Healthcare communications strategies for the new era

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The new era of healthcare communications

From the start of the pandemic, communicators in the healthcare industry saw a massive increase in the importance of their role—and in their workload. Learn how the comms team at Atrium Health handled these crisis communications, and what it taught them about engaging a hybrid workforce of more than 70K employees serving critical healthcare needs.

Video Transcript

Sonia Fiorenza:

I’m going to go ahead and get started. Welcome to our session called The New Era of (healthcare) Communications and I’ll explain in just a minute, what we’re thinking of with those brackets. So I want to introduce you, I’m very happy to introduce you to Chris Berger, the VP of Enterprise Communications for Atrium Health, and Chris is going to spend some time today talking with us about Atrium’s program. It’s a SocialChorus program called Teal Insider, and some of the improvements that it’s helped them with, optimizing their communications and even seeing some improvements on their annual employee engagement survey which I was really excited to hear about.

The reason that we put healthcare in brackets is Chris and I have both worked in healthcare. Earlier in my career, I worked at Amgen, a biotech company in California, and we’ve also both worked in retail. I worked for Gap Inc., Chris worked for Walmart, so some pretty large retailers, and we actually believe that the lessons that are learned here apply to all industries. We were talking a lot about that as we were in our prep session, so wanted to say that if you’re not in the healthcare industry, we’ve got something here for you. If you are in the healthcare industry, we’ve definitely got some lessons, especially in the last year and I think even in the last day for Chris, he was just sharing with me.

So before I dive into the session, let me just do quick housekeeping. If you have questions during the session, you can put them in the chat and Chris and I will be answering them. We’ll weave them in throughout the session. We’ve only got 30 minutes. So we’re going to talk fast if we don’t get through all your questions, we’ll definitely follow up. And there’s some members of the SocialChorus team on the line as well so they’ll try to answer some questions directly in the chat. Additionally, we have a tech firm convene here to help with technical issues.

I’m going to let Chris talk in just a minute, I promise, but I want to share a fun fact that I’ve had the pleasure of learning about him as I’ve gotten to know him in the last year or so. And that is in addition to being a stellar communications professional, he’s actually a coffee roaster and I’m a little bit of a coffee geek and a coffee snob and so I was thrilled to find out that Chris runs his own side hustle called Sugar Creek Coffee. In fact, I drink Sugar Creek coffee every single morning. I order it from him and it gets shipped across the country. And funny thing, my canister here is empty, but I think that my post person is arriving during our talk today.

So my Sugar Creek coffee is going to be arriving on my doorstep with my latest shipment. So I heard Melissa Tucson from Providence tell us yesterday that you’re only ever one good yoga class away from a good mood and I think Chris might say you’re only one cup of coffee away from a good mood.

Chris Berger:

Absolutely.

Sonia Fiorenza:

With that, I’ll turn it over to you, Chris.

Chris Berger:

I love it. That’s great. No, thanks for having me is going to be great. Really been looking forward to this since we’ve talked about this and I know we have a lot to talk about in 30 minutes.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Sure do. Well, why don’t you start, for those who don’t know, telling them about Atrium Health and your organization?

Chris Berger:

Sure. So Atrium Health, we are headquartered here in Charlotte, North Carolina, and we are a large system, healthcare system, the largest in the Southeast, and we’re spread throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and really growing all the time with new partners. And it’s been really exciting. I mean, some of the numbers just throwing out there nearly 40 hospitals 71,000 teammates. We have 15 million patient interactions each year and really our whole mission is around health hope and healing for all, and we use that word for all quite a bit because everything that we do really centers around making sure that the same level of care is provided to not just those that can afford it, but those that also can’t.

So we’re really proud about the number of people that we serve each year that really afford free and uncompensated care. It’s amazing. It’s about $5.6 million a day which is, that number always boggles my mind. And a day we provide nearly over-

Speaker 3:

Thank you. Thank you.

Chris Berger:

But yeah, it’s a pretty exciting place to be a part of. I joined about four years ago, actually just celebrated my four year anniversary last week. And we came from Walmart, like you mentioned, and have really been trying to make sure that from a communications perspective we’re modernizing, we’re staying up. And as you mentioned, I think many of the things that retail went through about 10 years ago, we talked about omni-channel and some of those other fun buzzwords, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do in healthcare. It’s becoming much more consumer friendly and we’re maniacally focused on the consumer and that’s really what we’re looking at as we continue to talk internally and externally about communications, how do we make that consumable for them?

Sonia Fiorenza:

I also love that you had the word hope in your mission when you said… Tell me again, it was hope healing?

Chris Berger:

Hope and healing.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Hope and healing. It’s a tongue-twister, but I love that wording there as well. Well, let’s start with that you started to give us the big picture, tell us a little bit more about your goals for communications at Atrium Health and what you’ve achieved in the last four years since you’ve been there.

Chris Berger:

Yeah, yeah. It’s been an exciting journey. It really started, like I said, for me four years ago, there was an incredible team that was already in place. I had the pleasure of coming and joining the team and then just really my goal has been from the beginning of really connecting communications throughout the entire enterprise together. And as you imagine, when you have more than 40 hospitals and 1500 locations and 70,000 teammates everywhere, it’s an interesting endeavor to try and make sure that everybody’s on the same page.

And I know the big shock came for us kind of my second year here when our employee engagement numbers came back and one of the top things that they wanted to address was communication. And if you’ve had the pleasure of working in communications and get employee engagement survey out, you know that communications is typically always on there. It’s been at every single company that I’ve ever worked at. And you take a little bit of time to kind of explain how do you unpack what communications mean, big C communications, which is my team or little C communications, which is just what people do every day. And-

Sonia Fiorenza:

I have to interject and agree with you that yes, in every engagement survey I’ve ever done in my career in communications, it always comes up. I had a CHRO who once said that communications is like air, everybody wants more of it, they’re never going to say they don’t. So unpack that a little bit more. What’s the big C and the little C communications?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. So for me, when I say big C, it’s really the communication function and that’s what my team leads. So my team is separated or combined, I should say. We have a standard internal communications team, we have an executive communications team. We have a crisis management media relations team. We also have a clinical communications team that really focuses on really diving in and supporting all of the service lines within Atrium Health. And then we also have a reputation management team that’s fairly new, a team of one that is really focused on our reputation and how we can advance that nationally.

So those teams work together to really… We’re also combined, interestingly enough, with the marketing function at Atrium Health. So we sit side-by-side, we work with them and we have a division that’s known as marketing communications and consumer, and the consumer part’s really focused on the analytics. So we can look into the numbers and make smart decisions. So it’s really been really a great effort to bring everything together to make sure that they’re all rolling together at the same time and it’s been a lot of fun.

So that big C little C has been really important because we see little C is a lot of times, that’s what teammates they are asking for. They’re asking from their manager, they’re asking for other. Like Malcolm Gladwell said, they’re asking for context. They want to know why something is happening and what is happening. And so what we’re trying to do, have been trying to do on this journey is really giving that information to them at the right time, wherever they are no matter where they are, if they’re at home or at work or wherever, that they can get that information.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s great. And when you think about getting all of their information or getting where they are, can you talk a little bit about where Teal Insider, your SocialChorus platform fits into that?

