Virtual training performance: progress during the pandemic

When the pandemic started and we had to pivot to virtual engagement with our health center partners, I was skeptical. We have seen extraordinary outcomes from our high touch, in-person training – a key element of our partnership model. Could a virtual model come close to the same impact?

The good news: when we look at data across 24 in-person and virtual trainings, we find comparable increases in knowledge scores: among clinicians, a 27% increase in knowledge at the in-person trainings versus 20% at the virtual trainings, and among support staff, a 31% increase in knowledge at the in-person trainings versus 32% at the virtual trainings.

Chart: Virtual Training - Average Knowledge Score
The Average Knowledge Score is an aggregate value commonly used as a quick assessment of training. This score covers three knowledge areas: contraceptive methods, patient eligibility for IUD placements, and best practices in contraceptive counseling.

As an educator, I was very impressed with the instructional techniques used in the virtual format. I was VERY impressed with the quality of the whole day.”
– Community Health Association of Spokane support staff

These virtual trainings also resulted in the same or increased levels of self-reported understanding and confidence across two additional measures: clinician roles in contraceptive counseling and how to ask and respond to pregnancy intention screening questions (PISQ).

GRAPH: Clinician Understanding

Virtual education is incredibly hard to do well – witness what’s happening in our schools today – and we’re using data during COVID to experiment so that we can emerge even stronger, with a more effective model at a fraction of the cost.

The data are giving us real time insights into what’s working and where we can do better: average scores of training satisfaction from our virtual trainings fall just below our highly rated in-person work, but the data inform what’s going well and what we still need to learn. There are still structural challenges we need to figure out – the very same health centers that serve the most vulnerable patients are often the same ones that don’t have adequate technology infrastructure to do this well, and currently, there are no effective replacements for hands-on clinical training on placing IUDs and implants. We have a relentless focus on using data and evidence, rather than hunches, to learn what’s actually working in this virtual world.

We feel a moral imperative not just to respond, but to accelerate our work during this time. In addition to the new visibility about disparities within healthcare that fall along race and class lines, surveys show that many more women do not want to become pregnant during this pandemic.

If we can develop a virtual model that is equally effective, it means more patients will be able to achieve their own goals of becoming pregnant only if and when they want to.

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