I’m not sure what started my fascination with health care, but it started early. Perhaps it was that my father was an exercise physiologist. Perhaps it was my early job at an association for medical group managers (way before “managed care” was common). It might have been the time I spent running communication for an inner-city hospital. Certainly the health care team that saved my husband’s life in 2013 rekindled my interest in the industry.
There are nuances about the health care delivery environment relative to communication that I find particularly compelling. Here are some of the more interesting dichotomies:
- If a health care provider isn’t in front of a patient, are they being productive? How does this affect their willingness to collaborate with non-patients during the workday?
- Physicians don’t generally get training in how to communicate with patients and their families. What does this mean when it comes time to explain procedures and outcomes?
- Radiologists look at images from x-rays and MRIs and report to a physician who relays to the patient; it’s rare for the primary physician to have any live dialogue with the radiologist. How does this affect the primary physician’s ability to provide guidance?
- In today’s digital environment, providers often rely on other care team members to read notes in the patient record. What do care teams miss by not having the give-and-take conversations that spur innovate ideas?
These are just some of the communication challenges inherent in today’s health care delivery industry. For a professional communicator, it’s a very exciting space in which to work because not only can we improve things for employees, we can improve things for patients and their families.
Take collaboration for example
The role of collaboration in business has become increasingly important as organizations get on the “innovation” bandwagon. The smart ones know they have to get people talking – honest dialogue – to uncover truly innovative ideas. And, it takes hundreds of thousands of great ideas to find the one that can be feasibly implemented.
Collaboration hasn’t exactly been a hallmark of health care delivery. I’ve watched my health care clients recently add “innovation” to their strategic goals, many without understanding how they must alter their culture to be more collaborative to be successful at innovation.
With location and time barriers, it’s hard to get people collaborating. We can no longer rely purely on face-to-face opportunities. For example, if you are a regional delivery system, how can you get all the med/surg nurses talking and sharing their ideas for improved patient care and safety? What about those who maintain beds and other equipment? Technology done right can help us engage these employees in dialogue.
Then there is mobile
Many health care employees are no different than those working in the pit of a mine or on an electrical pole; they don’t sit in front of a computer all day. They access technology to consume and document patient information. The big difference is that they are rather heavy users of mobile technology in their personal lives. Nurses in particular, often use their personal devices to communicate with each other during work hours.
Clients don’t like to hear that their staff members already communicate using mobile technology. It makes them nervous. But, this is actually good news. It means that the primary hurdle of adoption has already been overcome. Now, we just have to work out how to design and govern the platform, information and tools in a way that furthers productivity, satisfaction, compliance and positive outcomes.
What does it mean to the intranet?
It means that taking a broader view – beyond the intranet to the digital workplace – can help health care organizations deliver a better employee experience and thus a better patient experience.
Part of that improved employee experience is about engaging employees in collaboration that drives innovation. We all know innovation is crucial in today’s complex health care environment. So, now we’ve come full circle.
Want to hear more?
If you work in health care communication and are wondering how to tackle the dichotomies of the health care environment with a digital workplace, join me in Washington, D.D., for ALI’s Strategic Internal Communications for Health Care conference. I am both teaching and chairing this terrific line up of speakers.
Don’t work in the health care industry, but interested in intranets and digital workplace? Join attendees from many industries to learn and dialogue about intranets and SharePoint at ALI’s SharePoint for Internal Communications conference in San Francisco. Here too, I’ll be teaching and chairing a great speaker slate.
Hope to see you this fall!