by Susan Young | November 9, 2015

This may be the internal communications solution for clinicians who aren’t tethered to desks.

hccnInternal communications has a new friend in mobile.

Bolstering engagement with doctors, nurses and other staffers who aren’t staring at computer screens all day has long been a challenge in health care. It’s even more essential to health care in general when we consider that engaged employees directly affect the quality of patient care and safety.

Intranets, email newsletters and town hall meetings have become ho-hum modes of communication in many hospitals and health care facilities. Employee surveys are often cringe-worthy, at best, as staffers provide responses but feel frustrated by the lack of implementation.

A global workforce survey from Towers Watson has found that only 44 percent of employees at health care facilities were highly engaged. The problem is that people yearn for increased levels of creative engagement that is available at their convenience, not their employers.

Several hospitals have taken notice and, thanks to mobile technology, have begun to take action.

The new path

At NorthShore-LIJ Health Systems in New York, leaders say they recognize the need to flip internal communications on its head. With more than 60,000 employees—many of whom are front-line caregivers—several factors for mobile engagement became the centerpiece for change:

  • Ease of access
  • Jargon-free information
  • The right tools to help ease employee stress

Ally Bunin, AVP of organizational change, says her hospital’s APPrise Mobile is a customized app that is transforming internal communications. It’s especially important, she says, because nearly 80 percent of new hires are millennials who expect easy and instantaneous access to information through their mobile devices.

There’s one more major factor.

Northshore-LIJ is changing its name to Northwell Health, and the technology is integral to rebranding efforts.

According to a press release , the myNorthwell mobile app has a “Facebook-type-feel” to it, with news stories that populate the top of the page. Pictures, videos and images are featured, too. “An ‘Explore’ function will provide an organized, mobile intranet styled repository for human resource information, corporate communications and company portals as well as workplace tools, such as PeopleSoft,” says the release.

RELATED: Motivate employees with digital communications that inspire

Kandiss Bigler, director of communications at Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield, California, says her team’s use of mobile has improved the sense of transparency of the leadership team. It’s also helped reinforce pride and excellence.

“The workforce must be invested in the success of the organization. Front-line employees, nurses and physicians must feel connected to the organization’s goals, so they deliver the high-quality of service inside the walls and spread the word of positive achievements when they are in the community,” says Bigler. She adds that Kern is using technology to deliver information to employees so that they are the first, not the last, to know what’s happening at the hospital.

Lest we forget the metrics

Any communications initiative that’s not measured is like a tree that falls in the forest. Bigler says analytics have produced solid data on Kern’s mobile efforts. Through Google Analytics, Kern is able to:

  • Track the number of users
  • Monitor the number of times a document is accessed
  • Determine when and where information is being opened

Employees of all ages have expressed appreciation for the real-time communication, says Bigler.

Like Northshore-LIJ in New York, Kern is embarking on a rebranding campaign that will be app-dependent. “The app was outsourced with the ability to have custom branding. As part of the rebranding, internal communications is undergoing some changes and is handled both in house and by our partner,” says Bigler.

The use of mobile and employee engagement is also on the minds of communicators at Advocate Health in Chicago.

Tonya Lucchetti-Hudson is director of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Sherman Hospital. Communicators there encourage associates to use OWA (Outlook Web App) to access email when they are out and about. Mobile instant messaging is also available via the Microsoft Lync app, and Sharepoint is provided securely as well, says Lucchetti-Hudson.

The big news for Advocate? Its intranet will be accessible via mobile early next year.

Though HIPAA and other privacy concerns pose inherent challenges in terms of health care communications, Bigler says Kern Medical is catching up.

How are they doing it? Leadership asked, listened and then acted upon the results.

It’s worth a try.

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