6 trends in healthcare digital workplace strategies

February 18, 2015

2014 was the year when the term “digital workplace” broke into the common vernacular for relevant industries and roles. One area where we’ve seen some shining examples is the healthcare industry.

2014 was the year when the term “digital workplace” broke into the common vernacular for relevant industries and roles.

From intranet managers to HR directors to CEOs, the concept of the digital workplace is taking hold. Now, 2015 looks set to be the year when many organizations strategize in earnest about improving employees’ digital experience of working, rather than just focusing siloed attention on managing individual enterprise applications.

This change in approach can have impacts from incremental improvements in employee engagement to transformations of the services provided to customers.

The digital workplace imperative for hospitals

One area where we’ve seen some shining examples is the healthcare industry.

There is no debating it – much of the red-tape content that is managed on healthcare intranets is simply not sexy compared to that published by many other industries. The thought of presenting lengthy and complex policies and procedures, even in new and innovative ways, would put many to sleep.

However, there is an imperative in healthcare to move past this apparent dryness and to figure out ways to communicate effectively with and engage employees.

After all, the stakes are as high as they get – the bottom line is that lives are lost when there are breakdowns in communication in healthcare. So, how is healthcare rising to this challenge?
We’ve identified six trends among healthcare companies’ digital workplace strategies. Hospitals and other organizations throughout the healthcare industry, as well as organizations in many other industries, can benefit from the approaches listed here.

      1. Focus on engaging and supporting frontline staff

        Employee turnover can cripple any healthcare organization, which has made frontline engagement a central business objective for savvy healthcare organizations. Healthcare organizations are striving to provide news, updates and engaging content to employees, much like with external audiences.

        Information overload and cumbersome tasks are common gripes among healthcare employees. So, forward-thinking organizations are taking a deep dive into analysing the frequent daily tasks that can be streamlined with a well-designed digital workplace. Simply making frequently used applications and documents easily available to employees, within a few clicks, can be a huge improvement.

        But going beyond that, empowering frontline healthcare workers to provide better care can improve patient outcomes and save lives.

        One example is the Mayo Clinic, which recently gave a live tour of its intranet on Digital Workplace Live. The Mayo Clinic won a 2015 Nielsen Norman Group intranet award for their extensive and effective implementation of user personas to drive task-based intranet designs.

        The Mayo Clinic’s intranet user personas were based on extensive research and observation of nurses and other caregivers working in their everyday environment. The resulting intranet designs provided powerful, integrated tools to help thousands of nurses complete common daily tasks more easily.

      2. Emphasis on customer (patient) satisfaction and outcomes

        In healthcare, numbers really matter, making quality metrics and KPIs hot topics. They affect reimbursement, accreditation, patient perception, and much more. Publishing up-to-date metrics is key to keeping the team’s eye on the ball. The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey is a national, standardized assessment in the US healthcare industry. The results of this survey play a large part in the above-mentioned metrics and performance impacts.

        Healthcare organizations are crafting internal campaigns to focus on specific ways to improve patient satisfaction. This embraces concrete measures, such as being mindful of noise levels, to more philosophical tenets such as treating patients and their families similarly to “hotel guests”. Beyond tactical improvements, leadership and communications teams work hard to build an environment of pride within their organizations, which can help to elevate customer service.

        Many healthcare organizations are putting patient satisfaction and outcomes at the heart of their digital workplace strategies. They analyse the patient experience and invest in digital workplace initiatives that can help improve it in critical ways. Often this means investing in crafting more effective digital experiences for patient-facing employees.

      3. Sharing the right critical information with the right employees

        There are many sources of urgent, frequently changing information in healthcare. This creates a real dilemma in finding ways to balance making up-to-date critical information available to employees while avoiding information overload.

        A recent example of how critical this can be is the Ebola scare. Quite different from a typical weather-related emergency, Ebola concerns forced healthcare organizations worldwide to quickly bring their workforces up to speed on how to deal with this threat and how to contain it if it did come through their doors.

