Because we manage sensitive healthcare data, our technology and internal processes are aligned with standard industry security guidelines to protect PHI and support HIPAA compliance. This extends to home offices, where employees maintain dedicated workspaces with paperless offices, password-protected devices and VPN connections to the company’s network.
We are living in a new world in which offices are becoming obsolete. How can teams effectively communicate if they are never together? Zoom and Slack are excellent tools, but they don’t replicate all the advantages of being together. What strategies, tools and techniques work to be a highly effective communicator, even if you are not in the same space?
In this interview series, we are interviewing business leaders who share the strategies, tools and techniques they use to effectively and efficiently communicate with their team who may be spread out across the world. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewingMarcy Tatsch.
Marcy Tatsch is a veteran healthcare technology leader with 20 years’ industry experience in both clinical and revenue cycle solutions. Tatsch is president at Vyne Medical, which partners with hospital and health systems nationwide to improve healthcare communications. The business empowers healthcare leaders to improve financial performance and enhance the experience of their patients and staff through innovative solutions that capture, automate, manage, and exchange critical healthcare communications. Before joining Vyne Medical, Tatsch served as general manager and senior vice president at Change Healthcare, where she led one of the company’s software and analytics business. Prior to this role, she spent 15 years at McKesson, where she held diverse leadership positions including vice president of operations for RelayHealth pharmacy and general manager for RelayHealth reimbursement solutions. Tatsch holds a BA and MS from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She recently completed Harvard Business School’s executive education program, Women on Boards, and currently serves as the program’s southeast accountability group leader.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Thanks so much for inviting me to be part of this series. I’m happy to join the conversation on such an important topic. I started out in healthcare IT at McKesson working on clinical software, revenue cycle and pharmacy solutions. One of my first jobs involved managing a clinical software pilot related to barcode drug administration.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I was working on a clinical software pilot at a large regional hospital. A few hours after we took the system live, the software prevented a medication error that, if uncorrected, could have delivered the wrong dosage of medication to a patient. It was in that moment that I realized the mission-critical importance of technology in supporting patient care and outcomes. That really set the course for my career in healthcare IT and personal dedication to delivering technology that helps facilitate improved outcomes for patients and healthcare providers.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” — Theodore Roosevelt
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Throughout my career, I have had numerous mentors and sponsors come alongside me and help point the way to success. By giving me the chance to expand my responsibilities or by guiding me through a particularly challenging situation, these people have invested both time and energy to pass on their knowledge and expertise. This guidance has helped me through more situations than I can name.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. Many teams have started working remotely. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a team physically together?
We’ve come a long way with virtual workspaces that offer so many options for connecting and collaborating through technology. But there are some aspects of being physically together that are difficult to replicate. I think one of the most significant is the ability to have organic conversations, those that happen naturally on an elevator or on the fly before or after a meeting. Others are the ability to “read the room” through body language and facial expressions and the sense of camaraderie that comes from spending time in-person with a team. We’re looking forward to being able to do this again soon. The pandemic has really forced adoption of tools like video meeting platforms that allow us to read individuals’ facial expressions. While these have been available for some time, many weren’t comfortable using them. Now that employees have adjusted, visual meetings have become the norm and expectation.
On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a team is not in the same space?
There is another layer of considerations that need to be taken when employees aren’t in the same physical space. Virtual is much more prone to technology interruptions that can take people’s focus. During the pandemic, schedules varied for employees juggling new factors such as children in virtual school. We’ve learned to work around these challenges through more frequent and more flexible communication.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space? (Please share a story or example for each.)
I joined Vyne Medical just before the start of COVID. As a healthcare software company, we were well-positioned to support remote environments for our own employees, and those of our 800-plus hospital clients. In fact, most of our employees were already working remotely, and many clients were leveraging our technology for protected data access and information exchange among remote teams.
Several fundamentals have helped us sustain an interactive virtual culture:
- Frequency. We encourage frequent touchpoints to build and maintain strong connections among employees. These take various formats such as instant messages, virtual water cooler catch-ups, daily stand-ups, and monthly town halls. Personal touches like new employee spotlights and department updates help keep employees engaged and informed about what’s happening across the company.
- Fun. We place a priority on maintaining an engaging culture despite the absence of in-person gatherings and celebrations. Our remote employee holiday party featured musical trivia, a tacky sweater contest and gingerbread-house building. For a virtual sales meeting, participants received snack boxes, logo gifts and samples for a wine tasting guided by a professional sommelier.
- Flexibility. With COVID impacts like virtual school, flexible schedules became a priority. We encourage open lines of communication between employees and managers regarding workload, assignments and meetings to ensure projects are completed in a reliable manner, even when hours are less predictable.
