and practice effective communication techniques to give peers support. Colleges can add their own custom resources into the simulation to expand student knowledge of mental health support outside of the counseling center, through programming like wellness programs, peer support groups, and academic counseling.

Since its launch in 2010, over 300,000 students across over 300 institutions have used the original At-Risk for University Students simulation. During this time, numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of this simulation to increase conversations and help-seeking behaviors in students, including a recent randomized control trial conducted by Fordham University published in the Journal of the American Association of Suicidology. Universities often pair the simulation with its faculty counterpart, At-Risk for Faculty & Staff, which trains campus employees to talk with students about mental health and heightens awareness of their gatekeeping role within a community of care.

Updates to At-Risk are based on how higher education’s response to student mental health has evolved over the past decade. Students face more stress, anxiety, and depression than ever before, accounting for an average 30-40% increase in counseling center utilization from 2009 to 2015, while enrollment grew by only 5%. Meanwhile, students are entering college lacking coping and resiliency skills compared to classes before them.

Dr. Victor Schwartz, Chief Medical Officer at The Jed Foundation (JED), was one of the subject matter experts who partnered with Kognito to help develop the At-Risk simulation’s updates. Dr. Schwartz was joined by counseling and student services leaders involved in the development process to ensure that the updated content reflected the current needs of college students.

“We’ve seen the mental health needs of the college student change and evolve,” says Dr. Schwartz.  “We know peer support on campus is a critical resource, since two-thirds of college students who are feeling suicidal will tell a friend first. Simulation technology is unique in that it can tailor content to individual students based on their existing knowledge, and give them a safe space to practice difficult conversations. Getting that confidence through a simulation like At-Risk is going to connect more students and support early intervention.”

“This evolution of At-Risk reflects the current needs of today’s college student. While there are many unknowns about the future, we know that there will be an essential need for students to learn about mental health, support, and resiliency,” says Dr. Glenn Albright, Kognito Co-Founder and Director of Research. “Analyzing the changes we’ve seen in student attitudes and behavior from data collected over ten years, plus in pairing subject matter expertise with cutting edge simulation technology, we’re confident that At-Risk Mental Health for Students will continue to make an impact on many lives through conversation and connection.”

As institutions continue to navigate this period of uncertainty, many are looking to At-Risk Mental Health for Students given its online accessibility for remote students and effective format that quickly builds essential skills around mental health and peer-to-peer support. More information on At-Risk Mental Health for Students is available on Kognito’s website.

About Kognito
Kognito is a health simulation company whose evidence-based simulations harness the power of role-play conversations with virtual humans to improve social, emotional, and physical health. Learn more at kognito.com.

Employee Spotlight: Mindy Michalek

As the director of marketing for ClickSafety, Mindy Michalek leads a creative and hard working team dedicated to ClickSafety’s marketing and eCommerce strategy. Her main focus is to ensure that the marketing team aligns closely with the other ClickSafety departments, as well as collaborate with multiple Ascend shared service teams and with her fellow colleagues in the other Professional Education divisions. When it comes to focusing on goals, hers include making sure the team helps to hit the revenue targets, executing on key eCommerce and lead generating platform implementations, and executing and optimizing our marketing efforts. 

Outside of work, you can usually find Mindy at one of her kid’s soccer, track or basketball games (pre-COVID-19)She says she’s also rather competitive herself and enjoys playing softball and soccer. She balances her competitive side by spending time outside enjoying her garden and flowers or going for long walks. 

 

Q. What does an average day look like for you and your job?

A. An average day includes collaborative efforts with our product, sales and technology teams to make sure we’re bringing the right products and the right eCommerce/technology experience to our customer base. Mindy enjoys partnering with her talented team as they focus their efforts primarily on pay-per-click search engine advertising, emails, conferences, website experience, social platforms and the analytics needed to drive ROI positive marketing efforts. 

Q. What is one career lesson you’ve learned?

A. One important career lesson I learned early on is to allow the space for everyone to be an expert in their area of specialization. For example, when I work with creative designers, I always lay out the scope and goals of a project, and I try very hard to not dictate the final product vision. I’ve found that when I allow others to have creative liberty, they come up with ideas I’ve not considered, and the final product turns out to be better than I could have envisioned. This approach also requires any ego to be removed and results in professional relationships with mutual respect.

Q. What is one word that you would use to describe your work team, and why did you choose that word?

A. I consider myself to have two teams… One word to describe my marketing team would be “accountable.” I chose this word because each member of our team is consistently dependable and owns their work each and every day. One word to describe my ClickSafety team would be “driven.” The ClickSafety team as a whole is a very driven and passionate group, which is showcased daily by the quality of work output, as well as by the dedication to our customers and to each other. 

