With many structural changes, mergers and service changes within the NHS, it can be a challenge to communicate these successfully to your audiences. However digital can be the perfect way to not only keep your audiences informed about these changes but also help them to embrace new ways of delivering services.
We’ve recently been working with Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust and Barts Health NHS Trust to help them with their digital communications following their mergers. Together we’ve learnt some important lessons and would like to share some tips with you.
1. Make practical information easy to find
No matter how important a new brand, partnership, department or building is to your organisation, your service users’ priorities will still be access to information about practical services and care. Ensure they can quickly find this without having to figure out your internal restructuring to do so.
This practical approach can also be extended to GPs and referral information. This can be as simple as providing downloadable referral forms.
Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust (shown below) do a great job of providing clear practical information aimed at different audiences.
2. Provide reassurance
With the news full of headlines about NHS cuts, bear in mind you are talking to a suspicious audience who now more than ever need reassurance they are getting top quality care. Show them how delivering familiar services in new ways, for example through integrated teams or at home can actually be a better experience for them. Consider using video to explain new services; having staff or even patients explain changes will help you instil trust in your users.
3. Get your social media strategy in place
Social media channels such as Twitter are perfect for giving users regular updates on service changes. Social media provides the perfect opportunity to talk to your audience directly and involve them in your organisation. Use different channels appropriately, for example use Linkedin to speak to professional audiences, while Facebook could be used to keep Trust members informed.
You also need to think about how to publish and monitor your social media presence. Are you able to get other people across the organisation involved? Do they know how to use social media? Do you have guidelines in place?
“The world of social media can seem like a scary place, particularly for the NHS. It’s so huge and is changing all the time, so consider making it more manageable by educating staff outside of the web team on how to monitor and respond on social media too. Precedent helped us to do this by providing a social media guide which was full of really practical tips and advice to help get us started straight away. ”
Fiona Harlow, Head of Web and Digital Services, Southern Health.
4. Inform and involve your staff
Strong internal communication will feed through to strong consistent external communication too.
Internal digital communication tools like your intranet can help to keep staff informed of changes and how they will affect not only them but service users too.
Capitilise on the intranet being a two-way communcation channel by using it to help staff have their say on changes or contribute ideas for improving services.
Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust has recently merged, so Intranet has employed a “Get to know…” area to help staff learn about different teams within the Trust.
5. Don’t reinvent the wheel
When change happens it’s inevitable that the web department will be rushed off their feet, so take advantage of third party services such as NHS Choice’s syndication content which provides a multitude of tools, content and videos for use on your site.
Also don’t be afraid to direct people to other organisations who’s websites often have more detailed information than your web team would ever have time to provide.
The above shows how Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust use external sites to support information given on their site.
6. Promote yourselves to the right people
With an increasingly competitive environment there is more pressure for NHS organisations to promote their services to commissioners and referrers. While it’s important to promote success and achievements, be careful this doesn’t clutter up the user journey for users, instead clearly identify areas of the site that will be helpful for your users.