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Establishing an Effective Remote Staff During the Covid19 Crisis

With the onset of the COVID19 pandemic, businesses have been forced to re-evaluate their policies and procedures to keep employees safe while abiding by government mandates. Appropriately harnessing business practices and technologies in a secure fashion in order to continue bolstering an effective remote staff is imperative to maintain a successful healthcare practice. Avosina has highlighted some key considerations and advice for establishing a remote work staff that maintains productivity with robust communication.

Business Practices

Firstly, in this time of crisis due to the coronavirus, most healthcare businesses have already determined who is considered essential for onsite work. The imperative question to answer here is: can this staff member securely execute his or her job duties outside the workplace or not? For example, can a staff member responsible for scheduling, eligibility verification, or pre-appointment patient calling perform their work outside the office? Yes, with the right software/access implementations. Securely? Yes, with the right security/technological implementations. Therefore, we have determined that is staff member is more than likely a strong candidate for remote work.

This stated, in establishing remote staff, expectations of their work need to be delineated clearly so as to minimize confusion and lack of productivity. It would be wise of employers to create protocols for remote work, and the documentation strategies for said remote work. Protocols should incorporate job responsibilities of the remote employee. As a measure of best practices, if your practice or healthcare organization does not have up to date job descriptions, this timeframe provides a window of opportunity to reflect on missing organizational protocols and best business practices and how to strategically implement what has historically been lacking.

Staff

During this pandemic, all remote workers must carefully balance the execution of remote work with responsibilities of the household, such as childcare. For effective remote staff management, all remote workers should be briefed on the business matters relevant to their work while engaging them with the overall organizational mission via achievable goals and targets. Because household challenges may prevent all remote staff to be available at once on every relevant remote virtual meeting, session briefings and meeting minutes are critical to offer staff that missed certain meetings insight into the ongoing discussions and trajectory of the organization.

But how should the organization manage expectations of staff and management? The following provides a few summary guidelines that may help in determining this:

o Host regularly scheduled virtual group meetings on a weekly or biweekly basis to keep team members connected and establish a forum to advance ideas and issue solutions.

o Utilize project management and communication technologies such as Proofhub or Weekdone to expediate collaborative accountability, share information, exchange notes, and generate ideas.

o Establish a timekeeping system for staff that is user-friendly, accurate, and remotely manageable.

o Set-up easily accessible IT support for all remote workers via IT support firms such as Avosina Medical Technologies.

o Institute progress update calls to keep all members up to date on project progress, objective fulfillment, and new and/or pivoted goals.

Staff should be advised to set-up a designated area in their respective homes from which to call patients or join meetings so to minimize distractions and interruptions. As a measure for simple best practices, before the meeting begins, a clear-cut agenda and an identification and resolution for technical connectivity issues for all staff members is paramount for maximizing the hosting of a successful virtual meeting. At the end of the meeting, a review of staff member assignments and next action steps is crucial for clarity. After the meeting, clear meeting minutes will enable future follow-up and staff accountability.

Technological Implementation & Network Security

Due to the nature of the coronavirus pandemic, strict federal and state guidelines have been loosened to better allow medical practices and healthcare organizations to architect an infrastructure that enables the utilization of remote technologies to drive productivity. To begin with, all organizations should establish a means by which remote workers can be equipped with secure hardware/software on secure networks to complete their routine tasks in a remote manner. Tasks such as patient scheduling, telehealth visits, medical billing, and peer-to-peer conferences will require HIPAA compliant security measures to execute, even with loosened mandates. Long-term strategy would advise that implementing secure measures now will save potential hassles of reinstituting protocols and dealing with breach issues when the HIPAA mandates become stricter again. Protecting patient data is of utmost concern for the immediate and future sustainability of any healthcare organization. Medical IT firms such as Avosina Medical Technologies can evaluate, and if need be, help establish a secure IT infrastructure for your practice and remote staff. Telehealth platforms such as CareClix can ensure secure remote patient visits, and productivity suites such as Google G Suite offer secure options for document management solutions. Ensuring that your EMR/EHR, Accounting, and HR systems are all running on and being accessed through secure networks is of utmost importance.

Summary

In an urgent move to maintain organizational productivity while keeping employees safe, the COVID19 pandemic has drastically shifted our concept of enabling and implementing remote work. For many organizations, the move to remote staff enablement was never a consideration; therefore, it is imperative that all remote staff are provided the proper technological tools to execute their duties following HIPAA compliant guidelines on a secure IT network. Regular communication and project management tools will aid in the process of remote productivity and management. Finally, with the wellbeing of staff as a key concern, advising that remote staff take the proper time to address their household duties, exercise, eat nutritiously, sleep well, and enjoy their non-work hours in a safe manner is essential for maintaining an engaged, psychological and physiologically healthy workforce that will maximize remote productivity.

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