Q. What is one thing that people are surprised to find out about you?

A. I grew up on a horse farm in extreme Western NY (about an hour south of Buffalo). We very much lived off the land. Our garden was the size of an Olympic swimming pool, which matters because that’s a lot of weeding…81 hills of potatoes…9 rows x 9 hills…I digress. Also, horse chores before school, four-wheelers, hitting rocks with broom sticks to practice my softball swing, damning up a swimming hole in the creek …you name it…I fit the mold of the middle-of nowhere farmgirl for the first 18 years of my life. Those early years helped build character, responsibility, work ethic…the longing for having a store closer than 45 minutes away…and the desire to live somewhere that had less snow (i.e. not every Halloween and prom). 

Q. What book, movie or television show would you recommend people read or watch?

A. Since we’re all staying home right now, I would like to recommend a couple Netflix shows to keep you entertained. I recently binge-watched Ozark with Jason Bateman. It’s an incredible and intense 3-season series that will keep you on the edge of your seat. If you need less intensity and more humor, I’d also recommend Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Jerry Seinfeld. I’m intrigued by hearing how the comedic mind works, and this series is a bunch of quick episodes with legendary comedians. 

 

We’re thankful for our talented team members and how they help us change lives! 

Leading in a Virtual Environment

An excerpt from Ascend Learning & Development Team’s “Leading in a Virtual Environment training article.

While so many of us across the country continue to lead and manage our people and our teams virtually, we thought these useful virtual managing insights from our own internal Ascend Learning-Learning & Development Team could help all managers. This excerpt from our internal training provides remote meeting and relationship building tips and provides fresh perspective on virtual leading. As we all continue to evolve as virtual leaders and remote employees, we hope this article will help you and your teams feel more included and cared for as we learn how to become better overall virtual people managers, employees and resilient leaders.

 

As leaders of virtual teams, it is easy to fall into the common trap of remote management – focusing too heavily on employee engagement activities, while overlooking the development and maintenance of trust in our relationships.  Although virtual happy hours, Skype coffee chats, and Zoom birthdays are important for connectivity, some of your team members have more critical needs to tend to before they can worry about any sense of belongingness. Whether a spouse has lost a job, a single parent is balancing work and childcare obligations, or a shared apartment is not setup for a Tetris-like schedule of back-to-back video conference calls, some of your team members are feeling vulnerable and in need of help.

 

Cultivating a Trusting Culture from Afar

The problem is, not everyone feels safe enough to raise their hand and ask for help – especially when remote. It then becomes our job as remote managers, to proactively and passionately nurture an environment of trust amongst all members of the team so that help can be solicited, and support offered. Below are three quick and actionable behaviors and strategies to help foster trusting cultures on our teams right now.

 

  • Offload Distractions: Most virtual team meetings start with some ritualistic version of small talk. What if instead at the beginning of the meeting, you simply ask every participant to answer, “what’s in the background for you today?” Meaning, what are they worried about or distracted by at this moment in time? It’s not for the purpose of setting an agenda, but rather, it’s about getting everyone in the room present, offloading any preoccupations, and pressing ahead.  Using this technique can reduce the Cognitive Demand a distraction has on you, and increases your team’s focus and performance for the meeting at hand.

 

  • Prime Contributions: While most remote teams have tools to store knowledge (i.e. CRM systems) or platforms to transfer knowledge (i.e. Instant Messaging), virtual communication often discourages actually contributing knowledge in real-time. To reap the benefits of a fully engaged and contributory virtual team, turn on your video and ask your team members to do the same. Although we all have excuses for not wanting to ‘be on’ (ahem humidity hair anyone?!), scientists have discovered that establishing face-to-face communication can increase a team’s performance by 35%[1]! In fact, we are more likely to contribute our insights and opinions when we can see nonverbal cues from our audience on how well we are being received. Once on video, encourage equality of all voices by actively soliciting perspectives individually instead of letting the loudest and most talkative fill the airspace.

