Multidisciplinary Tracheostomy Quality Improvement in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Building a Global Learning Community

Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2021 Mar;130(3):262-272. doi: 10.1177/0003489420941542. Epub 2020 Jul 17.


Objectives: To report experience with a global multidisciplinary tracheostomy e-learning initiative.

Methods: An international multidisciplinary panel of experts convened to build a virtual learning community for tracheostomy care, comprising a web-based platform, five distance learning (interactive webinar) sessions, and professional discourse over 12 months. Structured pre- and post-webinar surveys were disseminated to global participants including otolaryngologists, intensivists, nurses, allied health professionals, and patients/caregivers. Data were collected on audio-visual fidelity, demographics, and pre- and post-tutorial assessments regarding experience and skill acquisition. Participants reported confidence levels for NICU, pediatric, adult, and family care, as well as technical skills, communication, learning, assessment, and subdomains.

Results: Participants from 197 institutions in 22 countries engaged in the virtual education platform, including otolaryngologists, speech pathologists, respiratory therapists, specialist nurses, patients, and caregivers. Significant improvements were reported in communication (P < .0001), clinical assessments (P < .0001), and clinical governance (P < .0001), with positive impact on pediatric decannulation (P = .0008), adult decannulation (P = .04), and quality improvement (P < .0001). Respondents reported enhanced readiness to integrate knowledge into practice. Barriers included time zones, internet bandwidth, and perceived difficulty of direct clinical translation of highly technical skills. Participants rated the implementation highly in terms of length, ability for discussion, satisfaction, applicability to professional practice, and expertise of discussants (median scores: 4, 4, 4, 4 and 5 out of 5).

Conclusions: Virtual learning has dominated the education landscape during COVID-19 pandemic, but few data are available on its effectiveness. This study demonstrated feasibility of virtual learning for disseminating best practices in tracheostomy, engaging a diverse, multidisciplinary audience. Learning of complex technical skills proved a hurdle, however, suggesting need for hands-on experience for technical mastery. While interactive videoconferencing via webinar affords an engaging and scalable strategy for sharing knowledge, further investigation is needed on clinical outcomes to define effective strategies for experiential online learning and virtual in-service simulations.

Keywords: distance learning; e-Learning; medical education; patient safety/quality improvement; tracheostomy; webinar.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • COVID-19
  • Caregivers / education
  • Education, Distance*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internationality
  • Interprofessional Education*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse Specialists / education
  • Otolaryngology / education
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Quality Improvement*
  • Respiratory Therapy / education
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Speech-Language Pathology / education
  • Tracheostomy / education*
  • Tracheostomy / nursing
  • Webcasts as Topic*
  • Young Adult