December 9, 2014

Why Information Technology Upgrades Should Include Employee Engagement Platforms: Lessons From Our Nation’s Hospitals

As a result of the Affordable Care Act, healthcare delivery is undergoing massive changes and there’s no end in sight any time soon. In addition hospital systems continue the wave of mergers and acquisitions* and collaborative agreements that preceded the ACA. The impact of these multiple changes is acute, creating an unsettled work environment for employees and a challenge for administrators. It’s a situation ripe for employee engagement programs.

When thoughtfully planned and administered, employee engagement driven by a robust rewards and recognition program can keep employees focused on goals, and enthusiastic about achieving them. This is especially critical when organizations are in a state of flux, a characteristic of many hospital systems today. This state of flux affects employees and systems alike, including IT systems which must be upgraded or—in the case of mergers and acquisitions—integrated with legacy systems.

As administrators look at the need for an IT overhaul, they should also be examining technology supporting employee engagement. This is an opportune time to either improve existing technology-based engagement programs or examine new programs from qualified vendors. Here are four areas where an effective employee engagement program can make a positive impact:

 

Employee turnover. More than 17 percent of new nurses leave their jobs in their first year of employment, according to an article published August 14 by Sage (“What Does Nurse Turnover Rate Mean and What Is the Rate?”). Overall turnover of these frontline care providers is 14 percent according to KPMG. This is on top of a current shortage of registered nurses (R.N.s) that is expected to grow. As the nation’s population ages, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects job growth for R.N.s to jump almost 20 percent between 2012 and 2022. Retaining these critical frontline care providers through effective engagement programs is critical.

 

Patients as customers. What once were “patients” are now “customers.” With reimbursement now being linked to patient satisfaction scores, it follows that specific behaviors leading to great customer service would be supported and driven by rewards and recognition programs embedded in a hospital’s employee engagement efforts.

 

Quality pressures.  The ACA has introduced numerous provisions for measuring the quality of care, and new reporting requirements. The Act has expanded the use of pay-for-performance initiatives intended to lead to better patient outcomes. These include Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), value-based purchasing, physician quality reporting, and Medicare Advantage plan bonuses. Where these initiatives directly affect hospitals, linking them to hospital employee rewards and recognition program will help hospitals—and their patients—reap the benefits.

 

Values-based recognition. Hospital systems are especially inclined to put their values front and center. Those values should also be embedded in every hospital system’s rewards and recognition program, and part of their performance measures. As hospital employees understand and live those values day-by-day, they will become more deeply engaged.

 

Although we’ve cited hospitals as a prime example of the need for strong employee engagement programs during times of change, the four areas affected—employee turnover, customer satisfaction, quality, and organizational values—are common to nearly all organizations. The lesson learned is universal as well: change is both a threat and an opportunity. Organizations that use the opportunity wisely, in this case by deepening employee engagement, emerge as winner.

* Up 6 percent in 2012, according to beckerhospitaleview.com, and 10 percent first quarter of 2014, according to the Healthcare Financial Management Association.

Learn how a Fortune 500 healthcare products used its rewards and recognition program to support a culture of appreciation in this MI case study.

 

Sources:

Becker’s Hospital Review: “3 Key Merger and Acquisition Trends” by Helen Adamopoulos.

Healthaffairs.org: “Pay-for-Performance,” October 11, 2012.

American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Fact sheet: “Nursing Shortage.

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