Telehealth may limit coronavirus spread, but there’s more we can do to protect health workers, writes Laura Hood.
The Australian government has announced new telehealth consultations will be covered under the Medicare Benefits Schedule. This will mean people who are isolated due to the coronavirus can access medical services from home by audio or video, an important step to protect other patients and health-care workers from being infected. Health-care workers are perhaps our most valuable asset in an outbreak situation, but can be at high risk when coming into contact with patients who have COVID-19. So how do health-care workers protect themselves – and patients – from transmission? And what more could we do?
Regardless of COVID-19, doctors and other health-care staff often feel some level of expectation to turn up to work even when ill. They’re often worried about placing strain on co-workers and affecting patient care. The practice of quarantining health-care workers who may have been exposed to the virus puts additional pressure on health services and is expected to increase as the outbreak continues. Over the weekend, we saw tension between medical practitioners and state health departments when a Melbourne GP saw patients while unwell and subsequently tested positive to coronavirus. The Victorian health minister called for the health professional regulatory agency AHPRA to investigate the doctor, despite the fact he followed state guidelines current at the time. Where multiple jurisdictions and authorities are providing differing information, this complicates the decision health-care workers face when they’re unwell or may have been exposed to the coronavirus. As much as possible, health-care workers should follow guidelines issued by their place of work or health department.
Health-care workers take precautions all year round
Australia has a robust, evidence-based infection prevention and control system supported through accreditation bodies like the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare. Standard precautions used in most health-care encounters include hand hygiene, the use of appropriate personal protective equipment, the safe use and disposal of sharps, and routine cleaning. These are to be followed even if there’s no evidence of an infection.
We use what we call transmission-based precautions in conjunction with standard precautions when we know of or suspect an increased risk of transmission for a particular disease. Because we know coronavirus spreads through large droplets, health workers are using two classes of transmission-based precautions: droplet and contact precautions. Contact precautions involve putting on gloves and a gown upon entry to the patient care area, to ensure clothing and skin do not make contact with surfaces that have potentially been contaminated with the infectious droplets. Droplet precautions involve wearing a surgical mask so infectious droplets don’t get in the mouth and nose. Normally coronavirus is spread only via droplets but some medical procedures such as inserting a breathing tube can aerosolise the virus, meaning it can stay in the air longer. Health-care workers may take additional airborne precautions when they’re undertaking aerosol generating procedures such as intubating a critically unwell patient. These precautions include wearing a properly fitting P2/N95 respirator and caring for the patient in a special isolation room. Studies overseas have shown these procedures, when followed, do protect health-care workers from contracting infectious diseases. But there’s often a gap between the recommended practices and their application in health-care settings. Studies have indicated reasons for this include staff attitudes, insufficient knowledge of procedures, inadequate supplies, time pressures and staffing levels. Education and training around these procedures must be routine so that in the face of an outbreak like coronavirus, health-care workers are supported and prepared to implement these critical protocols.
Telehealth consultations are a good step
As well as enabling people who are sick or isolated to see a doctor from home, telehealth will allow doctors who may be isolated due to infection, or quarantined because they’ve had contact with an infection, to continue to practise. The measure could also ease the strain on resources. Numerous health-care practices have reported scarcity of personal protective equipment (like masks) and hand hygiene consumables (such as soap and paper towels), potentially placing health-care workers and patients at risk. While telehealth is useful to a degree, when someone needs a test or treatment, this will likely need to happen face-to-face. It’s critical health-care workers can access the appropriate supplies so they can follow the proper infection prevention and control protocols. We also need consistent messaging for the public and health-care workers on when to contact a health-care professional, how that should be done and what to do to minimise coronavirus risk. In the 2003 SARS outbreak, one fifth of reported infections were in health-care workers. We don’t want to see that again. Existing health systems are already stretched beyond their limits. We don’t have the capacity to respond to a surge in required services – let alone to absorb health-care workers who are unwell.
This article was originally published in The Conversation
Since the NHS was created more than 70 years ago, medicine and medical technologies, as well as the health and care needs of our society, have changed radically. Yet the way care is delivered to many patients has remained locked into the service model created in 1948. The Long Term Plan for the NHS, published earlier this year, sets out an ambition that digitally enabled care will become mainstream.
Virtually every aspect of modern life has been radically reshaped by steps forward in technology. The innovation and technology needed to evolve the health and care system into a service fit for future generations is already out there, waiting to be adopted.
We already have access to digital technology that frees up clinicians so that they have more time for patients:
• Ufonia and iPlato use AI-driven voice technology to triage or call patients and have a fully autonomous, natural conversation, to assess their health status against specified criteria or offer guidance on accessing services
• Health Unlocked’s eSocial prescribing tool lets GPs easily deliver a digital social prescription to patients
• Rightangled’s Heart DNA test is a genetic test kit for cardiovascular risks, drug responses and a risk evaluation
We can also use artificial intelligence (AI) to support diagnostics to increase the opportunity for early intervention. For example, Skin Analytics specialises in screening for melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers.
There are also systems to help tackle organisational challenges:
• Medic Bleep reduces delays in sharing patient information between clinicians, staff and outpatient departments
• Beringar provides smart monitoring for NHS Estates
We know technology can now deliver tailor-made care for patients, putting them in control of their treatment and health records: My mHealth, Medopad, uMotif and Aseptika are just a few examples of many companies providing digital self-management platforms for those with long-term conditions.
