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March 12, 2024

How top performers bridge the gap between clinical & engineering teams [Part 2]

This is part two of our series on bridging the gap between clinical and engineering teams. If you missed part one, start here.

Step #2 of bridging the gap between clinical and engineering teams is shadowing.

The challenge here is the introverted nature of many engineers, who might initially be skeptical about the idea. That’s where a good story comes into play:

Months after launching a new pre-surgery care flow at a major hospital, which went live based on requirements communicated by clinicians only, curiosity led me to the hospital to see our software in action. What I found, to my surprise, were clinicians still bogged down by a ton of manual tasks. When asked why they never brought these items up a clinician said “I never thought these could be fixed.” 

After the full day of shadowing, I went home and spent the next day tweaking and validating the updated care flow. We launched the week after, cutting manual work by 40% and allowing the clinicians to focus on high-value tasks again. 

The gist? Feedback is like staring at a shadow puppet show: you’re entertained but have no clue what’s going on backstage. To peel back the curtain and see the intricate - and messy - realities, you need to shadow clinicians. 

Why is shadowing so effective?

  1. Some engineers haven’t set foot in a healthcare clinic for ages. Shadowing provides them with a real-world stage to understand how care is provided.
  2. When you see the day-to-day challenges clinicians face, it's hard not to develop a deep sense of empathy, making it more likely that the tech solutions developed will be genuinely useful.
  3. Engineers or PMs observing the clinical workflow can often spot easy fixes that lead to immediate improvements—think of it as "low-hanging fruits" that might otherwise have stayed hidden in the foliage.

How much shadowing is enough?

You can’t shadow enough, but to set a benchmark: At a digital health company I respect, shadowing is diligently tracked. Their product managers usually shadow for 3-4 hours, designers for 10-12 hours, and engineers for around 2 hours, all on a monthly basis. 

Simple next step

  1. Open a spreadsheet for tracking shadowing sessions
  2. Encourage your PMs, engineers and designers to start shadowing (and explain to them why)
  3. Have them share their success stories with the rest of the team
  4. Watch as shadowing becomes an ingrained practice in your organization

P.S. You don’t need to shadow all these sessions live, there are plenty of tools out there that will allow you to shadow asynchronously.


Quick intro: we’re Thomas and Rik, building Awell - a low-code platform allowing care teams to design, implement and optimize care flows in days, not months. CareOps grew out of our years spent improving CareOps at innovative providers.

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