Best Practice

Four Challenges Facing Healthcare Communicators – And How You Can Fix Them

Providing excellent internal communications in a large company with diverse employees can be challenging—even more so when your business is a healthcare system. Nicklaus Children’s Health System knows this well.

Between the children’s hospital, the hospital foundation, and nearly a dozen nonprofit outpatient centers, the organization has more than 4,200 employees in 17 locations.

With such a diverse group of employees, a one-size-fits-all approach just isn’t going to work. So, the internal communications team at NCHS worked with Poppulo to address their biggest challenges.

In a recent Poppulo webinar, Francis Forte and Victoria Mijares of NCHS described how they did this.  Here are a few of the highlights.

Employees are on the go most of the day

Doctors, nurses, residents, and fellows make up 60% of NCHS’s employees. Between clinicians and other staff, like facilities and environmental services teams, most employees are on the go all day. Since they’re not always in front of a computer, their access to information is limited.

To connect with these hard-to-reach employees, Poppulo created a solution with a mobile-friendly design. It lets employees read the company newsletter right on their smartphone or iPad instead of having to log into Outlook. Links and embedded videos load right from the newsletter—no need to open a separate web browser—which simplifies things for users and drives traffic to the newsletter.

And because most staff is pressed for time, NCHS keeps videos to under 90 seconds to keep employees’ attention.

Employees expect interactive communications

NCHS’s employees wanted to be able to interact with emails, newsletters, and other communications. The internal communications team found that embedding videos and photo albums in its emails made them more dynamic and helped employees feel like they were interacting with the company.

But the team went beyond that to really drive employee engagement.

First, they gave their internal communications a social media feel: employees can like and comment on articles and receive notifications when a colleague responds to one of their comments. This helps employees feel engaged, have conversations with colleagues, and get quick answers to their questions—and it also gives the communications team feedback on current materials and valuable insights they can use in planning future content.

Second, they use gamification—prizes, giveaways, and friendly competition—to engage employees with their content. Email newsletters often include a brainteaser or a hashtag contest, with the answer or winner announced in the next newsletter.

Sometimes the games are just for fun, to get people engaged and socializing with each other. But they can also be an effective way to teach something new and get employees to read, for example, a new policy or initiative.

Employees have different communications needs

NCHS’s employees span five generations, and they want to be able to access information in different ways. Millennials and Generation Z prefer mobile-friendly communications that they can access on their smartphones, whereas other groups want to receive information via postal mail.

So, to maximize their effectiveness, the communications team went directly to employees to learn what their preferences were and what they could remember about recent communications. Then they took this information and implemented some changes.

In addition, employees at NCHS fill different roles in different locations, and sometimes they need different information. Personalization and target messaging help the communications team connect with employees on another level. This can be as simple as using a personalized subject line to get employees to open their emails, or creating articles targeted to employees in a specific job or location.

A Poppulo tool called the Active Directory provides assistance with these efforts, connecting to your human resource information system to automatically add or remove contacts.

Employees have information overload

Especially in the healthcare field, employees can receive more information than they know what to do with. For example, nurses have to keep their licenses and certifications up to date and take continuing education (CE) courses. Any lapses can impact the healthcare system that employs them. In addition, the hospital offers many educational courses that would help nurses meet their CE requirements.

To remind nurses about both of these issues, the communications team would send multiple emails to nurses, especially when their licenses were about to expire.

Good idea. But the result was that nurses were receiving so many emails that they often missed the critical ones. So, NCHS simplified their internal communications policy with an 80/20 rule: anything that isn’t urgent and doesn’t affect at least 80% of employees goes out in the weekly newsletter, not in a separate email or text message.

The newsletter is integrated with an employee portal that houses news, events, forms, and other resources. Employees can click on a link in the email and be directed to the portal for more information. They can also go directly to the portal and scroll through the live feed, looking for articles that interest them.

The internal communications team uses other resources strategically to round out their strategy of engaging employees and avoiding information overload. Their proprietary iCreate app lets employees recognize each other and earn recognition points that can be redeemed for fun prizes. The team also uses EZ Texting, a platform for mass and targeted texting, to schedule training reminders and send urgent messages (like hurricane warnings) to a specific group or office location.

Quick, informal team huddles happen daily or weekly, depending on the department, and include brief status reports, important information or upcoming deadlines, and expressions of appreciation for little or big acts. Monthly town hall meetings, which are streamed live in the employee portal, give employees a chance to get information and updates from senior leaders—and to ask any question, no holds barred, and get an answer.


By partnering with Poppulo and employing new tools and strategies, NCHS transformed their internal communications and increased employee engagement across the board.

If you’d like to learn more, check out Francis and Victoria’s Poppulo webinar How Nicklaus Children’s Health System transformed their internal communications to create a winning IC strategy.


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