Millennials are driving new digital workplace trends in healthcare

  • Posted on May 1, 2017

This is a guest blog post written by Avanade alum, Sheetal Shah. 

Millennials have a significant presence in the healthcare field and are harbingers of change in this industry. For this demographic, gone are the days of long hours, years spent building a practice, and long-term allegiance to employers, traits commonly attributed to Boomers and Gen-Xers. After watching many clinicians experience burnout, millennials are forcing a change by seeking flexible schedules and better work-life balance. They thrive in a technology-driven workplace and in an environment that focuses on their professional development.

This generation of healthcare workers expect to enter a workforce where they can use technology to make their work lives easier and provide better care for their patients. Continuing to do things the traditional way won’t cut it any longer, so they are bringing in new tools to help do their jobs. In fact, 71% of millennial doctors see third-party websites such as Medscape, WebMD, and PDR as very influential or influential versus 58% of non-millennial doctors. This turn towards a consumer-driven mindset allows for more agility to incorporate leading practices in treatment, and an opportunity for health systems to combine the nexus of changing workforces to adapt quicker to the extrinsic and intrinsic factors impacting the healthcare workplace, but with it also comes inconsistencies.

Millennials Expect New Tools to Improve Effectiveness and Efficiency

Healthcare organizations recognize the need to create a more connected workplace. Listening to millennials and observing how other industries adopt new ways of working has helped influence where to go next. This presents an opportunity for healthcare business decision makers to work across generations to identify which tools and platforms provide the most productivity gains while energizing the workforce and improving patient outcomes. This could include researching tools that allow virtual consults with other clinicians, helping to support flexible schedules and the ability to work from anywhere.

Healthcare providers have begun to recognize and understand the need to adopt new digital tools. Recently, AMA Digital Health found that 84% of all physicians were, at least, somewhat likely to buy new apps that extend the capabilities of their existing EHRs. There is a desire for new digital tools to provide better information, which can be shared with patients, but there’s a lack of training, security, and standardized policies and protocols leading to inconsistent utilization by clinicians.

And with the infrastructure and technical barriers that still exist today, many healthcare professionals continue to fall back on familiar and traditional ways of providing healthcare, adding to the digital divide.

Why It Matters to Design for All Generations

Without a digital transformation, millennials will feel they are always fighting the “system” and will gravitate towards organizations that give them the tools they want. Boomers and Gen-Xers are used to the traditional way of providing healthcare, so providing them with a balanced environment as the industry goes through this transition to a new workforce is essential. Because healthcare delivery organizations are made up of several generations, the needs of all involved must be considered when enabling change and adopting new digital tools.

Exciting New Technology on the Horizon

Team collaboration, for example, is an area where technology can be an instrumental game-changer. Millennial clinicians may prefer virtual meetings versus in-person meetings (i.e. tumor boards), because they make them more efficient by reducing the stress and time consumption involved in travel.  The latest collaboration tools such as Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Teams make it easier for teams to share and manage information, meet and review documents via voice and video conferencing, and use instant messaging to reach each other at a moment’s notice. This allows teams to collaborate regardless of their location, communication preference or comfort level with technology. What's more, the clinical workforce can access these tools from any device even if they are not on-site, providing an opportunity to weigh in remotely on a diagnosis.

Training is another area where new tools can help. This new generation of clinicians doesn’t want to be tied down to a learning moment only taking place at one given time, data, and location – but prefer to take their classes on-demand, so they can move at their own pace, even when they are not in the clinic, a model we are seeing take off with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) or LinkedIn’s Lynda. Perhaps it is supplementing existing training events with virtual participation opportunities using enterprise technologies like Microsoft Teams or Skype for Business.

It’s not fair (nor is it true) to say that only millennials have these preferences, but since their path through medical training has been impacted by ubiquitous access to devices and data, we do look to them as the stewards of change.

Bridging the Digital Divide – Digital Innovations in Health

Knowing how to approach implementing the digital tools can be a daunting task for healthcare providers without proper guidance and strategy. Understanding workforce needs and developing varying engagement strategies by demographic, clinical, and operational experience can impact employee retention, quality, and, ultimately, patient experience. Creating a business roadmap is a key component of a successful investment and transformation to a connected, digital workplace.

To ensure a successful outcome, first take a step back and look at your clinicians’ digital experience. Are you providing an environment that helps eliminate burnout, enables flexible schedules and offers a work-life balance? Do the current technological tools you are using help to grow and maintain a connected workplace? Do you have a plan in place to implement these new strategies? If not, now is the time to get started - the longer you sit and wait, the larger the digital divide grows.

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