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3 Takeaways from an EHR Internal Communications Strategy

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, November 2, 2011

When healthcare organizations are rolling out a new electronic health record system, it’s easy for marketers to get caught up in the benefits: it will make patient interactions faster, greener, and improve the continuity of care. But to attain these outcomes, the entire organization must be on board. While it may seem like a no-brainer—who wouldn’t want to use an EHR?!—there may be pockets within the organization tentative about using a new technology. To win those groups over, you’ll need a comprehensive internal communications strategy.

For Catholic Health Initiatives, a 73-hospital system with 63,000 employees across 19 states, internal communications is both a necessity and a big challenge. So when the system’s leaders decided to instate an EHR called OneCare, they realized that traditional internal communications channels alone wouldn’t get the job done and laid out a detailed plan to win over key stakeholders.

While CHI’s communications plan for OneCare was rolled out over dozens of hospitals, it contains strategies even a small community medical center can use.

Determine your audiences, tailor the message, and disseminate

The CHI marketing team broke its stakeholder groups into three levels: national and local executives, physicians and clinicians, and all other employees. Because the EHR was a $1.5 billion multiyear initiative and would initially be a significant change for physicians and other clinician users, marketing leaders decided to tailor their message to each group.

This is a strategy any hospital marketer at any-sized organization can implement. When rolling out a big announcement, the message you use for physicians shouldn’t be the same as the one aimed at clerical staff. You need to determine a handful of key groups, develop a message for each one, and disseminate it through the most appropriate channels, whether that be email or supervisors or even an old-fashioned newsletter.

For OneCare, CHI used supervisors as the primary means of communications, and also posted regular updates in print newsletters and on the intranet. They also rolled out the message during regular meetings and special “huddles.”

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