Restatement of My Action Research Project
The company that I work for (referred to as the “Company”) provides a branded healthcare credit card for patients and clients to purchase treatment services and products from doctors, dentists, audiologists, chiropractors, optometrists and veterinarians. The Company offers a variety of promotional plans that provide a cardholder a credit card loan that is interest free if the cardholder pays the loan in full within the promotional period (usually 6, 12, 18 or 24 months). 80% of the cardholders pay back the loans within the promotional time period. 20% of the cardholders opt to revert the promotional loan into a standard credit card line of credit with a standard credit card APR. The Company charges the healthcare provider a merchant fee when they process a sale through The Company’s credit card. The bulk of the Company’s profit is from the merchant fees since a large majority of cardholders take advantage of the interest free options.
Patients benefit from the credit card by saving on interest charges, the additional credit reserved for healthcare, and the ability to reduce monthly expenses by spreading payments over time.
Healthcare providers benefit from actively helping their patients / clients apply for the credit card and then encourage the use of the credit cards. Providers benefit by the reduction in provider financing, increase in monthly cash flow, and decrease in risk. Provider financing is defined as the healthcare provider extending credit to patients/clients by agreeing to take monthly payments for treatment. This provider financing of a patient’s debt forces the provider to commit worker hours towards the managing the collection of debt, reduced monthly cash flow (an IOU from a patient isn’t cash until it’s collected), and increased risk of non-payment of debt. The health care credit card solves all of those problems. A Patient that uses the credit card has a debt with the credit card company, not with the healthcare provider. The provider need not worry about collecting a debt or facing risk of the patient defaulting on the loan. These risks are transferred to the credit card company.
For newly enrolled providers, the Company provides synchronous classroom or phone training for thier office staff (called Activation Training). We track the success of our training with a number of metrics. One primary metric is the average number of Company credit card applications that the newly trained provider office submits (defect free) each month. The behavior of submitting defect free applications for processing tells us that the provider office understands the program.
Another metric that we track is a cluster of questions that we ask after training takes place that we call the Training Effectiveness Rating. The higher the score (Scale of 1 to 5) ) the more satisfied that providers are that the training was worth their time and that they would recommend our training to others.
Although patients’ / clients’ use of the Company’s credit card benefits the provider, there is a regulatory cost: providers are subject to consumer credit federal and state regulations. The hidden cost to the regulations is the need to ensure that provider workers are educated on what they can and cannot do when interacting with Company credit card applications and transactions. With over twelve thousand providers each year enrolling as new merchants for the Company’s credit card, the Company must consistently and effectively train the providers regarding the federal and state law requirements that credit card merchants must follow. Because of provider office time constraints, Activation Training duration must be no more than 60 minutes. 60 minutes, however, is an inadequate amount of time to consistently and effectively train the federal and state regulatory requirements as well as product knowledge and procedural topics. Consistency and learning effectiveness suffer when important regulatory training topics are skipped or treated in haste when class time runs short.
The Possible Solution
Since we don’t have adequate time to train all required and important topics, my possible solution is to add more time to Activation Training. My plan is blend the additional learning time with a mix of web based elearning that is then followed with the 60 minutes of scheduled live training.
The desired outcome from this blended learning is a more consistent delivery of the regulatory training topics along with a higher incidence of newly trained offices processing applications after training.
Possible Research Question
How will the switch to a blended learning affect newly the trained practices enrolled merchant applications rates and the Company's Training Effectiveness Index?
Evidence to be Used to Evaluate the Question
- Compare the average post training application rate of the blended training participants versus the traditionally trained participants.
- Compare the Training Effectiveness Rating of the blended training participants versus the traditionally trained participants.
Cycle One Question
How will adding an eLearning component to the Activation Training effect the completion rate of training?
Based upon the literature review, there is evidence that eLearning has a higher drop out rate versus instructor led traiing. The first step in performing a blended learning test is to validate that our process for getting our providers to the eLearning has no negative impact on provider refusal rate for training.
Cycle One Evidence Used to Evaluate the Question
The Training Refusal Rate of blended learning participants versus traditional learning participants.
The outcome of this first Cycle will determine the next Cycle research question.
Cycle One Plan
The plan right now for beating the drop out rate is to assign a training coordinator to the newly enrolled office. That coordinator will schedule the elearning as if it were a live class then help them sign onto the elearning by phone. Once the coordinator verifies that the elearning is running, then the student is left on their own. A few days later a follow up call will occur to check on the elearning progress and trouble shoot any issues.
What I've learned in December is to be flexible and realistic with my action research at my company. The increased focus on providing a consistent learning experience for each new provider is meant to decrease the incidence of providers not complying with federal and state law. With this as a top company priority, I realized that I would not be able to research my earlier topic within the time span of the MALT program and would need to change my research to exploring way to provide this consistent learning experience.
I also learned the value of the Lit Review. In the corporate world, companies engage in process improvement projects which have strong similarities with action research. However, detailed literature reviews normally are not part of such projects. Usually a quick search is made at other companies to try to identify "best practices." This investigation is usually incomplete and relies heavily on one's professional network.
Literature reviews, however provides a broad and deep understanding of the subject of interest. While constructing the first draft of my Literature Review, I learned that pure eLearning provides a consistent learning experience. However eLearning may have a higher incomplete or dropout rates than classroom training. I also learned that evidence suggests that a properly designed blended learning experience could reduce the drop out rate.
Lastly, I have also learned to value the feedback from my learning circle. A questions form Haley made me think about the strategy that I will need to execute for Cycle One. As i thought out the strategy and replied to her question, I filled out missing portions of my Cycle One plan in my mind.
A comment by Jason regarding the possible use of Learning Circles in the Activation Training will trigger a conversation with my manager regarding the advantages or disadvantage of such an y idea. This concept could become Cycle 3 in my research.