But reports have identified that transforming the health and social care system will not be achieved without a better co-ordinated effort to bring health sector innovators together with NHS and social care teams so that health needs are prioritised. The NHS is complex and ambitious about the future, but pressures are seeing staff stretched to the limit. Successfully introducing new ways of working or new products can be a lengthy process, despite the potential benefits to patients’ lives, support for staff and/or savings that great new ideas can bring.
According to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, a “tide of technology” should be embraced, and this is exactly what the AHSN Network is doing with its Innovation Exchange programme.
There are 15 regional Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) in the UK, whose primary objective is to enhance the uptake of healthcare innovation for patient benefit. They support frontline staff, helping them understand possible new solutions to their challenges and connect the NHS to tech innovators.
An important part of this work is a commission from the Office of Life Sciences to provide the Innovation Exchange, an AHSN-coordinated approach which identifies, selects and supports innovations with the potential to transform the lives of patients and support UK business growth.
So what has been achieved by the AHSN Network Innovation Exchange so far?
A 2019 survey of companies that AHSNs and the NHS Innovation Accelerator have worked with over the past year concluded that 691 jobs had been created and £152 million of investment leveraged in order to support development of the companies that were engaged with.
In total, 2,605 companies and 3,630 innovations were supported, with 164 firms entering into long-term strategic partnerships with the AHSNs.
Healthy.io, the first company to turn smartphones into a clinical-grade diagnostic devices, offering the only FDA-cleared and CE-approved home urine test equivalent to lab-based devices, is one such company.
One of its first UK products is a home-based urine-screening service that can detect signs of chronic kidney disease (CKD). The test kit and associated app allow at-risk people, such as those with diabetes, to test themselves for signs of CKD at home.
The Healthy.io team worked closely with the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN, which commissioned the York Health Economic Consortium to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the service for people with diabetes and hypertension who struggled to attend their annual tests.
The report stated that, by rolling out this innovation for non-compliant at-risk populations (people with diabetes or hypertension) across England, an estimated 11,376 cases of end-stage renal disease (ESRD), and 1,361 deaths would be prevented over five years thanks to 33,723 additional cases of CKD being diagnosed, potentially saving the NHS £660 million.
With 42 million urine tests undertaken by the NHS, urinalysis is the second most common diagnostic test. It is possible to use this technology across a huge range of clinical pathways – for example, the team is working with the East Midlands AHSN on moving urinary tract infection (UTI) testing out of GP clinics and into the community pharmacy setting to reduce pressure on general practices. It is also working with maternity services to offer generic urine testing for pregnant women who need frequent testing but are low-risk and therefore don’t need to keep attending clinics to complete the tests.
Olivia Hind, Partnerships Director at Healthy.io, said: “The economic evaluation supported by Yorkshire & Humber AHSN has helped us to build a healthcare economic case and go to other areas demonstrating the financial savings and usability. It has also helped us build up our business case as we expand into the US.
“The AHSNs helped us to understand which care pathways to focus on, which geographical areas, and which customers – whether they’re clinical commissioning groups or trusts – and that’s enabled us to fine tune our offering and products and secure additional NHS contracts.”
This is one of many examples of innovative businesses engaging to support the change we need to deliver a future-proof NHS.
The AHSN Network works closely with many partners throughout the country to maximise the opportunities for innovators and tailor effective support for healthcare practitioners. For example, the Accelerated Access Collaborative brings to support the national adoption and spread of selected innovations, while Local Enterprise Partnerships and Innovate UK support companies throughout the economy. Patient and business organisations are also key partners with National Voices, NHSX, ABHI, ABPI, as well as the NHS Innovation Accelerator and DigitalHealth.London bringing specialist support in particular areas.
A new digital gateway for innovators is now available to help people access the experts and resources available in all 15 AHSNs, and connect to partners across the health innovation landscape.
It is a highly complex world, with many sceptics to convince, traditions to question and barriers to overcome. The only way to bring about the transformation needed is to work together, supporting those with system-changing, life-changing solutions to help them bridge the gaps and positively impact the lives of patients for years to come.
Find out more about how you can gain the support needed to move things forward in the health and care sector, and watch your business grow, at ahsninnovationexchange.co.uk
by Karen Livingstone, National Director, AHSN Network Innovation Exchange
“Beautiful, I can relax for once, I can remember the band playing at Windsor Castle, what a wonderful day out. Wonderful memories. My son took me to Buckingham Palace once when he worked there. Can we do it again?”
Joyce was bubbling over after her first group virtual reality session. A wife and loving mother, family has always been the focus of Joyce’s varied and active life. As age and disability began to change the opportunities available to her, she has become a regular attendee of one of Tricuro’s flagship day centres.
Joyce’s virtual reality experience included a trip to London, a virtual tour of all the landmarks including exploring behind the scenes of Buckingham Palace. Revisiting those places, which seemed only that morning totally out of reach, unlocked so many positive memories. However, what made such a positive impact was sharing those memories with her friends.
Our journey within VR began in 2017. We took more than 60 clients through a programme of one-on-one sessions from across the breadth of our services. At the conclusion of this programme we realised two very striking things:
Firstly, anyone can benefit from virtual reality technology – age and disability had little to no relevance on who could participate. Secondly, our clients reported the greatest wellbeing increase when the session revolved around their past, their family and the things they loved ≠ the very essence of a person-centred approach.
