Healthcare workers are the embodiment of mobile. Tending to patients across hospitals, clinics, and shifts, they are always on the move. Coupled with the sheer size and diversity of the healthcare system, keeping employees informed is a constant challenge.
When communications break down or employees are not engaged, the consequences can be disastrous — from administrative and operational missteps to poor decisions treating patients and lack of quality care. In fact, according to a study from HR Solutions, 85 percent of engaged employees displayed a genuinely caring attitude toward patients, compared to only 38 percent of disengaged employees.
In an industry focused on human care and well-being, investing in employees by giving them the right tools and resources to let them do their jobs is critical. Many healthcare providers get caught up in the possibilities of shiny new technologies like AI or voice technology. However, even more, critical is solving the core, operational challenges that are holding back care. Organizations that fail to recognize the need to advance the “people” areas of the business that impact operations — such as communications —will fall behind.
Sending emails or posting signs in the nurses’ station isn’t going to guarantee that every hospital, doctor’s office or healthcare employee will know what is happening within the organization, especially if they are spending time away from a computer. A recent report found that 80 percent of workers globally are “deskless” — i.e., not sitting behind a computer screen — yet only 1 percent of the $300 billion in software venture funding each year goes toward technologies for these workers. Employees expect timely, relevant information that helps them get their jobs done, but often fail to receive this simply due to lack of access.
Instead, organizations must look at intra-company communication holistically. What prevents employees from feeling connected to the organization? How are poor communications impeding workers who have varying shifts and aren’t working a normal 9 to 5?
Here are three ways that healthcare organizations can improve their communications strategies.
1. Create a mobile-first solution
Fortune 500 company Magellan Health struggled to find a way to effectively reach its employees and provide them with content that is hyper-relevant, authentic and immersive. To combat this, the team launched MagellanNOW, a mobile app for all employees, on Valentine’s Day in 2018 – the same day as the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. Within 24 hours, the team was able to post a video of its CEO addressing the tragedy and the work the Magellan Healthcare team does to support its members and the community in times of trauma. In the past, it would have taken weeks to make and publish the video to the intranet site, not to mention it would have required support from IT. Using the mobile video feature of its workforce communications platform, the communications team was able to upload videos directly with no intervention from another department.
Magellan Health recognized the challenges of reaching its employees, 45 percent of which are remote, and keeping them informed. By turning to a mobile solution, the communications team could stop using the intranet or newsletter channels that didn’t reach their entire employee base, enabling them to share more content from numerous sources (social media, video, blog posts, press releases) with all employees.
2. Make the message stick
Having the right mechanism in place to reach employees doesn’t matter if that content doesn’t help inform and align them with organizational goals. Targeted, personalized and relevant communications drive engagement. Whether it is alerting certain personnel during an emergency or sending management-only corporate updates, it’s critical to customize communications for different groups of employees.
For example, one healthcare system with 50 hospitals, 829 clinics, 20,000 doctors and 38,000 nurses covering seven states needed to improve how it reached its workforce that was spread across the country and with varying priorities. By creating content tailored to specific locations, local leadership was able to provide feedback to headquarters and share best practices with fellow hospitals in their healthcare network. This shift increased operational efficiency and resulted in better alignment and ultimately better patient care.
3. Don’t forget the medium
How often do you get a message from your CEO that you skip over, delete or file away for later? Unfortunately, this happens all too often with long, text-heavy updates. Employees are more receptive to communications that they find engaging, entertaining or even inspiring — and mediums like video and images provide just that. In fact, video has three times higher engagement than other types of mediums such as email or newsletters. Incorporating interactive media, like video, can not only deliver the message but actually inspire employees.
In addition, communications should not be a one-way street. Employees should be able to easily interact with company news, each other and even with executives to share feedback. A holistic communications strategy should combine corporate messages with targeted, curated content by demographic and employee contributions, from touching patient stories to local events. This well-rounded mix promotes community, morale and greater enthusiasm around the company that leads to brand promotion.
What’s next for healthcare communications
With today’s healthcare providers spending most of their time on their feet, relying on traditional communications methods – such as an outdated portal, intranet or newsletters – leaves employees in the dark and disconnected from their organization. To truly reap the benefits of an engaged and connected workforce — from better patient care to happier employees — companies need to reimagine their internal communications strategies in a way that reaches employees on their terms and puts them at the forefront, instead of as an afterthought.
Sonia Fiorenza leads communications and engagement strategies for SocialChorus, a workforce communications platform. Sonia has more than 20 years of experience in corporate communications at Fortune 500 companies across industries such as financial services, biotechnology, and retail. She’s passionate about employee engagement for every worker from head office to the front line.