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Health IT Software Must Be Meaningful and Pleasurable

Posted on April 27, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

One of the most dynamic healthcare CIO’s is Shafiq Rab, MD, MPH, Vice President and CIO at Hackensack UMC. Healthcare Scene was lucky enough to talk with him at the DataMotion Health booth during HIMSS 2016. Dr. Rab talked with us about Hackensack UMC’s approach to healthcare IT innovation. He offered some great insights into how to approach any healthcare IT project, about Hackensack University Medical Center’s “selfie” app, and their efforts to use Direct and FHIR to empower the patient.

I love that Dr. Rab leads off the discussion with the idea that healthcare IT software that they implement must be meaningful and pleasurable. Far too many health IT software miss these important goals. They aren’t very meaningful and they’re definitely not pleasurable.

Dr. Rab’s focus on the patient is also worth highlighting. Health IT would be in a much better place if there was a great focus on the patient along with making health IT software meaningful and pleasurable. Thanks Dr. Rab and DataMotion Health for doing this interview with us.

Accessing Near Real Time Patient Data In & Out of the Hospital with Alan Portela

Posted on April 4, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Healthcare Scene recently sad down with Alan Portela, CEO of AirStrip to talk about the shifting world of real time access to healthcare data in and out of the hospital. We cover a lot of ground including AirStrip’s experience being on stage at the announcement of the Apple Watch, the challenge of EHR data interoperability, and the amazing work that AirStrip is doing to make near real time health data available on devices across healthcare. Enjoy the recorded video interview with Alan Portela below:

In the “after party” discussion, we continue the discussion and are joined by Jimmie Legan, MD and Charles Webster, MD.

NYC Epic Rollout Faces Patient Safety Questions

Posted on March 30, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

In the summer of last year, we laid out for you the story of how a municipal hospital system’s Epic EMR installation had gone dramatically south since its inception. We told you how the New York City-based Health and Hospitals Corp. was struggling to cope with problems arising from its attempt to implement Epic at its 11 hospitals, four long-term care facilities, six diagnostic treatment centers and more than 70 community-based clinics.

At the time of last writing, the project budget had exploded upward from $302 million to $764 million, and the public chain’s CTO, CIO, CIO interim deputy and project head of training had been given the axe. In the unlikely event that you thought things would settle down at that point, we bring you news of further strife and bloodshed.

Apparently, a senior clinical information officer with the chain’s Elmhurst and Queens Hospital Centers has now made allegations that the way the Epic install was proceeding might pose danger to patients. A New York Post article reports that in a letter to colleagues, outgoing HHC official Charles Perry, M.D. compared the EMR implementation process to the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster.

In his letter, Dr. Perry apparently argued that the project must be delayed. According to the Post, he quoted from a presidential panel report on the disaster: “[For] a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.” Another Post article cited anonymous “insider” sources claiming that the system will crash, as the implementation is being rushed, and that the situation could lead to patient harm.

For its part, HHC has minimized the issue. A spokesperson told FierceHealthIT that Perry was associate executive director of the Elmhurst hospital and liason to the Queens Epic project, rather than being CMIO as identified by the Post. (Further intrigue?) Also, the spokesperson told FHIT that “if a patient safety issue is identified, the project will stop until it is addressed.”

Of course, the only people who truly know what’s happening with the HHC Epic implementation are not willing to go public with their allegations, so I’d argue that were obligated to take Perry’s statements with at least a grain of salt. In fact, I’d suggest that most large commercial Epic installations (and other large EHR implementations for that matter) got the scrutiny this public hospital system gets, they’d probably look pretty bad too.

On the other hand, it’s fair to say that HHC seems to crammed enough scandal into the first few years of its Epic rollout for the entire 15-year project. For the sake of the millions of people HHC serves, let’s hope that either there is not much to these critiques — or that HHC slows down enough to do the project justice.

Quick Hitting Thoughts on CDS (Clinical Decision Support)

Posted on March 21, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’m finally starting to go through all my notes from HIMSS. Part of that is because I’ve been busy after HIMSS. Part of it is because I like to recover from what I call the #HIMSSHaze. Part of it is that I like to see what still resonates a few weeks after HIMSS.

