Healthcare employees need better digital platforms

Cloud-based ITSM tools consumerize employee experiences and reduce manual, repetitive work

Healthcare business needs to focus on improving employee experiences through an ITSM platform.

When I’m asked what, outside of technology, I’m most passionate about, people are often surprised by my answer: Egypt.

When not overseeing the healthcare business unit at ServiceNow, I am an avid Egyptologist, traveling to study Egypt’s history, language, architecture, and art. Reading the hieroglyphs on the walls of ancient temples helps me to better understand the experiences of humans throughout history.

What I’ve learned is that people tend to cling to outdated ways of thinking much longer than they should, which often leads to their downfall. Ancient Egyptians, for instance, encoded the mysteries of the universe on the walls and then became intoxicated with the imperceptible trappings of the world and lost sight of what was actually happening.

We know how that turned out.

Read the writing on the walls

Nowadays, I see a similar disconnect in healthcare. Healthcare businesses have taken their time deploying digital upgrades to improve employee experiences (EX), even though the writing on the wall says they need to accelerate those efforts. It is time for them to listen to the walls speak.

Like any business, healthcare organizations are at their best when they have happy, satisfied, engaged workers delivering the quality of service patients expect and deserve. Organizations, and patients, suffer when technology gets in the way of improving the employee experience.

[KPMG’s Vince Vickers: How COVID spurred healthcare innovation]

Unfortunately, too many organizations are doing just that. While the pandemic accelerated the use of digital technology for patient care, healthcare IT systems have not focused on consumerized experiences for employees. Most systems still use HR, finance, and business productivity tools developed in the 1990s that lack a singular engagement layer and workflow in and out of the disparate systems.

Employees recognize the difference. They use advanced technologies to communicate on social media, shop online, and stream movies and television shows, and they expect the same technologies to be available on the job—anywhere, anytime, on any device.

Lose the legacy

Change has come haltingly. In the last decade, the healthcare industry has spent hundreds of millions to improve electronic health records. More recently, healthcare organizations have started replacing those large, on-prem enterprise resource planning systems for HR, finance, and supply chain operations with cloud solutions. But significant gaps remain, as these legacy systems were heavily customized over the previous 25 years.

To close these gaps, many business units and employees have turned to one-off cloud solutions. These can be effective in the short term, but often lead to “tool sprawl,” when an enterprise deploys so many vertical applications that it creates confusion and hinders the ability to see, manage, and secure every aspect of its operations.

Build a long-term IT foundation

Some healthcare organizations are beginning to use cloud-based IT service management (ITSM) platforms to bridge these disparate tools and create a central hub for employees to access key enterprise services in a more user-friendly way.

This is an evolving solution. Eventually organizations will need to implement more rigorous governance over the tools that departments and individuals can deploy. But they can buy time while they consolidate tools and build a long-term foundation for future EX services.

Consider the challenge of transitioning healthcare providers into increasingly consolidated corporate entities, and the onboarding experience it requires of employees.

Healthcare IT systems have not focused on consumerized experiences for employees.

The average healthcare organization uses more than a dozen tools in the process—including Microsoft Excel, email, telephones, and even fax machines—with multiple points of entry. None are specifically designed for medical establishments.

As a result, the employee onboarding experience tends to be declining, while very costly attrition rates are on the rise.

An ITSM platform can help digitize manual workflows and provide much-needed process consistency and visibility for all stakeholders. It can also help automate an employee’s journey, from pre-hiring and onboarding to retiring and into alumni and volunteer status.

ITSM platforms can also create lifetime digital IDs for every employee, based on fingerprints, voice, or other biometric data. Such a system provides a single source of information about the organization’s interactions with employees and how their needs are being met. It can also help satisfy government regulations concerning the management, secure storage, and retrieval of confidential employee records.

Looking ahead

As it was in ancient Egypt, for healthcare companies today, the writing is on the wall.

Employee and patient expectations are growing rapidly. Organizations must migrate major information systems to the cloud and build an underlying platform for horizontal digital workflows that support the employee experience imperative. Only then will healthcare systems have evolved enough to decode the ancient mysteries on the temple walls, which is that people are the most precious asset.