Cone Health Return
Conceptual E-learning Module Improves Patient Experience and Reduces Employee Training Time

Project Summary

  • Industry: Healthcare
  • Target Audience: 8,000+ nursing and support professionals with direct patient contact
  • Challenges:
    • Need to convey feeling in an E-learning delivery
    • Connecting with a highly diverse audience most accustomed to traditional instructor-led training
    • Incorporating video, audio, and animation across disparate (and in some cases, unknown) delivery systems


  • Solutions:
    • Narrated modules designed to smooth the transition to E-learning
    • Frequent use of photos, video scenarios, and patient testimony to model behavior and emotionally connect learners
    • Photos of actual Cone Health employees to reinforce personal responsibility
  • Results:
    • Self-paced modules reduced time staff spends away from patients from 5 hours to 1 hour
    • All employees find their self in the Cone story of excellent care, increasing level of care provided

Project Description


Cone Health is a not-for-profit network of healthcare providers serving the North Carolina Piedmont. Cone has a commitment to patient care excellence exemplified by its training opportunities for professionals and implementation of national patient care standards. Cone Health is a two-time recipient of Magnet designation, a voluntary designation awarded to hospital systems for excellence in nursing practice.

Prior to working with Handshaw, Cone provided only instructor-led training (ILT) sessions for a number of its key training courses. Each employee with direct patient contact was required to spend up to 5 hours away from their job to take the classes after hire, and again annually for renewals. Attempting to provide best-in-class learning solutions, Cone engaged Handshaw to determine ways to supplement an already strong curriculum with less time intensive E-learning that captured the same emotional tone as the ILT classes.


Handshaw partnered with multiple facilitators and subject matter experts to best determine the level of detail for the modules and the media required. Handshaw observed Cone facilitators in action as part of the analysis and design process. The interplay between facilitators and learners gave Handshaw designers an idea of the courses required.

Design Considerations

From the very beginning, the biggest identified challenge was to convey the feeling desired by Cone leaders in an electronic format, a task more easily accomplished via traditional ILT. As a result, soft colors, fonts, and graphics with a hand-drawn quality were used to establish a thoughtful, caring tone. The course interface featured rotating photos of hospital employees that spanned all divisions, both clinical and non-clinical, to reinforce that all staff members contribute to patient care. As often as possible, photos and videos of actual Cone Health employees were utilized in the training to model appropriate and in-appropriate interpersonal skills, so that learners can identify and take the necessary actions to correct observed improper behavior.

Handshaw also worked with Cone Health leaders to make the objectives as measurable as possible. Many organizations utilize a topic-based approach to this type of content, producing awareness training and employees who know "about" the tasks they need to perform. For Cone Health's patient care initiative, Handshaw selected a task-based methodology that placed the emphasis on employee performance within the context of their job. A field test with learners ensured the training was effective and that learners could connect with the content on a personal level.

Development and Implementation

Development was completed using the Adobe suite of products. Photos and video were shot onsite at a Cone Health location using actual employees modeling behaviors stakeholders want all professionals to demonstrate. Audio was professionally recorded utilizing Cone Health employees to reinforce the emotion desired by Cone.

Cone Health has an existing content management system to handle web-based elements of their ILT curriculum, but had never before used it to its fullest capacity in deploying asynchronous E-learning. Additionally, Cone Health shares training with their contracted service providers who work in Cone Health facilities to ensure anyone with patient contact is prepared; Cone Health's contractors use a substantially different delivery system.

Handshaw customized the final course packages by working closely with Cone Health technology analysts and representatives from the LMS vendor to ensure all of the LMS functions were activated and working with the new courses. Handshaw remained engaged after initial deployment in the Cone Health LMS to facilitate secondary deployment in the contracted services system.


The responses to the E-learning modules and to the strategy in general have been very positive. Stakeholders within the various lines touched by the E-learning and those in the learning community at Cone, including the CLO, feel confident this will not only prepare but also inspire the many professionals who complete the courses.