Of course, this presented a problem – how can you be person-centred when the technology, and the content you are tapping into, is generic and open-source and the facilitating technology is completely alien to the client?
The answer lay in recognising that what we were trying to achieve had nothing to do with the technology we were using. What we wanted to do was to enable others to relive their story and then to share that cathartic experience, strengthening their bonds with their peers and those caring for them.
This premise underpins our group VR sessions. Our clients can go for an African safari or take a virtual trip around London, to name but two options. We link them to the experience and to their past with props such as plane tickets, we engage their other senses with tastes of the country they are visiting virtually (a full-flavoured Brie on a trip to Paris anyone?), but most importantly we encourage conversation.
We pick small groups, place clients with people they get along with and make sure everyone knows each other’s name. In this way we hope to add longevity to the experience, bringing a shared experience to clients who otherwise might struggle to find common ground.
We also always have a member of staff participating, partly so they can use their knowledge of the clients to steer the session, but also challenge the traditional power dynamic. By being a passenger on the same journey it allows for human connection uninhibited by the carer/client relationship.
Our staff have reported finding out things they never would have guessed about the clients they support, and through that familiarity more effective person-centred care can develop.
By providing Joyce with an opportunity to re-experience a moment in time, and providing her with a platform to express the emotions that rekindled with the support of her peers, we gave her the freedom to feel the happiness associated with a full life well lived, the melancholia of a home long passed, and, ultimately, a moment’s respite from her disability.
Joyce is not alone – more than 130 clients have taken part in our group VR sessions. Yet this is just another step along a journey for Tricuro, and only part of our story as we seek to live up to two of our founding values: empowerment and innovation.
Tricuro delivers services to approximately 6,000 clients across Dorset – for many of whom the challenges of maintaining their health and wellbeing mean that accessing the wider world can seem an insurmountable task. Our ambition is to reopen some of those closed doors, and our challenge is to do so in a way which is outcome-focused, strengths-based and sustainable.
By Michael Davis, Digital Care and Performance Officer, Tricuro.
It is almost 40 years since a full-body magnetic resonance imaging machine was used for the first time to scan a patient and generate diagnostic-quality images. The scanner and signal processing methods needed to produce an image were devised by a team of medical physicists including John Mallard, Jim Hutchinson, Bill Edelstein and Tom Redpath at the University of Aberdeen, leading to widespread use of the MRI scanner, now a ubiquitous tool in radiology departments across the world. MRI was a game changer in medical diagnostics because it didn’t require exposure to ionising radiation (such as X-rays), and could generate images on multiple cross-sections of the body with superb definition of soft tissues. This allowed, for example, the direct visualisation of the spinal cord for the first time. Most people today will have undergone an MRI or know somebody who has. Along with the other tools available to radiologists, MRI has become essential to confirm the extent of disease, identify whether the patient has responded to treatment, and to demonstrate complications and in some cases guide intervention. But radiology has become a victim of its own success, with an exponential rise in the number of imaging examinations requested within increasingly complex healthcare systems that serve an ageing population. Demand outstrips the supply of radiographers and radiologists available to produce these scans in publicly-funded healthcare systems such as the NHS. In Scotland, in particular, the number of consultant radiologists has flat-lined over the past ten years, while the range and complexity of imaging methods grows with each generation of scanners. Radiologists are running in order to stand still, with even the most efficient departments outsourcing some of their workload to external agencies. The potential and problems of AI
Meanwhile, innovators in industry have seen the potential opportunities that artificial intelligence (AI) might bring to healthcare, particularly radiology and pathology which are based on digital images. Machine learning algorithms fed with large amounts of past diagnoses can generate new rules for classifying scans based on past examples. The approach of applying this technique to diagnostic scans is known as radiomics. A barrier to wider use is the lack of secure access to sensitive patient data with which to develop and test AI models. Another is the public’s lack of trust of new methods – even though computerised decision-making in healthcare dates as far back as the early 1970s. Finally, there is the problem of evaluating new methods based on real-world data. We might ask whether we need artificial intelligence in patient care at all. But the power of these new techniques could offer huge opportunities. No matter how skilled, humans are subject to fatigue, boredom and regular interruptions, and these are when errors can occur. Machines can work without tiring, but their ability to make intuitive decisions or rely on years of experience to recognise when an abnormality poses an urgent risk is unknown. Even without relying on artificial intelligence for complex matters, just using it for mundane tasks such as appointment booking, allocating staff and equipment, prioritising radiologists’ jobs, or incorporating data from health care records would free up clinicians’ time for other tasks.
A testbed for future healthcare
In the UK, iCAIRD, the Industrial Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research in Digital Diagnostics, brings together experts from the Universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews together with the NHS and industry partners such as Canon and Phillips in a £15m centre based in Glasgow. Launched last year, the project will test how well artificial intelligence algorithms compare to human expertise by providing secure access to anonymised clinical data in areas including breast cancer screening, stroke diagnosis and treatment, chest X-rays from A&E, and cervical and endometrial cancer pathology. Using an established approach for secure access to anonymised images, reports and relevant clinical data, AI researchers will be able to develop and test their methods. iCAIRD will also create a national digital pathology database. Cancer care typically involves multidisciplinary team meetings between clinicians from different specialisms: in the same way, the aim at iCAIRD is that multiple artificial intelligence applications can be integrated to create an AI-based virtual multidisciplinary team meeting, where knowledge from radiology and pathology can direct personalised management of cancer patients. Just as new drugs must be properly evaluated before use, so must new artificial intelligence methods. We are fortunate to be able, through iCAIRD, to evaluate performance of these new algorithms with real-world data. It is clearly crucial to bring the public on this journey of evaluating AI as a potential solution. Any new way of working is likely to come at a price – whether that is profit for the firms developing AI, just as the pharmaceutical industry profits from new drugs – or at a cost to the public in the loss of absolute patient data privacy. How to balance these and ensure good governance of AI in healthcare should be a matter for public debate, and not the role of a single sector, or a handful of companies. Ultimately the benefits will be maximised if we, as healthcare staff, patients and members of the public, are involved in determining the direction of the journey. The responsibility lies with us all.
