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Federating compassion in digital health enterprise

HR and IT must unite to foster the same levels of compassion and human connection that were prevalent in the workforce and healthcare before the pandemic.
By admin
Jun 7, 2024, 2:08 PM

 I haven’t worked full-time in an actual office building since 2008. I’ve visited many of the offices for my employers and clients but none of them were really “home” in a professional sense. Then came 2020 when no one worked in an office unless they were absolutely critical or in the case of healthcare on the front lines.  

During the pandemic, enterprises of all kinds tried to simulate on-premises teamwork and camaraderie in a virtual environment with varying degrees of success. Most found that Zoom or Teams create the illusion that there’s human-to-human interaction despite people turning their cameras on and off and forgetting to take themselves off of mute. Granted, it’s better than no team meeting.  

But as the social distancing hangover began to recede, enterprises found a middle ground in their hybrid models. Because of the patient experience aspect of healthcare, this segment was arguably ahead in requiring workers to come to the office despite the fear of seeming dispassionate about sending workers into harm’s way because of hospital-acquired illnesses.  

Hybrid work schedules had dozens of permutations like Monday and Friday at home but Tuesday through Thursday on-site. Many simply required two days in the office with the employees choosing the days.  

While the technological implications of servicing the remote workforce were daunting, the human resources aspects could be even more complicated. Which reinforces the collaborative aspects of the two organizations.  

Many employees found that they were leaving their home offices to sit in the office for Zoom calls with others who were geographically very remote or local and had that day off.  

Not surprisingly the term “the uncomfortable middle” became popularized to describe the phenomena of going to a corporate office to be on a conference platform with those working remotely!   

I probably didn’t even need to use the word compassion to describe how hybrid work changed the emotional landscape, especially for those who joined an enterprise because of its on-site “personality.” This is especially true for those whose raison d’etre is to actually SEE patients and their families.  

It will come as no surprise that with the rapid deployment of telemedicine, that relationship fell into the uncomfortable middle. And that doctors and clinicians realized that digital compassion on a virtual visit conveyor belt.  

So how do HR and IT build compassion into the hybrid workplace and create an
“empathetic middle”?  

  1.  Have virtual meetings which by design are entirely small talk. One of the problems with business conference calls is that the most productive banter is while waiting for others to log in. Once the meeting starts that dialogue ends. Workers want to talk about themselves and explore those they work with. Let them do it on a dedicated call. 
  2. Bring patients (the customer) on to select conference calls because they are the end users of the compassion that healthcare enterprises dispense. If you have a Patient Family Advisory Council (PFAC) this is a great place to start. Most important is that the “customers appreciate it as much as the care teams. 
  3. Develop a “compassionate telepresence” training program. Many workers roll their eyes when they think they are being forced into “touchy-feely” training programs. But programs designed to elevate skills on one of the most important patient care platforms of this decade are critical for the clinician and patient. In fact, I would strongly argue that there should also be patient training on how to get the most out of a virtual doctor’s visit. This will take a collaborative effort between the IT, HR, PX, and internal communications considering that these skills will require all three areas of expertise.  
  4. Show evidence of signs of compassion from the top. Many leaders limit compassion to releasing employees early on Fridays before a long weekend. It needs to be more creative and meaningful than that.  
  5. Compassion has cross-cultural aspects given the diversity of the modern healthcare enterprise. In some cultures, family plays a very different role than in others. Pain is scored differently across cultures when asked to describe it on a 1-10 scale. These cultural differences can vary wildly in a distributed work environment. Make sure that compassion and cultural intelligence go hand in hand. 

For more on the intersection of compassion be sure to follow our CompassionIT series and our upcoming digital event in early August 2024.   

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