The Trajectory to Success

AMC Health is at the forefront of disruptive technology in telehealth. Gail Thakarar explains how she and her team are harnessing the potential of its greatest asset—its employees—to spur continued growth.

By connecting patients with their care teams in real time, AMC Health is transforming healthcare delivery: It is expanding delivery of care beyond the walls of hospitals, doctors’ offices, and outpatient settings. It is moving the patient experience from episodic to continuous monitoring and engagement—providing a 360-degree narrative of the patient’s health that is easily accessible by the provider and extended-care team at any time. Building on more than a decade of experience in telehealth, AMC Health solutions are also being used in pharmaceutical clinical trials to register more patients, improve their engagement and compliance with protocols, and collect more-robust patient data.

Chief human resources officer Gail Thakarar uses her experience working with national and international companies to elevate this early-stage company to a global organization. Key to executing this strategy is AMC Health’s greatest asset—its workforce. Prior to her joining the company, human resources was primarily viewed as administrative support. She quickly sought to change that misconception. Her plan focused on three strategic imperatives for the human resource management—building company culture, attracting and retaining talent, and developing strong teamwork skills.

Gail Thakarar, AMCHealth, Chief Human Resources Officer

Though telehealth has been adopted by many healthcare organizations for more than a decade, in many ways the market for telehealth is still emerging. In that time, AMC Health has been implementing programs for all types and sizes of healthcare organizations. It knows exactly how to ensure patient compliance and seamless clinical integration. And it embraces the latest disruptive technologies to lead healthcare organizations into the future.

Cultivating an Inclusive Company Culture

Thakarar’s primary goal is to take this early-stage company and elevate it to a global organization. She says that a key factor in fulfilling this goal is attracting and retaining the right people. Culture plays a pivotal role—more and more talented professionals are looking for a “culture fit” as part of their requirements for joining a company. Thakarar has been working on cultivating company culture that is patient-focused, entrepreneurial, innovative, and inclusive, wherein all employees are assured that their voices are heard.

AMC Health’s patient-focused, entrepreneurial, innovative, and inclusive company culture starts with employee engagement—built off a defined organizational structure with clear roles and responsibilities that contribute both to the employee’s and the company’s success. Thakarar took the lead in streamlining this process through various initiatives: a clear organizational structure, specific and appropriate job descriptions, a relevant employee handbook, and additional benefits such as a 401(k) matching plan, competitive bonus plans that support accountability through MBOs, and consistent compliance with state and federal regulations. She also conducted an employee-engagement survey and provided transparent feedback to all employees at a town-hall meeting and was pleasantly surprised at the positive response. She feels confident that all these efforts are paying off.

Not stopping there, Thakarar was instrumental in creating an online company portal for direct employee access. The portal is the first thing employees see when they sign on to their computers. Helpful employee information such as employee benefits, payroll, company announcements, and the employee handbook are all accessible through the portal. Employees are also able to see work anniversaries and birthdays. By having direct access to this information, AMC Health reinforces its inclusive company culture, overcoming the challenges of having a mostly remote workforce.

“We want everyone to interact and socialize online, if they choose to do so, because we don’t have the proverbial water cooler where conversations usually occur in a typical office,” Thakarar says. “The portal is an excellent tool to communicate with our employees and keep them connected.”

It will also be a channel for employees to provide suggestions for improvement and to bring to attention any issues or topics that need to be discussed. “An engaged workforce helps the company keep its focus on the patients it serves,” she adds, “and helps to keep company morale high as well.”

In addition, Thakarar has implemented a new onboarding process to enhance assimilation and shorten the learning curve of new employees. She also spends time coaching employees for further advancement and stronger performance, and she listens to employee suggestions to ensure the company continues to stay on track for success.

In order to successfully cultivate and maintain the company’s culture, AMC Health CEO Nesim Bildirici and Thakarar believe employees need to have a stake in the company. Contrary to the norm, Bildirici supports every employee owning a part of the company through stock options granted to all employees at every level. “As owners of the company, our employees are passionate about their work,” says Thakarar. “They want to make a difference and work diligently to ensure the company is successful.”

