In this MEDICA-tradefair.com interview, Jana Aulenkamp gives us insights into the concept of New Work prior to the trade fair, explains what this means for health care, and reveals why this topic is a perfect fit for MEDICA 2021.
Ms. Aulenkamp, you are part of the "New Work in Healthcare" Tech Talk at this year's MEDICA. What do you mean by that?
Jana Aulenkamp: For me, it means transferring the developments pertaining to a flexible, open, and collaborative work environment, which has already seen successful adaptation and implementation in multiple sectors outside of the health care system, to medical and health care settings, respectively. The goal is to create a culture change that is based on jointly defined valued principles such as transparency, collaboration, and flexibility. This can improve health care personnel satisfaction and foster productivity. It can also generate new ideas for better health care as a whole.
What are some concrete examples of this?
Aulenkamp: You cannot make a sweeping statement in this setting since there are so many areas in health care. When it comes to implementation, New Work means different things for nurses than it does for physicians. Plus, you must also distinguish between education, research, and patient care settings. For example, flexible work options are easier to implement in radiology versus anesthesiology. And in hands-on health care scenarios, flexible work arrangements are harder to create than when one works in a research project. This change in work culture cannot be narrowed down to individual measures but requires an agreement to shared values and work environment concepts. It also means using modern technology to enable flexible working opportunities.
The respective areas should then individually choose the elements they would like to apply. A first step should be to consider how you can create space for innovation and schedule meetings that are designed to generate ideas and assign responsibilities.
More topic-related exciting news from the editors of MEDICA-tradefair.com:
How does this benefit both the health care personnel and the patients?
Aulenkamp: Initially, the health care personnel reap most of the benefits of the New Work setting because they become more involved by taking ownership. It enables them to come up with their own ideas and help shape their workplace and work culture. Open and flexible work arrangements and concepts promote work-life blending, that being the ideal integration of work and life with the help of digital tools. This can boost motivation, employee satisfaction, and build employee loyalty, which is in the best interest of management. It can also improve and increase self-efficacy of the individual, which hopefully results in great and effective health care.
New ideas of the teams and individuals can ultimately prompt new processes and structures, which can improve patient care. Patients can sense the level of happiness or contentment an employee feels for his/her job or whether he/she is frustrated and feels overwhelmed, leaving no time to address the social needs of patients. That is why – aside from flexibility in healthcare environments – it is also important for the staff to have adequate capacity to foster direct patient contact and interaction. Big changes start small and can make a positive impact on patients every day.
Why are ideas like this so rarely implemented today?
Aulenkamp: I think the very rigid structures in hospitals are one major problem. There are few opportunities for employees to participate in processes or decision-making, while personal decision-making leeway is likewise drastically limited. Of course, this is also because an emergency requires seamless operation at hospitals where everyone must follow strict command structures. Today’s employees have grown up in this system and have come to believe it is set in stone. Any person who has ever tried to change things has failed – at least, that's how employees perceive it. This obviously leads to frustration and resignation.
I have witnessed this during a health care project. This amazing interdisciplinary project took up the New Work idea and focused on flexibility and open-mindedness in teamwork. Right away, one nurse predicted that none of the ideas we come up with will ultimately be implemented. I found this attitude alarming, but the nurse turned out to be right. That is why we must rebuild employee trust in the future, showing them that change is possible. This requires role models and successful examples of respective projects. It takes leadership that mindfully drives and supports this change. Sometimes it might also take money, but it is primarily a question of willingness and collaboration.
Why is MEDICA the right platform to have a conversation about this issue?
Aulenkamp: I noticed an increasing number of people who want to help shape the future of healthcare. There is a readiness to change processes. Many junior doctors and other healthcare professionals are very interested in the digitization of processes. It's a subject that will also be featured at MEDICA: the success of digital transformation and the use of modern health tools hinges on more than just technology. We must also consider the frameworks – such as New Work – it takes to implement digital transformation and change management in everyday clinical practice. The mere existence of an innovative technology is not enough to guarantee success. It is also vital to take the culture, the way people work and their skills into account, which is why I think it is imperative that the MEDICA Trade Fair addresses these types of topics.
The interview was conducted by Elena Blume and translated from German by Elena O'Meara. MEDICA-tradefair.com