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March 25, 2020 

As healthcare organizations continue to evolve their workplace environment to accommodate COVID-19 demands, so must the way in which medical services professionals communicate with others regarding the credentialing and privileging process. New remote work models require us to look at how we communicate to multiple customers in multiple locations in an effective and efficient manner. This blog will outline techniques to manage communications with internal and external customers, as well as committee functions, in more virtual and complex environments.

 Building and Maintaining a Virtual Team

We are now living in a society where everything we do is tied to technology and instantaneous responses. While the use of technology can be a great resource during a crisis, we run the risk of losing the opportunity to truly connect to people. As a result, medical services professionals now need to find ways to connect remotely with our peers and/or employees as well as provide meaningful information, reports, or status updates that are thorough and self-explanatory.

As more and more departments transition to a virtual environment, there are several ways to ensure effective communication is maintained:

  • Create a designated virtual workforce onboarding team that includes representatives from each integrated department
  • Review current processes and identify duplicated activities, then determine what can be consolidated
  • Determine which area is first to communicate with the provider and collect information. That team will be responsible for connecting and sharing with the others.
  • The common provider database will allow all teams to view specific provider information, where they are in the process, document provider outreach, etc.

It is critical during this time that each member tracks, reports, and shares data consistently. You can always tweak your processes based on results/outcomes.  Keep improving the process and you will start to improve your virtual communication strategy. 

The Value of Reporting

A large part of achieving successful virtual communication is the use of reporting. You will need to determine which report is best suited to your target (internal, external, or business) and their specific needs.

  1. Status Report: A summary of all applications or one application may work well for the applicant or an external customer, but a full status report of all applications may be more appropriate for your internal customer, such as your Chief Medical Officer or Hospital Administrator.
  2. Workflow Report: This will provide more details of an application. It can let you see who is working on the file, what has been sent out and when, and what is still pending with each date of request. This is a report that may be very helpful for your physician recruitment team.

The frequency of reports will differ depending on your customer and the type of report you are sending out. You can tailor weekly, quarterly, or monthly reports to fit their needs.

Reports are often used as a placeholder for a meeting to keep everyone apprised of key details. While it may be challenging to schedule or hold a virtual meeting during a crisis, keep in mind that reports do not allow for the sharing and exchanging of idea. Certain areas of the business require conversation, even if your only option is virtual. This allows for a greater opportunity to partner with our customers, both external and internal.

Meetings in a Virtual World

As in-person meetings are likely out of the question, virtual meetings may be the only way to connect with your customers.  Between Go-To-Meetings, Zoom meetings, Skype, and webinars, you can meet with just about anyone, anywhere in the world.

For example, a weekly status update meeting is a way to expand upon a status report and receive real-time feedback from your customers. A meeting of this type may include key players such as the Chief Operating Officer, Lead Credentialing Specialist, and Physician Recruitment representatives. This presents an opportunity to discuss any outstanding tasks and partner to onboard newly recruited physicians.

Scheduling regular virtual meetings can help maintain “business as usual” for the following groups:

  • MSP Staff Meetings – staff working from home and/or in multiple locations.
  • Vendor Meetings – involves your credentialing software/external CVO and is an opportunity to provide delegation oversight.
  • Committee Meetings
    • Centralized Credentials Committee – Health system with multiple locations
    • Medical Executive Committee
    • Board Committee

Virtual meetings can be further complemented by utilizing your credentialing database. By referring to your “source of truth” during these meetings, you can support the pre-determined agenda, distribute minutes and materials, and establish voting through a secure database that can be accessed anywhere.

Overcoming Virtual Communication Challenges

Regardless of your comfort level with virtual engagement, now more than ever we need to communicate. It is simply necessary to effectively function and ensure key initiatives are kept on track. Common challenges when going virtual include the use of technology, managing time zones, reading verbal/non-verbal cues, and accommodating personal preferences.

  • Technology – Transitioning to a technology-dependent work model can be daunting. Thankfully, there is a myriad of options available: email, text, instant messaging/online chats, share files (such as Google Drive or Microsoft SharePoint), or an Intranet site. You can use a mix of these resources to ensure no one is left out of communication.
  • Time Zones – This can create difficulties in scheduling meetings, as well as getting responses to emails/phone messages. Be sensitive to levels of participation if meetings are held very early or very late for a specific time zone. Asking for availability prior to making the call is the best way to avoid any confusion.
  • Verbal/Non-verbal cues – How many times have your emails or words been misunderstood? Or has someone not understood your joke on a conference call? In a virtual environment, you can’t “see” facial expressions, gestures, body language, or make eye contact. So, what do you have? It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. When we speak, other people “read” our voices in addition to listening to our words. You can listen to tone of voice, inflection, loudness, and pitch. You can help ensure that nothing was miscommunicated by following-up accordingly with an email or digital record.
  • Identify individual preferences – What is the best way to communicate with each individual? Just ask! Shift your style as needed and remember to be flexible as not everyone will adjust to a remote environment at the same pace.

Final Virtual Communication Tips

During an unprecedented time of crisis when hospitals are forced to mobilize and adjust their workforce at a lightning-fast speed, maintaining strong virtual communication strategy can slip through the cracks. Here a few tips to maintaining healthy and effective communication during this time:

  • Use Technology – In a meeting, you can use technology to your advantage to make sure everyone is heard. You can save questions for the end or implement a digital “raise hand” to limit interruptions.
  • Speak slowly – if you are in a virtual meeting without video, it can be difficult to hear clearly without seeing the words as they are spoken. Slow down and check in with attendees to make sure they understood you clearly.
  • Listen to understand – As with any conversation, don’t just be thinking about what you’re going to say next. This is even more important on a conference call where you can easily zone out and miss critical information. Listen to what the speaker is saying first, and then confirm what you heard by restating.
  • State your emotions – Remember, your customer likely can’t see you unless you are using video conferencing, and tone of voice can be hard to read. Be sure to state how you are feeling as appropriate during the conversation.
  • Solicit input – Make sure everyone gets an opportunity to speak, provide feedback, and ask questions.
  • Summarize discussion and decisions – Review key items at the end of the meeting and confirm nothing was missed.
  • Send out minutes as soon as possible – Not only does this help those on the call reference what was discussed, but it also ensures that anyone who was not able to attend is up to speed on their responsibilities moving forward.

While the list of virtual communication challenges may seem too large to overcome, you can help initiate a smooth transition by following these steps. Remember to take it day by day and adjust your strategy as needed.

Greeley’s core mission is to help hospitals deliver high-quality, cost-effective patient care. For more information on how Greeley can partner with your organization during this challenging time, please email info@greeley.com or call 888.749.3054. 

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