“We’re a product division of Royal Philips Electronics, and within that product division we offer learning services in support of the products that we sell,” said Douglas Dell, a global director for Philips Medical Systems, who leads the company’s Internet program.
Philips launched the Online Learning Center in 1999 in order to meet a growing customer demand for continuing education in an online environment. “Our customers told us they had a need for education. We had to come up with a solution that would allow them to go online, in many instances take the courses at home. We needed to provide a means for them to receive their certification and print their certificates right from their desktop. We’ve brokered some very strong relationships with accrediting bodies. The most important one is the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), which is an organization that accredits all the radiology-focused courseware for Category A continuing education on the Online Learning Center,” said Dell.
Currently, Philips’ target audience consists of imaging professionals such as radiologic technologists (RTs) and sonographers who need to secure continuing education units (CEUs) every two years in order to maintain their licensure to practice. With more than 100 accredited courses available, customers of Philips’ learning portal can choose from course topics such as anatomy, physiology, vascular imaging, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and others. Based on individual learning preferences, students can pick from a variety of course formats such as webcasts, clinical image intensive modules or modules with animations and narration. Course modules are typically worth one to two CEUs.
“We have over 30,000 registered users and over 600 hospitals that use the Online Learning Center to provide continuing education to their employees. Over 80 percent are U.S.-based clinical people, and a little less than 20 percent are international,” said Dell. The accredited courses only apply to U.S.-accredited education.
Dell describes Philips’ learning philosophy as extremely customer-service-oriented. “We’re trying to provide a service to our customers, both people who own Philips equipment and people who support Philips equipment as well as the general health care market that needs these CEUs. It’s very difficult to find time to take these courses, and we’re providing a service here for people who can’t get out of the hospital to take a course. We’re trying to make it easy for them,” Dell said.
By tailoring its online offerings to student and customer needs, Philips has successfully navigated many challenges that occur in an online learning situation. “One of the challenges is driving people to a portal and having a sufficient level of content,” said Dell. “We tackled that two ways. We created courses internally using in-house physicians and subject-matter experts. In addition, a number of our courses are authored by physicians and people in health care practice that are well regarded in the fields of radiology, ultrasonography and education.”
Another challenge centers on usability—making the navigation and courseware as user-friendly as possible. “We’ve used tutorials, pop-ups and all sorts of contact points including e-mail, telephone and live chat so if they run into a snag they can get a hold of somebody right away,” said Dell.
Philips’ return on investment or the effectiveness of its training is easy to measure despite a lack of heavy marketing. “People generally come to us through our Web site, and the fact that we have over 30,000 registered users says a lot,” said Dell. “Another measure is the number of CEUs and certificates that are awarded yearly, which has grown substantially and almost doubles every year.”
The future of Philips Medical Systems Online Learning Center will focus on expansion and relationship building. “We want to expand the scope of the accredited content outside the United States,” said Dell. “Second, we want to continue to extend content offering outside of traditional imaging sciences in areas like molecular imaging and to other allied health professionals like nurses. A third area will be to expand educational partnerships with industry associations like the ASRT, which is important for us because it has over 100,000 members in the radiologic sciences.”