Chris Berger:

Oh, absolutely. So one of the first things when that engagement survey came out, that wasn’t the greatest numbers. We looked at several different options and one of the things I’ve been wanting to do for a long time is really meet teammates wherever they are and allow them to consume information how they already do that. And typically, what is the one thing that every person has on them? It’s some type of a smartphone. I don’t care who you are, you pretty much have a smartphone of some type that you’re interacting with and so give them what we need to do.

And that was we started down this journey and Teal Insider is our app that we use and we have a great team that leads all of the efforts around that. And that has really changed the game of really the way we communicate. And it’s not the only way, obviously, but it is a very important spoke of the wheel of communications that we put out there. And we’ve seen some amazing… Helped by COVID. I mean, in some ways COVID has helped adoption rate. We’re over 50% now. Of those that are on the app, over 60% of them are engaged and have continued to have high retention on those teammates. So we’re seeing some really great numbers, and we’re just trying to capitalize on that so that when we’re past these events in our history that we’ll continue with those great numbers as well.

Sonia Fiorenza:

I love those numbers, by the way. You mentioned that it’s changed the way that you communicate. Can you talk a little bit more about that? How has it changed the way you communicate?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. I think for us email was king and I think that’s a lot of communications, they just relied on communications and on email to send out every single note. And we still use email, don’t get me wrong, but what we do is we coincide that with the Teal Insider app. And I think the way that we can segment and really target teammates, I think that is one of the very huge beneficial parts of the app. Above and beyond the things that you typically think about an app like push notifications. To have that ability of any case to send out a push notification is beautiful and I’ll use yesterday as an example. When the news started hitting about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and we were trying to figure out, okay, how do we quickly get information?

One of the core things our president CEO, Gene Woods, who’s very much one of the spear head leaders of this app and getting better communication platform in place was how do we communicate to every single employee, no matter where they are at the same time if some event were to happen? And I think yesterday was a really good example of that actually taking place. We had an event that kind of here we are rolling out the vaccines, we have the Pfizer, we had the Moderna, and then all of a sudden we have Johnson & Johnson come out and say that we have to the FTC and FDA recommended delaying it or putting a pause on it.

So we wanted to let everybody know about that. We started with a group called Team Teal and that’s our internal ambassador team. And we sent a very first notification out to them, gave them some information that they could then share later. And then from that, we rolled out the rest of our plans to everybody else, but team teal has been vital and really to take it, I guess, a level higher, one of our strategies was to make sure that that we were communicating straight to teammates, the cascade in general. I mean, we all love the cascade of communications, start with the officers and work their way down. We knew that was broken.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Do we really love it? I mean, let’s talk about that.

Chris Berger:

Well we love it, in quotations right? And so we just knew that that wasn’t going to really get us where we wanted to go. And so we had to go straight to teammates and that has helped out tremendously because we’ve been able to give them context, like I said, for whatever’s happening, whether it’s a crisis, whether it’s just an everyday story that we want to share, and it’s really helped build pride, I think, tremendously in teammates as they want to share a lot of different things to their friends, their neighbors, or even during a crisis, so to speak because we have them with 70,000 teammates, we’re going to have something that happens every now and then. It really, really helps to be able to just get straight to teammates to where they have that information at their fingertips, friends or neighbors or asking about things.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Yep. Makes sense. And Stephanie did comment because we were a little disparaging. The cascade can provide context where there is none, but it is definitely a variable and unreliable I think is [crosstalk 00:14:24].

Chris Berger:

And then again, I think this is a, as I mentioned, this is a spoke to the wheel of communications, right? This is not an end all be all solution, but this is a very, very valuable solution because, I mean, I’ll say one of the examples is we have obviously a lot of undesked workers. So everywhere from our environmental services team who they don’t even access email. So how are you going to get down to their level and make sure that they’re the information that they need? And I think that we have a lot of nurses, and nurses, they don’t sit in front of a computer, they’re delivering care. So how do you make sure that they have that information during their breaks?

Guess what, they can go onto the app and now get that information that they didn’t have before, or they would’ve have to go onto an email, which they probably are. And we’re giving it to them in a quick read snackable bites type of information as opposed to a long form email that they would have had to read through.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Right. And you mentioned that this is one spoke. So another piece of your communication strategy you alluded was this Teal ambassadors program. I unconsciously chose teal is my color this morning so I’m actually feeling you must have gotten to me with your ambassador program. But can you talk a little bit about what that program is because it’s pretty innovative, especially in a healthcare organization?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. One of the things that we really wanted to start was an ambassador program, both internally and externally. And internally, our team Teal, they’re comprised of everyday teammates, everything from your lower level, I hate to even use that word, but everyday teammate to vice presidents. And so it’s not if you are just a frontline worker or whatever, that you can’t be part of this program, we actually purposely are putting people in place. And we started it, we were hoping to get 50. We had that. And then we worked our way up from there and now we have over 400, crouching on 500 teammates across the system at different locations who we use as kind of our frontline who to go to for any event that happens or just keeping them informed.

They have their own channel on the Teal Insider app, they get to basically hear about events before most people do, sometimes even officers quite honestly, because we’re making sure that they are the people that everybody knows who to go to. And we also set them up, we make it very exclusive. Before COVID, we had lots of little retreats, we gave them special jackets and it was an exclusive thing. They had to have vice-presidential approval in order to be part of it, so it was a really big deal and that has really helped us as we’ve navigated lots of different events and things like that where we really want to make sure that they understand so that when people, their friends, neighbors, and coworkers are asking about things, they know how to answer those questions, and they hear it from us as opposed to hearing it from the media.

Sonia Fiorenza:

You’ve almost inserted a different place in that cascade that we’ve talked about before with team Teal, as opposed to relying on every single manager to be the ones to do that.

Chris Berger:

That’s exactly right. And we did a external as well, and it was a very conscious effort to make sure that we’re sharing our information externally as much as ensuring. Because I think a lot of times organizations are a little hesitant or they don’t want to be too boastful about their work, but I think that can be a detriment too because nobody knows about the great stuff that you’re doing. And so we really started to engage lots of different platforms to be able to share our stories out there and that started with the brand journalism effort and that was one of the most important teams that I forgot to mention, I can’t believe that our brand journalism team that does social and and also our daily dose blog other things that, that really is our springboard for most of this information that we share.

Sonia Fiorenza:

And I have to encourage people to connect and follow you on LinkedIn. I do that, and the news that you put out, I mean, it feels like you’re a news organization. Throughout COVID, I actually was getting a lot of very helpful tips whether it was masks or vaccinations or what have you. I’m in California across the country and I was getting them from your content. The content that makes me smile the most, I think I’ve shared this with you, is your window washers. Describe for people what the window washers do and why that makes me smile so much when I see the picture on LinkedIn.

Chris Berger:

Yeah. So once a year, we have our Levine Cancer Hospital. It’s just an amazing event where window washers come in and they dress up like superheroes. And they’re basically scaling the sides of the building, washing the windows like they would normally do, but wearing superheroes outfits. So not only are they washing the windows, but they’re interacting with our patients who are obviously in a children’s hospital and providing that, again, goes along with that health, hope and healing.

Just providing that little glimmer of hope, those smiles on their faces. And every time that happens, it is a pretty special event and we love sharing that just because it is so… It’s something you wouldn’t even think about, but it’s something that happens every single year and it is a very, very cool moment.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Yeah. And tell me a little bit about how the ambassador program has changed what you’ve been able to accomplish from an earned media perspective especially in the last year.