With that in mind, I was struck by a number of quick hitting comments that I noted from my interview with Dr. Peter Edelstein, CMO at Elsevier. Dr. Edelstein is a fascinating guy that I’ll have to have on a future Healthcare Scene interview. In the meantime, here are some of the quick hitting thoughts he shared about CDS (Clinical Decision Support).

One key point he made is that it seemed like many organizations didn’t have a strategy for CDS. He also aptly pointed out that the same seemed to apply to big data. I agree with him wholeheartedly. If we were to go to a healthcare organization and ask them their CDS strategy I don’t think most of them would have an answer. I think if we dug in, we’d probably find that most of them have essentially deferred their CDS strategy to their EHR vendor. Does anyone else feel like this is a problem?

When I asked Dr. Edelstein what would be his suggested strategy on adopting CDS, he suggested that he’d want to make sure that the CDS solution worked across all provider types. Next he compared the pull CDS solutions (Reference resources, etc) to wearing seat belts in a car and the push CDS solutions (Order sets, care plans, etc) to an airbag in a car. While we certainly need both sets of solutions, he suggested that we should make more of an effort to get the push CDS solutions implemented in healthcare.

I thought the analogy was a great way to look at the various types of CDS solutions. Plus, I agree that we need more push solutions in healthcare. The pull solutions are necessary for some of the most challenging problems, but we all know that when a doctor is busily going about their day they often choose not to check with the pull solutions when they should. The push solutions can be integrated into their workflow so that providers can more easily address any potential issues from within the flow of their day.

Dr. Eldestein also pointed out that Wikipedia is still the most commonly used reference resource despite many studies which have illustrated the medical errors that exist on it. Why do they use it? It’s because it’s simple to use and easily accessible. This is a great illustration of why we need the right CDS information to be more easily available to the doctor at the point of care at the moment they need it.

Definitely some great insights into CDS. What’s great about CDS is that at this point pretty much everyone is using some form of CDS. We’re also seeing CDS integrated more deeply into EHR software. I expect this trend will continue and will become much more sophisticated.

It does beg the question, what’s your healthcare organization’s CDS strategy?

Health IT Workflow Stories at #HIMSS16

Posted on February 26, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

If you’re not familiar with Charles Webster, MD (Better known as @wareflo on Twitter), then you probably don’t know that he has a total and absolute obsession with workflow and specifically workflow technologies. Each year for a number of years, the Workflow King (that’s his other nickname) has gone through the list of HIMSS annual conference exhibitors (~1300 this year) and evaluated how many of them were using workflow engines or workflow automation in their healthcare IT software.

With this background, I thought Chuck would be the perfect guest on a recent Healthcare Scene interview to talk about the evolution of healthcare IT workflow at HIMSS and some of the various companies at HIMSS 2016 that people should visit to see these technologies in action. Along with talking with Chuck, we were joined by a number of healthcare IT vendors that have workflow technologies that will be attending and exhibiting at HIMSS. Enjoy our discussion and a preview of workflow technologies at HIMSS 2016:

Does Green Mean Go? The Importance of Transparency in Status Reporting

Posted on February 19, 2016 I Written By

For the past twenty years, I been working with healthcare organizations to implement technologies and improve business processes for nearly twenty years. During that time, I have had the opportunity to lead major transformation initiatives including implementation of EHR and ERP systems as well as design and build of shared service centers. I have worked with many of the largest healthcare providers in the United States as well as many academic and children's hospitals. In this blog I will be discussing my experiences and ideas and encourage everyone to share your own as well in the comments.

A common method of reporting project status is to use the familiar traffic light system, with a status of green, yellow and red. This method of reporting, in theory, makes it easy to determine whether a project is on track and allows the reader to glance quickly at a status report and determine whether there is any cause for concern that requires their attention.

A status of green simply suggests that no such action is necessary, and that the reader has no required actions. A status of yellow or red may require some discussion or resolution. In concept, this system makes sense and allows a project sponsor, who is likely involved in multiple projects and has limited time for each, to quickly determine which projects require their attention.

In reality, this system results in a false sense of security regarding the status of a project and often covers up issues that require attention until they inevitably become serious, at which point the result is most often a project delay, an increase in budget, or more often than not, both.

