Clear, consistent communication during COVID-19 is still critical.
Years back, probably on more than one occasion, I wrote of what I considered to be the biggest potential stumbling block in teleradiology: Communication, or failure thereof.
Onsite personnel routinely interact with one another as a result of their proximity. They share reading rooms, attend meetings together, casually chat in hallways, etc. Even indirectly, they glean information from one another, for instance, when overhearing conversations between other colleagues.
Those offsite do not, and, potentially, they dwell in an informational vacuum. They know nothing whatsoever of information that hasn’t been directed to them in some way -- email, phone call, even a good ol’ fashioned written memo. This can be very much off the radar of onsite people, who can easily take routine in-person exchanges of information for granted.
Information is an abundant commodity, especially in complex fields such as ours, and it would be exhausting, bordering on impossible, to convey every detail to the remote folks. Of necessity, some judgment calls happen as to what’s really important for them to know -- both to save the onsite-communicator’s time (and sanity!), and to spare the remotes from a constant onslaught of picayune trifles.
Give people incomplete intel, however, and they’ll fill in the blanks for themselves-whether it be by reasonable conjecture or less-reasonable imagination. Cynical, and especially paranoid minds (which seem to be prevalent in the healthcare field, for some reason), tend to fill those blanks in ways unflattering and unhelpful to a group’s cohesion.
I revisit this topic, however long after I previously wrote about it, because it’s become relevant to a greater proportion of the radiological population in our current COVID-19 world. Way more rads than ever before are now offsite, working from home, for instance, or having their hours reduced, even indefinitely eliminated. Many are wondering when-or if-they’ll be able to come back.
Every single one of these folks spending time away from the group’s onsite operations is going to be starved for information, or at least at risk for feeling uninformed, if proactive moves aren’t made to prevent this.
I’d suggest that group leaders take this very seriously and make a routine showing of information disbursal -- mass-emails, virtual meetings, conference calls, etc., even if the leaders feel like there’s nothing new to report. Those onsite might know there’s no news, but those remote won’t necessarily make this assumption.
Further, just because you have nothing to report doesn’t mean that nobody else has anything to say. The communications mentioned above allow for people to comment or ask questions (make sure your group emails allow folks to publicly respond for all to see!), and such feedback might provoke valuable thought, if not action, by the leadership -- or anyone else in the group.
There are also other reasons why such communal interaction is preferable to a more-haphazard, “Everybody feel free to get in touch with the leadership if you have any questions” type of invitation. Individuals might refrain from taking up such an offer for fear of appearing needy or demanding-especially if they previously inquired, but now have one or more new items of interest. Further, this only results in communication with one person at a time. Not everybody winds up being on the same page, and there’s no reliable way for leadership to keep track of who was told what.
Some sample topics that a group’s remote and/or furloughed members might appreciate hearing about nowadays, perhaps on a weekly basis in the absence of newsworthy developments in-between, to avoid that “out-in-left-field” feeling include: