American Heart Association: Double your Education Budget

AHA - Money or Science?

Is the American Heart Association making it financially impossible for practitioners to stay current with treatment Guidelines? The AHA’s introduction of it’s “flipping the classroom” model for their certification and renewal courses certainly makes it appear so.

Currently, an ambulance service can send one of its employees to a BLS Instructor Course (which requires both the purchase of an online didactic portion from the AHA and attendance at an in person course which requires paying a training center) who can then provide training in CPR for the service’s own EMT’s, paramedics and dispatchers. Recently the American Heart Association released it’s new BLS for Prehospital Providers that utilizes its new “blended” educational method. One can only assume that since instructor courses in all disciplines and now this new BLS course has been released in this format, that there are more releases to come for ACLS, PALS and Healthcare Provider.

So let’s take a look at what this means for the average ambulance service with 50 employees. Currently, if you are teaching members of your own EMS service, books can be purchased to share among employees. If the challenge format is utilized, each paramedic completes the written examination and then demonstrates his/her skills in front of a BLS instructor in order to receive their certification. If this format is not utilized, a course directed by an instructor takes approximately 4 hours to complete. Using an average of $20.00/hour (generous average) for each EMT and paramedic, this form costs the average service $4,244.00 every two years.

$20.00/hr x 4 = $80.00 x 50 employees = $4000.00 2.00 x 50 for Certification Cards = $100.00 $12.00 x 12 for books that are reused – $144.00

Now, let’s move forward to the new “blended” format introduced recently by the American Heart Association. EACH student must purchase a key to give them access to the online portion of the course. Note: This course is valid for renewal student only. The student then takes a 90 minute online course followed by the completion of the written examination (30-45 minutes). Following the online course, the student must then present the certificate to a classroom instructor who then completes the skills portion of the course (2 hours). If the student is unable to pass the written examination after 2 attempts, a new key must be purchased. Keys can only be used for one student. This model will cost an additional $5,500.00 for the same service. Let’s not forget the cost of the instructor materials (different for each course) including the Instructor’s Essential Course (required), the Instructor Resource Kit ($75.00 required), the Instructor Manual ($19.95 required) and the DVD ($65.00 required).

The above is taking a look at only the BLS course which has been currently released. If the AHA uses the same model for ACLS and PALS (both of which are required), then we are talking about a lot more money. The AHA online version of ACLS is currently $129.00 and then the average classroom course costs $100.00, plus the required purchase of a book ($34.50) for each student, plus the cost of the cards at $5.00 per student and you are starting to get the very expensive picture.

When you start to think about the magnitude of these numbers when we are talking about large hospital systems or large EMS systems that have thousands of personnel who require all three courses in order to maintain medical command, certification or licensure this new “model of education” is going to become a “model of economic disaster” in a time when reimbursements are declining for all healthcare providers. One cannot help but question the idea of the Heart Association as a “non-profit” when they are suddenly presenting courses that they are fully aware are mandated by employers and making them more and more expensive to obtain.

Is the American Heart Association really concerned about making the latest scientific guidelines available to practitioners so that they can decrease death rates from heart disease and stroke? Or, are they more interested in making sure that their books are purchased and that they get a portion of the educational market? Recent history certainly makes the latter seem more likely.

In general, hospitals, prehospital and other out-of-hospital facilities that are currently providing in-house ACLS training using AHA for their providers should expect to more than double their education budgets going forward.

And, of course, our company’s ACLS / BLS and PALS training products are also delivered online, following AHA guidelines, accepted by Joint Commission, and have not gone up in price :-)