Assessment Essentials

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Assessment Essentials 

By Maureen Thielemans

As AACP Interim Meeting participants discovered, the keys to measuring an institution’s effectiveness include leadership, a willingness to go beyond the traditional, and lots of questions.

Measuring is a common practice in everyday life. We hold our breath and step on the bathroom scale. We mark the wall with a child’s height and check a floor’s square footage before buying a rug. The degree of someone’s or something’s effectiveness can also be gauged, although the process is much more complex. Attendees at the 2013 AACP Interim Meeting, Feb. 9-12, learned about the resources and strategies needed to measure how well an institution is achieving its mission and goals.

Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, provided the perfect backdrop for stimulating discussions and engaged learning. Inspirational speakers and thought-provoking sessions set the stage for three days of networking and professional development focused on Leadership for Institutional Effectiveness. Following are highlights of AACP’s first-ever off-shore meeting.

Recalibrating the Traditional Team

Activating meaningful change in pharmacy practice must come from the top. That was the topic addressed by Dr. Terry McInnis, president and founder of Blue Thorn Inc., during the CEO Deans’ Leadership Forum. She challenged academic pharmacy leaders in the room to be innovators of medication therapy management programs. “There is a need for MTM,” she stressed. “We must get away from fee-for-service and focus on the desired outcomes, which become very important.” Medications are not taken in silos, she added, and so patient-centered care is key. Rebecca P. Snead, executive vice president and CEO of the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, emphasized the role of state and local groups in partnerships with pharmacy schools.

Concluding the session was a Q&A portion where attendees offered other key elements to consider when returning to their institutions, such as the increasingly important role technology will play in healthcare. AACP President J. Lyle Bootman, Ph.D., asked the speakers for one recommendation that would inspire attendees. McInnis stressed that when focusing on patient-centered care, innovators must recognize the diversity within patient populations. “We must still meet people where they are,” she said, adding that there is a generational shift in healthcare. Snead echoed her thoughts: “Go beyond what we think of as the traditional healthcare team. The key to how patients benefit from pharmacy services is in this room.”

If You Build It…

The meeting’s general session focused on how health professions education can improve learning outcomes to accommodate the expectations of graduates in a transformed health system. Dr. Lawrence G. Smith, executive vice president and physician-in-chief at North Store-LIJ Health System, took attendees on his journey of tackling that challenge as the founding dean of the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. Building a transformative institution required asking key questions, and writing a lot of checks, he joked. The first stage was to identify what the ideal graduate looked like. Next, he determined how success will be defined and established a mission and vision statement, as well as core values.

Smith valued learning and knew he wanted to approach that particular factor in a unique way. Rather than asking faculty, “How will we teach it?”, he posed, “What is the best way for students to learn?” The goal was to create the best doctors of the future and in order to do so, Smith had to focus on the transformation from students to caregivers, and designing a team of faculty to accomplish this was a must.

Smith developed a set of core principles to guide him. Among them were:

  • Value learning over teaching—“We must teach and test differently,” he said. “Learning is more important than teaching.”
  • Trust the students to learn much of the factual knowledge outside of class—“Teachers don’t need to teach facts.”
  • Make decisions under uncertainty—An example was his son’s education at Dartmouth medical school. “Every medical decision was a gamble; they never gave students enough information to be absolutely certain.”
  • Professionalism is personal—“Becoming a professor is a personal transformation.”

Where to Start?

Pre- and opening session speakers set the stage for getting down to business: implementing and assessing institutional effectiveness. Higher education consultant Michael Middaugh, Ed.D., used his tenure at the University of Delaware as an example of an institution repositioning itself in the marketplace. He outlined key challenges and opportunities for pharmacy education leaders, noting that an effective institution is characterized by a strong linkage between planning and assessment, as well as a thorough understanding of its external environment.

Resource allocation, leadership, governance and integrity are all characteristics of excellence within institutional effectiveness, he said. Schools must take into account factors such as demographic issues, economic problems and political issues.

Later that afternoon, groups met to discuss their assignment, which was to perform an environmental scan to identify at least one major issue confronting pharmacy schools, whether political, economic or technological. Teams identified many concerns, such as students who struggle with mental health problems, as well as those who are returning to pharmacy as a second career.

Using the Right Tools

AACP staff member Danielle A. Taylor, M.P.P., helped attendees connect the dots between institutional research (IR) and institutional effectiveness. As the Association’s associate director responsible for those areas, she gave an overview of AACP’s research surveys and data reports that are available to member schools. Following her talk, attendees shared how they’ve used data from the IR surveys in their advocacy work and financial planning or research initiatives.

Assessment was the focus of Dr. Randy L. Swing’s session on Learner Implications for Institutional Effectiveness. He illustrated how academic leaders can use assessments to inform change, influence planning and improve student outcomes. He outlined the Value Added I-E-O Model, which is comprised of inputs, environments and outcomes. “People lean on outcomes too much,” he said. You can’t focus on only one of the components but rather look for all three data points, he added. Another key factor in assessment? “Start by identifying what you’re doing well.”

Research leaders in the Academy convened two panels that concluded the Interim Meeting. The first addressed how to build effective interprofessional and multidisciplinary health science research collaborations. Dr. David S. Forbes, dean of the College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences at The University of Montana, and Dr. Kimberly A. Galt, associate dean for research at Creighton University School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, gave examples of how they’ve expanded their research initiatives by gaining support from federal, state and private programs. Forbes suggested looking at the landscape of your institution and finding research ideas to address any issues. In Montana, unique research opportunities exist related to asbestos and the presence of lead in homes as a result of the mining industry. A second panel continued the discussion about how to diversify research in pharmacy. Speakers outlined how they’ve created research and scholarly activity on their campuses, including Patient-Centered Outcomes Research, the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and Community-Based Participatory Research.

Ready to Work

Whether returning home or staying in beautiful Puerto Rico to enjoy the surroundings, Interim Meeting participants felt rejuvenated and eager to implement newly-learned strategies with the goal of improving their institutional effectiveness. Thanks to higher education experts and loads of peer networking, they now have the building blocks to do so.

Maureen Thielemans is Communications Manager at AACP and editor of Academic Pharmacy Now; mthielemans@aacp.org.

© 2014 American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy
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