This article was originally published in The Conversation
by Stephen Khan
Healthcare will remain forever changed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Seemingly overnight, consumer demand has shifted to convenient access through virtual care. Healthcare organisations must shift their approach to member and patient engagement from reactive to proactive to meet the needs of the new healthcare consumer and ensure future success in a post-pandemic world.
New entrants to healthcare will find a more worthy adversary in legacy incumbents. The likes of Amazon, Walmart and Oscar Health relied on the fact that the healthcare industry was slow to change. The pandemic accelerated healthcare organisations (HCOs) on their path to digital transformation in a matter of weeks. For example, barriers to adoption of virtual care such as lack of awareness, implementation and reimbursement were shattered as the US federal government touted the benefits of virtual care. In response to changing consumer sentiment towards virtual care, Forrester predicts that demand for virtual care in the US will soar beyond a billion visits in 2020. For HCOs to maintain a solid foothold in the healthcare market, they must prioritise their focus on a comprehensive digital front door strategy that engages consumers along their healthcare journey. The healthcare industry will evolve to one that is proactive, convenient and individualised.
Future success in healthcare will rely on a strategy that optimises experience for the new healthcare consumer. Forrester defines the digital front door as “an approach that optimises digital touchpoints across all phases of the healthcare journey so healthcare organisations can acquire, engage and retain customers more effectively.” Across digital touchpoints, customers must receive recommendations that are intuitive, right-sized, individualised and just in time, leading to productivity and revenue for the HCO through brand advocacy, loyalty and improved health outcomes for the customer. Remember that customers, not companies, determine if an experience is individualised.
Forrester found that 40 per cent of purchase influencers in healthcare said their firm plans to adopt new technology to enable it to change its business model to be more customer-centric. However, HCOs must be strategic about where they place their bets. To support the new healthcare consumer, Forrester recommends that HCOs:
• Focus on a holistic experience, not just support for the latest and greatest touchpoints. The key to a successful digital front door strategy is a frictionless experience. Customers base their perceptions on the sum of their experiences with your organisation, not a single interaction. While digital is key, it’s not the only aspect of the customer experience. Determine when a pure digital play versus hybrid approach is best at delivering value.
• Turn data collection into valuable insights. Forrester’s research shows that less than 50 per cent of HCOs in the US have a strategy in place to encourage data sharing. Most HCOs don’t offer incentives for data, despite interest from consumers. Robust data models are necessary to enable a proactive system that predicts potential health issues before they arise and to deliver engagement that is individualised to customers’ needs.
• Listen to your customer and keep listening. Embed the voice of the customer (VoC) into your approach, including a feedback loop about the experience. Forrester found that 83 per cent of HCOs in the US are not currently using a VoC programme. VoC programmes serve as a feedback loop for how well new technologies and experiences are meeting patients’ needs. Without a feedback mechanism, many HCOs’ digital initiatives will fail.
Find out more about Forrester’s research on Healthcare here.
by Arielle Trzcinski, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research
The government has advised people to stay at home during the current coronavirus pandemic, but there is still a need for healthcare technology to be deployed to help the elderly and vulnerable to remain safe at home, and for it to assist in the discharge of patients from hospital to home. Tunstall Healthcare has responded by developing three new solutions: Tunstall Response, Tunstall Connect and Tunstall Integrated Care Platform.
Tunstall is at the forefront of technology innovation for health, housing and social care. Its pioneering software, hardware and services enable new delivery models which can transform community-based health and social care by providing remote support which enables people to live independently and with an improved quality of life. Tunstall is now harnessing its expertise and resources to offer increased support to older and vulnerable people as they self-isolate and shield at home, alleviating pressure on social services and the NHS.
“Tunstall has always played a role in helping to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and reduce pressure on statutory services by enabling people to be safe at home and in the community,” says Gavin Bashar, MD of Tunstall Healthcare. “After the Covid-19 outbreak, we have examined ways we can do even more to help our customers and the people they support. We have developed a range of new propositions to help local authorities, housing associations and their community alarm monitoring centres to continue to deliver their vital services, alleviating pressure and supporting critical areas of the healthcare system while we fight the pandemic.”
Tunstall’s primary propositions during the Covid-19 outbreak either support individuals in the care system directly, or provide solutions for NHS, local authorities and housing associations.
The Tunstall Response proactive call service uses our existing community alarm service, which enables older and vulnerable people throughout the UK to easily get help in an emergency, using a home unit and worn pendant which connects them to a 24-hour response centre.
“Through regular outbound calls, operators can check in, offer advice and appropriately escalate any deterioration in wellbeing to other service providers, particularly where people are in self-isolation or at high risk from Covid-19,” explains Bashar. “We’re also introducing a smart device app, Tunstall Connect, which can enable Tunstall Response to keep in touch with vulnerable people who are self-isolating, without the need for a traditional community alarm system.”