Chris Berger:

Yeah. I think earned media is always one of those huge things, and it’s really hard. This last year, I mean, COVID obviously did some amazing things, but I think one of the things that the groundwork was laid before COVID for us to be known as subject matter experts in our field. And I think when COVID hit, that allowed us at that point from a thought leadership perspective to really make sure that news organizations were looking to us.

And so it’s quite frequent that you’ll see representatives from our organization, from our president and CEO down to leaders within each area to be on CNN, to be on Fox, to be testifying before Congress about all of the things that have happened and that we’ve seen and experienced and adding a little bit of thought of how can we make this better? How can we make healthcare better experience for everyone?

And some of the things that we’ve done have just been truly hugely innovative. We started when we saw some testing back in the beginning, when we started seeing some of the COVID testing irregularities and disparities in underserved neighborhoods, we started bringing [inaudible 00:21:34] vehicles right to them in the neighborhoods. We didn’t wait for other things to happen, we brought them to them and we geographically knew where those were based on the systems that we already had in place.

We had hospital at home system that we alleviate and where most places we’re dealing with the hospital being overrun, we’ve served over 60,000. I can’t remember the last number but 60,000 patients in the comfort of their home through this program. And so those are some of the things that we’re putting out there and making sure that everybody knew about, and obviously everybody’s wanting to know more about that, and it’s just been really fantastic, just a way to get out there.

But that started with making sure that we had a great platform at the beginning to be able to do this and share this information externally, and again, that brand journalism telling the stories and making sure that we had a way to share those stories effectively. It’s just really proved hugely beneficial our earned media. I know we had to set our goals for this next year, and I was just like, no, hold on.

Sonia Fiorenza:

You can’t make stuff around here.

Chris Berger:

Let’s not do a year over year please, because we all know last year was unbelievably crazy and it was going to be hard to beat. But this year has started off obviously just as well and it’s been exciting to see, and that’s because the team that I have in place and the leadership team that I have in place is just really… I feel like I’ve worked a lot of places and I’ve told them this is the most phenomenal team I’ve ever worked with. Everybody working together and caring about each other is truly like a work family. And I think most of them feel the same way.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s fantastic. It makes the work even more rewarding.

Chris Berger:

Yeah.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Let’s kind of close the loop or cycle back all the way around here, you started out and Ray asked this question and it looks like some of your team is actually on here. Dolly is answering questions as well, but you talked about the big C, little C communications, the employee engagement survey, Teal Insider and then we went on this whole tangent of fields like about external communications, right? But let’s close that loop, what does that look like for when you bring it back your employees and how does that boost morale and change your employee engagement survey?

Chris Berger:

Yeah, I think what we saw was, I mean, it’s not what I think I saw, what we saw was a dramatic change in the numbers and people feeling, I think, for the first time in a very long time that they were actually being informed. And not just talked to, but the ability to share information themselves, things that they were proud about. We have that obviously set up through the app or on appropriate stories that they can share that externally, we have that enabled. And then we have lots of different things set up through the app just to continually keep them informed and we’re using a lot of those tools.

And what I tell everybody, it’s an investment. It’s something that we definitely say, “Look, you’ve got to have buy-in from the top,” because it’s not just an investment in time and resources, it’s also an investment in money obviously, but it has a huge, huge payoff at the end of the day and it is able to really engage everybody and pull them together and make them really proud. I think about the place that they work when you’re sharing those stories that already resonate with them but just aren’t being told. And so we’re able to get those increased special channels or different parts of the organization that during the election, obviously, the government relations channel was buzzing all the time.

There are so many things that we created a ability for them to share. We’re rolling out some new ones with nurses and they’re going to curate it and handle it all themselves. So there is a set it and forget it model that can be put in place, but there’s also a curated model where you need to approved things, obviously, before they go out. But it’s an investment, but I 100% think that the implementation of the app was one of those things that has helped us turn the tide and really turn from low engagement numbers when it came to communication to very high and I’m excited about that.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s awesome. So you are a health care company, and I worked at a healthcare company. There are a lot of regulations that go into how you communicate at the healthcare company, and one of the biggest resistances I hear is like, “No way. We can never have our employees sharing information.” Can you talk a little about that? How have you done that?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. And I think our team is incredibly… we deal in this HIPAA environment where everything is very much… they’re aware of the policies and there isn’t anything that goes out to the masses without being approved. And I think we follow and make sure that all of the policies are followed. We have social media policies just like we do with anything else. So I think it’s one of those things that we make sure, absolutely, that we’re following all the guidelines, but we also are really encouraging of people to share their stories and make sure that if they had a story to share to let us know about it.

So we are never at an end. I mean, we joke about this all the time. We’re not at an end for stories to share because we have tremendous stories that we share all the time, not just from patients who are recovered from miraculous injuries and things and things, and the doctors and through the system have been healed. But I think there’s so many other great stories out there just from a teammate side that it just makes you proud to work for an organization like this.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s great. Okay. I know we’re coming up to the wire, but let’s see if we can fire off a couple of these questions and maybe we’ll go a minute or so long since we’ve got a break. How did you choose your external ambassadors?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. So we have a key influencer list that, again, it started out very small, it’s now massive. And basically each executive owns a certain amount of key influencers that we chose, and we met with them and said, “Who are the people that you think are the most important and who do you have connections with?” So each one of them before any major event that we have, we just announced the location of our new school of medicine, wake forest school of medicine, the second location in Charlotte or in the Charlotte area, it’s part of the regional campus now with Wake Forest School Medicine in Winston-Salem. But we have a key influencer list that we made sure that we hit before hit went public that came from that.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Got it. And how many people in your team… I’m totally changing gears on you here, but how many people in your team are dedicated to internal communications and especially through your platform?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. So it’s not a dedicated person either. So Dana, I’ll call you out, does an amazing job on this platform and it helps out tremendously. And then Jolie Shifflet who you saw earlier interacting, she leads this incredible team that really keeps everybody informed. It’s also in collaboration with our HR partners. So that’s really important. Our HR communication partners really important to collaborate with them as well, but it’s not even the full-time role. Dana obviously does a whole lot more than this, but she is dedicated to kind of be in the product manager, so to speak, and she helps with this platform.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s great. And that’s one of the things that we find is a best practice across our customers is that the more you can distribute that communications and to allow others to help you, it grows your communications organization, right? You’ve got all these ambassadors and you have other business functions that are helping with your internal communications through the platform and that allows you to add more value.

Let’s see, we are right at the bottom of the hour here. We’ve got all the questions in the chat, so we’ll make sure that we follow up with some of these. I do want to thank you so much for your time. We both knew that this 30 minutes was going to go by so fast. If our attendees want to get in touch with you and learn more from your team, what’s the best way to do that?

Chris Berger:

Sure. You can connect with me on LinkedIn. Look for me. It’s Chris Berger. It’s B-E-R-G-E-R. Connect with me there, or chris.berger@atriumhealth.org. So either one of those, happy to help out and happy to answer any questions. And one of the things I love to do is make my team available to answer questions about this app because it’s been so transformative for us.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Well, we really appreciate how generous you are with your time now and also before and after this. So everyone knows we have a 30 minute break so everyone stretch and take that mental break that you need and grab a snack if you need one. And we’re going to regroup at 4:00 PM Eastern for our second set of breakouts. You can look at the list of breakout options on the agenda, on the Atrium page. And thanks again, Chris. I’m super excited for my coffee to show up in the next hour. I need some. All right. Thank you.

Chris Berger:

Thank you.