No project is perfect
The reality is that any project that will result in real change in your organization — including software implementations, cost savings initiatives, and organizational changes — will have problems. It is not the existence of problems that will make or break the success of a project; it is how these problems are addressed. Addressing a problem properly almost always requires early identification and action. Too often, the status reporting system delays the identification of problems, causing them to fester and build to the point at which they can no longer be easily repaired.

The politics of project status
Status reports are inevitably a very political process as the project manager must gather information from the leads or key members of the project team who are completing sets of tasks. In some cases, the project manager is an employee who is overseeing a combination of internal and external resources to complete a project. Quite often, the reverse is true, where the project manager is an external resource who is managing a combination of internal and external resources.

Regardless, the motivations of project managers are in conflict. They want to ensure that they report issues early enough that they can be addressed, but have to balance multiple political realities.  A project manager must be careful not to burn bridges and gain the trust of the team members. Changing a status report to yellow will increase the pressure on team members and potentially make them look bad to their management. Those team members may resent the project manager for the action and be reluctant to share information with him or her in the future.

Therefore, a project manager will often hide the truth, buying the team time to address the issue on its own before escalating the issue by properly reporting the actual status of the project. The result is that often the status that appears on a report is a matter of negotiation between the project manager and the respective team members.

This issue can be even more significant when the project manager is an external contractor managing a project that includes resources from the same company. The project manager in this case has a split loyalty. The first is to the project, and the second is to the employer. To protect the employer, project managers might be reluctant to report a status that will indicate a delay or issue caused by their team, resulting in overly optimistic status reports that hide the project realities.

This is further complicated by the reality that status, particularly status with a green-yellow-red option, is highly subjective. One might interpret a red status as one that is halting the project, but a problem could have serious implications down the line even if it is not halting the project today. A green status could be interpreted as one in which the project remains on track even if there are issues.

Properly reporting status
How does a project sponsor ensure that the true status of a project is reported?

First, there needs to be an acceptance that the status of a complex project cannot be simplified into the equivalent of a system that is designed to let us know whether it’s safe to proceed through a traffic light. Sponsors must be prepared to take the time to fully read through reports and understand the events and issues that have occurred and be prepared to ask questions to challenge the project manager and team leads about the urgency of any issues to see if they require sponsor involvement.

Second, project managers and team members need to be informed that the expectation is that all issues, challenges, and risks will be raised in status reports and status meetings without any fear of repercussions from project sponsors or project team members. These issues should be included in status reports, even if resolved before the report is created, to create visibility into any challenge the project has to overcome. The discussion about issues in status meetings should be open and honest, with proposed solutions provided by team members. Often issues can be resolved timely with the proper allocation of resources, expedited decision making, or simply through discussion.

Finally, the motivations of the project manager must be considered and factored into discussions. In many cases it may be preferable to have the project manager be an internal resource or an external resource that is not from the same company as your implementation or software partner. In cases where they are the same, extra attentiveness to the status and issues presented should be considered to ensure that the reports are being prepared without bias.

While the green-yellow-red method may allow for efficient review of status reporting, it can lead to missing the important details of the actual status that are vital to the success of the project. Proper communication can ensure that red lights change to yellow, and yellow to green, ensuring that the project will not face a true stopping point at a critical point, leading to costly delays.

If you’d like to receive future posts by Brian in your inbox, you can subscribe to future Healthcare Optimization Scene posts here.

The Amazon Echo – Bringing Sci Fi Reality to Healthcare

Posted on February 16, 2016 I Written By

David is a global digital healthcare leader that is focusing on the next era of healthcare IT.  Most recently David served as the CIO at an academic medical center where he was responsible for all technology related to the three missions of education, research and patient care. David has worked for various healthcare providers ranging from academic medical centers, non-profit, and the for-profit sectors. Subscribe to David's latest CXO Scene posts here.

My initial impression of the Amazon Echo was that this is simply a Bluetooth speaker that looks like a portable humidifier with a little bit of artificial intelligence. The next thing I discovered is that the Echo always needs to be plugged in for it to work. But then, after playing around with it, I realized that the Amazon Echo is actually quite impressive.

The Echo introduces the handy Alexa function. The initial conversations with Alexa are very simple. You can ask about the weather, the time, sports results, or the latest news. But with time, I learned that Alexa could even read an audio book; tell me about the local businesses; and where to go for a Thai dinner.

