We created a new prototype e-learning app to make the CPD experience for healthcare professionals more engaging, interactive and flexible.
All healthcare professionals (HCPs) are required to take steps toward continuous training, learning, and professional development throughout their careers.
Often in our interactions with HCPs, they tell us they struggle to find valuable accredited training or e-learning to undertake to work towards their CPD points. When they engage with digital training or online learning, the content is often uninspiring, unengaging, and lacking personalisation and opportunities to interact with peers.
We set out to better understand the current digital CPD training landscape in the UK and the needs and preferences of real HCPs to come up with a new e-learning app prototype that could transform the experience. We also wanted to find out how much potential there is for pharma organisations to get more involved in this area as they have always been interested in playing a bigger role here.
The problem: improving the e-learning experience for HCPs
To kickstart the project, we conducted desk research to understand the wider context and current requirements and solutions for CPD for healthcare professionals.
- Requirements: Specific requirements for CPD in the UK vary across roles and professions, but on average, it’s around 35 – 50 hours per year. Requirements are set by the 30+ professional bodies and associations within the healthcare and medical sectors.
- CPD definition: The definition of what counts as ‘CPD’ varies from body to body. It’s generally deemed to be any activity that enables you to learn and develop professionally, building skills and knowledge. Some bodies emphasize discussions and interactive learning with fellow professionals as being particularly beneficial. CME (Continuing Medical Education) and CET (Continuing Education and Training) are often used interchangeably.
- Choosing CPD providers: Generally, regulatory bodies don’t endorse or regulate individual CPD providers or recommend specific activities or forms of CPD — it’s down to the individual medical professional to identify activities appropriate for them.
- Types of CPD: Options include attending workshops, lectures and online courses; reading books, articles, journals or case studies; listening to podcasts; watching documentaries; taking part in workplace training, shadowing, or mentoring.
- Tracking CPD: Individuals must keep track of their own CPD activities over time and ensure their CPD undertaking meets the requirements of their specific professional body. CPD evidence and records must be submitted using CPD forms ahead of key deadlines, which is usually done online using digital copies of any supporting documents.
A focus on e-learning
We decided to focus on how the experience of e-learning as a specific form of CPD for healthcare professionals could be improved upon through effective UX and CX design. This encapsulates a wide range of CPD formats that could be hosted and accessed in one app or platform — videos, articles, discussions, etc. For HCPs, it could offer personalised instruction and content; reduced training costs; convenience and ease of access; ability to tailor pace of learning to individual needs; and more up-to-date content.
What are the existing solutions on offer in this space?
We conducted research on some of the popular existing solutions that are currently on offer in the area of HCP e-learning and CPD in the UK. Examples included Omron, BMJ Learning, e-Learning for Healthcare, HCP Learning, MyCME, Digitalis, docmedED, RedWhale.
We found that there were generally limited opportunities for peer-to-peer interaction and fostering a sense of community in the digital sphere. Another common theme was a lack of personalisation in terms of displaying relevant content and a personalised and friendly interface.
The first step before we started thinking about a potential digital solution was to speak to a number of practising HCPs to gain a better understanding of their current views on e-learning and CPD. The key insights were:
- The social aspect of training is important. Especially within certain fields, networking is an important aspect of the job in terms of training experiences, professional development and expanding your knowledge in specialised fields. HCPs also value the opinions of their colleagues when it comes to identifying appropriate or valuable training, often relying on word of mouth for this.
- There is a lack of trust around pharma-sponsored content. HCPs were suspicious of training provided by pharma organisations and didn’t always trust them to deliver impartial content.
- Training processes, platforms and resources are inconsistent across specialities: In healthcare, training isn’t "one size fits all". Nurses will generally have less support or budget than GPs, for example. Depending on the specialities, HCPs will access different platforms which are more or less user friendly.
- More personalisation of training and e-learning would make the experience better. Current solutions offered very limited scope for personalisation or displaying only relevant content.
- Interactivity is key to creating engaging e-learning experiences. Participants commented that although recorded online lectures and webinars are beneficial, they’re not as valuable as in-person events where you can ask real-time questions
- HCPs lack spare time to dedicate to training and CPD. Flexibility in terms of accessing content and fitting learning around personal and professional commitments is increasingly important.
- The cost of accessing CPD and other forms of training is an important consideration. Most HCPs have to cover the cost of training themselves, with it being reimbursed by their employer at a later date in some cases.
- It’s easy to forget about CPD requirements and upcoming appraisals. HCPs are busy and sometimes forget about keeping up with their training requirements and appraisal timeframes.
- Most HCPs have a love of learning. They want to constantly better themselves professionally and develop expertise in their field.
The team took the findings from the user research forward into an Innovation Workshop. This was an opportunity to share ideas and develop them into plans for a real prototype in a short amount of time.
Our first job here is to broaden our horizon by looking at what has already been done to solve similar problems. From there the team will build on individual ideas, define direction and sketch solutions.
We decided to focus on 2 big themes from our research — the social aspect of learning, and creating a more personalised experience.
Learn more about the Innovation Workshop process.
How might we bring a face-to-face feel to the digital training experience?
- Let HCPs create courses themselves
- Be transparent with reviews and feedback from other HCPs
- Highlight the course creators and help them build their public profile
- Be very clear and upfront about learning objectives
We also dug into what makes a great face to face interaction:
- A multisensory experience
- An intellectual knowledge transfer
- An emotional connection
Social media has worked hard at those things and championed emotional cues for instant feedback and conveying that real people are here in real time. For example, through connecting people with similar interests or using emojis for emotions/reactions.
How might we give HCPs a more personalised experience when training?
