Sure, technology is smart – but can it also be emotionally intelligent?
Why are youth willing to share everything on Instagram and SnapChat, or even post videos and Tik-Toks that might be as personal as sexual activity, yet they won’t give truthful answers to doctors, nurses, and educators when asked? A youth’s willingness to share complete and accurate information improves when the digital experience is tailored to their unique attributes, such as: culture, age, language, ethnicity, literacy, state of mind, and the type of information we are seeking.
Simply stated, Digital Empathy uses a personalized approach to collecting information to improve outcomes. Rather than taking a one size fits all approach, it transforms the screening process – prioritizing the attributes of what makes us individuals to let youth know that we truly care and respect them. This builds trust and leads to their feeling safe and supported, and thus empowers them to be more willing to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences.
To better understand why Digital Empathy works, consider an example of the more traditional approach to collecting risk information from youth. For instance, during a well-visit with a 16-year-old, a provider may ask questions like, “Do you drink alcohol? Do you vape? Do you smoke marijuana?” While many youth are going to say “NO!” when asked these questions in a face-to-face setting, that doesn’t necessarily mean that no is their “truth” honest answer. And, because we are all human – there are subtle differences in how we ask a question that impacts the answer we get. For example, are your arms crossed? Is your tone of voice neutral? Do you ask every youth the same question, the same way, every time?
Unfortunately, the variability in approaches to how we ask the questions can lead to more than incomplete or inaccurate information gathering. A provider may actually be making clinical decisions based on that limited information, which can impact youth health and wellness in a negative way. It can also impact mission-critical funding! Let’s say you’re a school-based health center and you’re asking these questions to determine what programs you should offer or if you qualify for a specific grant based on need. Without a Digitally Empathetic approach – you may be missing critical information on your population.
Bottom line, organizations depend on accurate information from the youth they serve and support, and the quality of that information is crucial to both financial and clinical effectiveness. But there’s good news. Using Digital Empathy can improve the productivity of information gathering efforts upwards of 200% – while also enhancing the fidelity of the information that’s being captured. This is especially critical when you consider things like screening for mental health or assessing sensitive social determinant of health needs like food insecurity.
– Eric Gombrich has over 30 years of experience in the healthcare information technology and medical device industries, having led organizations in their expansion efforts across the US, Canada and around the world. As the Chief Revenue Officer and Chief Privacy and Security Officer of Tickit health, he ensures that the organization’s data and its customers’ data is secure and private.