The other benefit of Echo its accessibility and quality. It comes with a remote control or you may control it via your mobile device after downloading the Amazon echo app. The bottom part of the Echo has a 360-degree speaker that surprisingly fills the entire room with sound. Even at a distance of 9-10 feet Alexa can pick up commands.

Because of the sophisticated voice activated system, the Echo has great potential for use by patients in a healthcare setting. The main use case that I see is in the hospital’s patient room. Let’s think of a scenario where we have a 50-year-old patient in the hospital that had just gone through a surgery procedure and is expected to be in the hospital for two days. Echo can be a great device to allow personalization such as: integration to the patient’s Spotify music, control of the room temperature and blinds, the ability to order an Uber for the patient’s family, as well as many other features of a smart home. The goal will be to bring the technology of a smart home into a patient’s room to enhance the patient’s experience away from home.

From a clinical perspective, the Echo can assist the medical provider by reciting the medical education transcribed by the doctor to the patient, such as: the side effects of a prescription drug that the patient should expect for the next month after surgery. If we go back to the example of the patient who is recovering from surgery and has been prescribed drugs, the Echo can either be a replacement or an integrated device for the nurse call system where the patient can ask for pain medication through Echo. In addition, patients can also order their meals through the device if it is integrated with the dietary system in the hospital. As such, the voice-activated system would clearly be a great two-way communication tool for the patient who may not be able to move from their bed with ease.

As healthcare is moving towards the goal of creating the best patient experience possible, we have to start integrating consumer products with the strategy of providing a hotel-like experience in an inpatient room. The integration of smart room technology and voice activation communication has become an invaluable part of luxury hotels, and likewise, we must attempt to replicate that same kind of technology and convenience in hospitals.   I have personally witnessed a lot of success by international hospitals incorporating the hotel experience into their culture to improve patient experience. Similarly, I believe that hospitals in the US must start to adjust our strategy in order to meet the expectation of today’s consumer-patients.

If you’d like to receive future health care C-Level executive posts by David in your inbox, you can subscribe to future Health Care CXO Scene posts here.

Revival of the Physician-Patient Relationships via Electronic Technology

Posted on February 9, 2016 I Written By

David is a global digital healthcare leader that is focusing on the next era of healthcare IT.  Most recently David served as the CIO at an academic medical center where he was responsible for all technology related to the three missions of education, research and patient care. David has worked for various healthcare providers ranging from academic medical centers, non-profit, and the for-profit sectors. Subscribe to David's latest CXO Scene posts here.

One of the latest fads in healthcare is patient-engagement. This is not a new concept at all, but has been practiced in some form for decades. However, with the availability of electronic technology, physicians and healthcare institutions have now embarked on new ways to engage patients. For many years now, there has been a discord in patient-physician relationships. Patients have often felt that healthcare workers never spend adequate time on their cases, rarely allowing them to participate in any decisions and almost never explaining the details about their medical disorders. This bitterness has led many patients to seek alternative healthcare options.

There is now preliminary evidence that use of electronic technology can help improve patient-doctor relationships and also lead to effective treatments and better outcomes.  Patient engagement using electronic technology is also not a new concept. It was first attempted when the Internet was developed in the mid 90s, but failed to gather storm because the technology was relatively new and there was no such thing as androids. The available mobile phones of that time were largely redundant devices that were only used for communication.

Today, almost every healthcare institution and many healthcare workers have web pages that provide educational information to patients. This was the first step in engaging patients. However, with the present availability of mobile devices, the healthcare industry has been able to leap forward. Many clinics now have Apps that give patients access to information, such as: when the doctor will be in the office; how long the wait will be in the ER; possible diagnoses of medical disorders; billing information; and future appointments. Some healthcare practitioners have gone one step further and even offer teleconferencing for patients who are not able to make it to their appointments.

The current strengthening of the patient-physician relationship is further evidenced by the fact that doctors are now encouraging patients to play a greater role in their healthcare and make informed decisions. Shared decision making is now a universal theme in many healthcare institutions. Patient portals can help patients better manage their chronic disorders like diabetes, arthritis, asthma or hypertension. More importantly, this method of engaging patients allows for faster responses from healthcare workers, who now have dedicated staff to answer mobiles phone queries from patients. For example, pharmacists are now able to use mobile technology to help patients better manage their medications, by recording their intake and advising the patients on how to avoid drug interactions.

