Before you start working on a collaboration platform, you must first specify your goals in a business case. What goals do you want to achieve with the platform? How do you measure if you have achieved these goals? For the Asylum Seekers Healthcare Centre (Gezondheidscentrum Asielzoekers), the collaboration platform was one of the systems needed as a precondition for implementing self-management. Various goals were also defined in advance, including facilitating and stimulating knowledge sharing and promoting cooperation and contact between all employees.
The question now is: have these goals been achieved? For example, how do practice assistants use the platform? What is the role of the central office? Moreover, has collaboration between teams and/or locations increased? In this blog, I will take you through my research into the use of GC A Plaza, and answer the questions above. Spoiler alert: knowledge sharing and collaboration are going brilliantly!
GC A stands for GezondheidsCentrum Asielzoekers, which is the Dutch name of the Asylum Seekers Healthcare Centre. Many GPs, mental health care consultants, nurses and practice assistants work together in the GC A, where they care for asylum seekers. The support service is located in Wageningen.
The healthcare providers are spread across many different locations in the Netherlands, which can complicate interaction between healthcare professionals. My research shows that GC A Plaza, the GC A collaboration platform, has been providing solutions since it went live in December 2015.
To conduct this research, I looked at discussions in three different sections of GC A Plaza. These sections were:
I looked at various aspects of each discussion, such as who responded to who, whether a message was job-related, the workplace of each participant, the job of each participant, the subject of the discussion, etc. I used this information to calculate the distances between messages, among other things.
GC A Plaza ensures that communications between employees overarch both team and regional boundaries. For example, if GP (A) from Friesland poses a question on GC A Plaza, GP (B) from Limburg can respond, and a nurse from Utrecht can also give an opinion. It makes no difference if a healthcare professional works in a location in Zeeland, Limburg, Utrecht, Groningen or Friesland; every healthcare professional enters into discussions with other healthcare professionals. In the general group, where every employee can post messages within the organisation, the longest distance travelled by a message was 253 km, with an average of 86.11 km. Healthcare professionals who normally never talk to each other because they are in different locations now communicate with one another. This example provides opportunities for gathering knowledge: every GC A employee can now exchange knowledge and ideas, and collaborate in a digital environment.
Employees do indeed share their knowledge on GC A Plaza. One way in which knowledge is shared is by asking questions and getting answers to these questions. For example, questions are asked about procedures and protocols. Interestingly, these questions are no longer only answered by central office staff, but also by those employees with a job in providing care. Knowledge is thus gleaned from the professionals themselves, and not only from office staff. This is emphasised by the research; it shows that work-related messages have the most responses. It also turns out that each job category has its own role on the platform. I will explain this in more detail below:
The principal task of central office staff in Wageningen is to facilitate the use of the collaboration platform: they post general messages, answer questions, and make sure the right people answer specific questions. Whereas central offices in other organisations tend only to send out information, this is not the case on GC A Plaza. Instead of pushing information themselves, central office staff now ensure people in the know provide that information by mentioning the right person underneath.
Practice assistants use GC A Plaza to ask questions, arrange things (such as substitutes), and occasionally answer questions. Practical assistants like to start discussions; compared to other job categories; they are more likely to start discussions than join in with them. In GP practices, it is often the task of practice assistants to arrange all kinds of things. Practice assistants, therefore, use the platform to help them in their work.
Practice nurses enjoy interaction. They exploit the opportunity to get information by asking questions and also disseminate their knowledge by answering others’ questions. Practice nurses are therefore an indispensable part of GC A when it comes to sharing knowledge.
The discussions at GC A Plaza are reasonably lively. The research shows that each microblog receives an average of three responses. The number of responses does vary a lot according to the discussions, with 0 to 18 comments.
Discussions with lots of interaction usually concern work-related issues. On average, this type of discussion gets nearly 8 responses, which is well above the overall average of 3. This result underlines the fact that discussions about work are useful: GC A Plaza is used to share experiences at work and knowledge about work.
The GC A Plaza collaboration platform makes sharing knowledge easier, and this is a feature that is very popular; real discussions take place. Each professional category has its own role, and exercises it. In addition, knowledge sharing and collaboration go beyond both team and regional boundaries. In short: knowledge sharing and collaboration is now independent of team and location. In my opinion, mission achieved.
* The general group includes every employee, so the messages posted on it are visible to all users. For my research, I looked at messages posted from mid-August to mid-September 2016.
** The knowledge base contains specific pages of information that are important to almost every employee within GC A (formerly the quality manual). The knowledge base makes it easy to find important information. Responses can be posted on these pages. I looked at all the comments since the system went live.
*** In addition to the general timeline, each employee can also create groups, which can be either open or closed. The messages in closed groups are only visible to members of that group. The posts in public groups are visible to everyone, including non-members. I looked at the last five discussions in each public group when collecting data.