A digital workplace for healthcare organisations has fast become a necessity over the past 18 months.
Once hesitant over concerns about the privacy of patient data, security, and vulnerability to cyberattacks, the healthcare industry has had no option but to accelerate its digitisation efforts significantly to keep providing care over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now that the ball is rolling, it shows little sign of slowing down. According to Accenture’s Digital Health Technology Vision 2021 report, 81% of healthcare executives say the pace of digital transformation for their organisation is accelerating. Meanwhile, 93% report that they are pursuing digital innovation with a sense of urgency.
But what does a good digital workplace for healthcare look like? Healthcare organisations typically contain a diverse mix of clinical and non-clinical roles – how can a digital workplace help every individual carry out their role effectively?
What is a digital workplace for healthcare?
An ideal digital workplace is a complete, workable virtual equivalent to your physical workplace. It allows your employees (or some of your employees – some aspects of healthcare will need to be done in person) to work as effectively remotely as they do on premises.
At first, that might be easier to visualise in more general office settings than in healthcare environments. We’re all familiar, by now, with video conferencing as an alternative to in-person meetings or perhaps instant messenger as an alternative to email.
A digital workplace for a healthcare organisation needs to do all of this and more.
To provide a great patient experience whilst working virtually, healthcare-specific digital workplaces may need to offer video appointments and telehealth solutions, e-prescription services and online patient notes and charting functionality.
Many of these functionalities will be provided by an electronic health records (EHR) solution. EHRs allow healthcare providers to digitise patient notes, complete prescriptions electronically and digitise many aspects of patient care.
An EHR isn’t the only thing you need
That said, there are many things that an EHR can’t do.
Spreading urgent updates internally, collaborating on patient care, sharing best practice and professional development aren’t covered by EHRs. In other words, EHRs might have the explicitly medical parts of your digital operations covered, but do not constitute a digital workplace in themselves.
For healthcare teams to be able to collaborate fully in a digital setting – particularly those spread over different locations or working remotely – you need to invest in a modern, mobile-friendly digital workplace platform that addresses the rest of your digital needs via a single access point.
This will allow your workplace to:
- Provide remote training and professional development opportunities
- Offer virtual spaces for employee collaboration – clinical and non-clinical
- Spread critical information across your organisation quickly, and without relying on email
- Automate key non-medical processes to save time and increase employee engagement
What makes a great digital workplace and how can it facilitate remote work?
Different healthcare organisations do things differently. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that we can recommend. The future of work is undeniably digital, but it’s also tailored uniquely to the needs of each specific organisation.
Equally, there are a few traits that all good healthcare digital workplaces share. The first one to mention is enterprise-grade security. The use and storage of patient data and other critical information is highly regulated, with stringent guidelines on healthcare organisations’ responsibilities for protecting it.
Ensure that you know the regulations through and through before you start building any digital workplace infrastructure – even non-clinical functions may need to use, store or transfer patient data to carry out their roles effectively.
Once you’re clear on your responsibilities in this area, use the three essential points below to start building a digital workplace that works for your organisation and your employees.
1. Use cloud-based technology
It isn’t impossible to access on-premises software remotely. Equally, the process is far from seamless for your employees, and will take your already-busy IT department significant time to set up.
On the other hand, your employees can log onto a cloud digital workplace platform from anywhere with an internet connection as the software is hosted on third-party servers. This makes it super easy for healthcare professionals to work remotely, and for non-clinical staff to carry out key business functions like project management.
Even if you’re not a remote working organisation, having smartphone-accessible intranet in place ensures that key messages spread quicker. Physicians, nurses, porters, healthcare assistants and support staff are often too busy to check their emails regularly – and some might not have a work email at all.
Crucially, storing and backing up information in the cloud allows you to guard against cyberattacks and get back up and running quicker after an outage.
2. Aim for a first-class UX
Healthcare workers are busy people. If your digital workplace is cumbersome or difficult to use from the get-go, they won’t engage with it. No matter how hard you try, workarounds can always be found – that’s why a great user experience (UX) is essential for your digital workplace.
As soon as your employees log onto your intranet, they should immediately be clear on what the purpose of the software is, and how they can carry out the task they want to do. Take Emergency Physicians of the Rockies’ e-learning page as an example:
(Image source: claromentis.com)
The design is modern, clean, and easy to follow – the user knows exactly where they want to be as soon as they log on. This saves your employees valuable time, increases buy-in for the system and, ultimately, makes digital collaboration much easier.
3. Include features to increase employee engagement
With the right approach, a digital workplace can be a major driver of employee engagement across healthcare organisations. Having one central access point for all your major day-to-day functions can have a huge impact on employee experience via:
- Two-way publishing and social media sharing: as well as posting internal updates, allow your colleagues to share their own posts. This both stimulates discussion and provides a valuable channel for employee recognition. In a busy healthcare setting, it’s often difficult to express praise or appreciation of an employees’ performance in the moment and having a highly visible online alternative increases motivation.
- Discussion forums: being able to share thoughts on best practice – whether that’s how to handle difficult patient encounters, approaches to appointment scheduling or anything in between – brings employees closer together and emphasises that their work is a valuable contribution to a wider mission. It also improves performance across your organisation
- Automated business processes: if you work hard, having to wait weeks to confirm leave or get reimbursed for expenses can be damaging to morale. Extending your employees, the courtesy of being prompt with these processes is a simple way to increase engagement. Automating many key business processes is now fast, simple and saves your HR team time as well.
Ultimately, your digital workplace allows your employees to visualise themselves as part of a wider whole in a way that it’s sometimes difficult to do in-person. If you invest the effort in creating a digital workspace strategy your employees love, you won’t just speed up key HR processes – you’ll create an engaged, satisfied workforce that becomes a huge asset to your organisation.