With the rise of electronic technology, many patients now have most of their medical information, such as medical history and list of medication, stored on their mobile devices which makes it easier to share with healthcare workers when necessary. This dynamic flow of information not only streamlines care, but also fosters continuous and consistent care between the patient and physician. An example of this continuous care may be found in software programs that identify patients in need of particular services, such as annual mammograms, pap smears and chest x-rays. Once these patients are identified, the healthcare workers are able to contact them right away to advise the patient of their specific required medical service, while the software system assists in preventing missed appointments by sending reminders.

Notwithstanding the above, however, patient engagement via use of electronic technology is not without problems. The first and foremost problem is security. Mobile phones routinely get misplaced or stolen and the medical data could easily fall into wrong hands. Secondly, the elderly who make up for the majority of patients in the USA are not usually tech savvy, with very few of them using such mobile devices. Even those who do have a mobile phone are not well versed with Apps or retrieving medical information online.

Additionally, in order for mobile devices to be effective for patient engagement, the healthcare workers need to be efficient in supporting the technology to capitalize on its potential benefits. Even today, one of the most common complaints made by patients is that healthcare providers often times do not return phone calls in a timely manner or even at all. So in order to engage patients, healthcare workers also need to be play an active role. Just sending medical information to a mobile device is not what patients want.

No matter how advanced technology has become, patient engagement via electronic means will never replace the soothing voice or touch of a healthcare provider in the office. It is clear that patient engagement is vital for a successful physician-patient relationship. In fact, there is strong evidence that patients who participate actively in their own care have better medical outcomes and fruitful relationships with their healthcare provider. However, it is important to remember that patient engagement is a two way street. Electronic technology can do wonders for healthcare providers and healthcare institutions, but make no mistake, it can also become a detriment very quickly if not applied and supported adequately. In essence, healthcare providers must remember that current electronic technology can only serve as an assisting tool in managing patients – it cannot act as the healthcare provider itself.

If you’d like to receive future health care C-Level executive posts by David in your inbox, you can subscribe to future Health Care CXO Scene posts here.

HIMSS Puts Optimistic Spin On EMR Value Data

Posted on February 5, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

After several years of EMR deployment, one would think that the EMR value proposition had been pretty well established. But the truth is, the financial and clinical return on EMRs still seems to be in question, at least where some aspects of their functioning are concerned.

That, at least, is what I took from the recent HIMSS “Value of Health IT Survey”  released earlier this month. After all, you don’t see Ford releasing a “Value of Cars Survey,” because the value of a car has been pretty much understood since the first ones rolled off of the assembly line more than a century ago.

Industry-wide, the evidence for the value of EMRs is still mixed. At minimum, the value proposition for EMRs is a remarkably tough case to make considering how many billions have been spent on buying, implementing and maintaining them. It’s little surprise that in a recent survey of CHIME members, 71% of respondents said that their top priority for the next 12 months was to realize more value from their EMR investment. That certainly implies that they’re not happy with their EMR’s value prop as it exists.

So, on to the HIMSS survey. To do the research, HIMSS reached out to 52 executives, drawn exclusively from either HIMSS Analytics EMRAM Stage 6 or 7, or Davies Award winning hospitals. In other words, these respondents represent the creme de la creme of EMR implementors, at least as HIMSS measures such things.

HIMSS researchers measured HIT value perceptions among this elite group by sorting responses into one of five areas: Satisfaction, Treatment/Clinical, Electronic Information/Data, Patient Engagement and Population Management and Savings.

HIMSS’ topline conclusion — its success metric, if you will — is that 88 percent of execs reported at least one positive outcome from their EMR. The biggest area of success was in the Treatment/Clinical area, with quality performance of the clinical staff being cited by 83% of respondents. Another area that scored high was savings, with 81% reporting that they’d seen some benefits, primarily in coding accuracy, days in accounts receivable and transcription costs.

On the other end of the scale, execs had to admit that few of their clinical staffers are satisfied with their EMRs. Only 29% of execs said that their EMR had increased physician satisfaction, and less than half (44%) said their nurses were more satisfied. If that isn’t a red flag I don’t know what is.

