Careers in the healthcare industry often require a significant level of knowledge. This is because staff members’ actions don’t just affect the facilities and businesses they work for. There’s a good chance that their activities will impact the well-being and quality of life of patients. It is, therefore, important that employees receive solid ongoing training in a range of areas.
One of the most important aspects of healthcare workers’ skill sets to improve at the moment is digital literacy. Digital literacy refers to the ability workers should have to understand, use, and feel comfortable with technological tools. There are multiple ways digital platforms have become an integral part of the health landscape, which makes confident interaction with these elements a must for medical professionals in all roles.
Let’s examine a little closer to why digital literacy is essential for healthcare workers and where administrators should focus staff upskilling efforts.
One of the most important reasons digital literacy is essential for healthcare workers is that it reflects the ways patients want to interact with providers. The general public population is not only increasingly digitally savvy. They’re also showing a preference for tech-based approaches. This means that professionals in all areas of care need to be comfortable and confident with utilizing tech tools to ensure their collaborations with patients are meaningful.
At the moment, there are several areas in which patients are starting to expect tech adoption in medical services. For example, more providers are utilizing wearable devices, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers, to provide data on symptoms and conditions. Patients are also starting to use mobile applications to make appointments and communicate with both facilities and medical professionals. There is also an expectation for remote consultations.
Upskilling healthcare industry employees in this area begins with staying on top of patient preferences for digital services. It’s important to regularly reach out using surveys and other feedback channels to understand what tech patients are interested in using and how they want to apply it. From here, administrators can build training programs focused on specific devices and applications, including role-playing exercises.
Medical records are an essential tool in providing patients with effective and reliable healthcare services. Unless information on all appointments, treatments, tests, and conditions is in place, there are chances for disruptive and potentially life-altering mistakes to be made. The rise of the digital landscape has led to an increased focus on technological record-keeping. This has various benefits, but it also means it’s essential for workers to be digitally literate to practice these electronic record processes effectively.
To train providers on digital record-keeping, staff needs to be comfortable enough to fill out charting from handheld devices during appointments while treating patients. They should also show administrative staff how they’ve effectively transferred older analog records to digital platforms efficiently and accurately. Patient-facing staff also need to be able to understand how to transfer data from wearable devices to facility records and troubleshoot any difficulties here.
Among the most important focuses for upskilling here are the protocols for sharing digital records with other institutions. Electronic records are a great way for different professionals — potentially across the globe — to correspond and compare notes quickly. This can enable more timely care. Therefore, administrators need to ensure that healthcare staff is trained on what applications and software platforms allow for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliant sharing and how to responsibly transfer data using these.
As the healthcare industry becomes more digitally reliant, it also becomes a greater target for cybercriminals. This means that facilities’ finances, patients’ data, and operational integrity are increasingly vulnerable. In 2022 alone, there were 707 breaches of 500 or more records, which left patients and their vital information exposed to misuse. Gaining skills in digital literacy makes healthcare workers better positioned to address security issues in their day-to-day roles.
Primarily, staff needs to have a solid understanding of common causes of data loss. This includes the potential for human error in the organization, hackers installing malware on devices, and out-of-date equipment use. Recognizing the signs of these threats means that healthcare workers can adopt the most relevant and effective actions to prevent and counter them. They need to know the importance and effective methods for backing up data to counteract ransom attempts and information loss.
Another important area of digital literacy upskilling is educating healthcare employees on how their behavior impacts security. Utilizing personal devices in the workplace to handle tasks may seem convenient, but this can put networks at greater risk of outside threats. This training should also cover how the staff’s interactions with email attachments can be risky. The greater knowledge they have of these factors, the better they’re able to adjust their actions.
The use of new tech tools and protocols is continuing to develop in the healthcare industry. Among the most interesting and potentially transformative is artificial intelligence (AI). While we’re still in the relatively early days of its use, software platforms that utilize AI are already starting to yield promising results in making hospitals, practices, and research efforts more efficient.
