Why health care needs a chief of work

  • Posted on January 6, 2017

Chief of Work

Workplace experts and industry analysts are increasingly predicting that we might soon see a new addition to the C-suite: the Chief of Work (or COW – not to be confused with the provider acronym, Computers on Wheels). This role, which would be a marriage of human resources and operations, would be responsible for aligning talent, technology and the physical and virtual work environments in order to build a culture that attracts and retains the best and brightest employees – and to leverage their skills to the fullest potential in order to realize maximum business benefits Twitter [CLICK TO TWEET].

Given the rapid evolution of the way we work, this sounds like an intriguing role, right? And I would argue that nowhere is a Chief of Work more desperately needed than in health care.

In recent years, thanks to legislative mandates and the transition to value-based care affecting reimbursement models, hospitals and health systems have spent enormous amounts of management attention and capital on electronic medical record (EMR) technologies used within the walls of health systems. This means they’ve had fewer resources to dedicate to other technology implementations that support employee engagement – ones that enable real-time decision-making, productivity gains, the seamless exchange of ideas and information, and collaboration across physical and geographic boundaries.

As health care becomes increasingly network-driven, as care is increasingly delivered virtually or across multiple locations, and as health care consumers become increasingly digitally-oriented, the absence of tools that make it easier for providers to do their jobs is a big problem. In fact, a recent study found that healthcare bedside nurse turnover is 17.2 percent, up from 13.5 percent just five years ago. That same study also uncovered a clear relationship between employee engagement and retention.

This is where a Chief of Work could help make health care facilities a better place to work – and improve overall service offerings by helping employees realize their true potential. If organizations invest in initiatives and solutions that empower their workers to access the people, information and services they need – when they need it – they will be able to provide more efficient, better quality care. These types of solutions, which together comprise a digital workplace, are often cloud-based and easy to implement, unlike the burdensome installation and steep learning curve of most EMRs.

In today’s modern work environments, and in health care especially, delivering information in the right context, with the right experience, on the right device can’t be ignored. The majority of workers in health care aren’t sitting behind a desk, so systems that require them to stay anchored behind a machine aren’t going to be effective. In this scenario, what do you think these workers are going to do? They’re going to seek out employers that are more mature digitally, where there’s less friction to getting their work done.

Today’s employees have expectations from their consumer-centered world. Just as they leverage digital tools in their personal lives to make consuming products and services easier and more seamless, they want tools that will allow them to do their jobs in an intuitive, engaging, efficient and collaborative way. Health care organizations don’t have to make it an easy choice for employees to look elsewhere. Whether it’s making big investments, like hiring a Chief of Work, or more incremental investments, like enabling instant messaging for the nursing staff, organizations that prioritize the workplace experience will be the ones that reap big rewards.

Jeffrey Cohen

Well said Sheetal and Michelle, the intersection of "digital" and healthcare I agree is inevitable and foreshadowed in the market and workforce trends you've described.  I would even argue that outgoing President Obama alluded to the unavoidable evolution of industry and workforce in his farewell address from January 10th when he spoke of the "relentless pace of automation" necessitating a shift in the way our workforce must be trained and managed.  

I wanted to also offer a supporting perspective as articulated in the book "Healthcare Disrupted" authored by our industry partners at Accenture.  Much of this is explored in the text:  "Healthcare Disrupted defines the basis of new value-centric performance and business models, tracks the accelerated evolution of leaders from productcentric to value- and services-centric, and how the requirement for outcomes and value will impact all organizations—care delivery, payers, services, technology, and life sciences—and how they necessarily need to work together."

January 10, 2017

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