 

  • Lead Out Loud: Subtlety evaporates in virtual communication. Leading from a distance requires us to exemplify integrity, display vulnerability, and embody candor louder and more often than in-person. Leading out loud means role modeling visibly, audibly and regularly the type of communication and actions that you expect from your team. Anticipate miscommunications amongst the team by taking the few extra minutes to clarify any expectations, points of view or actions that might be misinterpreted. When an opinion rubs you or others the wrong way, role model the habit of Assuming Benevolent Intent. Position your responses from a state of curiosity (rather than judgement), clarify for understanding and listen for what is right about the opinion being discussed. Some examples of leading out loud are:
  • “I want to make sure I am understanding your point of view, do you mind clarifying what you meant by…”
  • “As an FYI, Jillian needs to hop off early this afternoon, so please ask her any questions you have before half past or follow up with an email.”
  • “Thank you for telling me upfront about the batch error, I had a similar issue myself a few years ago…”
  • “Apologies for needing to check my phone constantly, my son is sick today and I am expecting a call from the doctor.”

 

About the Authors:

Carolyn Vasquez is Ascend Learning’s Talent Development Manager. She is responsible for the design, management and implementation of ongoing and new leadership and development initiatives across the Ascend organization.

 

Madelyn Wilson leads the talent management and development efforts across Ascend Learning including executive development, succession planning, performance management, and company-wide learning and leadership development initiatives, in addition to her role as HR Business Partner for the Professional Education and Legal groups.

 

Copyright© 2020, Ascend Learning. All Rights Reserved.

[1] Harvard Business Review. (April, 2012). The New Science of Building Great Teams. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2012/04/the-new-science-of-building-great-teams

 

 

Our Commitment and Opportunity to Listen and Learn

A Message from Our CEO

 

CEO Greg Sebasky sent the following message to Ascend Learning team members today. 

 

Ascend Team Members,

 

As we all witness the difficult and painful events of the past week, I, like many of you are experiencing understandable feelings of grief, fear, anger and sadness. I believe we’re all looking for the right words to express our strong support for those suffering due to ongoing racism and discrimination as well as the unequal treatment and lack of opportunity for many people, including black, brown, and indigenous citizens of our country. True humanity requires opportunity, justice and equality be accessible to everyone. I don’t have a perfect answer or perfect words to address all that is happening around us, but I do believe together we can continue to make a meaningful difference in the world. And I know we all share a desire to do what is right by and for all people.

 

I value the quote from W.E.B. Du Bois, author of one of the books I began reading last year, in my attempt to learn and understand more about our nation’s history that influenced my perspective about this long-standing struggle and the impact of opportunity and equality of every person. (Note that in 1903, the use of the word “man”, rather than person, was reflective of another unfortunate part of our country’s history)

 

“The equality in political, industrial and social life which modern men must have in order to live, is not to be confounded with sameness. On the contrary, in our case, it is rather insistence upon the right of diversity; – upon the right of a human being to be a man even if he does not wear the same cut of vest, the same curl of hair or the same color of skin. Human equality does not even entail, as it is sometimes said, absolute equality of opportunity; for certainly the natural inequalities of inherent genius and varying gift make this a dubious phrase. But there is more and more clearly recognized minimum of opportunity and maximum of freedom to be, to move and to think, which the modern world denies to no being which it recognizes as a real man.”
― W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk

 

Now the question is what “I” or “we” can do about it. Thankfully, as a company, our mission is focused on being passionate advocates for changing lives — we will not waiver in this commitment. Through our work, we accelerate people’s ability to have the opportunity to enter new professions, both degreed and non-degreed. Our pursuit of excellence for our clients is uncompromised and will remain at the forefront of everything we do. Our unique culture is also

rooted in a strong foundation of values that bring us together, drive us forward and guide how we work.

 

As an organization focused on learning, we all have a responsibility to start conversations and to listen intently to others in an effort to gain understanding and knowledge. Through learning about and listening to each other we become stronger advocates for inclusivity, equality and human rights. And we will continue to invest in training and opening up dialog across our teams that builds our collective understanding to establish an inclusive and accessible environment for everyone.

 

Most of the systemic solutions that are necessary encompass policy, legislative, and legal changes. It’s up to you to decide what you support, how you use your voice and to vote for what you believe in your local, state and federal elections.

 

I stand behind all that we are working toward to change lives for the better. And, as each of you stand with your friends, your loved ones and those in your communities I support you as we jointly work to ignite our efforts toward a better future and a better world for all of us. A world where equality, opportunity and justice can prevail.

Sincerely,

 

Greg Sebasky

 

 

The Case for Care Transformation

Albert Einstein is credited with a pithy definition that insanity is: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” By that definition, the U.S. health care system has been on an “insane” path for too long. Our fee-for-service payment model has rewarded volume of services over high-quality, coordinated care for decades. The results we get, year after year, are skyrocketing costs totaling $3.8 trillion in spending in 2019 with a growth trajectory to reaching $6.0 trillion by 2027[1]. To put this in perspective, If the U.S. health care were its own country, it would be the 4th largest economy in the world.

