Penn Medicine's social media-style staff recognition tool builds respect, gratitude

A web-based system developed by Penn Medicine's Center for Digital Health enables hospital staff to recognize and compliment one another using memes, puns, GIFs and other lighthearted messages, resulting in the creation of a "civility climate," per a new report.

Researchers at the Philadelphia-based center reviewed the "High Five" system, which was introduced in 2016, and detailed the results in a case study published in NEJM Catalyst Innovations in Care Delivery. They found that in almost three years the system had enabled more than 28,000 communications among thousands of hospital employees, building a workplace climate that values respect, acceptance, cooperation, support and fair conflict resolution.

The system is accessible across multiple devices and prompts staff members to select a colleague to recognize and choose an image or GIF, most of them humorous, to send. They can also add personalized text before sending, and recipients have the option to send a direct reply of their own.

"Keeping it funny and light was us trying to build on what folks already do naturally on social media and via texting. … Humor and levity can organically incentivize folks to connect and support each other. So we thought it made sense to capitalize off of that natural inclination when we were trying to build an opt-in recognition system," said Kathleen Lee, MD, director of clinical implementation in the Center for Digital Health and an assistant professor of clinical emergency medicine.

Dr. Lee, who co-led the case study, added, "The status quo expectation in many settings in medicine is perfection without recognition. Medical errors can result in harsh consequences, while successes are often not recognized to the same extent. This imbalance is thought to be a key contributor to clinician burnout."

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