How is the GC A Plaza collaboration platform used? †

Before you start with a collaboration platform, write down your goals in a business case. What do you want to achieve with the platform? And how are you going to measure whether you've achieved this? For Health Center for Asylum Seekers, the collaboration platform was one of the systems that was a precondition for introducing self-organization. Various goals have therefore been set beforehand, 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? And is there more collaboration between teams and/or locations? In this blog, I'll take you through my research into the use of GC A Plaza and answer the questions above. Spoiler alert: knowledge sharing and collaboration go fast!

First of all, who and what is GC A?

GC A stands for Health Center for Asylum Seekers. Within GC A, many GPs, mental health consultants, nurses and practical assistants work together to provide care to asylum seekers. The support service is located in Wageningen.

The healthcare providers are spread across many different locations in the Netherlands. As a result, interaction between healthcare professionals is sometimes more difficult. My research shows that GC A Plaza, GC A's collaborative platform, has been offering a solution since it went live in December 2015.

Research... By objectives. How then?

To carry out this research, I looked at discussions within three different parts of GC A Plaza. These parts are:

  1. The general group*
  2. The messages below the theme pages**
  3. Discussions in the public groups***

In each discussion, I looked at, among other things, who responds to whom, whether a message is work-related, what each person's work location is, what each person's job is, what the discussion is about, et cetera. Based on this information, I calculated, among other things, the distances between messages.

Now, the results...

First, are different locations in contact with each other via GC A Plaza?

GC A Plaza ensures that communication between employees takes place across locations as well as across regions. When GP A from Friesland asks a question at GC A Plaza, GP B from Limburg responds and a nurse from Utrecht joins the discussion. It doesn't matter if a healthcare professional works at a location in Zeeland, Limburg, Utrecht, Groningen or Friesland, every healthcare professional talks to every healthcare professional. For example, in the general group, where any employee within the organization can post messages, the longest distance a message travels as the crow flies is 253 km, with an average of 86.11 km. In short: healthcare professionals who normally never spoke to each other because they are in different locations are now talking to each other. This offers opportunities for gathering knowledge: every GC A employee can now exchange knowledge and ideas with each other and work together in a digital environment.

And... will knowledge be shared?

At GC A Plaza, employees share their knowledge. One of the ways in which knowledge is shared is by asking questions and getting answers to them. For example, questions are asked about procedures and protocols. What is interesting here is that these questions are not only answered by employees of the central office anymore, it is precisely the employees with a care function that provide this information. Knowledge therefore comes from the professionals themselves and is not just disseminated from the staff anymore. This is underlined because the study shows that people mainly respond when the message is work-related. It also appears that each function group has its own role on the platform. I'll explain this below:

How do central office employees use the collaboration platform?

Employees of the central office in Wageningen are mainly facilitating on the collaboration platform: they post general announcements, answer questions and ensure that the right people answer certain questions. Where in other organizations, the central office often “sends” information alone, this is different at GC A Plaza. Instead of pushing information themselves, the employees of the central office now ensure that information is provided by the people who know a lot about it by mentioning the right person below.

What do practice assistants do at GC A Plaza?

Practice assistants are generally questioners and controllers: they use GC A Plaza to ask questions, arrange things (such as dropouts), and occasionally answer questions. Practice assistants like to start discussions; they start discussions more often than they respond to discussions, compared to the other function groups. In general practices, practical assistants are also often the ones who arrange many things. Practical assistants therefore use the platform to support their work.

How do nurses use the digital workplace?

Practical nurses love interaction. They make use of the opportunity to get information by asking questions and also disseminate knowledge themselves, by providing answers to other people's questions. Nurses are therefore indispensable at GC A when it comes to sharing knowledge.

Finally, are the discussions at GC A Plaza active?

Discussions at GC A Plaza are quite active. The study shows that each microblog receives an average of three responses. It does depend on the discussion how active the discussions actually are: this ranges from 0 to 18 responses.

Discussions that provide a lot of interaction usually include work-related content. This is because, on average, these discussions receive almost 8 responses, which is therefore well above 3 responses. This result underlines that discussions about work are effective: GC A Plaza is actually used to share work experiences and knowledge about work.

The conclusion: goal achieved

With the cooperation platform GC A Plaza, knowledge sharing is facilitated and is widely used: discussions actually take place. Each professional group has its own role and takes it, in addition, knowledge sharing and cooperation also take place across teams and locations. In short: knowledge sharing and collaboration is now team- or location-independent. I would say I've reached my goal!

* The general group is a group that includes each employee. The messages that are placed on this are therefore visible to every user. For my research, I looked at the reports from mid-August to mid-September 2016.

** Theme pages are specific pages with information that is important to (almost) every employee in GC A (formerly the quality manual). Important information is easy to find thanks to theme pages. You can comment on these pages. I've looked into all the reactions since going live.

*** In addition to the general timeline, groups can also be created by each employee. These groups can be open or closed. Messages in closed groups are only visible to members of that group. The messages within public groups are visible to everyone, even if you are not a member of the group. I included the last five discussions of each public group in the data collection.

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