Admittedly, there are positive results here, but you have to consider the broader context for this study. We’re talking about a piece of software that cost organizations tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars, upon which many of their current and future plans rest. If I told you that my new car’s engine worked and the wheels turned, but that the brakes were dodgy, fuel economy abysmal and the suspension bumpy, wouldn’t you wonder whether I should have bought it in the first place?

Tips For Young Healthcare Executives Managing Older Experienced Staff

Posted on February 2, 2016 I Written By

David is a global digital healthcare leader that is focusing on the next era of healthcare IT.  Most recently David served as the CIO at an academic medical center where he was responsible for all technology related to the three missions of education, research and patient care. David has worked for various healthcare providers ranging from academic medical centers, non-profit, and the for-profit sectors. Subscribe to David's latest CXO Scene posts here.

These days, it is not uncommon to see fresher and younger talents tackle management positions and working together with the more experienced and older colleagues. The number of executives that hold high corporate ranks while still in their 20s-30s has impressively grown through the years, despite the fact that seniority is generally a determining factor for promotion opportunities. This shifting corporate culture may bring about many different challenges to organizations, since younger CEOs and executives may struggle with supervising their employees, who are 10-20 years their senior. These older employees could feel discomfited when reporting to their younger employers and having to take directions from them. Nonetheless, there are several strategies that I have used in these situations, which may assist in bringing harmony and balance to these relationships.

Be clear with what you expect
Only the head of the department will be able to set the tone for the culture of the organization. It is the head of the department who will determine what will and will not be tolerated among the employees and the leadership team. As a young leader, whether you are the CEO, CIO, COO, CXO, or any other head of the department, you must be clear with the expectation and directions. Act like the leader of the department or of your team and communicate as much as possible to avoid any ambiguity.

Communicate consistently
One way of establishing better rapport with the older employees is to develop an understanding about their motivations, working attitude, needs, and values. To gain understanding, it is important that the employer and employees have regular conversations. A clear understanding of the employees’ motivations is critical for you to develop the organizational strategy. Your management strategy for an employee who is two years away from retiring is going to be a whole lot different from that for an employee who still has another ten or more years ahead of them before retirement.

However, as the head of the department, I believe that it is important to put the organization as a whole first before individual team members. In this regard, you should still strive to do what is best for both parties and always sympathize with the employee by putting yourself in their shoes and treating them the same way that you would like to be treated if the situation was reversed.

Address their weaknesses supportively
Younger executives should not be afraid to acknowledge the older employees’ weaknesses in a supportive manner. While it may be a widespread belief that older employees are likely to resist learning new things and are less likely to succeed in the digital era, I believe that this is a misconception. From my experience, there are actually a number of older workers who are more than eager to embrace new technologies. You will be able to encourage and assist such older employees to adapt to the new digital generation and be more comfortable with the technological changes by supporting them through use of manual demonstrations, tutorials, and various training programs.   Give these employees the benefit of the doubt and be patient, while assisting and insisting upon their endeavor to engage in learning and applying new technologies in this digital era. The experience must be a positive one to motivate any individual to change.

Tap their experience
Notwithstanding the above, older employees who choose to remain in the work place, even if they are approaching retirement age, also have a lot to offer to the department. They may be able to provide the younger leaders with valuable information and insight from their years of experience in the field. Having their experience tapped through executive mentoring in which the older colleagues are offering guidance and advice on certain cases could help you shape better strategies. Everyone has a story to tell and a lesson to teach that may be valuable for any leader, young or old. In turn, this form of communication could make the older employees feel appreciated and motivated.

Find balance and harmony
Notwithstanding the above, as a young leader, you still need to be clear with the older employees that, while you are giving value to their experience, you are still the leader of the team and the ultimate decision-maker. This requires a delicate balance between strength and sensitivity – specifically, a balance between being a strong leader and a sensitive mentor.

There are many approaches younger leaders can take to work well and successfully with older employees in a department. Some of these approaches have already been enumerated above. However, no matter what strategies are adopted, the key to being an effective young leader is to treat all employees with respect and dignity, while maintaining your authority. This way you will be able to ensure balance and harmony in your department, which will result in a strong work culture and successful operations in the business.

If you’d like to receive future health care C-Level executive posts by David in your inbox, you can subscribe to future Health Care CXO Scene posts here.