When it comes to training community health workers (CHWs) for your agency, it’s more important than ever that you demonstrate a sustainable program.
The research already shows that CHWs can save organizations millions, especially when it comes to supporting complex patients and high ER room utilizers. CHW programs offer proven return on investment (ROI) when implemented effectively. A recent analysis by Penn Medicine showed its community health worker program yields $2.47 for every $1 invested annually by Medicaid.
At the same time, it’s vital not to sacrifice quality. We meet agencies on a regular basis that train their staff by emailing out a PDF document. That might be a helpful resource document, but it’s not a training program. You’ll want to keep your training relevant, up-to-date with health guidelines, and engaging enough that your staff actually wants to participate in it.
Considering the pressures on keeping a CHW program afloat, your strategy for creating a new program or maintaining an initiative needs to be flexible, smart, and strategic. Anything you can do to keep costs down is a benefit. It’s important to remember that while a CHW training program is a necessary investment, not all expenses are expensive.
5 Strategies for Reducing the Cost of Training CHWs
- Calculate the cost of your existing training.
- Centralize your education efforts.
- Cut travel related to training and move online.
- Partner up with other programs, departments, and agencies.
- Re-examine Medicaid.
Here are several examples that you can follow to train your CHWs without over spending and staying within a budget, whether you’re responsible for a small, midsize, or large organization.
1. Calculate the cost of your existing training.
Deciphering the true costs of online training is a complicated task that can easily reach beyond the boundaries of any grant or budget line item. You may be paying more for training than you think. Think about the cost of updating outdated materials or using expensive trainers. Broaden your search to dig up all the costs you and your colleagues might be feeding into training–and identify ways to trim and consolidate (more on that below).
Here are some places to look when calculating your existing training costs, but remember this is only a start:
- Room rentals
- Per diem for traveling CHWs
- Marketing costs
2. Centralize your education efforts.
Many agencies have multiple departments training similar people in the same skills. Someone who is a case manager in one department might be doing the same work as a CHW in another. If they both need to learn outreach skills, then train them together.
This also goes for partnerships with training organizations. Many of our clients don’t realize at first that they can bring all their online courses into CHWTraining. We can host many different types of courses in one learning management system. This can be a tremendous savings, because it means that our clients can completely eliminate the redundant cost of hosting training for different people in different systems.
3. Cut travel related to training and move online.
Travel is the number one budget-eater when it comes to training. Airfare, hotels, meals, time away from the office…it can amount to thousands for each employee. End it. Just stop paying for any travel and offer e-learning.
This can be a game-changer in more ways than one. Not only are you avoiding costs associated with travel, you’re also making it much more convenient for your workers to access educational content in an engaging format whenever they need it. This could be when they’re home, when they have time between seeing clients or patients, or when they have a critical need for skills, such as information about finding immunizations during a flu outbreak.
Elearning courses can be updated quickly and easily, and they often don’t need a facilitator at all. Saving staffing and travel while making training better and more accessible is a solid way to boost your ROI.
4. Partner up with other programs, departments, and agencies.
Your partner agencies or neighboring departments likely have similar training needs to you. Start networking and find a way to share the expense of learning. Bonus: Your CHWs benefit from more cross-departmental networking, and it makes their job of making referrals easier.
The more you ask around, the more you can identify internal and external subject-matter experts who can supplement any existing training efforts.
Imagine that you have an asthma home visit program that requires your CHWs to go door-to-door to help clients understand their asthma care plans and identify allergens and triggers. Now imagine that you contact your agency’s EMS coordinator and explain that your CHWs are in clients’ homes. Your EMS partner pulls out a Vial of Life kit and offers to show your team how it works and how they can set it up with clients.
Think how that one contact could significantly improve the life of your clients and enrich your internal training efforts.
5. Re-examine Medicaid.
CHWs are billable providers, although federal codes and regulations could make it difficult to allow for direct billing. “The Medicaid SS1115 waiver permits states to use federal funds in ways that do not conform to federal standards, so in this case Medicaid funds can be used to support CHW programs,” according to the American Hospital Association (AHA).