Where's the healthcare reform push for provider education?

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For most people, a vacation means leaving work far behind, but not for me. So while a recent trip to the Dominican Republic was a small break from editing and writing about the healthcare industry, I still found myself getting caught up in (or starting) discussions about healthcare and healthcare reform.

Although, it wasn't my fault--I sat next to a nurse who worked at a hospital in the greater Philadelphia area at dinner one night. So two topics, the Philles and healthcare, were bound to come up.

There's been a big push for education around healthcare reform so I was shocked to hear talk about how she and the nurses in her unit don't really know what the law means or how it will affect them. She added that the hospital didn't offer educational opportunities but that she and her fellow nurses wish they could take a class to help them know what Affordable Care Act changes mean for them.

With U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last year cementing the ACA as law of the land, how can delivery and payment reforms produce results if we don't inform those charged with delivering care under these new systems?

But when it comes to patients and healthcare consumers, reform education is going full steam ahead. California, for instance, is training about 2,200 health law educators to inform uninsured and underinsured residents about the Affordable Care Act, not to mention the various national ad campaigns that seek to educate public about the reform law.

The Obama administration is stepping up its healthcare reform education efforts, as the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recently relaunched the healthcare.gov website and opened a 24/7 call center to help consumers understand new coverage options available under healthcare reform.

And in Pennsylvania, health centers and hospitals are among the "Champions for Coverage" volunteering to provide outreach and education to communities about the law's health insurance exchanges. Informing healthcare consumers is a lofty goal for hospitals and health centers (for which I applaud them), but perhaps they can direct some of that energy toward their workers.  

When I returned from vacation, I wanted to find out whether that nurse's experience, or inexperience, with healthcare reform education was an exception. I reached out to a friend, a registered nurse at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, about whether her hospital prepares nurses for healthcare reform. The hospital gives an overview of ACA basics at orientation but there's no formal class. "I would like a class, to better understand," she said.

Of course, two nurses don't make a trend, but they do make a good point. It's important for nurses to learn more than the basics.

Affordable Care Act brochures or FAQs are useful, but educational resources for providers need to dig deeper. Providers unaware of the intricacies of the reform law present a risk to achieving the triple aim goals of improved population health, experience of care and per-capita costs.

As my friend noted, it's probably up to the facility how much or little healthcare reform instruction they provide to staff. But with implementation deadlines approaching, it's time for hospitals to revamp provider education efforts--it will likely prove a popular move among nurses. - Alicia (@FierceHealth)