Redeapp’s GM of Advisory Justin Rudwell recently contributed to BenefitsPRO, discussing the tension between compliance and innovation in healthcare. This post is a reprint of the full article. Content has been edited for clarity.
Health care. It’s something we all depend on to a greater or lesser extent throughout our lives. Advancements in science and technology have been driven by an insatiable desire to cure those things that ail us, and in most cases, this has led to increasingly better outcomes for patients. This in turn has driven demand for care and created expectations of access for all, regardless of affordability. These are among the factors that have contributed to the development of a highly complex behemoth of an industry, particularly in systems dominated by private sector provision.
The natural cycle of health care is one of continuous improvement, and this comes at a cost. In addition to research, development, and new technologies, there are massive overheads associated with building, supplying, and maintaining specialized facilities for the delivery of care. There are layers of cost built in to manage risks, whether that be to indemnify providers or supplement the high cost of care to patients.
Because of the risks involved, health care is also a highly regulated industry, and the penalties for non-compliance are significant. As described in the author’s white paper, Strange Bedfellows – The Convergence of Compliance and Innovation in Long Term Care, these penalties lead many traditional organizations to give disproportionate deference to their legal and compliance function, which can create an atmosphere of risk aversion rather than risk management.
Over time, a policy of risk aversion stifles continuous improvement, and this, in turn, leads to an imbalance in the health of the organization. On the other hand, those who embrace change and the advancements in technology that allow for risk to be managed will succeed where others fail.
Caring for those who care
Enlightened health care organizations realize that the most profound and lasting impacts on their business are not solely down to the aforementioned advancements in science and technology. Continuous improvement is primarily an internal process that informs the culture of an organization and starts with its most important asset – people.
The health care industry requires an army of frontline workers to deliver care, maintain the facilities, provide necessary supplies, and act as administrators to ensure the best possible outcomes for the populace that they serve. This is never more evident than in times of strife and crisis when these frontline or “non-desk” workers are given the badge of “essential.” And rightfully so. If not for the efforts of these essential workers our critical service infrastructure would collapse, and the world as we know it would disappear. But when the crisis passes, do these workers somehow become less essential? Clearly, the answer should be, and is, a resounding “No!”
So how should organizations demonstrate the ongoing respect that these workers deserve? The answer is simple. Give them that which creates happiness at work and a sense of purpose every day.
In the past, organizations expected loyalty from their essential workers in exchange for jobs and compensation. Supply and demand favored companies, and worker mobility was limited. Today, the story is very different. Loyalty is no longer a simple formula that links pay with stay. The demand for health care workers is growing relative to supply, and when given a choice, people will choose that which makes them happy. Money on its own doesn’t buy happiness, but when combined with trust between employer and employee, alignment of values, and a common sense of purpose, perhaps this is a formula for happiness that actually adds up.
Design for success
The creation of a healthy ecosystem that fosters innovation increases trust and improves performance for employees and the organization relies on a number of key ingredients. It requires an unwavering commitment to continuous improvement by executives, and buy-in from operational leaders across the organization. It also requires investment in the infrastructure that empowers operational leaders to be more effective and integrates non-desk workers so that they can add increased value. The needs of this segment of the workforce are very different from those who are office-based. Email is not a viable option for most, and the traditional dependence on face-to-face communication and break-room bulletin boards have significant limitations in a fast-paced work environment. Non-desk workers require a connection through a mobile solution that reflects their day-to-day reality.
Critically, operational infrastructure solutions that are mobile and therefore accessible to the non-desk worker do not fall into the category of a one-size-fits-all proposition. This fact creates sleepless nights and heartburn for legal and compliance departments, who fear the risks that come with open-architecture technology platforms. Most mobile messaging applications are limited in features and administrative controls.
This opens the door for security breaches, unsanctioned sharing of sensitive information such as Protected Health Information, and violations of human resource policies or even employment law. It’s no wonder therefore that organizations who defer to legal and compliance departments in matters of technology adoption will inevitably avoid, rather than embrace, that which might otherwise help them.
It is the role of leadership to make decisions that both support growth and mitigate risk. Happily, there are technology solutions designed specifically with the non-desk worker in mind that can help to achieve this aim. Smart platforms involve outcome-based design concepts that can be tailored to meet the exact needs of a business. Security and compliance of the platform should be certified by reputable third-party auditors. Additionally, access and permissions should be granted based on need and updated automatically as the business changes. With these design features in play, compliance and innovation can coexist for the benefit of organizations, and the people that make business possible.
Investing in the essential worker
If a key success factor for health care organizations is to attract, retain and optimize the output of its essential workforce, then one has no choice but to create a healthy ecosystem within which the needs of its workers are prioritized, they are supported, and they can thrive. As the rest of the global workforce has seen huge investment in operational infrastructure that supports employee efforts and value creation, the investment in the needs of the non-desk worker has not kept pace. The time has come for non-desk health care workers to be treated as the essential workers that they are, whether the world is in crisis or not.
See the article from BenefitsPRO, here.