Everyone seems to have trouble engaging clinicians when it comes to IT. Maybe it's all just a simple misunderstanding.
When it comes to digital health (or health IT) in the hospital, there are always complaints about how difficult it is to get clinical staff on board. This often leads to tensions between all sides and sets IT projects on a downward spiral before they've even started. In my experience, this happens mainly when groups have misunderstood what doctors and nurses want and value.
Let's be clear. Clinicians don't NEED health IT solutions. They're desirable when they work, but when they don't they're a nightmare. Many clinicians have figured out workarounds to make life easier. Dealing with a major IT implementation can be a major distraction, but it doesn't have to be as long as it's framed not as a technical challenge—but a workflow improvement opportunity.
1. Observe and Question
Before you can even consider engaging clinicians, you need to understand what their needs and wants are. The only way to do that is to get into the clinical setting and start communicating with clinicians from a range of environments, grades and specialties. Build the big picture before you decide to completely take it apart.
2. Appreciate What Works
There's a big drive to go paperless in the UK, but this goal ignores the fact that many clinicians are very comfortable and very good at using paper. When you use something for long enough you get pretty good at it—surprisingly!
Installing something new (i.e. IT) is inevitably going to cause problems, challenges and slowdowns in the early stages and not build goodwill if mishandled. So appreciate what works and create a transition process that clinicians can sign off on first.
3. No Surprises
Clinicians like having a routine they can stick to and make work. From their outpatient clinics, to theatres and the wards, we like things to run like clockwork wherever possible. Do not spring IT implementations and procurements as a surprise. Do not expect to go live suddenly without clearly communicated timelines.
At the end of the day, many clinicians don't have to use a solution if it doesn't work for them and in doing so can lead to the termination of an IT project. Whether you're a vendor or a provider, make sure clinicians are always in the loop.
4. A Clinical Champion
There will always be clinicians who see the terrific potential of IT solutions and want to support their meaningful adoption. Find those clinicians early, talk to them and given them executive powers to lead clinical IT initiatives. They are the bridge that will lead to effective procurements and implementations.
5. "No" is an Answer
There will always be ideas that clinicians don't want to engage with. Just because one hospital has bought a solution does not always mean that your hospital's clinicians will want that same solution.
"No" isn't the end of the conversation though. It should serve as a platform to discuss how a workflow problem may be resolved in different ways. It might not even need a technology solution! More often than not, though, IT can offer a fix. Always have transparent conversations without an underlying agenda and you'll win many clinicians over.
When all is said and done, IT projects will always be viewed sceptically by some clinicians—but the pushback you get as a vendor or IT executive should enhance communication and not end it. Identifying concerns and considering alternatives will ultimately create new and positive opportunities.
The nuviun industry network is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author.