Creating a Culture of Recognition in Healthcare Using the Right Digital Strategy

By Joshua Titus and Rebecca Metter

With the care providers we depend on reaching the point of “soul exhaustion,” how can healthcare organizations not only reduce their team members’ burnout, but also help them feel appreciated for their efforts?

This challenge is top of mind for healthcare leaders, especially as turnover rates have nearly doubled at hospitals and health systems. Now, with leaders looking for ways to attract and retain talent at all levels, some organizations are leveraging digital tools and communications to help restore joy in work—with excellent results. Here are four considerations around where to start.

1. Deliver real-time feedback to employees—digitally. According to a Deloitte study, organizations that excel at employee recognition are 12 times as likely to generate strong business results. For healthcare employees, hearing gratitude from patients and families in the moment rejuvenates their spirits. It also reminds them why they chose their profession—to make an impact—and creates a sense of belonging and connection that is critical to employee retention.

CareWell Health Medical Center in East Orange, New Jersey (formerly East Orange General Hospital), experienced a 53% improvement in annualized voluntary turnover among RNs in 2019 with the help of a real-time digital engagement and recognition system that provided employees with feedback from all key stakeholders—patients, physicians, nurses, healthcare staff, and leaders. By capturing patient and family recognition, the health system saw an improvement in patient experience while building a positive work environment to boost retention and performance for the entire organization.

Pro tip: Look for a platform that incorporates the voices of patients and families.

2. Provide digital access to mental health resources. At Jefferson Health in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, employees can access mental health surveys, symptom trackers, exercises, and other content via a digital app to help address a variety of behavioral health concerns. This approach directs mental health resources where they are most needed. Employees receive personalized content based on preferences, AI algorithms, and responses to mental and physical health assessments. During a pilot of 1,000 users, the typical user engaged in 20 activities per month via the app.

Today, 60%–75% of clinicians report symptoms of exhaustion, depression, sleep disorders, and PTSD. Meanwhile, availability of mental health resources is limited. By providing immediate access to free resources at the touch of a smartphone or device, healthcare organizations can improve employees’ mental health and resilience.

Pro tip: Integrate the tool into the health system’s existing mobile app, with access limited to employees and physicians.

3. Leverage consumer-facing digital tools to relieve employees’ administrative burden. More than 40% of consumers prefer to schedule healthcare appointments online, while three out of four consumers who have used chatbots say they are helpful in finding a new provider or service. Such tools can help reduce employee burnout by decreasing the administrative demands associated with their work. That’s a critical move during the pandemic, given that the stresses of the COVID-19 healthcare environment have hit nursing assistants, medical assistants, social workers, and inpatient workers especially hard.

At WakeMed Health & Hospitals in Raleigh, North Carolina, an all-access digital app lets consumers determine wait times at local emergency departments, reserve a seat in urgent care, access their medical records, and communicate live with a healthcare professional when needed. Six thousand users rely on the app each month, with 34% using it for wayfinding assistance and 33% using it to find a physician. This approach dramatically reduces reliance on one-to-one administrative support, freeing staff to focus on more value-added work.

Pro tip: Use the app to tie together the organization’s consumer-facing digital elements. This creates a more tightly integrated digital experience for consumers and further decreases reliance on staff for customer service requests.

4. Drive a sense of belonging and improve morale with technology that focuses on connection among team members. Through the pandemic, 49% of healthcare workers have left their organization or considered doing so. Upon leaving their job, employees most commonly stated that they did not feel valued by their organization, did not feel valued by their manager, or did not feel a sense of belonging.

With the right digital engagement and recognition system, meaningful moments are recognized and elevated so that all members of the team can feel seen, accepted, and included. This helps foster an organizational culture shift built on transparency, trust, and gratitude. When Hackensack Meridian Health deployed a digital recognition strategy, after six months the hospital system experienced an increase in staff engagement, and 34% more team members shared they felt valued at their job.

Pro tip: Ensure the technology reinforces team members’ connection to purpose and connection across disciplines.

Building better experiences for healthcare teams

With healthcare staff shortages predicted for every state by 2026, digital tools hold strong potential to ease employee burnout and keep them connected to their sense of purpose and to one another during times of high stress. Leveraging digital health platforms to provide real-time recognition, supply mental health resources, and reduce administrative burden is an excellent place to start.

Joshua Titus is founder and CEO of Gozio Health. Rebecca Metter is co-founder and CEO of Wambi.