Personalisation is challenging and often thrown around as a “catch all” solution. Good personalisation requires great data processing and users to contribute by giving regular feedback and making quick decisions while browsing content. We decided to focus on:
- Offering flexible training (short sessions or deep dives or group sessions).
- Different levels of detail on data to allow HCPs to build their own point of view
- Ability to track progress and highlight gaps and strengths.
- Experiment with the ‘stories’ format utlised in social media to offer a quick way to browse content
Designing the prototype
Prototyping for innovation is the art of making your ideas “real” enough to put your ideas in the hands of your audience. When prototyping for concept testing, we are looking at testing assumptions. We aim to do “just enough” design to feel authentic. Some functions or interactions won’t be available, but HCPs will still be able to query them during the research sessions.
We focus on 4 key areas for our concepts:
Personalisation and relevance
We designed a simple onboarding process that would allow HCPs to set a few initial parameters to take control over how they access training and tailor their content. HCPs can set a preferred training schedule, reminders, learning activities and even goals for the number of CPE points they would like to collect.
New formats to increase discoverability
Our research showed that just like most of us, HCPs like easily digestible, scrollable content that can be found on platforms like Instagram. We decided to offer them a proven way to browse content using ‘stories’. HCPs could quickly swipe through training content and decide in a matter of seconds if this was the right one for them. CPD points, peer reviews, subject and length are visible at a glance.
A second idea was to allow them to focus on how much time they have, right now and find content specifically appropriate for that timeframe. This enabled and encouraged learning in a low-pressure, flexible way.
Bring back a sense of community
We all miss sharing ideas and meeting with our peers frequently in person. We also love the convenience of digital, doing what I want, when, and where I want to. For our concept, we wanted to combine the best of both worlds.
We introduced a community aspect, where HCPs would be able to join groups relevant for their interests and see what training their peers are undertaking. People would be able to jump into a new course knowing that their peers valued the learning. Taking inspiration from other platforms, we also provided an opportunity for HCPs to discuss their training with their peers, like in a classroom.
We imagined that, like every community, some KOLs (key opinion leaders) would emerge and lead the way, and incorporated this into the prototype.
Increase visibility around learning outcomes
There is nothing worse than starting something just to realise you made the wrong decision. One key UX principle is to support users in their decision-making, helping them make the right choice.
In our concept, each course or piece of content would highlight key learning outcomes, community ratings, key speakers and other important information such as CPD hours/points upfront.
- Design and UI: They liked the clean, simple look and feel of the app. The user interface allowed them to complete the tasks they set out to in a straightforward way. They liked the ‘social media’ feel, describing it as refreshing and relevant. Bringing in ‘stories’ in a similar style to Instagram made the content more engaging.
“I like this, I think it’s very relevant, isn't it? And it does feel a bit like you are flicking through Instagram or TikTok or something as opposed to doing work on the usual portals. It's quite refreshing in that sense.” — Research Midwife
- Unique: Our HCPs believed the final concept to be a unique and needed concept. One user commented that they have not engaged with any app-based CPD in the past or seen any similar options.
- Sense of community and opportunities to interact: Our participants loved the hybrid set-up of the app with the combination of networking with CPD. They liked the community aspect and felt it was especially important as they are able to network less in real-life these days.
- Personalisation: They liked the ability to select interest areas during the onboarding process to ensure they would only see content that is relevant to them and their specialisms. They felt this was an important aspect as they didn’t want to waste time sifting through options that weren’t right for them.
“Tailored to you. Everybody wants that, everyone has their own learning style and preferences when it comes to accessing training. It's personalised to your needs.” — GP
- Bitesize, modular content: Liked that an app like this allows you to dip in and out as you have the time, and commit to different levels of action. This ‘ad-hoc’ approach would allow HCPs to fit CPD around their busy schedules.
- Notifications and scheduling: our users generally liked the fact that you could be reminded about your CPD via notifications. They highlighted however that there should not be too many notifications that would get in the way of their busy day-to-day lives.
“I think push notifications are good. I think daily would be a bit much there, like twice a week maybe would be good. I think otherwise it would just get to the point where I’d just turn off the push notifications.” — Paediatrician
There were also some other functional considerations that our HCPs picked up on as things to consider if we were going to move the project forward and build the app:
- Verification and security: verification of those using the platform would be an important aspect if peer-to-peer and interaction was an element. You would need to know that people you were speaking with were credible professionals but also that confidentiality and anonymity practices were upheld.
- Automatic integration with CPD logs: the ability to export information from the app in a format that’s recognised by accreditation bodies is important. Even better if the app could seamlessly integrate with points logbooks. The functionality to track and monitor hours or points for CPD requirements should be built-in.
An opportunity for pharma organisations in the HCP e-learning and CPD space
Throughout this process, we noticed a big opportunity for pharma organisations to get more involved with HCP e-learning and CPD.
By offering more pharma-sponsored educational content — or even building a fully-functioning e-learning platform like the one we’ve prototyped here — there is scope to add value to the HCP relationship and engage with this audience in new ways.
When it comes to creating content, investing a bit of time into research and hearing from HCPs will give you precious insights into their specific needs. What works for one speciality or for another pharmaceutical group might not be the best approach for your audience.
To discuss these opportunities and the outcomes from our user research with HCPs in more depth, get in touch.
Solving problems through innovation
Every few months, we come together as a team of designers, researchers, and strategists to create innovation pieces that solve real-world problems. We discuss the current challenges within our industry, then use our digital skills to imagine possible solutions for overcoming them.
The Innovation Workshop provides a focused and creative environment for teams to collaborate and formulate ideas into a future vision. We follow a structured process in the same way we would when approaching a project like this with one of our clients. Research, prototyping, and testing are key elements. At the end of the process, we’re able to present an innovative, viable and tangible solution.