For many hospital employees, IT tools are more obscure than anything else says Patrick Heiler, Director Healthcare at IG&H. Those operating the hospitals urgently need to involve their own employees in their digitalization strategies. If this is the case, digitalization will be fun - and possible reservations will be eliminated step by step.
In the Netherlands, as well as in Germany, many hospitals are currently driving the digitalization of their processes and workflows with the support of incentives like the IZA in the Netherlands or the KHZG in Germany. These efforts are primarily aimed at improving patient care. This focus is good and important, but hospitals must not lose sight of the concerns of their employees, especially in light of the dramatic shortage of nursing staff. Those responsible should also ask themselves much more frequently how staff can benefit from digitalization and be integrated into the process. There are still many processes that involve printing out, filling out, scanning and archiving documents in paper form, thus tying up valuable capacity.
In Germany alone, the German Hospital Association (DKG) expects up to a fifth of clinics to close - medical facilities must move to consolidating all data generated in the course of a hospital's business at a central point and preparing it in such a way that every member of the staff, from nurses to chief physicians, can work with it. In addition, disease- and treatment-related data are to provide scientific insights through continuous evaluation.
Regardless of these ambitious goals, employees must not be forgotten. An employee-oriented digitalization strategy is vital. The goal should be less effort for administration and more time for patients. The results include avoiding interruptions in care and eliminating the need for double data entry, for example when transferring patient data or even for activities such as requesting leave.
Digitalization: a gigantic task that cannot succeed without employees
At first glance, digitalization seems like a gigantic task. It is therefore advisable to think in small steps and to first find out where employees themselves need concrete and pragmatic support. When employees are involved, they see how their own ideas are realized and become part of a holistic solution. This makes digitalization fun and possible reservations are removed step by step. However, opinions like "I just don't want to experiment" when it comes to digital transformation often still prevail and inhibit innovation. For example, searching for a free bed or a (clean!) infusion pump is still often done over the phone by ward staff and takes time.
This skepticism toward new things is human and often stems from negative experiences with solutions and digitalization projects that do not even survive the funding phase. Digitalization is often only accepted if an immediate reduction in workload is seen. Therefore, it is essential that employees' concerns are heard and taken into account even before the implementation phase. Often constructive dialogue leads to issues that otherwise would not even have been considered. Therefore, employees must be given the opportunity to shape the process freely. The keyword here is "Employee Experience".
Low-code: the solution to the problem?
Especially with new platforms, the black box bias often prevails. After all, for many employees, IT tools are still rather unknown and unloved. They often stick to the tried-and-true paper for this very reason. Platforms based on so-called low-code technology or even no-code technology can make a valuable contribution to a hospital's digitalization strategy. Low-code is a development method where you create an application using visual building blocks and models. These methods increase the speed of software development and thus reduce costs. Instead of laboriously adapting a purchased tool to individual needs, the motto is to design the solution yourself and develop the applications and user interfaces directly based on the requirements. In this way, feedback from users can also be incorporated directly, giving employees a direct influence on the design of the solution.
Employee experience is crucial
In view of the huge task that awaits hospitals with regard to digital transformation, it is essential to integrate the hospital's own workforce into the considerations and measures. The nursing staff in particular forms the backbone of every hospital, and the last few years after the pandemic have shown enough of what happens when they are not available in sufficient numbers. The employee experience is therefore fundamental to a successful digitalization strategy. If hospitals manage to combine their own digitalization with a positive employee experience, not only will working conditions improve significantly - a much more attractive job profile will also emerge. These are important steps to counteract the acute shortage of nursing staff.
Would you like to know more? You can reach out to:
Dr. Patrick Heiler