Healthcare Needs Rx for Internal Communications

By Daphne Swancutt

iStock 000010062821Small 300x225 Healthcare Needs Rx for Internal CommunicationsBy most accounts, 2011 will be the start of a watershed in the healthcare industry. From HIT spending, meaningful use and HIPAA 5010 and ICD-10, to ACOs, M&As and the demand by consumers for more sophisticated digital technologies.

Imagine the communication challenges.

Unfortunately, most folks will be so focused on the operational and administrative monster behind these changes, communication will get crushed beneath the avalanche. This would be bad. Very, very bad.

As healthcare organizations begin tackling the mandates and opportunities of health reform legislation, it’s more important than ever to make communication a priority. And, internal communications may be where you’ll reap the best return.

That’s because all eyes (read: the ones who reimburse and reward) will be looking to the healthcare companies who demonstrate innovation. Innovation is typically created by motivated employees and other internal stakeholders. And, motivation is largely fueled by communication.

Ninety-five percent of U.S. CEOs agree, saying that internal communications is critical to the success of an organization. Yet, only 22 percent of them said they were handling it effectively. What a bizarre disconnect.

The problem lies in the fact that most healthcare companies often fail in meeting the basic communication needs of employees and other staff, and traditional top-down models for internal comms simply aren’t doing the work. Consider how that old model is constructed:

  • Senior executives talk at employees, telling them what they think is important.
  • Employees receive information (maybe), pass along to other employees (maybe), and comment to one another about the senior executives’ thoughts (you probably don’t want to know what those comments are).

This is not a prescription for innovation. Consider this alternative model:

  • Senior executives and company Ambassadors communicate directly with each other, sharing thoughts, ideas, opinions and immediate feedback.
  • Ambassadors communicate directly with other employees and internal stakeholders.
  • Employees communicate with others within your healthcare company about the information shared.
  • Ambassadors solicit and receive feedback from the field.
  • Ambassadors communicate back to senior executives.

It’s not just a nicer way of communicating—it’s measurably more effective, too. MedImmune, the worldwide biologics division of AstraZeneca, made it happen. Its internal Ambassador initiative—MediAmbassador—resulted in 90 percent of employees (3,500 of them worldwide) who say they feel engaged, included and inspired.

For other healthcare companies who have struggled with internal comms, this is good medicine for what may ail you in 2011, and beyond.

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  1. Phil Baumann says:

    Internal communications have always been huge challenges and opportunities in Enterprise.

    The main problem with internal comms is that most enterprises are designed for *interruption*, not production. Answer the phone…check email…accept this meeting invite, etc.

    What are solutions? Would social networks help?

    I’m not so sure that consumer-designed social networks (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) work all that well in Enterprise, in spite of their hype.

    The way to aaddress internal comms is by addressing the processes underlying operations. That’s a very difficult task, but comms won’t change much as long as the culture is tied to interruption designs and technologies.

    But we do have technologies and software which, if put into the right contexts and processes, can foster the communications which foster innovation.

    Here’s the hard part: it’s just enough to change comms culture. You have to change *behavior*.

    Comminications and Marketing agencies must, therefore, understand behavioral economics.

    Phil – @PhilBaumann on Twitter

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