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How to turn down the digital noise

From extreme Halo traffic to reply-all emails, we may be driving our co-workers to distraction.

One Asante provider reports getting more than 100 Halo messages in a single shift. Support staff can get that many emails, Teams messages or texts in an afternoon.

Good communication is the engine that drives high-performing systems, but when does communication turn into noise? When do messages that show our productivity become counterproductive? The answer: When they’re disruptive, distracting and most of all, unnecessary.

With the COVID-19 emergency in our rearview mirror, Asante has resumed normal operations, plus a backlog of work that was on hold and new projects coming out of the recovery. From hospital floors to business offices, the system’s 6,000 employees are busier than ever.

And the busier employees become, the less they welcome communications that take away from their work and add to their stress. In fact, one study found that the more time employees spend on email the higher their stress and the lower their perceived productivity.

To avoid inundating your co-workers with unnecessary communication, ask yourself the following:

  • Is my message urgent? If yes, use the appropriate platform: Halo for clinical work;
    Teams, email, telephone or text for office communication. If no, consider a simple email to the appropriate audience.
  • Is my message important? If so, Halo or email only to recipients who need to know.
  • Is my message just a “nice to know”? Share it in a staff meeting or huddle.
  • Am I organizing a complex initiative, project or event? These are what meetings are made for. Consider communicating through a project SharePoint site and involve only those who need the information.
Halo sins

This app is both a lifesaver, sometimes literally, and a bane when overused. Providers have complained that among the more than 100 messages they receive in a shift, some are merely to say “thanks.” (The app’s “read” function confirms your message has been received.)

Unnecessary Halo messaging can lead to alert fatigue and inaccurate communication. So, when contacting providers about a patient’s care, heed the following:

  • Provide all the details up front (patient’s full name, date of birth, room number, a brief SBAR, and your name and call-back number). This helps prevent back-and-forth clarification messages.
  • Avoid abbreviations, slang, emojis and text shorthand such as LOL. If a patient needs oxycodone or oxycontin, for example, spell out the words instead of typing “oxy.”
  • Check with the charge nurse to confirm that sending a Halo message is appropriate for the clinical situation.

Remember, orders never should be sent via Halo. Not only is this against Asante policy, it’s a violation of CMS regulations. Instead, providers should enter orders into Epic or verbally over the phone. See our policy on transcribing provider orders.

Reply-all and other nuisances

The “reply-all” email function is so commonly misused within organizations it has generated its own bad press. In fact, some companies have restricted its use or removed the button from their email program altogether, thus saving recipients from a noisy succession of short responses (“Thanks!” or “Great job”) that clutter up their inbox.

Unless you need to clarify something in the original message for the benefit of the group, reply only to the sender or the individuals you want to thank or congratulate. The same is true for messaging on Teams.

Are you preparing a message or report that needs input from multiple people? Contact those people directly and individually to gather their feedback instead of emailing the solicitation to a large group. Revising messaging via group emails (writing by committee) not only causes email clutter, it leads to confusion and omissions, since important points may get lost in the threads. You can always send the final document to the larger group to confirm its accuracy.

Asante’s email policy doesn’t include rules of etiquette, but it does cover appropriate use, which all employees should know.

Overcommunicating is a good problem to have in any organization. (Consider the alternative.) But if we follow these basic rules of etiquette, we can help ensure our communication is better received — and welcomed. Do you have tips on how to turn down the digital messaging volume? Leave them in the comments.

Tags: , Halo, messages, noise, teams, traffic
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If you need answers for a personal work matter, please contact the author or department directly instead of leaving a comment.

3 Comments. Leave new

  • Kitty Sallas
    June 6, 2023 8:33 am

    I know it may seem rude, but I think we ALL need to agree a “thanks” email is unnecessary. Receiving an email with only the two words “thank you” (often in response to a long email thread) bogs down our Outlook storage and can put some of us in “email jail”. If everyone agrees that gratitude is always implied, we can just stop the habit -which is super polite, but ultimately, digitally problematic and inefficient. Almost everyone’s e-signatures convey gratitude and we know the work we do is appreciated. Just my two cents. THANKS! hahaha

    • Jessica Lemon
      June 6, 2023 10:58 pm

      Yes! I agree!! For someone who gets many unnecessary halos each night of “okay” “thanks” or anything like that when I can see you read the message drains my energy each night. It causes added stress and can make me a little “snippy” when I don’t mean to be at all. So distracting!!! Also, as a charge when I see a nurse send the MD three messages because they forgot little things make me cringe. If staff wants help with a page, charges are ALWAYS happy to help to ensure proper communication. 🙂

  • Telemetry messages are the worst. So many useless messages with multiple thank yous and pleases and reminders. Half my messages are from tele monitors please make it stop


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