AI will likely be adopted in more healthcare fields. A good standard of digital literacy is, therefore, essential, as a large proportion of workers will start to see it become a prevalent part of their everyday activities. For doctors and other direct care professionals, AI diagnosis software can identify potential conditions faster and more accurately. For appointments and administrative staff, chatbots are involved in initial contact with patients. The more staff understand how these tools work, the more benefits everyone involved will gain from them.
Therefore, upskilling employees should be focused on the types and standards of data AI platforms require to be most effective. This empowers staff to collect and provide the most impactful information. They should also gain guidance on how to best inform patients on how their data may be used with AI and how to initiate opt-out procedures. Perhaps most importantly, professionals should be trained on recognizing the limitations of AI. This empowers them not to simply rely on it but become more informed and effective collaborators in care provision.
More and more healthcare providers have been adopting the work-from-home approach over the last few years thanks to recent technological development. There is also now a range of healthcare professions that can perform remotely. Behavioral health therapists can take appointments online in ways that are convenient for both them and their patients. Nutritionists can review food journals and make dietary plans online. Some medical coding and billing specialists are also able to interact with patients, facilities, and insurers from coworking spaces and home offices.
A good standard of digital literacy is not just essential to perform remote roles but also to interact with colleagues that are outside of the hospital or office. For remote workers, their understanding of how patient information is used throughout networks enables them to practice HIPAA-compliant data handling processes wherever they are. Digitally literate in-facility and remote staff can also make certain appointment scheduling software is used effectively and accurately for patients.
Upskilling employees here needs to be focused on various areas. There are specific cybersecurity and data handling challenges that are specific to away-from-office activities. All remote staff needs to receive training on the risks that are present in their environment and the tools — such as virtual private networks (VPNs) — they should use.
Administrators should give all workers training on remote collaboration protocols, too. This should involve solid digital communication practices that ensure more inclusive and productive relationships between remote and in-facility workers. A good understanding of cloud platforms is also key to distant colleagues working closely and accurately on patients’ care needs.
Health literacy is a powerful tool for both care professionals and patients. It ensures that patients can be more informed about their wellness. This also means that doctors and providers can have more meaningful interactions with patients that understand the components of treatment and may, therefore, be more compliant with it. Increasingly, digital literacy is essential for healthcare workers to promote and maintain patient health literacy.
Primarily, this is because the online environment is the main way patients receive important health information from professionals. With digital skills, staff can provide the right data and guidance in convenient and easy-to-understand forms. Digital literacy is also important because too many patients receive medical misinformation online. Helping patients combat this is increasingly vital.
Providing digital literacy training to healthcare employees on this subject should include identifying credible resources. To help patients navigate dangerous misinformation, healthcare staff must be able to show them how to recognize credible online sources and the most effective ways to find these. This isn’t always easy in the online environment, so administrators must train staff frequently on the signs of questionable resource credibility and how false information is being spread.
Healthcare is not a static industry. It is almost constantly changing, from the tools professionals are using to the knowledge that treatment is based on. As such, employees in the medical industry must stay updated with the latest information and training. This is an aspect that digital literacy can support.
Firstly, digital literacy helps workers navigate, identify, and utilize websites for further education. This is especially important, given that so many training programs are utilizing eLearning platforms. Indeed, staff’s digital skills can help make certain that administrators can provide employees with more in-depth and interactive learning modules that can be completed in convenient and efficient ways. The result is that employees spend less time away from the facility to take courses and update certifications.
As the industry’s tech usage continues to develop, staff will also need to upskill in the use of new training tools. One of the most relevant pieces of training tech for some workers at the moment is virtual reality (VR). These systems enable employees to practice often dangerous tasks in risk-free environments. Administrators need to ensure the use of VR is incorporated into digital literacy programs so there isn’t as steep of a learning curve when such training platforms become more widespread in the near future.
In an increasingly digitally reliant and enhanced healthcare landscape, professionals need a solid level of digital literacy to function. This applies to a variety of areas, from using tech tools alongside patients to reducing workplace vulnerabilities from cybercrime. Digital literacy will only go up from here as well with increasing developments in AI and VR. With frequent training that offers practical guidance on how digital platforms both impact and enhance roles, professionals can provide patients with the best possible care and service.