Wellbeing – what’s technology got to do with it?

by Hannah Go17 Oct 2017
Usually, when organisational leaders and HR professionals talk about the role of technology in their work, it’s easiest to focus on improving efficiency through automation and achieving business goals through the use of big data. But when it comes to concerns such as employee engagement and health & wellbeing, technology may not necessarily be the top-of-mind solution as most HR professionals tend to consider providing more of the traditional health benefits and giving staff a sense of purpose through volunteer opportunities and other CSR-related work.

However, given how intrinsic the use of technology has become with the ubiquity of smartphones and mobile devices, instead of attempting to pry employees away from their gadgets, employers might get more out of making their wellness and engagement initiatives mobile. A thought piece run by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society provides a brief overview of how technology is crucial in ensuring consistency and sustainability of employers’ wellness strategies, in the same way that it helps healthcare organisations stretch their capabilities.

The article explained how traditional health & wellbeing initiatives such as fitness programs and annual health checks are good steps that often easily fall to the wayside because of their ‘episodic’ nature, resulting in an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ effect for employees and employers alike. As such, employers ought to give more thought to how they can use the technology that employees are most familiar with to engage them and nudge them towards pursuing wellbeing. Apart from making health & wellbeing a top-of-mind concern for employees and an integral part of their daily routine, mobile devices can also facilitate better collaboration all around, allowing effective collection of health-related data that employers and their healthcare partners can use to assess health costs and set better incentives for employees.

In fact, according to a study by PwC on wearable technology in the workplace, 65% of people already believe that technology has a role in their health & wellbeing, and the percentage is even higher (at 73%) among the millennials. Although nearly two-fifths of people are wary of employers collecting and using data about them to their advantage, at least a quarter of these people are willing to share data if they can expect corresponding incentives.

For our most recent feature on HR Tech, HRD reached out to one of the top healthcare institutions in Singapore – Farrer Park Hospital. Officially opened in 2016, Farrer Park Hospital prides itself as a state-of-the-art hospital that is part of Singapore’s first fully integrated healthcare-hospitality complex that includes a multi-disciplinary medical centre, a five-star hotel and spa, and a retail zone. HRD chatted with head of HR Jeethu Syriac about how the organisation has expertly used technology to engage both external and internal clients and look after their wellbeing.

Could you tell us how the HR tech scene looks like at Farrer Park Hospital? Is there any particular aspect of HR technology that FPH has utilised that might be considered cutting edge?
FPH believes in holistic development of all staff – a process that begins with the utilisation of the AEM (Attachment, Exploration, Maturity in Complexity) cube, which profiles potential candidates’ inclination towards people or matter, their willingness to seize opportunities and the extent of these traits. This facilitates accurate job matching which allows FPH to tap into their strengths and optimize on-the-job efficiency.

To communicate the core values and instill them in every employee, we aim to provide multiple communication channels between the organisation and its human assets, in order to improve employee morale, build employee trust, and help individuals and teams coordinate activities to achieve goals. We understand that these are vital in socialisation, decision making, problem solving and change management processes. Being a hospital and given its nature of work, a good percentage of staff do not have a personal laptop or desktop at work. We had to identify a platform through which we could communicate to staff.

FPH Staff App is a ‘digital healthcare services’ platform. This smartphone app introduces preventative healthcare into the workplace, which fosters a health conscious community and empowers employees to take responsibility for their health. As users of the app, each employee receives a holistic and personalized program based on the four pillars of regenerative health – Nutrition, Fitness, Stress Management and Social Support. They also gain access to a plethora of services and tools, including an in-app marketplace to redeem staff discounts, a gamification platform to participate in step challenges, and an in-app Health and Wellness coach, Celli, for them to ask any questions. Employees stay better connected with a communication interface and event management platform, which keep them up to speed with the latest developments and allow them to sign up for various company events and training.

We talk a lot in HR about making smarter decisions thanks to big data and data analytics. Could you share how FPH has utilised data analytics so far, and include some ways it has addressed concerns/issues specific to the nature of healthcare?
Before data analytics was introduced, sales and cost estimation and forecast were quite an “art” but ultimately, with the use of big data, which is more facts driven, sales and cost estimation and forecasting have all improved. Needless to say, management decisions can now be made more easily with the information generated by data analytics at our fingertips.

We also use this information to monitor productivity and performance which is very crucial for manpower planning. Our workload has become more predictable with the available data. The dashboard-like module in our Hospital Information System enables us to gather and analyse information within the system and integrate financial, clinical and statistical information throughout the enterprise.

Currently, we are in the midst of going into remote patient monitoring for our heart patients to empower them to walk within the complex. We will start data collection once it has been implemented, and may use data analytics to drive predictive modelling/analysis for early detection [of symptoms].

How has technology affected your corporate culture so far? Following that, do you think it’s important for HR to temper/balance that by keeping a ‘human touch’? If so, how are you and your team working to achieve this balance?
We engage the patient in their own treatment process, because we believe it is an important part of the patient’s recovery journey. They can choose their own meals, out of a matrix of over 200 meals designed by five-star hotel chef and hospital nutritionist. More importantly, with the integration of the patient medical records and meal ordering system, the patient’s meals are tailored to their dietary needs and they are able to select only food that is suitable for them. The meal orders go directly to the kitchen, which saves the hospital time and manpower and our nurses, the hospital’s most valuable resource, can devote more time to patient care and other duties. Traditionally the nurses go around taking orders, which takes about three hours a day, removing the manual system saves over 2,100 man hours annually which is time that can be channeled back to the patients.

For all the technology FPH has access to, people are still its most valuable asset, and although the hospital may look and feel like a luxury hotel, our attitude to customer care still contributes to a good medical outcome. Human capital is the most expensive part of any good hospital. You’re as good as the staff you have. We train them in Healthcare Service, which differs vastly from normal customer service. When you’re sick, you don’t come in happy, you come in anxious. As such, the service language and approach towards our patients have to be tailored appropriately to the healthcare setting.

How else has technology impacted your job and your team’s jobs in recent times?
With the advent of digital platforms such LinkedIn and many other job portals, recruiters are able to reach out to millions of job seekers. The online personality assessment tools for new hires also give the organisation the impetus to select candidates based on inner strength for the right position. With the introduction of the e-performance appraisal system, we are able to effectively measure performance and plan development programs at a glance.

Our Staff App has also helped the staff schedule and manage their individual training calendar. This technology has advantages for both the employer and employee in saving time spent on scheduling by sending email reminders.

Being part of a company that is well versed and advanced in the use of technology, what is your advice for other HR practitioners who are just beginning to move forward in this area?
As the saying goes, “Disruption doesn’t announce itself, and once it has arrived, it’s too late.” Always plan for an alternative future at your workplace. Take the risk and be open to introducing technological disruptions at your workplace.