- Face time. In the absence of in-person gatherings, we encourage the use of cameras to promote connection and enhance communication. Virtual presentations, webinars and video conferencing provide alternatives for client and prospect meetings. While we look forward to meeting face-to-face when possible, the virtual alternative offers flexibility for healthcare clients who wouldn’t have the option to engage otherwise.
- Functionality. A protected environment is the foundation of our remote work capability. Because we manage sensitive healthcare data, our technology and internal processes are aligned with standard industry security guidelines to protect PHI and support HIPAA compliance. This extends to home offices, where employees maintain dedicated workspaces with paperless offices, password-protected devices and VPN connections to the company’s network.
Has your company experienced communication challenges with your workforce working from home during the pandemic? For example, does your company allow employees to use their own cell phones or do they use the company’s phone lines for work? Can you share any other issues that came up?
Fortunately, we had a running start in terms of a reliable infrastructure to support a virtual work environment. At the time the pandemic hit, most employees had been in remote settings for some time, with company laptops and VOIP phones already in place. We had also established policies and training programs for online security awareness and HIPAA compliance.
A shift we have observed is that there are fewer informal meetings. Customers, especially in healthcare, simply don’t have time. Without travel and on-site visits to hospitals, we find that the cadence and intensity of our meetings has increased significantly. In our virtual settings, we have more meetings and cover more topics in a day than we ever would if travel were involved.
Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help teams coordinate and communicate with each other. In your personal experiences which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?
Zoom has been the tool we’ve relied on the most for video meetings and presentations. Another that comes to mind is Slack®, which facilitates back and forth instant message conversations as if you’re sitting right next to a co-worker. Also, virtual whiteboard tools give us the ability to brainstorm and iterate as if we were in the same room.
My particular expertise and interest is in Unified Communications. Has the pandemic changed the need or appeal for unified communications technology requirements? Can you explain?
I can speak to this from a client perspective. During the pandemic, many of our hospital clients needed a work-from-home option for employees in roles such as patient scheduling and pre-registration. Our software platform, Trace®, helps hospitals manage patient-related communications including voice, fax, images, and data through a single interface. Trace has given remote employees the tools needed to perform these functions with a protected connection to the hospital’s onsite data systems. We expect many of these healthcare roles to remain remote and anticipate a continued need for technology to support virtual workflows, integration and management tools.
The technology is rapidly evolving and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring remote teams together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you?
I’m excited about the prospect of using VR and AR for training new employees and customers. I think these tools will also help product management teams innovate and ideate.
Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?
These technologies serve as tools to help remote teams be productive and successful in a virtual space. While they’re wonderful and exciting tools, I don’t think they completely replace the need for spending time face-to-face with employees and clients. There is still need and value in that.
So far we have discussed communication within a team. How has the pandemic changed the way you interact and engage your customers? How much of your interactions have moved to digital such as chatbots, messaging apps, phone, or video calls?
While many aspects of remote work were not new for us, virtual video interactions with customers and prospective customers were a shift from the norm. Strategy sessions, trainings and demonstrations that had always taken place in-person became completely virtual. We had to reinvent how we present ourselves and learn how to be effective in this new format.
We’re finding that customers have responded favorably, seeing that we can accomplish projects virtually and with just as much success. This has given us a new path forward. We’ve also been intentional about upping our presence through every means possible — our website, social media platforms, webinars, email outreach, and more. This has helped us stay top of mind among our clients and prospects.
In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of working with a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote team member?
I’ve found that in any environment, but especially in a remote setting, each team member needs a good understanding of his or her role and its expectations. To feel connected, people need to connect their role to purpose and how they play into the success of the business. Work is performed in a more isolated setting, so it’s important that employees are focused on the right activities. Frequent check-ins and continual feedback — both high-fives and redirections — are crucial. We’ve learned how to give and receive constructive, honest feedback through video messaging. As long as we can see the other person, we’ve found it to be an effective format for these conversations.
Can you give any specific ideas about how to create a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion when you are not physically together?
Employees want to be part of a team and a purpose, as high-performing teams and their goal orientation drives meaning and importance in the work we do. Each individual and department plays a role in helping us design and deliver technology that improves patient care and outcomes. We try to emphasize the big picture in every interaction, whether one-on-one or in a company-wide meeting. The work we’re doing is important, and we’re all in it together.
Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
From a business perspective, one of the most impactful initiatives I have both observed and experienced is mentorship. I’ve had numerous mentors in my own life, and their input has been invaluable in my career. Likewise, my own experience mentoring others has given me deeper insight into the path to overcoming challenges and achieving goals. Together we help each other, and we learn as much as we give.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success!