Digital skills - the key to the modern medical practice
23.06.2022 12:18

Digital skills - the key to the modern medical practice

According to NET-Metrix, more than 6.3 million people over the age of 14 in Switzerland use the Internet, with 96 percent of all households already having access to the Internet in 2019. The high access density is also accompanied by a growing willingness to use and, indirectly, increased digital skills among the population. Many Swiss people have thus long been ready to use digital services, but in some areas, such as healthcare, they are only being pushed forward hesitantly.

This gap can only be closed by adding digital skills to medical expertise in the healthcare sector. In this way, modern ideas, approaches and solutions can be brought to those people who have long been waiting for them.

Below we would like to highlight what this means for medical practice managers, their staff, and eventually the patient experience.

What is meant by digital skills?

The term emerged several years ago with the rise of information technology and the spread of corresponding systems for processing digitally available information. Digital skills thus include the ability to use these IT systems efficiently for professional, educational or leisure purposes. So much for the definition.

However, this does not only mean the use of common media and devices, but in particular a basic understanding of how information can be prepared and processed and which tools are available for this purpose.

Basically, the following sub-skills can be derived:

  • Information and data literacy: the ability to obtain, manage, filter, and process digitally available information.
  • Creating and designing digital content: describes, in a broader sense, programming skills or the ability to create content using digital tools.
  • Communication and cooperation: enables people to use communication channels to facilitate the flow of information or to develop new contacts digitally.
  • Knowledge of data privacy and law on the Internet: especially when dealing with sensitive data, as required in the healthcare sector, this is a basic competence for employees working in this field.
  • Technical problem-solving skills: enable employees to identify, describe and classify simple problems and, if necessary, to solve them by themselves.

The question that arises is: Why do these skills represent a significant factor in the success of organizations, medical practices and other healthcare providers?

Basic digital skills as the cornerstone for optimization

While digitalization already brings a competitive advantage through simplified processes, for example in the administrative area , it is also necessary to be able to identify the potential in the first place in order to be able to develop it and use it efficiently.

This is precisely where it is necessary to make basic digital skills a requirement for both new and existing staff. While it is often clearly worthwhile for larger companies to hire professionals and specialists in these areas, this is often not the case with the personnel size that exists in medical practices. Therefore, any form of digital competence that an employee has, specifically in the area of medical practice administration and organization, is a bonus. It can help to optimize processes both internally and externally.

Another question results from this: What should be the focus of a practice and what are the benefits?

The benefits of digital skills among employees in medical practices

We know that the administrative workload within a practice accounts for a significant proportion of the actual medical care provided to patients. In order to automate processes that were previously carried out manually, several of the sub-skills listed above are required. If your employees are able to recognize independently which actions, problems or questions are suitable for automation because they recur frequently, they will begin to submit proposals for optimization in their own interest.

To ensure that these suggestions can also be implemented, it is advantageous to know and take into account the legal digital framework conditions in healthcare in advance. Employees who proactively contribute here on the basis of their skills thus participate step by step in developing your practice. But beware, not every change is welcome from the start by everyone involved and needs to be managed accordingly.

The challenges of change management

The best precondition for the successful implementation of continuous digital transformation within a practice is an agile team that is eager to innovate. However, also keep in mind that employees are not the only ones responsible for the success of changes - quite the opposite.

It is the responsibility of the practice management to establish a suitable process in which suggestions can be obtained, evaluated, and jointly implemented. If you manage to involve your employees in this way, this will increase motivation and the feeling of appreciation of the person, as well as the efficiency within the practice and, therefore, the quality of the patient experience. Ideas, experiences and possible solutions can be worked through together at a monthly meeting:

  • What are the current challenges?
  • Are there solutions for them?
  • What is the actual result of a successful implementation?
  • What is needed to implement the solution?
  • Who is needed to implement and for what?
  • How much time and budget does the project require?

These central questions should be part of the regular evaluation of your internal processes and should be openly discussed with everyone involved. It has often been confirmed that managers who get their employees on board have been surprised by extremely positive results 1

Be honest, do you know how often appointments get canceled, how long an average phone call takes to make an appointment between your assistant and your patients, or how much time and money it takes to contact your patients on a long-term and recurring basis to evaluate your practice, let alone maintain your online presence? Your staff knows exactly where to spend how much of their time and often where it could be saved or better spent. This knowledge is available at any time.

Encourage digital training for your employees

From the point of view of a valuable employee who not only maintains a practice but continuously develops it, the investment pays off in every way. Education and training in the area of digital skills have a long-term positive impact on integrated work within the medical practice.

Your employees learn to recognize where manual activities have a significant disadvantage compared to automation and can actively research suitable digital solutions, evaluate them and, in some cases, even implement them independently in consultation with you. This can primarily contribute to organizational and administrative tasks such as (online) appointment booking, reminders, or even the cancellation of the same. All these are recurring tasks that can be greatly simplified - also thanks to digital solutions. In combination with trained and innovation-friendly employees, this is the key.

To this end, take advantage of a wide range of offers such as courses and training with corresponding focus. From short workshops to advanced training courses with certified degrees, you have a range of options at your disposal to counteract stagnation and thus a long-term competitive disadvantage. Or find out what is possible, especially online and digitally via Medicosearch.

Read more about digitalization and automation in medical practices and in the healthcare sector in general in our blog to identify effective levers for modernizing your practice in the future and to be able to offer patients consistent, up-to-date care.

Cover image by Kindel Media. Further images by Michaela A. and Miguél A. Padrinan.