In this blog series, “Workforce Edtech – Leading the Job Skills Revolution,” we spoke to some of the founders and leaders here at LearnLaunch who are filling the gaps in workforce and continuing education, while redefining learning beyond traditional degree programs.

Every healthcare professional who takes the Hippocratic oath knows that a commitment to lifelong learning to provide the best care possible is the crux of the promise. This makes quality continuing education integral for hospitals and healthcare systems, especially in light of more stringent regulations. To meet these important needs, Mary Ellen Belliveau, CEO and founder of Knowledge to Practice, has created a convenient, expert-led microlearning platform that helps healthcare practitioners learn what they need, when they need it.

In this interview, Mary Ellen shared her perspective on the growth of alternative education programs, how the K2P platform improved learning outcomes by 52%, and the future of traditional learning methods in the medical continuing education space.

This is part 6 of the Workforce Edtech – Leading the Job Skills Revolution series. Tune in each Tuesday for a new installment of the series. Check out part 1 (LearnBolt), part 2 (TeachersConnect), part 3 (Authess), part 4 (CourseStorm), and part 5 (CareAcademy).

What does Knowledge to Practice do?

We enable continuity of care and improved reimbursements across hospitals and healthcare systems by serving as a source of trusted clinical knowledge and performance standards.

Why do you think there has been such rapid growth in alternative/accelerated post-secondary education programs?

I think the concept of investing in your workforce has become an obvious way to be able to stay a leader in any given field. The dated concept of churning through employees isn’t working for companies that want to innovate. You have to invest in people to make sure they’re keeping up with key skills and developing professionally.

That’s a reality for big companies across the board. In the case of hospitals, they can literally lose $1 million when just one physician leaves. Bringing on new physicians is expensive, so making it easy for them to keep up with current standards is a no-brainer.

For physicians themselves, the Hippocratic oath is about being a lifelong learner and always keeping up with new devices, diagnostics, and compounds. This knowledge is gained through continuing education. The old model of continuing medical education is big conferences with one-size-fits-all learning. With platforms like ours, just-in-time learning becomes a reality.

Online learning can be a lot more effective, but many online products in our space are just digitized versions of the same conferences, which runs into the same one-size-fits-all challenges. Having to wade through a 60-minute lecture to find a personally relevant point is not effective. Online microlearning lets physicians learn what they want on their own schedule in a more practical and relevant way.

Why do you think startups are filling the gap in the market for continuing education rather than traditional colleges and universities?

I think it’s because in our market, there has been subject matter experts and meeting managers doing all of the organizing for continuing education. In general, however, there’s an absence of understanding of curriculum design and assessment methodology that drives essential educational outcomes. In our field, there are some incredible thought leaders in each area of medical practice who have their own lectures that they routinely give. A course filled with subject matter experts giving their pre-written lectures is not based on what learners actually want to learn, but rather on what the instructors want to teach.

How do you make the subject matter more accessible? A 60-minute canned lecture isn’t going to cut it. The educational offerings of startups are learner-focused and have the ability to change based on user feedback.

Continuing medical education is behind where it could be. There are so many physicians who are great subject matter experts, but the organization and dissemination of knowledge for a diverse set of needs in a personalized, just-in-time model just isn’t there. They deliver their lectures and have had past successes, but given the way technology has changed how people learn and what physician requirements are, those old ways aren’t tenable for a new generation.

It’s hard to get people who have been successful for decades to change their delivery methods and pedagogical techniques.That’s also why it was easier to build our company from the ground up than try to re-engineer large, often academic, organization.

What strategies are you using to attract new students and grow enrollment?

On the B2B side, we rely on account-based marketing. For our direct-to-physicians marketing, we use lot of digital marketing tactics like SEM, SEO, and email marketing. In this field, a lot of business gets done by developing relationships in person. Word of mouth is the most potent. Physicians are so time-strapped and hectic in their lives, they trust more in word of mouth because they don’t necessarily have the time to go searching for the best material.

What strategies are you using to attract employers who want their current or prospective employees to continue their education?

We have a groundswell approach. We use different propositions for different audience segments through the healthcare ecosystem. The ecosystem is connected – it starts with physicians, moves to administrators and then executives. It expands as it moves out.

We try to hit all of the validation points starting at the bottom of the organization and then try to move up the chain of command.

Can you share some of the results your clients are seeing?

We’re seeing 59% increases in knowledge from the time a physician comes into our program to the time they leave. In 2017, we ran three studies, each of which had three cohorts – one took a live course, one took an online course, and the third used our microlearning platform. In each of those, the curriculum and faculty were identical.

We did this experiment with physicians across Cardiology, Echo, and Internal Medicine. The result was that microlearning led to retention outcomes that were 52% better than didactic lectures.

In a field where up-to-date knowledge is so vital, why have good continuing education opportunities for medical professionals lagged so far behind until now?

I think it’s truly because physicians are expert learners, and in most institutions that provide continuing education from physicians themselves, there’s often a big chasm between older and new generations. In general, the younger generation – the millennials – doesn’t like memorizing information. They prefer being able to look things up as they need it.

The older generation of physicians that came up in a time where you had to memorize everything doesn’t usually appreciate the younger generation’s mindset, even though newer physicians have so much more to memorize. Young physicians like to use technology to learn on demand, and that upsets some older physicians.

Additionally, ACGME made significant changes to curriculum requirements for training physicians, given the rise of team-based care and higher focus beyond clinical domain skills. Essentially, the younger generation of medical professionals are being taught in collaborative environments, often as multi-disciplined teams. There will be conflict between millennial expectations and the well-established culture the holders of wisdom have grown accustomed to.  As millennials become 50% of the workforce and move into management and administrative functions inside hospitals, then change will be ushered in.

As education platforms like yours gain traction, do you expect to see lecture-based medical conferences and publications decline in attendance? Do you still see a place for those learning methods?

I think they will innovate and change, and there will still be a place for them. In terms of more broad awareness of changes in medicine, driving referrals and building relationships, conferences are important.

I think conferences will likely be smaller and we’ll see more poster series – shorter, more engaged sessions with more fluid movement along the areas of specific topic. It will be more about smaller communities in a bigger context.

Publications will not go away in the near term.  Peer review content is essential to adopting emerging concepts in care. While they will not drive behavior change, they do enable critical referenceable experiences for practitioners.


This interview was conducted and written by Ideometry, an all-in-one growth marketing agency helping everyone from startups to Fortune 500 companies engineer brilliant integrated campaigns, find their ideal audience, fuel their pipeline, and drive real success.

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