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Managing the process of online teaching inventory
Weeding, rewriting process results in good quality
Tracking 12,000 educational documents through the process of creating an online catalog could be a nightmare. That's why Susan Kanack, BSN, RN, patient education coordinator at ProHealth Care in Waukesha, WI, set up a system to keep the project manageable. She developed a spreadsheet that follows each document through the editing phase, design phase, and uploading onto the web site.
"The spreadsheet was created to keep work organized, because I was beginning to drown in the paper, literally. Determining what phase each document was in was getting too difficult, so this makes it easier to know where I am," says Kanack.
In addition, it keeps her director apprised of the progress and the number of hours she has devoted to editing copy, putting each piece in the ProHealth Care educational template, and uploading it. By February 2009, Kanack had already logged a total of 1,277.5 hours of work on the project, which equals 32 weeks.
The project was initiated almost three years ago when the health care system, which consists of two hospitals and 27 clinics, decided to centralize its large inventory of patient education materials. In this way, all health care professionals would have access to the handouts generated by each department.
Because the catalog is part of the public web site, consumers also can access all the educational pieces at prohealthcare.org. Consumer access fits with the patient- and family-centered care philosophy ProHealth is adopting.
"It allows the consumer or the patient to pull information when they need it without relying on a nurse or doctor to hand it to them. If they lose the document or if caregivers at home want to know what was given by the physician, they can access it, as well. It's a lot more patient-centered, and it fits with our goals," says Kanack.
To begin the project, a steering committee was formed to create standards that would ensure all written materials were consistent, had a brand identity, print quality, and were easy to read. In addition, the steering committee got buy-in at the organizational level to centralize the inventory of patient education materials and distribute them electronically.
A committee of about 30 subject matter experts was also assembled to go through the boxes of materials collected, discarding the outdated pieces and using the remaining handouts as references to generate new ProHealth teaching sheets. Those in leadership within each department, such as cardiology and respiratory therapy, assigned individuals the task of writing handouts. All had patient care duties, so they worked during their nonproductive time. It has taken about a year and a half for this work to be completed.
Once the subject matter experts come to a consensus, the material is e-mailed to Kanack, who completes the editing according to the standards established by the steering committee. The rewrites are a time of negotiation between Kanack and the content experts. Once the content of the handout is agreed upon by all parties, it moves to the design phase.
Sustaining ongoing support
Kanack says she has tried to make the process user-friendly, so all staff members will remain invested in a centralized patient education system.
"I want to be sure that while we have standards, I am not too rigid, at least in the initial stages, because I don't want people to be turned off to the system and try to subvert it," she explains.
After allowing a year and a half for the writing process, launch dates have been established for each topic. Initially, it was thought that once the catalog was reasonably complete, it would be unveiled, but those involved in the process soon realized it may be a long time before results were seen. Departments that sorted through materials swiftly and got their work completed were placed at the top of the list of launch dates, with cardiology first.
While each subject category has a launch date, Kanack says she is the bottleneck. As the patient education coordinator for the entire system, the editing, design, and uploading all fall to her. Depending on the subject matter, she averages about 10 pieces a day, but if the material is complex, often only three or four pieces are edited.
To help the content experts write clear, concise copy, they were offered a class. It was not mandatory, but Kanack says she may require anyone writing educational copy in the future to take the class, because writing health-literate material is a learned skilled. The content experts also received a worksheet that had prompts to guide their progress and to get them started and help them identify the pertinent facts.
Once writing is completed, the rest of the work falls to Kanack. She formats the material according to an established template, so all the handouts would have the same look. Her assistant sometimes helps with this task when not working on her primary duties. Once the documents are in a PDF format, she uploads them to the consumer site, assigning search terms and tagging them. This takes about a minute per document.
Once the catalog is completed with all patient education materials available online, requests for new handouts will follow the same process. The author of the handout will need to check the catalog to make sure there is nothing currently available on the topic before writing begins. The piece will have to be submitted electronically, and Kanack hopes to have a software program in place to manage the editing process. Currently, the editing exchanges take place via e-mail, but Kanack wants to work with content experts on an internal web site where changes can be viewed and recommendations made.
The catalog is expected to be completed in June 2009.
For more information on managing the editing of written materials for an online distribution system, contact:
Susan Kanack, BSN, RN, Patient Education Coordinator, ProHealth Care, N17 W24100, Riverwood Dr., Suite 100, Waukesha, WI 53188. Telephone: (262) 928-2907. E-mail: Susan.Kanack@phci.org.