Overcommunicate

Want to be a Great Healthcare Leader? Over Communicate

When Compass Medical dove into the Arch Collaborative, we counted on getting a good look at some of our weaknesses and how we could improve. But after surveying all our clinicians, we also learned that we were one of the highest-ranking organizations of the Collaborative participants in one category: clinician satisfaction with the leadership team’s efforts to implement and optimize technology.

We were gratified, to say the least. We also knew that our leadership’s positive culture had a lot to do with our efforts to overcommunicate to our providers. 

Overcommunication Creates a Culture of Awareness

The harmony between our leaders and providers didn’t appear overnight. The Compass Medical leaders first had to set up what I would almost call omni-channel communication.

In this model, we send out communications and reminders to our providers at least bi-weekly on Fridays via email, site managers, or in-person visits, or some combination of the three. We try to reach our providers via their respective favorite mediums of communication.

Do we run the risk of providers getting annoyed? Yes. Some providers feel angry at what they feel is overcommunication. But whenever somebody complains about overcommunication, we take the situation as a win.

We love to know that our providers are aware of the important things we have sent through our communication channels, even if it takes us several channels and a few dirty looks to achieve that awareness.

However, no matter what we do, there is always going to be one provider who never read our email, never talked to the manager, and never came to the meeting. When changes are implemented, this one provider is always going to complain that we didn’t communicate with them properly.

This has happened to us over and over again. Instead of rolling our eyes and telling the provider that they need to pay attention, we have learned to apologize and ask, “What can we do to make it better?”

That way we get to hear how we can effectively communicate to that individual the next time around.

It was only through making these communication mistakes, learning from them, and communicating even more in following instances that our culture began to form. We are now, if anything, overcautious in our communication.

Not only are the providers more aware of changes and circumstances than they used to be, but our leadership better understands how to achieve that awareness.

Overcommunication Builds Trust

When we at Compass Medical received our results from the Arch Collaborative survey, I wasn’t surprised by our providers’ levels of satisfaction with our EMR—the scores weren’t particularly high.

But I was surprised, impressed, and humbled by how satisfied our providers were with the Compass Medical leadership. I believe a key reason for this satisfaction is that our providers know they can rely on the predictability of communication from the leadership team.

This trust shows in more than just survey scores. For example, Compass Medical recently bought a new speech recognition tool—our first new tool since our EMR implementation—and got a great response.

We had 54 providers enrolled in training for the product, and all but 3 of those providers attended the training and rolled out the product. That was a huge deal to me and to Compass Medical.

Most HIT leaders, especially those following the Arch Collaborative, understand that product training is critical. But many of those leaders struggle to convince their physicians that the training is worth taking time away from their patients.

The turnout at our latest training encouraged me. Clearly, our providers had faith that our communication-heavy change management process would make the training valuable to them.

Overcommunication Supports Change Management

I believe that Compass Medical’s change management process is so powerful because we use overcommunication in every stage. Even before implementing a new tool, we begin to hype it up through socialization between different user groups.

We go on-site, ask providers if they know about the new system coming soon, tell them which providers have already piloted the system, and encourage them to sign up as well. In the case of our new speech recognition tool, we targeted providers who had been using our previous speech recognition tool.

We always make sure to solicit our managers, supervisors, and directors of all departments to let them know about coming changes. We also send many emails and remind our providers weekly at our internal meetings.

Before implementing our latest tool, we created a training schedule and made the face-to-face training mandatory for anyone who wanted to use the tool.

There’s also a consistent change-management process for workflow changes, enhancements, and upgrades. Everyone from the site manager to each team leader knows how issues are escalated, and they understand that our goal is to create fixes, not workarounds. We have biweekly meetings at which we process suggestions with a team approach.

We ask representatives from across our ancillary departments and other facilities whether the proposed change could negatively impact their end users. If the answer is “No,” we roll the change out two weeks later. That gives our departments a buffer, during which they communicate to their people and close any understanding gaps before the go-live.

The Truth

After seeing our success at Compass Medical, I’m inclined to believe a frequent quote from our CMIO, Dr. Dhrumil Shah: “There is no such thing as overcommunication.”

As health systems and individual HIT heads work to improve the consistency and extensivity of their communication, they will become the leaders their providers need, inspiring trust and enthusiasm for years to come.


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