Sonia Fiorenza:

I don’t know if people can still hear us. We’re still about 60 or so people on the line. Wonder if you should start to answer any of these other questions that people are hanging out?

Chris Berger:

All right. [inaudible 00:31:19] says she can hear us.

Sonia Fiorenza:

[crosstalk 00:31:20] can hear you.

Chris Berger:

Okay. If they can, let’s answer some questions. I don’t mind that at all.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Okay. So let’s see. [Kurtsy 00:31:27] wants to know, with respect to external communications, can you share your strategy on increasing patient engagement through this platform? So you’ll have to talk about whether or not you’re…

Chris Berger:

Yeah. Through this platform, we don’t really do a whole lot of external. Besides there are some stories that, like I said, you can enable to have those be shared, and certainly the ones that we feel are appropriate and that would help us with what we want to do. Absolutely, they can share from the actual app. But for the most part, we use this as an internal communications app. We have a separate strategy from an external communication where we’ve used LinkedIn elevate in the past to basically share our stories a whole lot across their platform because that’s where we think a lot of thought leaders are. So we’ll continue that and I think it’s a really good way.

But we also, from an external standpoint, like I said, everything starts with our daily dose blog. And then we use our social media channels to obviously make sure that we’re sharing those appropriately, those stories. So it’s been exciting really to see the… And our newsroom page has been huge for that. As you mentioned, Sonia, it was like you get some of the information from our infographics and things like that.

When we share those a lot of times there’ll be organizations not even in our service area that we’ll use our graphics and things like that because they’re so informative. And that’s what we’re always trying to do, is try to simplify, make sure that they’re easy to understand, and I think that’s something that we’ll continue to try to do is use all of our platforms and make them as digestible as possible.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s amazing. I have to tell you last year that when everyone was trying to figure out what to do with masks, my mom and I had a conversation about it, and I sent one of your infographics about the different types of masks and what you needed to my mom. So you are helping people.

Chris Berger:

I kind of laugh a little bit. I remember back, gosh, more than a year ago now, when, I mean, this talks about the need for an app this. I can remember back when we were discussing whether healthcare workers, nurses, and such should be wearing masks in front of patients because it might scare them. Quickly that changed obviously, “Yes, wear the mask. Everybody needs to wear a mask,” but it was just very much having to [inaudible 00:33:50]… Joey lived that little piece of hell of mass content, and then it was changing by the minute of what to do and then mask shortage and whatever. Yeah. How do you clean your masks? All kinds of stuff.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Right. Kristy’s asking COVID provided an excellent opportunity for people who want to receive information. How will you re-engage your workforce on non-COVID content? Strategy [crosstalk 00:34:13] information, yeah.

Chris Berger:

To me we’re not re-engaging them, to me we’re just continuing to engage them. So I think, like I said before, it wasn’t a strategy that we started when COVID hit, this was something we had already laid the groundwork for before COVID so what it did is just reinforced what we were doing and maybe refine some of it. It probably made us a little bit more agile as well. Being an organization like we are, there was a lot of information that had to be shared and quickly approved and things like that, and so we had to set up some quick processes of something that probably would have taken a couple of days, a couple hours if that. So it was a lot of things that we had to make sure that we were oversharing, if anything.

I mean, we had to make sure that we set up a cadence of how to share certain information, what to look for if it came from our emergency operation center. And what was the frequency of that? Obviously, it was a whole lot more at the beginning than it is now, but those were important things. And then even within that communication what was new? So you might have information that is always good to have that is information at your fingertips, but there’s also information that had to go in there that was like, okay, we have to point out and we just had a policy change for a mask, we just had a policy change for visitors, visitor restrictions or whatever it was going to happen. Now we’re loosening the risk that a visitor guidelines. So all of those things require people say, “Okay, it’s a new pay attention to this.”

Sonia Fiorenza:

Well, and you we’re in different states so I imagine you also had to target the information to be relevant state by state because…

Chris Berger:

Yeah. The one thing, we didn’t hit on this unfortunately, was like I said, Navicent Health and now Atrium Health Navicent Health in Georgia and Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem North Carolina, we are joining them to the system. And that was one of the things I remember talking to them way back in the day before we were even joined up, and they were so excited about having this app because I think it is something that everybody wants they just don’t how to get that. And now that we’re going to be joining, it’ll be even more seamless communication. I think that’s something that everybody’s excited about.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Yep. And we’re excited too, because we’re partnering with you on joining those organizations and communicating with those employees.

Chris Berger:

Yeah. For sure.

Sonia Fiorenza:

So I’m not sure if Scott Shepherd is still on, but he asked a little earlier, if you can share insight into your strategy of balancing corporate enterprise content versus facility local content on the platform. And you just touched on that a little bit, I don’t know if you want to expand on it at all.

Chris Berger:

Yeah, I would say, I mean, if I had to guess on a percentage wise it really depends on the facility. And there is the ability, and this is the great thing, through it depends on your directory and your list and how great they are. Ours were not great when we started. And that’s always one of the bigger, bigger things. It was an atrium health thing, not a SocialChorus thing is how can you segment and how can you target? But targeting teammates is a huge, huge, huge benefit. So however great your directory is, is however great your targeting will be on the list. And so theoretically, if a facility president wanted to send an email or, sorry, a note out, or a video, or whatever out to just those workers, they could do that if your lists are that good.

But I think probably for the most part, we are more of a department. If there is, I will say, I think there’s one. I was trying to remember some of the teams that the nurses I’ll use an example. Nurses are spread, obviously, throughout the whole system. They need to be connected and know kind of everything that’s happening and so they have their own channel. I mentioned the environmental services worker, that’s another huge one. EVS workers obviously hugely important, especially during COVID. Some of the unsung heroes of COVID. Those are the ones going in and cleaning the rooms even after those patients that have been in there that have had COVID.

So there’s so many things there. But pathogen posts through infectious disease, that was another special channel. Nursing news went to all nurses, Code Lavender was a group started by our chaplains that was meant for making sure that everybody’s taking those times to recharge. And if there wasn’t that time out that was needed because things were becoming so stressful, that was tips for how to do that. I mentioned government relations. Some of those were really, really important channels to keep everybody informed. So we more of we’re by department, as opposed by facility, but I would say 75% of what we do is across the entire organization and then we have those that we do within each area too.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Great.

Chris Berger:

But there’s that ability, and I love that ability. That was one of my huge things was we had an event, unfortunately some of you guys might remember in national news where there was a shooting at UNC Charlotte. And that was another event where our facility president was able to send a special note out to those workers there. So it can be as targeted. I used to, and shame on me, I used to send out a video kind of every week or something like that to my corporate communications team, and I don’t know whatever happened to that. I’m embarrassed to say, but anyway…

Sonia Fiorenza:

[crosstalk 00:39:49] why so that I can ask you about it later.

Chris Berger:

Yeah.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Well thar example of the shooting, I mean, talk about high context communications and a multicultural communications that the Malcolm Gladwell talked about yesterday. So to be able to have that ability is fantastic. Well, we went 10 minutes over and we were able to get to everybody’s questions so I think Bobby called this the Encore Encore. So we kept about 30 people and I think that we’ve covered everything. So thank you again for your time. Really appreciate you sharing what you’ve learned and you know how much we appreciate your partnership so thank you for that as well.

Chris Berger:

Well, thank you all. One of the compliments I always hear from the team is that you guys are great customer service. And that’s why we keep you around.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Great. We love hearing that. All right, everyone, we’re really going to end at this time. Thank you so much. Have great day. We’ll see you at the next breakout session. Bye-bye.

