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COVID-19 changes have led to more connectedness and understanding among healthcare staff

Publised at mobihealthnews.com

It’s no secret that for caregivers the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how they work and communicate. Now health systems and plans are reflecting on the lessons learned that boosted staff connectedness.

Nicole Cable, chief experience officer at InnovaCare Health, explained that her organization took a program originally designed for members in order to reduce isolation for seniors, and not only put it online, but also adapted it for employees who were in their homes.

“What we’ve been able to accomplish with some of the virtual gatherings with employees is, they are little bit more transparent about their needs…because it’s not in a work setting, in a sense … and through those interactions we were able to create virtual support groups where employees could come together and talk to each other about different situations and build relationships,” she said during a panel at today’s Patient Experience Summit hosted by Cleveland Clinic and HIMSS.

These social activities not only broke down silos across geographical regions, but also in terms of staff hierarchy.

“Even with COVID, everyone has silos. But it is one of the better things that came out of it was now you have people from different markets – different jobs – you have CEOs of one market and a corporate chief from our office … talking to one of the folks that answer our telephones, one of our customer service reps,” Cable said.

“You know we’re all in this together. We’re all laughing. We’re all playing games. [We] hear the staff say, ‘Wow I really feel like I’m a part of this, and no one treats me any differently. They respect me at whatever level I’m at.’ I think that really is something I didn’t see before, but we didn’t have the opportunity to do something like that before. I think [COVID-19] really helped us close those gaps between our front line, and even our executive leadership.”

COVID-19 has also changed up workflows for many. Barbara Hernandez, director of physician vitality at Loma Linda University Health, explained that since the pandemic began many of the residents have had to take assignments away from their chosen specialty.

For example, a family care physician may be working on contract tracing, and a surgery resident may be helping out with nursing. This has prompted the medical center to provide more education across specialties to help support those efforts.

“I think our residents are understanding what nurses do in their roles, and they have language now to talk about it, because they are doing it,” Hernandez said. “That has been really interesting. The respect has been growing on both sides around that.”

One lesson learned from the pandemic is that being more open with employees and boosting communication go a long way.

“I’ve seen an increase in transparency in general, where there is just more deliberate communication,” Toya Gorley, improvement advisor at NRC Health, said on the panel. “I think that it’s fantastic organizations are turning back to practices like town halls and rounding, … adapting their rounding to the virtual environment, and giving caregivers a voice to ask questions and provide that timely, much-needed information.”