We don’t get much for our spending either. We have the 55th highest infant mortality in the world (tied with Serbia)[2], our life expectancy ranks 43rd in the world[1], and we are nearly 3 times more likely to die of coronary heart disease than someone in South Korea.[3]

Perhaps finally taking heed of the famous Einstein quote, policy makers, payers, providers and patients are now looking to do things differently. These efforts are embodied in the concept of care transformation. Care transformation has become a favorite talking point and shared aspiration for a range of health care organizations. In fact, new Chief Clinical Transformation Officer roles are popping up at provider and payer organizations around the country, including organizations such as the Cleveland Clinic and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ.

But what exactly does care transformation actually mean?

I have the chance to see our health care system through multiple lenses, as a researcher, a physician, a father, a patient, and a business owner. In each of these roles, my view of care transformation is pretty straightforward: Care will be transformed when we offer consistent, evidence-based care that achieves the best possible outcomes at the lowest possible cost.

The clear conclusion from my health economics research, done around the world, is that health systems delivering consistent, evidence-based care deliver the highest value care to patients. Access to evidence-based care supported by the best available science is what drives the best outcomes when I see patients in the clinic. Consistently high-quality care is what I hope I receive when my children or I need medical attention. And avoiding low-value, high-cost services are key to keeping premiums low so I’m able to invest in my employees and product.

Care transformation through consistent, evidence-based care can only become a reality when we address what I consider to be a preventable national health crisis – unwarranted care variation. For too many years, we have been working under the same old incentives and training protocols that lead to a wide range of medical practices for the same conditions. This variation, we and others have shown clearly, can’t be explained by the severity of illness or patient preferences. This unwarranted variation is routinely observed between states, zip codes, and even between providers in the same facility.

For example, those visiting a bottom decile hospital more than double their chances of dying compared to a top decile hospital[4]. The incidence of central venous catheter blood stream infection is nearly 20 times higher at a bottom decile hospital[3]. Someone in Idaho Falls is three times more likely to undergo knee replacement surgery than a patient in the Bronx[5].

Variation like this negatively affects outcomes, experience and cost. We can all agree that where you live or which doctor you happen to see should never dictate the level or type of care received, yet the stories of care disparity are endless.

Our research and work in the U.S. indicate that most of this variation is avoidable. While evidence-based guidelines do not cover every potential clinical scenario, there is overwhelming evidence that high-quality guidelines across many common conditions are under-utilized by well-meaning, hardworking, busy clinicians struggling to keep up with the latest guidelines. Collectively, the decisions these providers make every day influence a staggering 80% of all health care spending[6].

There are a number of tools today that seek to address unwarranted variation, such as quality dashboards, EHR clinical decision support and changing incentive models. However, most of these tools have struggled to transform practice at scale through more consistent care. The missing piece, in my opinion, is true clinical collaboration with physicians in this care transformation journey.

Medicine is hard and any attempt to truly transform care, to do things differently, must actively engage providers on the front lines and arm them with the training and tools they need to make the best, most evidence-based decision they can for every patient they see. This is an essential part of getting the different results – high quality, high value – that unites these care transformation efforts.

Whether you have Clinical Transformation in your job title or not, reducing unwarranted variation will be critical to successful care transformation and to succeeding in the new value-based models, such as ACOs and capitated payments, that seek to reward organizations that do things differently to get different results.

If we can successfully bring consistency back to care and reduce unwarranted variance, we will all benefit through higher quality, better outcomes and lower costs.

 

[1] National Health Expenditure Projections 2018-2027, https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/NationalHealthExpendData/Downloads/ForecastSummary.pdf, Accessed February 2020.

[2] CIA World Fact Book, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2091rank.html, Accessed February 2020.

[3] World Health Organization, Age Adjusted Death Rate Estimates: 2017

[4] Rosenberg BL, Kellar JA, Labno A, et al. Quantifying Geographic Variation in Health Care Outcomes in the United States before and after Risk-Adjustment. Plos One. 2016;11(12). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0166762

[5] The data was obtained from The Dartmouth Atlas, which is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Dartmouth Clinical and Translational Science Institute, under award number UL1TR001086 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

[6] Crosson FJ. Change the microenvironment. Delivery system reform essential to control costs. Mod Healthc. 2009;39(17):20–21.

 

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