How a children’s hospital uses an app to strengthen its comms

Can an app strengthen communication among caregivers? According to employees at a children’s hospital in the US, it’s a resounding yes.

Today I have a guest post for you by Frank Wolf. CMO and co-founder of Staffbase. He’s shared how employees at Franciscan Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts have been using an app to connect and communicate with each other.

Apps have been part of many communicators’ diet for a few years. There are some excellent ones around, I’ve certainly seen both good and bad examples while judging industry awards in recent years.

Only last week I wrote about how to use mobile for internal comms as part of a skills guide I was updating for the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). As I was writing it, it struck me how much has changed since the first version I contributed to a few years ago.

Ingredients for success for me are how to make apps live longer. So if you have one for an annual conference, for example, how can you continue to use it in between the event? Done well, apps should encourage two-way conversations. Once you’ve started down that road, how can you keep the momentum up?

I’d love to hear your experience. Do get in touch if you have a story to share with other professional communicators via the All Things IC blog.

I’m always keen to share examples of people who are using technology well for internal communication, so am delighted to hand you over to Frank to share their story…

How a children’s hospital is strengthening healthcare comms

Frank Wolf

As anyone who has ever visited a doctor knows, communication affects every aspect of health care.

Yet a report from CRICO Strategies revealed that failures in communication burdened the US health care system with $1.7 billion in costs from 2009 to 2013.

The study concluded that “every mode and system by which patients and caregivers share health-related information is vulnerable to failure.”

And according to a recent Forbes article, “no one escapes a share of the responsibility. Scientists don’t talk to patients, doctors don’t talk to doctors, researchers don’t talk to government, electronic health records don’t talk to anyone or anything, and on and on. Thus, poor communication, little communication, or no communication at all can be blamed for significant flaws and failures in the US health system.”

Poor communication hurts healthcare

Healthcare is of course a stressful vocation, one in which employees must make instant decisions in emergencies, and often work around the clock.

Turnover is high and retention rates are low. This chaotic environment makes effective communication even more difficult.

It’s also worth noting that in the United States, two-thirds of all urban hospitals are nonprofits. As recent Staffbase-initiated study of professionals with either “employee experience” or “employee engagement” in their titles revealed, the nonprofit sector contains no more than 11% of the total number of people in either category, likely revealing that these institutions have been slow to adopt employee-centric practices, further alienating workers.

Recognising the new communications landscape

Finding solutions to these problems is a massive undertaking, but a consideration of how our digital, mobile-first culture has revolutionised the ways we communicate is one good place to start looking.

Carla Kath, marketing communications specialist at Franciscan Children’s Hospital in Brighton, Massachusetts, couldn’t agree more. “Communicators must recognise the new landscape,” she says.

“The workforce is changing, and the way that they’re working is changing, so the platform has to evolve in order to ensure that communications are maintained.”

Connecting the Caregivers

At Franciscan Children’s, Ms. Kath was tasked with connecting the hospital’s entire network of caregivers.

“Our challenge was that with so many care providers in so many different parts of our organisation, we didn’t have an effective way of communicating and talking to one another in order to learn what we were all doing,” she said.

“So we started to look at an employee app as a solution that provides both desktop and mobile options that can reach all of our employees.”

Everyone loves “TheFRAN”

Ms. Kath’s team created innovative ways of implementing the app, and her workforce adapted quickly. After just two months, 80% of the hospital’s staff were using the mobile app, designed by Staffbase.

They’ve called it “TheFRAN,” a popular nickname for the hospital. “The app has given our employees a way to communicate that they’ve never had before. They’re starting to engage with one another and they’re starting to celebrate each other’s achievements and milestones. With this very positive step we’re creating a more engaging culture.”

Push notifications and analytics enhance the employee experience

Franciscan Children’s uses its app to push messages when employee use surges, like when they arrive at work or during lunch breaks.

TheFRAN provides real-time analytics that Franciscan Children’s couldn’t have previously gotten through its email or newsletters. That information allows communicators to enhance an employee’s experience of content by adjusting to what the analytics show.

“We have an employee engagement survey, then we’ll have focus groups to analyse the findings and come up with solutions for the findings,” Ms. Kath explains.

We all contribute

When Franciscan Children’s launched the new app, they asked interested employees to be contributors. “It’s a way to create an engaging space,” Ms. Kath says, “where we could celebrate our culture and provide recognition for our employees.”

In May, Franciscan Children’s profiled its counsellors, and patients offered testimonials to caregivers who had helped them through difficult times. And it’s not just the patients. On its internal platforms, Franciscan Children’s allows employees to offer their colleagues endorsements and praise for work well done.

Post author: Frank Wolf is CMO and co-founder of Staffbase. He is an intranet and communication expert with more than a decade of experience in helping companies connecting to their employees. He is passionate about internal communication and digital technologies that create an enjoyable place to work.

Thank you Frank. You can find out more about Staffbase via their website and find them on Twitter @staffbaseHQ. You can find him on Twitter @frankx

Learn about internal communication

If you want to learn about internal communication, then you’re welcome to attend one of my All Things IC Masterclasses.

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I will be attending the conference, do so say hello if you sign up and see me there.

Thank you for stopping by,

First published on the All Things IC blog 11 September 2017.SaveSaveSaveSave






  1. Employee apps must be platform independent and must reach to everyone whether they are any device. Thanks for sharing!!

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