November 18, 2015

Training expands at Indian hospitals through UMSI GIEP project

An MHI student was part of a UMSI Global Information Engagement Program team that worked together to help two hospitals in Chennai, India, address the challenge of finding skilled healthcare workers by facilitating skill development of staff and increasing their access to healthcare information resources.

bewell team 7x5
From left, Allyson Mackay, Shannon Fearday, and Abir Viqar.

As part of GIEP, MHI student Abir Viqar, U-M School of Nursing graduate student Shannon Fearday, and 2015 MSI graduate Allyson Mackay were matched with Be Well Hospitals and Sundaram Medical Foundation in Chennai, India. Their task was to implement a Learning Management System (LMS) to meet the two hospitals’ needs.

The Be Well Hospitals group, founded in 2011 with a mission to foster a network of professionally managed and highly ethical secondary care hospitals, now has seven hospitals in the state of Tamil Nadu in South India serving semi-urban and rural populations. SMF Hospital is part of Sundaram Medical Foundation, which was established in 1990 with the goal of providing cost-effective and community-centered quality healthcare.

These healthcare centers, like many small and medium-sized healthcare centers in India, have faced a shortage of skilled workers. This shortage is aggravated by multiple locations and rapid workforce turnover that make delivery of skill development programs difficult. Viqar, Fearday, and Mackay’s task was to develop a Moodle-based LMS to facilitate the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of e-learning healthcare skills courses and training programs.

The two hospitals’ needs seemed similar on the surface, both wanting to improve quality of care by standardizing training, but they were very different on the ground because of their different structures, said Mackay, who served as the technical project manager.

“Be Well has seven unit hospitals all over the state, and their main driving factor here is that they need to deliver training at all of these and they can’t just go to every facility every day. It’s impossible,” she explained. “They’ve been visiting maybe one clinic or one unit once a month, so if you have seven units, you’re saying maybe one hospital gets just one visit of training every year.”

SMF, on the other hand, already delivers a large quantity of training, she said, but its reach is limited. “So how can we take advantage of the large amount of training that’s already done and just make it more accessible to everyone at the hospital” became the central question.

The students spent the 2015 winter term in Ann Arbor, closely examining each hospital’s needs and developing a plan to meet them. They flew to Chennai in May, where they stayed for eight weeks to implement the project.

health lms giep
The team from UMSI trained hospital staff to use the Moodle LMS system.

“We used a six-step process to implement this learning management system at the hospitals we worked at, so first is planning to try to figure out exactly what needs need to be filled,” explained Viqar, the project’s technical lead. This was followed by configuration of the LMS, testing both from the US and onsite, figuring out how to integrate the LMS into the hospital workflow, training people to use the LMS, and finally using the results of the training and observation to further refine how the LMS could best fit hospital needs, he said.

They taught hospital staff to use the LMS as learners, content creators and facilitators for both online and classroom training and during their time in Chennai had already seen a positive effect on the reach of training in the hospitals, Mackay said. 

For example, “one of our superusers missed the training, and she was really excited that she could go on the system and learn about trach care, which is something she does a lot, but unfortunately she’d actually missed the [classroom] training,” said Fearday, the project’s medical education expert.

The greatest challenge, Mackay said, was time. “I think we felt a lot of people were like, ‘Yes, I’m really interested, but I can’t do this now. I don’t know when I’m going to fit this into my day.’”

Since the 2013-2014 school year, UMSI's GIEP has matched carefully selected interdisciplinary teams of students with international partners in various fields, including research, non-profit and education. Participating students spend winter term in Ann Arbor building a relationship with their partner and coming up with a plan for solving an identified information challenge. They then spend six to 12 weeks abroad to implement their solution in cooperation with the partner organization. For the first two years of GIEP, projects were located in India, while the 2016 GIEP will take place in Cape Town, South Africa.