doctor holding digital tablet with colleagues walking in background
ATD Blog

5 Ways Microlearning Can Make a Difference in Healthcare Training

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Healthcare professionals must be fully equipped to deal with an emergency, follow protocol, and comply with constant regulatory changes in the quickest, most efficient way possible. Most of the basic, fundamental skills needed within the industry—such as hard skills and fact-based knowledge—have been learned through years of schooling. But what about the other skills needed to respond intuitively in moments of crisis or adapt to new regulations?

Unlike hard skills, soft skills like critical on-the-job thinking and behaviors can’t be learned through medical books or even from shadowing the most attentive mentor. These types of skills are instead often developed after spending years on the job—which is time the healthcare industry can’t afford when life-altering decisions must be made and time-sensitive procedural modifications occur regularly.

Speeding up the development of critical-thinking skills and behavior change is paramount to increasing proficiency and ensuring the best possible care for all patients. But how can healthcare leaders do this in an industry where change is constant? One way is by using microlearning.

Microlearning is a method of continuous training that breaks down complex training content into digestible pieces. When this is repeated over time, microlearning can increase knowledge retention and proficiency in ways that intense one-and-done training methods can’t. While best-practice microlearning uses repetition to help commit facts to memory, it’s much more nuanced than that. Here are five key aspects of microlearning that can positively affect healthcare professionals.

Contextual Learning

A crucial part of any learning and development initiative is making the content relevant to participants. One of the best ways to do this is by creating context-rich scenarios that give learners a situation they’ll actually encounter in their daily lives. This way, participants can see firsthand how the learning program is applicable and are more likely to participate in the program. By using contextual learning—putting learners in real-life scenarios they’ll encounter on the job—microlearning helps foster development of the critical-thinking skills and desired on-the-job behaviors needed in highly regulated and knowledge-intensive industries like healthcare.

Within the Daily Workflow

Microlearning is quick and simple. One of the most important aspects of a best-practice microlearning platform is that questions are actionable and able to be completed within the daily flow of work—on participants’ smartphones. Since challenges can be completed in as few as two to three minutes, microlearning is the perfect tool for busy healthcare professionals whether they’re sitting in their office or making rounds. All they have to do is simply take out their phone, answer a few questions, and return to what they were doing.

Spacing and Testing

Did you know studies have found that in as little as 30 days, 79 percent of knowledge is forgotten? This phenomenon—coined the “forgetting curve”—has nothing to do with the quality of your learning program. Instead, it has everything to do with how the brain works.


Microlearning helps offset the forgetting curve by using spaced education techniques called the spacing and testing effects. The spacing effect combats the forgetting curve by increasing knowledge retention through presenting and reinforcing information over spaced intervals of time. The testing effect, meanwhile, is an active learning and long-term behavior change process that tests, challenges, and questions individuals while giving them immediate feedback.

By utilizing these two techniques, healthcare professionals can better retain information, increase proficiency, and see improved on-the-job performance.


Data Driven

One of the most overlooked benefits of microlearning is the data collected throughout the program. Let’s say you ran a six-week program featuring 100 participants who each answered three questions per week. Upon the program’s completion, you now have 1,800 data points to reference that could help you identify gaps in job proficiencies and inform future healthcare learning and development programs.

Patient Impact

In healthcare, job proficiency has a direct impact on patient experience, safety, and outcomes. As such, it’s essential that patient-facing employees possess the right balance of hard and soft skills required to be effective. Microlearning is one of the breakthrough techniques now being used throughout the healthcare industry to help employees reach this desired balance by constantly reinforcing key messaging and best practices in just minutes a day—thereby improving patients’ overall experience.

Want to learn more about how microlearning can make a tangible difference in your healthcare learning initiatives? Join me Sunday, May 19 at 3 p.m. at the ATD 2019 International Conference & Exposition for the panel session, Microlearning: Making a Tangible Difference In Healthcare Training and Patient Outcomes.

About the Author

As CEO of Qstream, Rich Lanchantin is responsible for running all facets of the business. He brings a proven management track record and more than 30 years of experience driving customer success and sales growth in the life sciences and software industries.

Prior to joining Qstream, Rich was senior director of global sales, consulting, and customer success for Abbott Diagnostics’ Informatics division, with responsibility for all commercial sales and services worldwide. Prior to that he served as global director of consulting and customer success with Thermo Fisher Scientific. Earlier career tenure includes sales leadership positions at Rational Software and Lotus Development, now part of IBM.

Rich holds a BA from Rutgers University and an MS from the University at Albany, SUNY.

Sign In to Post a Comment
An informed patient is, sometimes, the healthiest and most compliant patient. It would be interesting to see an article that supports using microlearning techniques not just for clinical staff, but how clinical staff can use microlearning to educate patients during healthcare encounters toward a better understanding of their condition, treatment and their role in managing their condition.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
I think this is a good solution to counter the forgetting curve which is a pretty common challenge in any organization. Micro learning with spacing and testing can help us on the aspect of knowledge. I look forward if there are also recommendations for skills embedding. Thanks.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.