Using your health care system’s intranet effectively

The intranet, for some health care organizations, this is the hub for all things HR and the primary source of internal news, a place that is visited frequently and relied upon heavily. For others, it’s a static wasteland of mismatched documents, broken links and virtual cobwebs. The question is, is your organization the former or the latter?Here are a few tips for ensuring that your intranet is an innovative tool that is helpful to all employees … and better yet, used by all employees, too:

  • Consider what you have already
    Conduct usability testing and distribute electronic surveys to staff to discover how they use the intranet, what they use most on the intranet, what they think should be added to the intranet and other insights. Then, take this information to ditch or redevelop the content people aren’t using or can’t find, and play up and refine the content that gets the most use and highest volume of traffic. Encourage a variety of staff from multiple departments—from physicians and nurses, to administrators and volunteers—to participate in these usability studies and surveys by offering some sort of incentive, like a pedometer or a stainless steel sport bottle.
  • Provide compelling content and useful resources
    Content that users find interesting and useful, as well as content that is updated frequently, is key to the success of every intranet. Content should include the obligatory HR documents, organizational handbooks and best practice guides, brand guidelines, emergency preparedness plans and more. Beyond this, content should also include news, announcements and other editorial content, as well as content that appeals to the needs of employees. Sunnybrook Hospital, based in Toronto, includes schedule information for its free shuttle bus and details about how to buy discounted transit passes on “Sunnynet,” its intranet. Need some more pointers on content? Here you go…

    • Submit requests for staff and volunteer contributions—content doesn’t just have to come from the marketing department. One of the best ways to keep the intranet relevant to staff is to provide content that they have a vested interest in. If they need an extra push to submit an article, consider hosting editorial contests regularly—articles can be submitted by anyone and voted on by readers. Winners can receive prizes like a gourmet cookie assortment or a logo’d watch.
    • Try internal blogging—get different departments involved and even encourage your CEO to contribute, too.
    • Go beyond offering organizational news—use RSS feeds to pull in industry news feeds or local news coverage. Or, take a cue from IBM’s intranet and personalize news feeds based on each individual user. Employees there receive internal and external news based on self-created profiles outlining their jobs and interests. Those in finance, sales and management also have job-specific “portlets” that provide all the tools and applications they need directly from their home page.
    • Think outside the box— consider adding features like an employee marketplace, where users can post items and homes for sale, apartments for rent and more. Build an intranet that allows for HR and administrative forms to be submitted online or incorporate an e-commerce function for submitting office supply orders.
  • Integrate with external sites and enable social engagement
    Be sure to integrate your health care organization’s entire online presence into your intranet. Don’t just link to other intranet sites, link to the public-facing website, industry sites and local news coverage of your organization and its patients.

Don’t forget to be social, either. By integrating social media tools and networking features into your organization’s intranet, employees are enabled to casually—yet productively—connect and engage with hospital leadership, administrators, executives and colleagues through customized profile pages, employee and department blogs and videos and through online meetings and webinars. Some hospital systems have even found intranets to be a channel of communication that fosters broader work-related collaboration.

  • Incorporate alerts and messaging
    Being able to use your hospital’s intranet to communicate with employees during an emergency serves as an educational vehicle and an integral part of your hospital’s foundation. Consider pop-up alerts, prominently placed links to important emergency materials or splash pages that appear as the homepage of the intranet with emergency processes when an emergency is occurring.
  • Promote the intranet regularly
    Out of sight, out of mind. Remind employees of what can be found on the intranet and how to access it regularly. Promote new editorial content, encourage blog commenting and by marketing the intranet internally. Cross-promote with internal e-mails, post reminders on flyers or table tents in break rooms. Hand out swag items, like pens and notepads with a fun tagline and organization logo.

Hospitals with properly designed intranets regularly report a marked improvement in their ability to increase efficiency, unite their staff, promote corporate culture and effectively communicate throughout the health care system. Consider using your health care organization’s intranet most effectively today.

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