Clear channels of communication and a sense of ownership make for a more supportive environment internally, which ultimately manifests itself in the superior customer service our patients receive. Employees feel like they can make a difference, and they provide patients with excellent care. “They’re passionate about the work,” says Thakarar. “They don’t look at the clock and say, ‘Oh gosh, it’s five o’clock. I have to go.’”

Thakarar cited many instances where employees went the extra mile for a patient, though they didn’t have to. “They did it because they cared about the patient and the company,” says Thakarar. “They didn’t expect a reward. They didn’t expect a bonus.” That care ties into owning a stake in the company and, in turn, creates and supports the culture surrounding it.

Hiring the Right People for Growth

Always ahead of the curve, AMC Health is currently developing a disruptive technology platform for telehealth, which enhances connections between patients and care teams. AMC Health hires clinicians, patient- and customer-centric service employees, and other talented professionals that play a role in delivering first-class telehealth solutions. A key characteristic that is prevalent among AMC Health employees is the ability to evolve with the company as it grows. Thakarar wants AMC Health to be the employer of choice. She matches the right talent with the right need, and hires them accordingly, always looking to hire for growth and ability. “We have to have a strong business focus on hiring,” she says. “We take a progressive look at how these employees will affect growth three, five, even ten years down the line.”

Thakarar views herself as a businessperson first, and her ability to combine a business viewpoint with human-capital management creates an advantage in hiring the right people, who will want to stay with the company for years to come. She created an interview and assessment process specific to critical positions that would be working with the potential hire. Through this process, the applicant gains in-depth knowledge about the company, its culture, and strategic objectives for the short and medium term. Conversely, the hiring team gets to know the potential hire and is able help the new hire succeed more effectively within the company.

History has shown that hiring the right people produces results. Over the past decade, AMC Health has remained successful, mostly due to its employees. This success has resulted in numerous published outcomes in peer-reviewed journals. These outcomes have shown significant improvements in hospital readmissions, blood glucose levels and blood pressure levels, and reductions in costs of care. These accomplishments can only be achieved when you have a talented workforce committed to providing the best-available remote patient monitoring and engagement solutions. And the biggest winner in all this would be the patients that have AMC Health as their partner as they work to improve their health and quality of life.

Creating Clear Channels of Communication & Engagement

A majority of AMC Health employees work remotely. This presents a challenge when trying to foster communication and teamwork. “About 80 percent of our workforce is remote,” says Thakarar. “We have a lot of people at the senior level who work remotely from their homes. This adds to the challenge of ensuring that everyone feels connected and communication remains consistent.

Thakarar facilitated a series of initiatives to increase employee engagement. AMC Health has cross-functional teams that prioritize customer programs sometimes constrained with limited resources and that funnel critical information to the leadership team. The company has also instituted weekly senior leadership meetings to discuss company-wide strategy and progress on initiatives, and Thakarar encourages communication downstream to individual teams to ensure consistency across the entire company. This bidirectional communication stream has contributed to both company morale and increased employee productivity.

Employee engagement is an essential part of the company’s continued growth and success. Another strategy that has improved employee engagement is the adoption of regular semimonthly town-hall meetings. AMC Health CEO Nesim Bildirici speaks at each of these town halls, sharing the latest developments so that employees know what is happening in the company and any other strategic decisions that affect it. This is another effective channel of communication for employees, especially for those who are remote, providing an accessible venue for dialogue and interaction.

Building soft skills through workshops also fosters team building. In order to do that, AMC Health has a blended approach through learner-centered training. It offers interactive, video training, and distance learning opportunities to its employees. 

As AMC Health continues to evolve to meet the challenges of the emerging telehealth market, it will continue to build its workforce. And Thakarar and her team will continue to harness the potential of its greatest asset, spurring continued growth and success for the company. 

Photo by Annie Watson Photography