The Tunstall Integrated Care Platform enables sophisticated remote health monitoring. Clinicians can then remotely review the data via an online portal, using a colour-coded dashboard to identify patients most in need of intervention. This solution is proven to support management of chronic illness, and can provide support for patients recently discharged from hospital as well as helping to prevent readmission by identifying deterioration at an early stage.
For people at high risk because of a long-term condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the Tunstall Integrated Care Platform enables remote health monitoring. Patients download an app which allows them to record vital signs and answer health questionnaires at home. Plus, we have recently introduced specific COVID-19 and self-isolation questionnaires in response to the current crisis.
Established more than 60 years ago, Tunstall created the familiar red button and pull-cord emergency response system, often known as community alarms. Since then, it has continued to pioneer technology that has improved the lives of millions of people around the world, including those living with dementia, learning disabilities, physical disabilities and long-term health conditions.
Tunstall works closely with local authorities across the UK, providing them with technology systems which enable people to easily get help from a specialist community alarm monitoring centre in an emergency, 24 hours a day. Where councils don’t have their own monitoring centre, Tunstall Response can monitor citizens on their behalf.
Tunstall’s technology solutions have developed over time to become more than an “emergency button”, and can now detect events such as a fall, fire or flood in the home and automatically raise an alert at the centre, who can then send appropriate help. Tunstall’s remote health monitoring systems enable people with long-term conditions to monitor their signs and symptoms at home, with clinicians able to view the data online and intervene before more complex care is required.
“Technology solutions from Tunstall Healthcare can greatly reduce the pressure on the NHS by enabling social care and housing providers to support people effectively at home,” continues Bashar. “They can prevent admission to hospital by reducing the impact of self-isolation and mitigating the adverse effects of incidents such as falls by enabling a rapid response. Systems can also be deployed as part of a package of care to enable people to be discharged from hospital more quickly, freeing up vital hospital beds.
“As Covid-19 presents the worst public health crisis for a generation, technology can not only help to address some of the immediate challenges presented by the current emergency, but can also provide a robust platform for future health and care delivery, connecting people to enable more proactive and preventative care and ensuring a resilient network is already in place should we ever face such a crisis again.”
Case study – benefits of proactive calling
Tunstall supports more than 320,000 people across Spain with its teleassistance service, which combines remote monitoring and response, coordinates social care and third-party services and delivers proactive outbound contact from monitoring centres to older and vulnerable people in the community. Support is tiered according to need, which helps to focus care services on the areas where they will deliver the best outcomes. A recent survey of users of the service found that:
• 96.1 per cent reported improved safety
• 98.3 per cent reported improved family relief
• 92.3 per cent reported decreased loneliness
• 78 per cent reported improved ability to live alone
• 35 per cent reported fewer calls to emergency services
Further information can be found at www.tunstall.co.uk/covid-19-solutions
by Tunstall Research
Ibrahim Diallo was allegedly fired by a machine. Recent news reports relayed the escalating frustration he felt as his security pass stopped working, his computer system login was disabled, and finally he was frogmarched from the building by security personnel. His managers were unable to offer an explanation, and powerless to overrule the system.
Some might think this was a taste of things to come as artificial intelligence is given more power over our lives. Personally, I drew the opposite conclusion. Diallo was sacked because a previous manager hadn’t renewed his contract on the new computer system and various automated systems then clicked into action. The problems were not caused by AI, but by its absence.
The systems displayed no knowledge-based intelligence, meaning they didn’t have a model designed to encapsulate knowledge (such as human resources expertise) in the form of rules, text and logical links. Equally, the systems showed no computational intelligence – the ability to learn from datasets – such as recognising the factors that might lead to dismissal. In fact, it seems that Diallo was fired as a result of an old-fashioned and poorly designed system triggered by a human error. AI is certainly not to blame – and it may be the solution.
The conclusion I would draw from this experience is that some human resources functions are ripe for automation by AI, especially as, in this case, dumb automation has shown itself to be so inflexible and ineffective. Most large organisations will have a personnel handbook that can be coded up as an automated, expert system with explicit rules and models. Many companies have created such systems in a range of domains that involve specialist knowledge, not just in human resources.
But a more practical AI system could use a mix of techniques to make it smarter. The way the rules should be applied to the nuances of real situations might be learned from the company’s HR records, in the same way common law legal systems like England’s use precedents set by previous cases. The system could revise its reasoning as more evidence became available in any given case using what’s known as “Bayesian updating”. An AI concept called “fuzzy logic” could interpret situations that aren’t black and white, applying evidence and conclusions in varying degrees to avoid the kind of stark decision-making that led to Diallo’s dismissal.
The need for several approaches is sometimes overlooked in the current wave of overenthusiasm for “deep learning” algorithms, complex artificial neural networks inspired by the human brain that can recognise patterns in large datasets. As that is all they can do, some experts are now arguing for a more balanced approach. Deep learning algorithms are great at pattern recognition, but they certainly do not show deep understanding.
Using AI in this way would likely reduce errors and, when they did occur, the system could develop and share the lessons with corresponding AI in other companies so that similar mistakes are avoided in the future. That is something that can’t be said for human solutions. A good human manager will learn from his or her mistakes, but the next manager is likely to repeat the same errors.