        Aside from emergency scenarios, poor communication is frequently cited as a problem area by those within healthcare organizations and in patient satisfaction surveys. This makes finding ways to improve not only what is being published but also what information is actually being digested a critical goal.

        If you think it is important to make sure that a new salesman has read the Gift Policy, imagine how critical it is to have an audit trail for a hospital’s operating room procedure documents.

        Healthcare organizations are learning to integrate different sources of related information into task-based content focused on specific internal audiences. This approach, which is a classic strategy for user experience design, can integrate information from different libraries and systems into one interface. This can ensure that operational updates appear in line with related data entry and procedural screens, improving healthcare delivery and patient outcomes.

      4. Mobile access and access on shared workstations

        Aside from needs for bring your own device (BYOD) or prescribed mobile access, healthcare organizations often struggle with how to manage content on shared workstations, from nurses’ stations to bedside tablets. Mobile access and shared workstations, combined with privacy concerns around protected health information, often put access, convenience and security at odds with one another.

        Healthcare organizations are forced to place more focus on complex strategies to cope with these conflicting needs.

        A case in point is the Henry County Health Center (HCHC), a critical access hospital in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, which has made an operational improvement that resulted from a cross-disciplinary effort to solve a problem.

        It began when they sought to improve the accuracy and efficiency of their nightly census, but evolved into an integration between the electronic health record (EHR) and intranet that has yielded unexpected benefits.

        Today, environmental services staff update color-coded housekeeping status, isolation categories and basic demographic information from tablets mounted on housekeeping carts. This insightful initiative has earned HCHC international acclaim and produced a number of benefits to the organization.

        This story illustrates previous points. To implement these improvements, HCHC had to research employees’ daily tasks and needs in order to build solutions that worked well in a complex real-world context.

      5. Navigating the challenges of data privacy, security and requirements in a highly regulated environment

        The regulatory demands that impact the healthcare industry often threaten to cripple critical services. Satisfying mandates means working through complex, overlapping, and sometimes contradictory, requirements.

        Aside from the mammoth effort that goes into crafting a viable strategy around data privacy and security, the training requirements to keep employees up to date, and to avoid the plethora of ways in which a breach can happen, can be stifling.

        Every employee in every healthcare organization becomes a “security officer”, leading healthcare organizations to look at how the design of the digital workplace can prepare their employees for this role.

      6. Integrating HR and learning management into a single launching pad

        Integrating onboarding and HR information is a perennial need on intranets in the healthcare industry. Trending among healthcare organizations is the effort to seamlessly integrate this information into the single launching pad of the intranet. Healthcare organizations are slowly but surely moving past the link farms of old to elegantly integrated content.

        As Chris Tubb, a DWG Digital Workplace Strategy Consultant, wrote in a blog post last year, the intranet can be a central integration point for tools across the digital workplace.

        The need within healthcare to effectively deliver learning management systems (LMS) may be even more critical than in other industries. The need to manage the many and varied training and education requirements and related tasks has largely been managed via a siloed LMS system. Now healthcare is moving toward integrated ways of doing this. Rather than forcing harried caregivers to jump from one system to the next, healthcare organizations are seeking to integrate LMS content into more seamless and efficient digital workplace experiences.

        In looking at the list in this blog post, I realize that some of these trends are common to many industries. But in an industry where people’s lives hang in the balance on a daily basis, getting these particular elements of the digital workplace right carries extra weight.

        Related research

        Digital Workplace User Experience

        Digital Workplace User ExperienceThe digital ecosystem of applications and systems provided to employees tends to provide a poor user experience.

        The report suggests that organizations can tackle issues such as loss of productivity and reduced adoption of critical services by looking at the digital workplace through the lens of the user experience.

        Free executive summary »

        See Also

Categorised in: Usability & design

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