Chris Berger:

Have a good one.

 

Expand Transcript

Video Transcript

Sonia Fiorenza:

I’m going to go ahead and get started. Welcome to our session called The New Era of (healthcare) Communications and I’ll explain in just a minute, what we’re thinking of with those brackets. So I want to introduce you, I’m very happy to introduce you to Chris Berger, the VP of Enterprise Communications for Atrium Health, and Chris is going to spend some time today talking with us about Atrium’s program. It’s a SocialChorus program called Teal Insider, and some of the improvements that it’s helped them with, optimizing their communications and even seeing some improvements on their annual employee engagement survey which I was really excited to hear about.

The reason that we put healthcare in brackets is Chris and I have both worked in healthcare. Earlier in my career, I worked at Amgen, a biotech company in California, and we’ve also both worked in retail. I worked for Gap Inc., Chris worked for Walmart, so some pretty large retailers, and we actually believe that the lessons that are learned here apply to all industries. We were talking a lot about that as we were in our prep session, so wanted to say that if you’re not in the healthcare industry, we’ve got something here for you. If you are in the healthcare industry, we’ve definitely got some lessons, especially in the last year and I think even in the last day for Chris, he was just sharing with me.

So before I dive into the session, let me just do quick housekeeping. If you have questions during the session, you can put them in the chat and Chris and I will be answering them. We’ll weave them in throughout the session. We’ve only got 30 minutes. So we’re going to talk fast if we don’t get through all your questions, we’ll definitely follow up. And there’s some members of the SocialChorus team on the line as well so they’ll try to answer some questions directly in the chat. Additionally, we have a tech firm convene here to help with technical issues.

I’m going to let Chris talk in just a minute, I promise, but I want to share a fun fact that I’ve had the pleasure of learning about him as I’ve gotten to know him in the last year or so. And that is in addition to being a stellar communications professional, he’s actually a coffee roaster and I’m a little bit of a coffee geek and a coffee snob and so I was thrilled to find out that Chris runs his own side hustle called Sugar Creek Coffee. In fact, I drink Sugar Creek coffee every single morning. I order it from him and it gets shipped across the country. And funny thing, my canister here is empty, but I think that my post person is arriving during our talk today.

So my Sugar Creek coffee is going to be arriving on my doorstep with my latest shipment. So I heard Melissa Tucson from Providence tell us yesterday that you’re only ever one good yoga class away from a good mood and I think Chris might say you’re only one cup of coffee away from a good mood.

Chris Berger:

Absolutely.

Sonia Fiorenza:

With that, I’ll turn it over to you, Chris.

Chris Berger:

I love it. That’s great. No, thanks for having me is going to be great. Really been looking forward to this since we’ve talked about this and I know we have a lot to talk about in 30 minutes.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Sure do. Well, why don’t you start, for those who don’t know, telling them about Atrium Health and your organization?

Chris Berger:

Sure. So Atrium Health, we are headquartered here in Charlotte, North Carolina, and we are a large system, healthcare system, the largest in the Southeast, and we’re spread throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and really growing all the time with new partners. And it’s been really exciting. I mean, some of the numbers just throwing out there nearly 40 hospitals 71,000 teammates. We have 15 million patient interactions each year and really our whole mission is around health hope and healing for all, and we use that word for all quite a bit because everything that we do really centers around making sure that the same level of care is provided to not just those that can afford it, but those that also can’t.

So we’re really proud about the number of people that we serve each year that really afford free and uncompensated care. It’s amazing. It’s about $5.6 million a day which is, that number always boggles my mind. And a day we provide nearly over-

Speaker 3:

Thank you. Thank you.

Chris Berger:

But yeah, it’s a pretty exciting place to be a part of. I joined about four years ago, actually just celebrated my four year anniversary last week. And we came from Walmart, like you mentioned, and have really been trying to make sure that from a communications perspective we’re modernizing, we’re staying up. And as you mentioned, I think many of the things that retail went through about 10 years ago, we talked about omni-channel and some of those other fun buzzwords, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do in healthcare. It’s becoming much more consumer friendly and we’re maniacally focused on the consumer and that’s really what we’re looking at as we continue to talk internally and externally about communications, how do we make that consumable for them?

Sonia Fiorenza:

I also love that you had the word hope in your mission when you said… Tell me again, it was hope healing?

Chris Berger:

Hope and healing.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Hope and healing. It’s a tongue-twister, but I love that wording there as well. Well, let’s start with that you started to give us the big picture, tell us a little bit more about your goals for communications at Atrium Health and what you’ve achieved in the last four years since you’ve been there.

Chris Berger:

Yeah, yeah. It’s been an exciting journey. It really started, like I said, for me four years ago, there was an incredible team that was already in place. I had the pleasure of coming and joining the team and then just really my goal has been from the beginning of really connecting communications throughout the entire enterprise together. And as you imagine, when you have more than 40 hospitals and 1500 locations and 70,000 teammates everywhere, it’s an interesting endeavor to try and make sure that everybody’s on the same page.

And I know the big shock came for us kind of my second year here when our employee engagement numbers came back and one of the top things that they wanted to address was communication. And if you’ve had the pleasure of working in communications and get employee engagement survey out, you know that communications is typically always on there. It’s been at every single company that I’ve ever worked at. And you take a little bit of time to kind of explain how do you unpack what communications mean, big C communications, which is my team or little C communications, which is just what people do every day. And-

Sonia Fiorenza:

I have to interject and agree with you that yes, in every engagement survey I’ve ever done in my career in communications, it always comes up. I had a CHRO who once said that communications is like air, everybody wants more of it, they’re never going to say they don’t. So unpack that a little bit more. What’s the big C and the little C communications?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. So for me, when I say big C, it’s really the communication function and that’s what my team leads. So my team is separated or combined, I should say. We have a standard internal communications team, we have an executive communications team. We have a crisis management media relations team. We also have a clinical communications team that really focuses on really diving in and supporting all of the service lines within Atrium Health. And then we also have a reputation management team that’s fairly new, a team of one that is really focused on our reputation and how we can advance that nationally.

So those teams work together to really… We’re also combined, interestingly enough, with the marketing function at Atrium Health. So we sit side-by-side, we work with them and we have a division that’s known as marketing communications and consumer, and the consumer part’s really focused on the analytics. So we can look into the numbers and make smart decisions. So it’s really been really a great effort to bring everything together to make sure that they’re all rolling together at the same time and it’s been a lot of fun.

So that big C little C has been really important because we see little C is a lot of times, that’s what teammates they are asking for. They’re asking from their manager, they’re asking for other. Like Malcolm Gladwell said, they’re asking for context. They want to know why something is happening and what is happening. And so what we’re trying to do, have been trying to do on this journey is really giving that information to them at the right time, wherever they are no matter where they are, if they’re at home or at work or wherever, that they can get that information.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s great. And when you think about getting all of their information or getting where they are, can you talk a little bit about where Teal Insider, your SocialChorus platform fits into that?

Chris Berger:

Oh, absolutely. So one of the first things when that engagement survey came out, that wasn’t the greatest numbers. We looked at several different options and one of the things I’ve been wanting to do for a long time is really meet teammates wherever they are and allow them to consume information how they already do that. And typically, what is the one thing that every person has on them? It’s some type of a smartphone. I don’t care who you are, you pretty much have a smartphone of some type that you’re interacting with and so give them what we need to do.