So, what are the downsides? One of the most striking aspects of Diallo’s experience is the lack of humanity shown. A decision was made, albeit in error, but not communicated or explained. An AI may make fewer mistakes, but would it be any better at communicating its decisions? I think the answer is probably not.
Losing your job and livelihood is a stressful and emotional moment for anyone but the most frivolous employees. It is a moment when sensitivity and understanding are required. So, I for one would certainly find human contact essential, no matter how convincing the AI chatbot.
A sacked employee may feel that they have been wronged and may wish to challenge the decision through a tribunal. That situation raises the question of who was responsible for the original decision and who will defend it in law. Now is surely the moment to address the legal and ethical questions posed by the rise of AI, while it is still in its infancy.
This article was originally published in The Conversation
by Will de Freitas
As a new generation enters the job market, corporate wellness benefit programmes have become the norm rather than an exception. Criteria such as working conditions, work-life balance or health benefits have become as, if not more, attractive in the job market as high salaries.
The fast-growing start-ups – especially those in the tech industry, such as TikTok – understand that if they want to attract and retain the best talent in the market, they need to invest in wellbeing and happiness at work. TikTok has been collaborating with Deliveroo for Business to provide food for its employees as part of its employee perk programme. With weekly team lunches and events caterers, it’s part of TikTok’s strategy to boost morale, which has contributed to its 4.1 out of five star rating on employer review website Glassdoor.
“For TikTok, it’s really important to have food as part of our employee wellbeing programme,” says TikTok’s Eleanor Payne. “We really want the best talent working for us, and in order to achieve that […] it’s almost an industry-standard to provide amazing food.”
Providing quality food at the workplace has become a growing requirement, and the stakes to get it right are high. This is a multi-billion-pound market that covers late-night workers, event catering and “cloud canteens”. This trend is global, too. Companies are walking away from traditional canteens that provide a low level of satisfaction with poor quality and variety of food. They are often expensive to maintain, and produce a large amount of food waste. In contrast, “cloud canteens” such as those powered by Deliveroo for Business, are more flexible and cost-effective. With 67 per cent of UK companies now offering allowances for team lunches and 47 per cent providing food for meetings*, “FoodTech” actors such as Deliveroo for Business have understood the need to provide custom services for corporations.
“Food enables employees to gather around a table and chat, share ideas, and collaborate,” explains Juan Diego Farah, GM and Global Head of Deliveroo for Business. “It genuinely creates an amazing opportunity for them to take a step back and engage with their colleagues.”
Deliveroo for Business was originally launched three years ago to target late-night workers, but the opportunity and demand for food in the workplace have evolved quickly and Deliveroo’s catering business is growing fast. It’s now increasingly common for companies to highlight on their job descriptions that they offer Deliveroo for Business allowances as part of their corporate rewards package.
To win the corporate market, innovation is key. Gone is the time when companies would settle for boring sandwiches or pizzas and beers. Now, corporate clients want to be delighted with creative caterers or restaurant pop-ups and provide amazing experiences for their teams.
For more information, visit deliveroo.co.uk/business
*Survey conducted in November 2019 among more than 500 companies currently partnering with Deliveroo for Business
by Juan Diego Farah, GM & Global Head, Deliveroo for Business and Eleanor Payne, Administrative Specialist, TikTok
The workplace is undergoing a huge transformation, with today’s workforce the most distributed, diverse and multigenerational our society has ever seen. To adapt to a rapidly changing business landscape and meet rising growth challenges, companies large and small need the right skills in their business and to be agile in their approach to recruiting, developing and retaining talent.
Despite the rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning and automation, the emerging business model for the digital age puts people at the centre. Skills shortages prevail and to thrive in the digital age, managers and leaders must find innovative ways to unlock talent and maximise the potential and productivity of their people.
The availability of skills has become the top business concern for 79 per cent of UK business leaders, according to PWC’s latest global CEO survey. Meanwhile, Gartner’s 2019 CEO and senior executive study shows priorities are shifting to meet rising growth challenges, with talent management now the number one organisational competency that companies need to develop.
How to bring on board the best talent when it’s needed, recognise and reward high performance and support employees in acquiring new knowledge and skills have become top of the agenda for CEOs, business owners, HR professionals and managers alike. But companies often struggle to achieve these goals and are stuck with outdated practices that don’t match the needs of today’s workplace and impact employee engagement, productivity and business success.
The good news is that technology is driving a revolution in people development and businesses are reaping the benefits of replacing spreadsheets and cumbersome systems with intuitive solutions, such as Kallidus’s suite of effective, engaging and easy-to-use people development systems. Kallidus software has been designed to give people a consumer-like experience at work and has won awards for its industry-leading user-experience which ensures uptake and guarantees results. From recruiting top talent to creating a culture of continuous learning and performance feedback, every stage of employee development is covered, from initial hire to high-flier.
With availability of key skills a major threat to most businesses, this modern technology-driven approach enables better decision making on when and where to invest and how to get the most out of people, whether they are new recruits taking the first step on their career ladder or seasoned performers. It helps companies build their businesses by fuelling employee growth and retention while ensuring business goals and business outcomes are aligned. Most importantly, it delivers significant value to the business through a more capable, more productive and skilled workforce.
Are you getting the most out of your people?
Discover how Kallidus can help you grow by transforming your people development here.
