How to Achieve Remote Work Success in Healthcare
Remote work options for healthcare employees expanded significantly in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although on-site work has resumed as usual in many organizations, there’s no doubt that telecommuting has achieved new popularity among both healthcare employers and employees.
What are some of the remote work challenges that healthcare organizations face? How can they use these opportunities to create a successful telecommute strategy that best serves patients, reduces costs, increases profitability, and encourages employee productivity and engagement? Here are a few ideas you should consider.
Thinking Long Term
Because so many organizations implemented remote work rapidly in response to the novel coronavirus, telecommuting in healthcare is still considered a short-term solution. However, a successful remote work program requires a broad, long-term perspective. This means going beyond the pandemic to consider how a remote work program will affect the organization, providers, employees, and patients far into the future.
Siemens Healthineers recently published a white paper exploring how to turn short-term remote work solutions into a successful, permanent program. A few of their recommendations include the following:
- Healthcare organizations should bring remote work into their overall strategic plan and create a culture that embraces it.
- Identify where remote work can bring the most benefits, such as improved clinical outcomes and revenue generation.
- Make sure you have the right tools and infrastructure for remote work.
- Determine how you will measure the success of your remote work program and evaluate it regularly.
Combining Onsite and Remote Workforces Appropriately
One remote-work challenge for healthcare is that a 100% virtual workforce is impossible in this industry. Healthcare providers and organizations are able to provide many virtual services such as remote monitoring, telepsychiatry, and robotic surgery operated from a distance. However, healthcare will always require some form of onsite work, from sanitation services to hands-on patient care.
This disparity between onsite and virtual work creates the risk of a fragmented, disengaged workforce. Healthcare organizations that want to make their remote work program permanent will have to find the best way to combine or balance remote and onsite roles.
Healthcare leaders, including HR departments, will have to address challenges such as:
- Standardizing benefits for all employees, both remote and onsite
- Fostering engagement and collaboration among teams and individual employees that may be geographically separated
- Ensuring that all departments, teams, and individuals receive essential communication, wherever they work
- Providing sufficient onboarding and training for all employees
Increasing Cybersecurity Measures
For healthcare organizations, protecting patient and organizational data should be a top priority. The year 2020 saw an increase in hacking attempts, including ransomware attacks, on healthcare providers. This can lead to patient data being stolen and sold, cause shutdowns in IT systems, and slow down health facility operations. These risks can increase when facilities expand remote work opportunities, as the equipment, software, and apps used for telecommuting may be less secure.
Hospitals and other health organizations should take all necessary steps to protect their data and systems. This may include cutting off external emails, tightening device requirements, or increasing their screening of incoming emails. Invest in secure data storage and powerful cybersecurity measures, including conducting audits for vulnerabilities.
Organizational leadership may have to evolve to expand the role of CIOs and IT departments. These roles will become increasingly critical for remote work as well as telehealth offerings. IT teams should help educate remote and onsite staff on how to prevent attacks and protect data. IT departments must also have a role in the continuous improvements to systemwide efficiency and functionality.
Remote work comes with numerous challenges for healthcare organizations. With the right approach, however, healthcare employers can develop a robust remote work program that fairly meets the needs of its workforce, patients, and other stakeholders.