And that was we started down this journey and Teal Insider is our app that we use and we have a great team that leads all of the efforts around that. And that has really changed the game of really the way we communicate. And it’s not the only way, obviously, but it is a very important spoke of the wheel of communications that we put out there. And we’ve seen some amazing… Helped by COVID. I mean, in some ways COVID has helped adoption rate. We’re over 50% now. Of those that are on the app, over 60% of them are engaged and have continued to have high retention on those teammates. So we’re seeing some really great numbers, and we’re just trying to capitalize on that so that when we’re past these events in our history that we’ll continue with those great numbers as well.

Sonia Fiorenza:

I love those numbers, by the way. You mentioned that it’s changed the way that you communicate. Can you talk a little bit more about that? How has it changed the way you communicate?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. I think for us email was king and I think that’s a lot of communications, they just relied on communications and on email to send out every single note. And we still use email, don’t get me wrong, but what we do is we coincide that with the Teal Insider app. And I think the way that we can segment and really target teammates, I think that is one of the very huge beneficial parts of the app. Above and beyond the things that you typically think about an app like push notifications. To have that ability of any case to send out a push notification is beautiful and I’ll use yesterday as an example. When the news started hitting about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and we were trying to figure out, okay, how do we quickly get information?

One of the core things our president CEO, Gene Woods, who’s very much one of the spear head leaders of this app and getting better communication platform in place was how do we communicate to every single employee, no matter where they are at the same time if some event were to happen? And I think yesterday was a really good example of that actually taking place. We had an event that kind of here we are rolling out the vaccines, we have the Pfizer, we had the Moderna, and then all of a sudden we have Johnson & Johnson come out and say that we have to the FTC and FDA recommended delaying it or putting a pause on it.

So we wanted to let everybody know about that. We started with a group called Team Teal and that’s our internal ambassador team. And we sent a very first notification out to them, gave them some information that they could then share later. And then from that, we rolled out the rest of our plans to everybody else, but team teal has been vital and really to take it, I guess, a level higher, one of our strategies was to make sure that that we were communicating straight to teammates, the cascade in general. I mean, we all love the cascade of communications, start with the officers and work their way down. We knew that was broken.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Do we really love it? I mean, let’s talk about that.

Chris Berger:

Well we love it, in quotations right? And so we just knew that that wasn’t going to really get us where we wanted to go. And so we had to go straight to teammates and that has helped out tremendously because we’ve been able to give them context, like I said, for whatever’s happening, whether it’s a crisis, whether it’s just an everyday story that we want to share, and it’s really helped build pride, I think, tremendously in teammates as they want to share a lot of different things to their friends, their neighbors, or even during a crisis, so to speak because we have them with 70,000 teammates, we’re going to have something that happens every now and then. It really, really helps to be able to just get straight to teammates to where they have that information at their fingertips, friends or neighbors or asking about things.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Yep. Makes sense. And Stephanie did comment because we were a little disparaging. The cascade can provide context where there is none, but it is definitely a variable and unreliable I think is [crosstalk 00:14:24].

Chris Berger:

And then again, I think this is a, as I mentioned, this is a spoke to the wheel of communications, right? This is not an end all be all solution, but this is a very, very valuable solution because, I mean, I’ll say one of the examples is we have obviously a lot of undesked workers. So everywhere from our environmental services team who they don’t even access email. So how are you going to get down to their level and make sure that they’re the information that they need? And I think that we have a lot of nurses, and nurses, they don’t sit in front of a computer, they’re delivering care. So how do you make sure that they have that information during their breaks?

Guess what, they can go onto the app and now get that information that they didn’t have before, or they would’ve have to go onto an email, which they probably are. And we’re giving it to them in a quick read snackable bites type of information as opposed to a long form email that they would have had to read through.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Right. And you mentioned that this is one spoke. So another piece of your communication strategy you alluded was this Teal ambassadors program. I unconsciously chose teal is my color this morning so I’m actually feeling you must have gotten to me with your ambassador program. But can you talk a little bit about what that program is because it’s pretty innovative, especially in a healthcare organization?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. One of the things that we really wanted to start was an ambassador program, both internally and externally. And internally, our team Teal, they’re comprised of everyday teammates, everything from your lower level, I hate to even use that word, but everyday teammate to vice presidents. And so it’s not if you are just a frontline worker or whatever, that you can’t be part of this program, we actually purposely are putting people in place. And we started it, we were hoping to get 50. We had that. And then we worked our way up from there and now we have over 400, crouching on 500 teammates across the system at different locations who we use as kind of our frontline who to go to for any event that happens or just keeping them informed.

They have their own channel on the Teal Insider app, they get to basically hear about events before most people do, sometimes even officers quite honestly, because we’re making sure that they are the people that everybody knows who to go to. And we also set them up, we make it very exclusive. Before COVID, we had lots of little retreats, we gave them special jackets and it was an exclusive thing. They had to have vice-presidential approval in order to be part of it, so it was a really big deal and that has really helped us as we’ve navigated lots of different events and things like that where we really want to make sure that they understand so that when people, their friends, neighbors, and coworkers are asking about things, they know how to answer those questions, and they hear it from us as opposed to hearing it from the media.

Sonia Fiorenza:

You’ve almost inserted a different place in that cascade that we’ve talked about before with team Teal, as opposed to relying on every single manager to be the ones to do that.

Chris Berger:

That’s exactly right. And we did a external as well, and it was a very conscious effort to make sure that we’re sharing our information externally as much as ensuring. Because I think a lot of times organizations are a little hesitant or they don’t want to be too boastful about their work, but I think that can be a detriment too because nobody knows about the great stuff that you’re doing. And so we really started to engage lots of different platforms to be able to share our stories out there and that started with the brand journalism effort and that was one of the most important teams that I forgot to mention, I can’t believe that our brand journalism team that does social and and also our daily dose blog other things that, that really is our springboard for most of this information that we share.

Sonia Fiorenza:

And I have to encourage people to connect and follow you on LinkedIn. I do that, and the news that you put out, I mean, it feels like you’re a news organization. Throughout COVID, I actually was getting a lot of very helpful tips whether it was masks or vaccinations or what have you. I’m in California across the country and I was getting them from your content. The content that makes me smile the most, I think I’ve shared this with you, is your window washers. Describe for people what the window washers do and why that makes me smile so much when I see the picture on LinkedIn.

Chris Berger:

Yeah. So once a year, we have our Levine Cancer Hospital. It’s just an amazing event where window washers come in and they dress up like superheroes. And they’re basically scaling the sides of the building, washing the windows like they would normally do, but wearing superheroes outfits. So not only are they washing the windows, but they’re interacting with our patients who are obviously in a children’s hospital and providing that, again, goes along with that health, hope and healing.

Just providing that little glimmer of hope, those smiles on their faces. And every time that happens, it is a pretty special event and we love sharing that just because it is so… It’s something you wouldn’t even think about, but it’s something that happens every single year and it is a very, very cool moment.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Yeah. And tell me a little bit about how the ambassador program has changed what you’ve been able to accomplish from an earned media perspective especially in the last year.

Chris Berger:

Yeah. I think earned media is always one of those huge things, and it’s really hard. This last year, I mean, COVID obviously did some amazing things, but I think one of the things that the groundwork was laid before COVID for us to be known as subject matter experts in our field. And I think when COVID hit, that allowed us at that point from a thought leadership perspective to really make sure that news organizations were looking to us.

