Recertification: Using a Certification Management System to Maintain Compliance
If you are like most certification programs, your recertification process is likely one of the most complex and yet least understood of your programs. Recertification rates and attrition may be unpredictable—we don’t know how many will recertify and why people don’t. Even without a highly scientific understanding of the reasons people drop out of your recertification program, there are things you can do to make it easier for them to maintain compliance with your requirements. Let’s face it—certification is rarely top of mind for our certificants. They are more likely to be “doing their jobs” like caring for patients, performing highly skilled functions, and managing strategic outcomes than thinking about how many PDUs they’ve accumulated and when their certification expires. Yet, we need them to know what we expect, how far along they are, and when they need to act. So how do we do that? We’ll need to have strategies in place and a system designed to support those strategies. Let’s break it down into the following categories:
- Clarify requirements
- Show progress
- Remind about deadlines
If our certificants don’t know what they are supposed to do, they won’t do it. So we need to make sure they know exactly what we expect of them, what their options are, and when they need to be “done.” If yours are like most programs, your certificants haven’t memorized all of your requirements, and they probably don’t know all of their options. You probably have a website that spells out all of these details, but when do your certificants look at your website? Probably only when it’s too late.
The right certification management system will spell out precisely what you expect. A certification management system will describe overall requirements and guide certificants through the process with on-screen instructions and intelligent prompts. On-screen alerts will let people know when they’ve done something correctly and warn them if they try to deviate from your rules. With an advanced system, you won’t need to depend upon programmers to edit your guidance and communications. Instead, you can make changes in real-time that respond to the concerns you hear from your certificants.
Just as certificants likely forget your recertification requirements, they are likely to lose track of how far along they are. Even if they remember they have to complete 30 PDUs in three years, they probably don’t remember if they have two or twenty at any given moment. Most likely, they overestimate how far along they are. More complex recertification rules exacerbate the problem—mandatory activities, distribution requirements, and limits may prevent recertification even if a person has achieved the number of hours. A shoebox full of CE certificates and a back-of-the-napkin tally won’t accurately represent how close a person is to their recertification targets.
A certification management system can help with compliance by telling certificants exactly how far they are. Visual indicators such as progress bars can show what a person has reported and how much farther they have to go. Progress indicators can be highly granular, so if you have multiple pathways and restrictions, the system will precisely render each requirement’s status. The right system will let you configure complex rules without programming so you can make sure they are correct and evolve with the program.
Visual indicators and dashboards have an additional value for the adult learner—we are motivated by progress. As we see those progress bars march towards our goals, we are much more likely to take that next step to close the remaining gaps. So showing progress might just nudge a person to take their next step across the finish line.
Even if we clarify requirements and show progress, we still need to face the reality that people WILL forget when they need to be finished. Some people will just lose track of time, thinking they still have another year or that the deadline isn’t for another few months. Others will have genuinely attempted to complete their work on time but somehow forgot to hit the “submit” button. Whatever the reason, your staff will not have the time to track down people as their deadlines approach.
A certification management system helps remind people of deadlines with automated communications. Automated communications may be alerts, like “you have 90 days to submit your application,” or they could be ticklers, like “you started something, but you didn’t finish it.” These messages can be highly personalized to the person’s circumstances and can include detailed guidance. As with other advanced features of an online certification management system, you don’t want to rely on programmers to manage your alerts and notifications. With a highly configurable certification management system, you will be able to edit notification content and define the conditions to send communications using common WYSYWIG editors.
And remember—in today’s world, people are much more likely to respond to a text message than an e-mail. If you really want to reach them, use a system that integrates SMS messaging.
If you aspire to higher recertification rates, consider using a certification management system to improve compliance. Improved clarity, progress indicators, and reminders can take the guesswork away from your certificants and give them their best chance to recertify on time. If you don’t have a system or your system doesn’t make it easy for you, consider upgrading to a more state-of-the-art certification management system that does the heavy lifting for you.