Calculating the Cost of a CHW Training Program

A team of educated community health workers can ease the cost of healthcare costs for a community, but what eases the cost of a training program? E-learning could be the answer.

Calculate your e-learning ROI

Hidden costs lurk in traditional live instructor-led trainings, and it’s a challenge to find them. Start to jot down all the random costs of getting people into a room together, and you’ll see how the prices quickly shoot up. A huge portion is travel and lodging costs, which account for as much as 40 cents of every dollar spent, studies show.

The quickest way to reduce travel and lodging costs is to eliminate them: move the community health worker classroom online. Any expense that ordinarily goes to feeding and equipping a group of people can be channeled into development and instructing. That can be an up-front savings, but costs certainly plummet the more often you run the training program.

Here’s a simple calculation from the American Society for Training and Development’s T+D magazine that helps analyze the return on investment (ROI).

“The standard ROI equation calculates Return as equal to Benefits divided by the Cost of the System. Easily determined hard savings include reduction in travel and training budgets, instructors, physical facilities, training materials, administrative time, and hours of lost productivity when the employee is off-site,” the magazine reports.

Here’s how to do it. First, add up the cost for a specific period of classroom training including travel and lodging expenses for out-of-town attendees, vendor payments if applicable, administrative overhead, real estate expenses and instructor time. Don’t bother calculating more intangible expenses such as time off the job if you don’t want to. Total those expenses and compare them with the estimated costs associated with an online training application. The difference will probably astound you.

Time involved in training

It’s easy to see how the kinds of things you can buy at your local Staples drain the coffers. One item that’s often neglected from “should we move to e-learning” calculations is the cost of time. Instructor-led training simply takes longer than e-learning.

“My company has found that on-ground courses that move to eLearning take about half the ‘seat time’ in their eLearning format,” Judy Unrein says in her article Overcoming Objections to eLearning in Learning Solutions magazine.

Unrein, who is an instructional designer for Nike and who has an M.Ed. in Instructional Design from the University of Massachusetts in Boston, goes on to say that one cause is because an online course is more streamlined. All of the “nice to know” filler information that instructors share in classrooms has been removed by the time it goes online.

Minimizing financial risk

Live trainings are also critically scheduled, and the margin of error is much narrower. For example, one of our clients, a department of a New York-based college, recently had an in-person event where the instructor didn’t show up. He simply forgot, and there was a room of people clearing their throats waiting for the star to show. They rescheduled for the following week, duplicating all the costs of the lost event.

Problems can happen online too, but when mistakes of this magnitude happen in person, the financial drain is much higher.

While every program is different, the savings of an e-learning program vs. instructor-led training can be significant. Every program considering moving training online should carefully research hidden costs of bringing a room of people together.

For more information on increasing the return on your e-learning investment, book a free consultation and we’ll contact you to discuss an e-learning program that fits your needs and budget.

[Photo credit: “Crunching” by Holtsman]

4 Key Elements of a Healthcare Writing Program

Written communication with a prescription

Pop quiz: how many pills per day should you take if your prescription says, “Take 2 pills twice daily.” If you’re not sure if that’s a total of two pills per day or four pills per day, you’re not alone.*

In a recent study of adults from different backgrounds, nearly half misunderstood at least one out of five prescription labels. Those with low health literacy rates frequently misunderstood four out of five labels.

Poorly worded materials, or those written at a high reading level, can have disastrous–even deadly–effects on patients. The best way to fix the problem is for health systems and health departments to train public health professionals to write clearly.

Begin by incorporating these four areas into your training program:

1. Stop using medical terminology.

Make it a policy not to use terms like “renal” or “influenza” in communication with patients. They’re not clear and frequently misinterpreted.

2. Use a variety of communication methods.

If a patient can’t understand written communication, explain it out loud. If English is a problem, use an interpreter. Use illustrations when possible to reinforce important information.

3. Recognize cultural differences.

Straight-up dictionary translation is almost never enough, because languages and cultures have so much complexity. Train your staff on knowing and understanding the background of patients and also having access to experts, such as interpreters, to help explain.

4. Test, test, test.

Any time your staff creates a bulletin, flyer or anything else written, send it for review by peers, administration and especially readers from all backgrounds. Testing with readers does not have to be time-consuming or expensive, but their feedback will improve your communication skills.