Harry Chapman-Walker, Sales Director, Kallidus
Effective mentoring can help individuals make vital connections and ensure organisations are able to boost engagement and productivity. But facilitating that is no easy matter.
According to the Office for National Statistics, productivity in the UK fell at its fastest rate in five years in the second quarter of 2019, continuing the trend of recent years. The UK is not unique in facing what has been called the “productivity puzzle”, but it is one of the more glaring examples.
There are many contributory factors for this, but one fundamental reason is that a bad culture means many organisations are failing to get the most of employees and their capabilities, leading to low levels of employee engagement and a lack of innovation.
But, for many organisations, the answer to greater productivity may be closer to home than they think. According to research, employees that are mentored are seven times more likely to be engaged, six times more likely to be promoted, and are an average of 8 per cent more productive than those who are not. Furthermore, they boast a 20 per cent higher retention rate than other employees.
The problem, though, is that while around 75 per cent of Fortune 500 businesses run mentoring programmes, these are often flawed, inconsistent and hard to maintain, and tend to reinforce existing silos, meaning they fail to address key issues around inclusion and diversity.
Two years ago, Ed Beccle – then still at school – hit on the idea of a tutoring app which could connect school pupils looking for extra support with university students able to provide that, and then sought to expand this concept into the world of work.
With his co-founder Henry Costa, who had come off the back of large success in African Fintech, Beccle created the result – Grasp. A platform designed to enable every employee from any level in an organisation to connect with others in the business, creating a culture of engagement and helping to improve productivity. The platform has since gone on to attract investment from some of the biggest names in business, as a result of cold emails, a game of squash and a very impressive network.
“We’ve always had the ethos that everyone has something to share and learn, and it doesn’t matter how senior or junior you are,” says Beccle. “In huge businesses, everyone combined must know everything but it’s how you work out who knows what and then how you connect with that specific person.”
Grasp offers a number of products designed to help organisations overcome the issues of low levels of staff retention, productivity and engagement, and bolts on to existing HR software. All its products revolve around the core belief of connecting users in a smart way through the use of both new and latent data sets. Mentoring is Grasp’s flagship product, aiming to disrupt the way mentoring programmes work in enterprises. Grasp believes in being the catalyst and spark for new and meaningful conversations where everyone has something to offer.
Once introductions have been made, individuals can either connect through a Zoom call or arrange to meet in person, depending on their location and the nature of the liaison. “Technology plays a huge part in bringing people together although it’s really important to get people meeting up in person,” says Beccle.
“There’s a huge opportunity that’s missed in just meeting people. But a lot of the time people barely know what the person 12 steps away from them does, let alone two or 10 floors above.” He’s keen to stress, too, that it’s not just a case of more junior staff being mentored by more experienced ones, as often younger employees will have skills that can be useful to older workers.
Embedding the technology that can help organisations make the most of the skills and experiences they already have in the business can create a culture where mentoring is truly effective, he adds, bringing direct benefits to the bottom line.
This is likely to become even more important as Generation Z enters the workplace, believes Beccle, and organisations need to do more to engage them and tackle the productivity crisis. “This will get better and bigger,” he predicts. “Every company will need to use something like this in future.”
For more information on how Grasp can help your business, visit http://grasp.hr/
Darren Murph, Head of Remote at GitLab, describes how organisations can make home working effective.
As more people work from home during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, organizations consider lower-carbon business operation and bosses up their game in the global war for talent, working remotely has acquired a fresh appeal.
Organisations that have made do with different hybrids of “OK, work from home if you have to” or banned remote working outright in case it undermined their office-based culture, are now reconsidering. But what happens when employees work remotely for months, even years? And how do managers maintain their workers’ productivity and mindfulness?
As an all-remote company with teams in 65 countries, we researched the working habits for 3,000 remote workers around the world to help us take our policies to the next level.
With a new wave of leaders and team members grappling with going remote, the research provides insights into what matters to those who adopt this way of working, charting a path for building culture around autonomy and flexibility.
One third of our survey has worked remotely for 3-4 years; a quarter has 5-9 years’ experience of this approach and a tenth have been remote workers for 10-15 years.
Remote employees are content and productive. More than four in five (84%) of the interviewees say they get through all their workload. Nearly 90% are satisfied with the tools and processes enabling remote communications and feel that company bosses give them autonomy. More than half – 52% – reckon that they travel less by working remotely.
Remote working is recognised even if hybrid versions are more common. Only one in four of our respondents belongs to an all-remote organisation with no offices. The most common proportion of an organisation working remotely was 25-50% — chosen by 31% of the whole survey.
Managers are supporting remote teams’ work and social interactions. A big majority (82%) of remote workers say their company supports in-person gatherings through events and meet-ups, while two-thirds 66% are connected to remote work communities.
Having a flexible lifestyle is the stand-out remote working benefit, cited by most interviewees (52%) while more than one third (38%) appreciates not commuting, and almost as many (35%) likes the reduced costs involved – ahead of being able to care for family, pets, ageing/sick relatives (34%), and those citing reduced anxiety/stress (32%).
This flexibility also means that it’s not all plain sailing.
Almost half of interviewees (47%) said the biggest drawback is managing at-home distractions – while 35% said collaborating with colleagues/clients or isolation/loneliness (also 35%) were most challenging. Surprisingly, perhaps, less than one third (29%) struggled with motivation or giving too much time to work (28%) or risked burnout (28%).
