Web Conferences and their effect on work life in Fraser Health
Web conferencing is a valuable tool that allows for real-time conversations to take place
with multiple participants in multiple locations. It has many advantages and
disadvantages to traditional face to face conferencing. My experience with web
conferencing has been minimal but it has proven to be very beneficial in terms of time &
Fraser Health is a large organization that geographically extends from Burnaby to Boston
Bar. Within its boundaries are over 10 separate hospital sites, a multitude of continuing
care health units, public health units, clinics, physician offices, headquarters and offices;
the exact number of sites within the realms of Fraser Health is difficult to determine.
Communication in a large organization is essential to its smooth functioning. When a
meeting is required, often a central site is chosen and people from all over the health
region congregate together in order to participate. It is expensive and time consuming. A
new way of meeting together has been to connect via phone, video and/or office
communicator. When a meeting of several people is required one person is able to set up
and chair a meeting from a different location than the others. Fraser Health has a
responsibility to its patients, staff and communities to be efficient and cost effective in the
services that they provide.
An example of this type of meeting that I have been involved in is the daily t-con
conference that occurs at 0900hrs every Monday to Friday morning. The Regional PATH
team director, managers, patient care coordinators & clinical nurse educators all dial in to
pre-determined topics as well as to discuss any other information or questions that
someone participating in the meeting requests.
A recent example was where I had researched information on wound types and the care of
these wounds on the seven PATH units in Fraser Health. I was able to verbally share the
information I had gathered as well as share my presentation on the how the information
affected the PATH units. I was able to share my office communicator screen on the
desktops of all participants so they could visually view the graphs, charts and conclusions
that I had created. I chose not to use the video conferencing option in this meeting.
An advantage to this type of meeting was that everyone received the information at the
same time; each member of the group was able to view the information, ask questions and
provide feedback in real-time. There was no delay in responses that often occurs with
telephone calls or e-mail. Discussion and decisions within the group were collaborative
and multiple viewpoints were discussed. Everyone heard the same questions and
viewpoints and each person had the ability to request further explanation to clarify. As
often happens in the children’s game of telephone, the chance of the information being
altered as it was shared from person to person was greatly diminished.
I was very happy not to have to travel from my office site to another in order to present a
30 minute presentation, and very glad I only had to give the presentation once, not seven
times at seven different sites. The feedback I received allowed me to continue on with the
process of the work I was doing, and for management to determine what to do with the
information collected in a timely manner. I didn’t have to sit in traffic, risk getting into an
accident or getting a speeding ticket because I was late. I got off work on time.
Setting up the meeting this way allowed more people to attend the meeting than would
otherwise have been able to. Travelling from Abbotsford Hospital to Queens Park in New
Westminster or Burnaby Hospital is not always possible or appropriate for a short
meeting. Yet everyone’s input was essential in order to make decisions that were in
everyone’s best interest.
So time management, cost and communication were all improved. A meeting of a team
was accomplished. What about the building of that team. I believe a strong team also has a
social context. We build relationships and these relationships help us to understand each
other and where we come from. Team building is essential to success of the team. We as
human beings are very sensitive to verbal and nonverbal communication; we observe
things about each other that we would not be able to pick up on a t-con. Yes, a video
camera can be used during the meeting and all participants faces seen live. But I don’t
believe that this replaces real face to face nonverbal social cues.
Fraser Health has installed soft wear into their system that allows these types of meeting
to take place. There has been considerable cost in setting up office communicator, video
cameras on computers and educating staff in the use of these technologies. There are also
other technologies not mentioned here that have been utilized and that cost money.
Overall, I feel that there is a very strong argument for the use of t-cons, office
communicator and video cameras in our work places but I also believe that we must not
allow these technologies to replace the human side of our nature and work. Technology is
good but it isn’t the answer to all of our needs.