Virtual Platform Engagement - Healthcare Professionals

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Virtual Platform Engagement - Healthcare Professionals

The pandemic has very much let the genie out of the bottle regarding virtual platforms and telehealth. Before COVID-19 rearing its head, virtual platforms had received a somewhat lukewarm response from healthcare professionals already experiencing a "cognition crisis" due to increased screen time and information overload. This had the flow-on effect of digital fatigue and burnout among healthcare professionals. In this context, if a virtual platform is to be permanently integrated into an organization successfully, it is vital healthcare professionals are engaged. Three best practices were consistently mentioned by research and in the commentary of experts in the field. The interdependence of the three practices bears testament to the equal footing on which they all stand. Suppose virtual platforms are to engage healthcare professionals. In that case, healthcare professionals must be involved in any virtual platform's implementation. The implementation should merge and not overpower, and connection and control among the care team must be enhanced.

Involve Healthcare Professionals in Implementation

  • Recent research found that healthcare professional satisfaction and engagement with telehealth was directly correlated to the input they had in their facility's program design and roll out. It is the best practice to "engage early, often, and over-communicate with maximum transparency."
  • When people are involved in a project of this nature from the very beginning, they become invested in its success. Investment, in this scenario, equals engagement. Early involvement means that there is a greater chance of buy-in, which is fundamental.
  • Without buy-in, any project is unlikely to sustain the necessary traction to illustrate the advantages the technology represents. Of course, the flip side is without buy-in, there will be a negative perception toward the technology from the start, which is the first nail in the coffin for a project of this nature.
  • The importance of end-user or healthcare provider buy-in can not be underestimated. A study eliciting the responses from managers in instances where strategic technology initiatives failed. The study made the following findings:
    • 37% attributed their projects failure to poor bench marking;
    • 19% considered poor communication the reason the project failed;
    • 18% felt the lack of communication from upper management doomed the project to failure:
    • 14% blamed the failure on employee resistance; and
    • 9% considered the project failed due to insufficient funding.
  • It is crucial when implementing a virtual platform that the organization invests in the process and the people driving the project, as this type of involvement sets the project up for success in the long-term. It is largely a question for the organization as to how they integrate healthcare professionals into the implementation aspects of the project.
  • Some organization´s are small enough everyone plays a role, while others adopt a taskforce type approach. It is important if using a taskforce type approach that each group the organization is represented including those who will be using it. This helps ensure that the end product reflects the organizations needs.
  • A range of companies developing virtual platforms have recognized this and have incorporated fully customizable options into their offerings. When the healthcare team uses the platform, they do not have to reinvent the wheel in terms of workflow or design. The Harvard Business Review, in its 14 November 2020 article, discusses the concept in detail.
  • Meanwhile, Ortholive has used a doctor to oversee its offering recognizing healthcare professionals may, in fact, hold the key when implementing a virtual platform. Having a doctor on the design team conveys the message, Ortholive appreciates the importance of engaging the healthcare team and uses a doctor to facilitate this process.

Push vs Pull or Merging Not Overpowering

  • When organizations implement new technology such as a virtual platform, there are two clear ways of doing this. It is best practice to adopt a pull rather than a push approach. In layman's terms, this means the organization should adopt a virtual platform, molding it to fit the organization's needs, which by default suggests the organization controls the technology rather than vice versa.
  • The alternative is the reverse, adapting and changing the organization, so it is a better fit for the virtual platform. This approach is less likely to be successful because it can undermine processes and workflows that have been fundamental to the organization's success to date.
  • Historically, there has been a failure to involve those at the coalface when implementing new technology in the healthcare setting. If virtual platforms are to be successful there must be buyi-in from the healthcare providers. The role the virtual platform is to play in the organization will dictate all the other aspects of the project from technology to budgets, and everything in between.
  • Research has found that health professionals need to perceive the technology being easy to use and useful if they are to embrace it. Ease of use and usefulness both support maintaining current workflows and adapting the technology to fit the organizations requirements. This requires healthcare providers to be involved earlier in the project.
  • Trying to adapt an organization to fit the technology on offer falls short in several regards. Most importantly, healthcare providers are unlikely to engage in the process if they feel their opinion is being ignored. Products that are made to fit in reality never do and this is another reason why adapting technology cannot be considered the best practice.
  • Companies that design and market healthcare products are illustrating exactly how relevant this practice is. On Graph Technologies and Custom Telehealth Solutions have recognized the importance of this practice and turned it to their benefit,
  • The two companies encourage their clients to customize their product to meet their own requirements recognizing in the long-term their client satisfaction levels will be higher, and the healthcare providers within the client organization are more likely to engage with the new product because the incorporation of workflows and other features isn't a huge departure from their current practice setup.

Enhance Care Team Connection and Control

  • Despite technology having been shown to innovate, streamline healthcare delivery, and perhaps how patients interact with healthcare providers, there is still skepticism from healthcare providers around adopting the technology. Much of the suspicion has come from the introduction of EHR, which served to add to healthcare provider workload and burnout because of the complicated workflow created due to poor design.
  • A virtual platform will impact all members of a patient´s healthcare team. Therefore, it is imperative that the team as a whole is connected and feels in control of the platform and how it will be best utilized rather than the platform dictating how the healthcare team will manage them. When a team takes ownership of a project of this nature, they are both connected and in control. This nearly always means the project will be more successful.
  • Regardless of how careful the team implementing a virtual platform is, there will still be some disruption to the healthcare provider workflow. Giving these providers a stage early in the implementation process creates both connection and control for the group. However, it extends further, as healthcare providers now can redesign workflows, and because they are connected to the project, the likelihood of the group engaging in this process increases exponentially.
  • From the perspective of the patient, virtual platforms represent "greater efficiencies, reduced travel time, and a hassle free approach to medical care. The reason patients feel like this is because much of the new technology currently available claims a patient orientated approach."
  • The team at OrthoLive understands physician reluctance toward technology adoption. Our telemedicine application was designed by an orthopedic surgeon who realized the tremendous benefits of the technology for improving access to care for his patients.

Additional Research

  • Throughout our research, the roll out and implementation of Electronic Health Records (EHR) were used to illustrate various aspects of implementing a virtual platform. It appears that there are several similarities between implementing EHRs and virtual platforms. Bearing this in mind, a case study of the implementation of EHR may be of benefit to the overall project goals.

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