And so it’s quite frequent that you’ll see representatives from our organization, from our president and CEO down to leaders within each area to be on CNN, to be on Fox, to be testifying before Congress about all of the things that have happened and that we’ve seen and experienced and adding a little bit of thought of how can we make this better? How can we make healthcare better experience for everyone?

And some of the things that we’ve done have just been truly hugely innovative. We started when we saw some testing back in the beginning, when we started seeing some of the COVID testing irregularities and disparities in underserved neighborhoods, we started bringing [inaudible 00:21:34] vehicles right to them in the neighborhoods. We didn’t wait for other things to happen, we brought them to them and we geographically knew where those were based on the systems that we already had in place.

We had hospital at home system that we alleviate and where most places we’re dealing with the hospital being overrun, we’ve served over 60,000. I can’t remember the last number but 60,000 patients in the comfort of their home through this program. And so those are some of the things that we’re putting out there and making sure that everybody knew about, and obviously everybody’s wanting to know more about that, and it’s just been really fantastic, just a way to get out there.

But that started with making sure that we had a great platform at the beginning to be able to do this and share this information externally, and again, that brand journalism telling the stories and making sure that we had a way to share those stories effectively. It’s just really proved hugely beneficial our earned media. I know we had to set our goals for this next year, and I was just like, no, hold on.

Sonia Fiorenza:

You can’t make stuff around here.

Chris Berger:

Let’s not do a year over year please, because we all know last year was unbelievably crazy and it was going to be hard to beat. But this year has started off obviously just as well and it’s been exciting to see, and that’s because the team that I have in place and the leadership team that I have in place is just really… I feel like I’ve worked a lot of places and I’ve told them this is the most phenomenal team I’ve ever worked with. Everybody working together and caring about each other is truly like a work family. And I think most of them feel the same way.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s fantastic. It makes the work even more rewarding.

Chris Berger:

Yeah.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Let’s kind of close the loop or cycle back all the way around here, you started out and Ray asked this question and it looks like some of your team is actually on here. Dolly is answering questions as well, but you talked about the big C, little C communications, the employee engagement survey, Teal Insider and then we went on this whole tangent of fields like about external communications, right? But let’s close that loop, what does that look like for when you bring it back your employees and how does that boost morale and change your employee engagement survey?

Chris Berger:

Yeah, I think what we saw was, I mean, it’s not what I think I saw, what we saw was a dramatic change in the numbers and people feeling, I think, for the first time in a very long time that they were actually being informed. And not just talked to, but the ability to share information themselves, things that they were proud about. We have that obviously set up through the app or on appropriate stories that they can share that externally, we have that enabled. And then we have lots of different things set up through the app just to continually keep them informed and we’re using a lot of those tools.

And what I tell everybody, it’s an investment. It’s something that we definitely say, “Look, you’ve got to have buy-in from the top,” because it’s not just an investment in time and resources, it’s also an investment in money obviously, but it has a huge, huge payoff at the end of the day and it is able to really engage everybody and pull them together and make them really proud. I think about the place that they work when you’re sharing those stories that already resonate with them but just aren’t being told. And so we’re able to get those increased special channels or different parts of the organization that during the election, obviously, the government relations channel was buzzing all the time.

There are so many things that we created a ability for them to share. We’re rolling out some new ones with nurses and they’re going to curate it and handle it all themselves. So there is a set it and forget it model that can be put in place, but there’s also a curated model where you need to approved things, obviously, before they go out. But it’s an investment, but I 100% think that the implementation of the app was one of those things that has helped us turn the tide and really turn from low engagement numbers when it came to communication to very high and I’m excited about that.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s awesome. So you are a health care company, and I worked at a healthcare company. There are a lot of regulations that go into how you communicate at the healthcare company, and one of the biggest resistances I hear is like, “No way. We can never have our employees sharing information.” Can you talk a little about that? How have you done that?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. And I think our team is incredibly… we deal in this HIPAA environment where everything is very much… they’re aware of the policies and there isn’t anything that goes out to the masses without being approved. And I think we follow and make sure that all of the policies are followed. We have social media policies just like we do with anything else. So I think it’s one of those things that we make sure, absolutely, that we’re following all the guidelines, but we also are really encouraging of people to share their stories and make sure that if they had a story to share to let us know about it.

So we are never at an end. I mean, we joke about this all the time. We’re not at an end for stories to share because we have tremendous stories that we share all the time, not just from patients who are recovered from miraculous injuries and things and things, and the doctors and through the system have been healed. But I think there’s so many other great stories out there just from a teammate side that it just makes you proud to work for an organization like this.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s great. Okay. I know we’re coming up to the wire, but let’s see if we can fire off a couple of these questions and maybe we’ll go a minute or so long since we’ve got a break. How did you choose your external ambassadors?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. So we have a key influencer list that, again, it started out very small, it’s now massive. And basically each executive owns a certain amount of key influencers that we chose, and we met with them and said, “Who are the people that you think are the most important and who do you have connections with?” So each one of them before any major event that we have, we just announced the location of our new school of medicine, wake forest school of medicine, the second location in Charlotte or in the Charlotte area, it’s part of the regional campus now with Wake Forest School Medicine in Winston-Salem. But we have a key influencer list that we made sure that we hit before hit went public that came from that.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Got it. And how many people in your team… I’m totally changing gears on you here, but how many people in your team are dedicated to internal communications and especially through your platform?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. So it’s not a dedicated person either. So Dana, I’ll call you out, does an amazing job on this platform and it helps out tremendously. And then Jolie Shifflet who you saw earlier interacting, she leads this incredible team that really keeps everybody informed. It’s also in collaboration with our HR partners. So that’s really important. Our HR communication partners really important to collaborate with them as well, but it’s not even the full-time role. Dana obviously does a whole lot more than this, but she is dedicated to kind of be in the product manager, so to speak, and she helps with this platform.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s great. And that’s one of the things that we find is a best practice across our customers is that the more you can distribute that communications and to allow others to help you, it grows your communications organization, right? You’ve got all these ambassadors and you have other business functions that are helping with your internal communications through the platform and that allows you to add more value.

Let’s see, we are right at the bottom of the hour here. We’ve got all the questions in the chat, so we’ll make sure that we follow up with some of these. I do want to thank you so much for your time. We both knew that this 30 minutes was going to go by so fast. If our attendees want to get in touch with you and learn more from your team, what’s the best way to do that?

Chris Berger:

Sure. You can connect with me on LinkedIn. Look for me. It’s Chris Berger. It’s B-E-R-G-E-R. Connect with me there, or chris.berger@atriumhealth.org. So either one of those, happy to help out and happy to answer any questions. And one of the things I love to do is make my team available to answer questions about this app because it’s been so transformative for us.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Well, we really appreciate how generous you are with your time now and also before and after this. So everyone knows we have a 30 minute break so everyone stretch and take that mental break that you need and grab a snack if you need one. And we’re going to regroup at 4:00 PM Eastern for our second set of breakouts. You can look at the list of breakout options on the agenda, on the Atrium page. And thanks again, Chris. I’m super excited for my coffee to show up in the next hour. I need some. All right. Thank you.

Chris Berger:

Thank you.

Sonia Fiorenza:

I don’t know if people can still hear us. We’re still about 60 or so people on the line. Wonder if you should start to answer any of these other questions that people are hanging out?

Chris Berger:

All right. [inaudible 00:31:19] says she can hear us.

