Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on an online cancer screening training programme for healthcare providers in the public sector in India: learnings from a hub and spoke model perspective

23 Feb 2023
Kavitha Dhanasekaran, Roopa Hariprasad, Mahendra Singh, Sumi Jain, Suzanne Tanya Nethan, Shalini Singh

Introduction: This article elicits our experiences and strategic approaches to ensure the sustainability of the online capacity-building programmes for healthcare providers (HCPs) in comprehensive cancer screening through the ‘Hub and Spoke’ model during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Methods: During the first wave of COVID-19, training for three cohorts of medical officers (MO) (Batch-A) was ongoing (May–December 2020). The Indian health system abruptly shifted focus towards containing the COVID-19 spread, leading to new challenges in conducting training courses. A new five-step strategic approach for cohort MO-14 (Batch-B) was adopted to spread awareness about the importance of cancer screening and the roles and responsibilities of HCPs in the implementation and conduct of practical sessions in their states in collaboration with their respective state governments. We also adopted social media – WhatsApp for official communication.

Results: Enrolling Batch-B following the new strategic approach reduced refusals by 25% and dropouts by 36% compared to Batch-A. Course compliance and completion was a significant 96% in Batch-B.

Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic opened a window of opportunity to understand the need for vital changes to improve the quality of our hybrid cancer screening training. Inclusion of the state government in planning and implementing the changes, awareness among HCPs about the importance of training and responsible acceptance of cancer screening, district-wise approach, use of social media in sharing course materials and conducting in-person training in the respective state have demonstrated significant impact on the quality of the training and in scaling-up of cancer screening. Prolonged mentorship, robust Internet connectivity for providers and training on handling gadgets and online video communication would profoundly benefit remote training programmes.

A well-devised backup system is essential for training programmes during unforeseen eventualities such as the COVID pandemic.

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