In the fall of 2022, the term Quiet Quitting hit the internet and social media hard, though recently it has been “quiet” on that front. But “resignation without leaving”, “minimal accepted performance”, and “lackluster work engagement” are all phenomena that have not gone away.

While in other industries it is mainly a costly problem (lack of productivity, poor customer service, etc.) in healthcare, staff that has “quietly quit” can cause serious problems for patient safety and the quality of patient care.

In previous articles I explored how digital health (in particular telehealth) can be used to combat clinician burnout or offset the nursing shortage.

Today, let me share with you some ideas how innovative healthcare leaders can leverage digital health to quell quiet quitting.

Quiet Quitting Root Cause Analysis

Workforce disengagement, especially in healthcare, can have a multitude of root causes.

Here are a a few root causes rooted in leadership issues:

  • Mediocre leadership that has given into the Min/Max principle — the minimum level of performance you accept from some staff is the maximum level you can expect of others. In other words, if poor performance is not addressed, others are wondering why they should give it all.
  • Uninspiring leadership that does not rally the team around a shared, exciting vision and mission.
  • Unethical leadership that demands to “do as I say, don’t do as I do”. That includes nepotism and shutting down demands for quality performance.
  • Disengaged leadership that has become disillusioned and passes their mood on to their teams.

Another set of root causes are a reflection of the culture:

  • Lack of recognition and appreciation by leadership and peers where going the extra mile is frowned upon and doing the bare minimum is expected as a norm to “not rock the boat”.
  • A toxic work environment laced with tolerated bullying, harassment, or discrimination that leaves employees disrespected.
  • A general lack of trust – in leadership, in the mission, in the future, in the purpose of the organization.

To position quiet quitting as a leadership challenge that in healthcare can be addressed through digital health, let me point out some of the hallmarks of quiet quitting:

  • lack of enthusiasm about the job at hand
  • lack of excitement about what the future holds
  • absence of proactivity or taking initiative
  • not seeking opportunities to improve
  • hiding mistakes or oversights – their own or even those of their colleagues
  • inner resignation with a “why bother” attitude

All of these characteristics paint a pretty bleak picture that in healthcare lead to serious patient safety and quality of care issues.

Digital Health as a Stimulant

While the most obvious interventions to address quiet quitting start at the top in re-engaging (or re-training) leadership, let me offer the thought that executive leaders can inject a breath of fresh air into the stale workforce by rallying the organization around excellence in patient care and patient outcomes achieved through digital health innovation.

What I have found in my 22+ years in healthcare is that what attracts and keeps the vast majority of staff to their profession and to this industry, is the reward gained from helping other people to get well and stay well. Call me an optimistic romantic, but I truly believe that the intrinsic motivation of most people in healthcare is knowing that their actions are helping fellow human beings to be healthy. It’s how most of us are wired and healthcare taps into this deep-seated instinct that helped us make it out of the stone age.

Thus, primarily I am proposing that a digital health initiative that improves patient care quality and patient care outcomes can create “well, that’s new and interesting” reactions from many staff, awakening them from their slumber.

Of course the most cynical will immediately rally against yet another change, yet another technology, yet another idea to mess with their carefully crafted only-give-the-minimum world.

To succeed, it is crucial, however, that the proposed digital health initiative is NOT dictated from the top, NOT led by the vendor or IT, and NOT driven solely by financial measures.

It should be seen and treated as an opportunity to engage clinicians, nurses, and staff in the design of a better way to serve patients. This is an opportunity to launch something great into an orbit around the giant hairball and purposefully create a new culture, a new leadership style, a new vision, using a digital health solution as the catalyst to demonstrate what people in this organization are capable of achieving.

Digital Health as a Care Delivery Optimization Solution

While many of the root causes stem from leadership issues, inefficient and ineffective processes can also be an important contributing factor to quiet quitting (stemming, again, from leadership not paying attention to the optimization of workflows).

These shortcomings lead to cumbersome work, avoidable rework, tedious activities, inconsistent outcomes, frustration, lack of communication, etc. And many elements of healthcare can be augmented, automated, or at least made easier by digital health.

Here are just a few examples:

  • No clinician likes navigating convoluted EMR user interfaces to find crucial information or to capture SOAP notes — and there are plenty of digital health solutions for that.
  • Nurses time is too valuable to manually track and capture critical information that can easily be captured, analyzed, and managed electronically through a multitude of digital health solutions.
  • In an age where human knowledge is doubling as fast as every 12 hours(!), medical knowledge is reported now to double every ~70 days. Digital Health tools can augment clinical decision making to give clinicians easy access to the best knowledge to fulfill their calling: helping patients achieve the best health outcomes possible.
  • We increasingly understand that many chronic conditions are lifestyle diseases and that interventions cannot only happen in the exam room (or Zoom room when using video visits). Digital Health solutions, including Digital Therapeutics, extend the reach of the clinical team beyond the regular visit touchpoints to activate patients to partake in their own care journey.
  • With concerns about patient safety and the quality of care in an environment saturated with quiet quitters, digital health solutions can provide safeguards and monitoring tools to manage care quality and safety independent of the staff’s performance.

Digital Health therefore can be used to increase efficiencies to enable clinicians and other staff to practice on top of their license: to do only the things that only they can do.

Digital Health Implementation Success Rules

For digital health innovation to create the promised benefits — and along the way transform quiet quitters into engaged enthusiasts — here are seven rules that the leadership team must adhere to:

  1. To tap into the intrinsic motivation for many in healthcare, the justification for the digital health solution must clearly be rooted in a Clinical Case: How will this solution improve the patients’ condition?
  2. To ensure the interest and engagement of clinicians, the implementation of the solution should be led by a clinician.
  3. To set the tone for a high-energy, committed environment, the executive and senior leaders involved in the implementation of digital health solutions must be fully engaged and energized about the potential of the solution.
  4. At the core of any successful digital health implementation are a set of well-defined, team-designed workflows that define all processes that will enable the digital health solution to create the desired benefits.
  5. The overall solution, including workflows, should first be validated through a proof-of-concept with the intention of validating assumptions and optimizing the workflows (and the digital health solution).
  6. Overall, the implementation leadership team must apply proven change management tactics, such as the ADKAR® model.
A Change for Good

While the mention of “change” brings a collective groan to most teams (but especially, by definition, the quiet quitters), when presented (and truly approached) as a change for good — improve patient care, improve patient outcomes, improve clinician efficiency — then Digital Health can become a catalyst for breathing excitement into the boring yet overwhelming world of quiet quitters.

Does your organization need a breath of fresh air? Reach out to Christian to discuss which type of digital health solution could get your team all excited.

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Christian Milaster and his team optimize Telehealth Services for health systems and physician practices. Christian is the Founder and President of Ingenium Digital Health Advisors where he and his expert consortium partner with healthcare leaders to enable the delivery of extraordinary care.

Contact Christian by phone or text at 657-464-3648, via email, or video chat.