Taking our research and learnings together, we can offer some rules for building remote, effective and mindful teams.
Establish a remote infrastructure
If you do not have a dedicated company handbook for protocol and process, start one now. Embracing the notion of “if it’s not documented, it isn’t actionable,” is key to detaching from co-located norms and setting up remote teams for success.
While functioning remotely, strip the tool stack down to a minimum. Google Docs, a company-wide chat tool (like Microsoft Teams or Slack) and Zoom are all you need to start. If your team needs access to internal systems through a VPN, ensure that everyone has easy access, and instructions on usage are clear.
Be formal about informal communications
Second, organisations going remote need to be formal about designing informal communication – it’s the key to establishing workplace friendships – it springs from things other than work and helps us build trust with co-workers. Leaders need to design informal communication, and an atmosphere where employees feel comfortable reaching out to anyone to talk about non-work topics.
Depending on team size, consider an always-on video conference room per team, where team members can linger, or come and go as they please. This simulation helps acclimatisation, enabling team members to embrace the shift to remote in a less jarring way. Research indicates that people with genuine friends at work are more likely to enjoy their job, perform well and support their colleagues.
Devote time to relationships
Third, all-remote companies need to make the time to get to properly know one another as people, not just colleagues. Many of us have taken part in company meetings or “happy hours” in the past and found them a bit forced or daunting. At GitLab, we’re gaining from team-building possibilities of regular team video calls where everyone is free to add subjects to the agenda or weekly coffee calls where people from different teams bond, as well as the informal company and departmental video meet-ups you might expect.
The all-remote world isn’t always virtual: smart companies pay visiting grants so that team members can meet up, or pay the expenses of staff preferring a coworking space to home.
Better local connectivity, easy-to-use video tools and applications like Slack, make business communication simpler – and more enjoyable. Take emojis: once dismissed as idle chit chat, the corporate world is embracing them in professional settings because they help people connect and explain their approach.
Through experience and research, our view is that, with focus and commitment on all sides, remote working is the way to better work environments and more engaged employees; we believe it’s the future of work.
Darren Murph is Head of Remote, at GitLab, the single application for the DevOps lifecycle and the world’s largest all-remote company. He works at the intersection of culture, process, transparency, collaboration, efficiency, inclusivity, onboarding, hiring, employer branding, and communication. Darren has spent his career leading remote teams and charting remote transformations.
There can be little doubt we live in a disrupted world – one troubled by political upheaval, shaken by the impact of rapid technological transformation, and now gripped by a global health crisis. It is anything but business as usual.
Throughout this turmoil, though, there’s one essential thing that hasn’t changed – us.
Whatever our challenges and however they affect our boardrooms and bottom lines, we’re still the same highly varied, brilliant, maddening and vulnerable human beings we always were.
And, in such a disrupted world, our human skills are more important than ever. Our ability to work well together – to effectively harness our different abilities, outlooks and aptitudes – could prove the difference between business success and business failure. To do so requires self-awareness, leadership and real connection between all members of our teams.
Technology has advanced so far and so fast in the past two decades, and the pace of this advancement will only accelerate during the coming two. But tech can only do so much. To be part of a truly connected and effective team we need to unleash our humanity, and the human skills of our colleagues.
Our empathy and compassion; our ability to lead, connect and communicate; our agility and power to innovate – all are uniquely human traits. And now more than ever, and as we respond to such challenging times, we need to use these skills.
Each of us draws on the different elements of our personalities every day. Perhaps you’re introverted and a whizz with the detail – or maybe you’re more extroverted and focused on action. Do you recognise members of your team who are considerate and supportive types, or those who are naturally confident, breezy and outgoing? The Insights model, based on the work of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, shows how we all tap into these Cool Blue, Fiery Red, Earth Green and Sunshine Yellow energies through our lives and in our work, and allows us to put them to best use.
Because if we harness these human traits properly, we can build more effective teams and achieve success together. Members of our teams can make huge strides when they understand their approach and the approaches of their colleagues, and can begin to use this understanding to work better – and smarter – with one another.
And we will need to work smarter. The global health crisis prompted by the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak threatens us all, and could be set to challenge us for months, even years to come. It’s no exaggeration to say that it may change the world of work forever.
But, while the nature, pattern or location of our work may change, the sparky and ingenious humans we rely on to drive forward our businesses won’t. And they will still need our support and investment to hang together as a team, as a community of practice, and as bearers of our business values.
Like many other organisations, Insights has faced a flurry of headwinds before. We were able to weather the storm of the global financial crisis which began in 2008 and, ultimately, grow. How? By turning to our own community, being straight and clear with our teams, and asking everyone to work together to help turn the tide. They did. And others saw what Insights achieved and placed their trust in us.
So we know that those essential human qualities of empathy, compassion and self-awareness will prove even more vital as we set a course to navigate the choppy seas of disruption now before us, today and in the years ahead.
by Fiona Logan
We can use our expertise to help you and your people achieve critical business breakthroughs. To learn more about what we offer – including a full suite of programmes delivered entirely virtually – click here.
Fiona Logan is Chief Executive of Insights Learning and Development. Founded almost 30 years ago, in Dundee, Scotland, by father-and-son team Andi and Andy Lothian, Insights is a global leader in self-awareness and personal development and operates in more than 90 countries. Clients include more than 80 per cent of both the S&P and FTSE 100 indexes, and some of the biggest names in the world of sports, pharmaceuticals and technology.