The COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic has prompted hospitals and healthcare organizations across the country to move to virtualization in key business practices and operate remotely. Most have already adopted some virtualization – telehealth, for example, is successfully providing patient access, care, better patient outcomes and expanded clinical productivity. Private insurance providers are expanding their telehealth coverage options and employers are offering telehealth as part of their benefits packages. So how do other areas of the hospital and healthcare organization follow suit?
nThrive Vice President Advisory Services John Garrett addressed guidelines on how to reimage the workplace for successful virtualization.
Three keys to a successful virtualized work environment
- People: Successfully manage remote workforce requirements
- Colleagues are the most important consideration. Develop a communication plan to keep colleagues informed and increase their enthusiasm about the process. Make sure they understand why your medical organization is making this journey.
- Use technology to enhance colleague communication. Moving colleagues to a remote environment can be isolating for some; provide the right tools so colleagues feel connected to their teammates and business.
- Implement accurate, dependable productivity metrics and time management tools. Have policies in place before you transition colleagues to work remotely, to define what’s expected in the office and what’s expected when working remotely.
- Adopt a new management style. Virtual management will require an adjustment to effectively communicate with and monitor your colleagues. Caution – avoid micromanagement. It’s important that colleagues feel as trusted as when they work onsite.
- Set standard procedures for requesting IT support. Colleagues should feel they have the support they need and can communicate clearly with IT resources.
- Identify hardware, software and equipment needs before transitioning to remote environments. Be sure you’re not putting the organization at risk for exposure to PHI breaches. Ensure a data security infrastructure that is cohesive to remote work.
- Process: Aim for minimal disruption of business continuity
- Security risks, PHI compliance. Think of how PHI flows through your hospital or healthcare organization and how virtual security can replace physical security. Example – onsite, paper documents are properly shredded. Remotely, documents shouldn’t be printed. The remote process should limit the needs for PHI to exit a digital medium. Developing new processes to store data in an encrypted environment can enhance security even if you transition back to the onsite environment.
- Identify the job functions your colleagues do and determine who can perform all functions remotely and whose jobs require onsite presence. Caution – two colleagues could have the same title yet perform different functions. Function, not title, makes the determination.
- Provide remote colleague engagement on a daily basis. From a virtual standpoint, enabling daily touchpoints is critical to set standard processes and ensure that colleagues feel supported.
- Technology requirements
- Data security. The good news is data security – E.g., VPNs, secure intranets, secure file sharing sites and data repositories – are more commonplace. Data security should not be viewed just as a push toward virtualization; the benefits of data security apply to the onsite environment as well.
- Data infrastructure. EHRs require large storage demands in the virtual environment. Moving to the cloud-based structure is more cost efficient, allows resilience, data backup, data security and controls encryption and data security.
- Standardize equipment. Standardize software and technology in your organization to ease the burden on your IT support teams. Your IT teams can support remote colleagues and minimize downtime when systems go down.
- Remote access. Check your contracts and negotiated rates with vendors regarding VPN limits or remote access limits to confirm whether they require adjustment to accommodate remote colleagues. Test the capabilities of your systems and colleagues’ remote access to hospital systems. You cannot work if you cannot access hospital systems.
- End point security. Make sure the licenses can move with your colleagues. Ensure that your technology is not reliant on physical site security but is using encryption and that your IT security team can wipe desktop systems or access to hospital systems remotely in case of security breach to alleviate worries about PHI and technology security in a remote environment.
- Regulatory compliance. As part of any healthcare endeavor, make sure your partners/payors have access to your internal systems and, if they rely on a colleague who physically interacts with or provides access to non-electronic documents, that colleague is still onsite to avoid a process breakdown.
- None of this matters though, if you don’t pay attention to the patient perspective and overall patient satisfaction. There are certain asks by patients – they may want to schedule their appointments online and pay online – but for certain interactions they want face to face interaction. Keeping that top of mind and making sure you take the time to ask your patients and consider their responses is critical to ensure you don’t put the cart before the horse and always strive to serve your patients well.
Good luck on your journey!