Take the time to train your staff in how to communicate clearly, and you could save a life.

Online Course: Health Literacy: A Start

Train your staff in how to improve health literacy rates. Enroll now to start improving written communication and more.

*Correct answer: it’s a total of four pills per day.

[Photo credit:  incurable_hippie on Flickr]

10 Jargon Healthcare Terms You Must Never Use

Improving health literacy

Jargon is the scourge of all industries, but nowhere is it more damaging than in healthcare. Misunderstanding what a health worker is saying regarding treatment might make the difference between life and death in a patient.

Health literacy rates are remarkably low in this country–according to the Health Literacy Fact Sheet 9 out of 10 people don’t have the skills necessary to manage health and prevent disease.

Patients may understand far less than you think they do. According to a study from the Department of Emergency Medicine, State University of New York at Buffalo, a group of 249 adults understood less than half of the terms they were asked, including:

  • 79% didn’t know “hemorrhage” meant “bleeding”
  • 78% didn’t know “fractured bone” meant “broken”
  • 74% didn’t know “myocardial infarction” meant “heart attack”

With some minor effort, low health literacy rates can be improved. Start in in your organization by eliminating any convoluted terms that don’t sound like they came from a human, but a laboratory. Start with the three bullet points above, and also start using plain language for these:

Instead of …

Use …


Pain killer




Not cancer




Keep track of, keep an eye on


Send you to another doctor



That list is only a start. Once you begin re-evaluating the way your organization uses terminology, you’ll likely realize there are other areas in which you can improve: for instance, stop using just about any acronym. The forum has an interesting discussion in which nurses share anecdotes about misunderstood medical terminology (hint: don’t use “SOB” to mean “shortness of breath”) that shows the unexpected bredth of miscommunication.

For more information on helping to reduce low health literacy rates in your organization, register for our online course Health Literacy: A Start. If you’d like to find out more about our training programs, book a free consultation and we’ll contact you to discuss an e-learning program that fits your needs.

Register for Health Literacy: A Start, beginning Dec. 9, 2013.

[Photo credit: Dan Tantrum on Flickr]

New Health Literacy Course Improves Healthcare Team IQ

The typical patient walking out of a doctor’s appointment can remember only about half of what they were just told. The combination of a flood of information, new terminology and, in some cases, shock can make it difficult for anyone to absorb everything.

Adults' Health Literacy Level

This fact is at odds with common assumptions about health literacy. Members of healthcare teams are often incorrect supposing that patients with low health literacy are poor, elderly, uneducated or non-native English speakers. While those kinds of populations may indeed have difficulty understanding treatment and prevention, it’s still a dangerous misconception that leads to a remarkably low health literacy rate. Government research shows that 9 out of 10 people lack the skills they need to manage their health and prevent disease.

But a new web-based course developed for healthcare professionals uses new research and assessment tools to make it easier to identify and address low health literacy rates across socioeconomic lines.

Health Literacy: A Start” from Talance, Inc., is geared to both clinical and nonclinical staff who want to improve the way patients are able to understand and use health information. The course launches Dec. 9, 2013, and provides background on the seriousness of low health literacy,  and shows specific methods of working around literacy obstacles.

For example, people with low health literacy may be unable to understand warning labels on bottles. “Health Literacy: A Start” instructs participants in how to uncover low literacy levels–which can be hard to detect–and gives them “plain English” writing skills so they deliver jargon-free instructions.

“Low health literacy affects people no matter what color their skin is, how old they are or what country they were born in,” says Monique Cuvelier, CEO of Talance.

“I feel so excited about offering this course, because its potential impact is so great. Better health literacy can reduce healthcare costs dramatically and even save lives. The more people we can guide to improving health understanding will improve society as a whole.”

Registration for the course is now open at

[Figure: Only 12 percent of U.S. adults have proficient health literacy. More than a third of adults are in the basic (47 million) and below basic (30 million) health literacy groups. The majority of adults (53 percent) had intermediate health literacy skills. Source: America’s Health Literacy: Why We Need Accessible Health Information ]

About Talance, Inc: Talance, Inc., is a Boston-area e-learning company founded in 2000. It has offered courses and programs for some of the nation’s biggest health and human services organizations and has helped adult learners reach their career advancement and personal enrichment goals. Learn more at

CONTACT: Monique Cuvelier,