Sonia Fiorenza:

[crosstalk 00:31:20] can hear you.

Chris Berger:

Okay. If they can, let’s answer some questions. I don’t mind that at all.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Okay. So let’s see. [Kurtsy 00:31:27] wants to know, with respect to external communications, can you share your strategy on increasing patient engagement through this platform? So you’ll have to talk about whether or not you’re…

Chris Berger:

Yeah. Through this platform, we don’t really do a whole lot of external. Besides there are some stories that, like I said, you can enable to have those be shared, and certainly the ones that we feel are appropriate and that would help us with what we want to do. Absolutely, they can share from the actual app. But for the most part, we use this as an internal communications app. We have a separate strategy from an external communication where we’ve used LinkedIn elevate in the past to basically share our stories a whole lot across their platform because that’s where we think a lot of thought leaders are. So we’ll continue that and I think it’s a really good way.

But we also, from an external standpoint, like I said, everything starts with our daily dose blog. And then we use our social media channels to obviously make sure that we’re sharing those appropriately, those stories. So it’s been exciting really to see the… And our newsroom page has been huge for that. As you mentioned, Sonia, it was like you get some of the information from our infographics and things like that.

When we share those a lot of times there’ll be organizations not even in our service area that we’ll use our graphics and things like that because they’re so informative. And that’s what we’re always trying to do, is try to simplify, make sure that they’re easy to understand, and I think that’s something that we’ll continue to try to do is use all of our platforms and make them as digestible as possible.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s amazing. I have to tell you last year that when everyone was trying to figure out what to do with masks, my mom and I had a conversation about it, and I sent one of your infographics about the different types of masks and what you needed to my mom. So you are helping people.

Chris Berger:

I kind of laugh a little bit. I remember back, gosh, more than a year ago now, when, I mean, this talks about the need for an app this. I can remember back when we were discussing whether healthcare workers, nurses, and such should be wearing masks in front of patients because it might scare them. Quickly that changed obviously, “Yes, wear the mask. Everybody needs to wear a mask,” but it was just very much having to [inaudible 00:33:50]… Joey lived that little piece of hell of mass content, and then it was changing by the minute of what to do and then mask shortage and whatever. Yeah. How do you clean your masks? All kinds of stuff.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Right. Kristy’s asking COVID provided an excellent opportunity for people who want to receive information. How will you re-engage your workforce on non-COVID content? Strategy [crosstalk 00:34:13] information, yeah.

Chris Berger:

To me we’re not re-engaging them, to me we’re just continuing to engage them. So I think, like I said before, it wasn’t a strategy that we started when COVID hit, this was something we had already laid the groundwork for before COVID so what it did is just reinforced what we were doing and maybe refine some of it. It probably made us a little bit more agile as well. Being an organization like we are, there was a lot of information that had to be shared and quickly approved and things like that, and so we had to set up some quick processes of something that probably would have taken a couple of days, a couple hours if that. So it was a lot of things that we had to make sure that we were oversharing, if anything.

I mean, we had to make sure that we set up a cadence of how to share certain information, what to look for if it came from our emergency operation center. And what was the frequency of that? Obviously, it was a whole lot more at the beginning than it is now, but those were important things. And then even within that communication what was new? So you might have information that is always good to have that is information at your fingertips, but there’s also information that had to go in there that was like, okay, we have to point out and we just had a policy change for a mask, we just had a policy change for visitors, visitor restrictions or whatever it was going to happen. Now we’re loosening the risk that a visitor guidelines. So all of those things require people say, “Okay, it’s a new pay attention to this.”

Sonia Fiorenza:

Well, and you we’re in different states so I imagine you also had to target the information to be relevant state by state because…

Chris Berger:

Yeah. The one thing, we didn’t hit on this unfortunately, was like I said, Navicent Health and now Atrium Health Navicent Health in Georgia and Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem North Carolina, we are joining them to the system. And that was one of the things I remember talking to them way back in the day before we were even joined up, and they were so excited about having this app because I think it is something that everybody wants they just don’t how to get that. And now that we’re going to be joining, it’ll be even more seamless communication. I think that’s something that everybody’s excited about.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Yep. And we’re excited too, because we’re partnering with you on joining those organizations and communicating with those employees.

Chris Berger:

Yeah. For sure.

Sonia Fiorenza:

So I’m not sure if Scott Shepherd is still on, but he asked a little earlier, if you can share insight into your strategy of balancing corporate enterprise content versus facility local content on the platform. And you just touched on that a little bit, I don’t know if you want to expand on it at all.

Chris Berger:

Yeah, I would say, I mean, if I had to guess on a percentage wise it really depends on the facility. And there is the ability, and this is the great thing, through it depends on your directory and your list and how great they are. Ours were not great when we started. And that’s always one of the bigger, bigger things. It was an atrium health thing, not a SocialChorus thing is how can you segment and how can you target? But targeting teammates is a huge, huge, huge benefit. So however great your directory is, is however great your targeting will be on the list. And so theoretically, if a facility president wanted to send an email or, sorry, a note out, or a video, or whatever out to just those workers, they could do that if your lists are that good.

But I think probably for the most part, we are more of a department. If there is, I will say, I think there’s one. I was trying to remember some of the teams that the nurses I’ll use an example. Nurses are spread, obviously, throughout the whole system. They need to be connected and know kind of everything that’s happening and so they have their own channel. I mentioned the environmental services worker, that’s another huge one. EVS workers obviously hugely important, especially during COVID. Some of the unsung heroes of COVID. Those are the ones going in and cleaning the rooms even after those patients that have been in there that have had COVID.

So there’s so many things there. But pathogen posts through infectious disease, that was another special channel. Nursing news went to all nurses, Code Lavender was a group started by our chaplains that was meant for making sure that everybody’s taking those times to recharge. And if there wasn’t that time out that was needed because things were becoming so stressful, that was tips for how to do that. I mentioned government relations. Some of those were really, really important channels to keep everybody informed. So we more of we’re by department, as opposed by facility, but I would say 75% of what we do is across the entire organization and then we have those that we do within each area too.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Great.

Chris Berger:

But there’s that ability, and I love that ability. That was one of my huge things was we had an event, unfortunately some of you guys might remember in national news where there was a shooting at UNC Charlotte. And that was another event where our facility president was able to send a special note out to those workers there. So it can be as targeted. I used to, and shame on me, I used to send out a video kind of every week or something like that to my corporate communications team, and I don’t know whatever happened to that. I’m embarrassed to say, but anyway…

Sonia Fiorenza:

[crosstalk 00:39:49] why so that I can ask you about it later.

Chris Berger:

Yeah.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Well thar example of the shooting, I mean, talk about high context communications and a multicultural communications that the Malcolm Gladwell talked about yesterday. So to be able to have that ability is fantastic. Well, we went 10 minutes over and we were able to get to everybody’s questions so I think Bobby called this the Encore Encore. So we kept about 30 people and I think that we’ve covered everything. So thank you again for your time. Really appreciate you sharing what you’ve learned and you know how much we appreciate your partnership so thank you for that as well.

Chris Berger:

Well, thank you all. One of the compliments I always hear from the team is that you guys are great customer service. And that’s why we keep you around.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Great. We love hearing that. All right, everyone, we’re really going to end at this time. Thank you so much. Have great day. We’ll see you at the next breakout session. Bye-bye.

Chris Berger:

Have a good one.

 

Video Transcript

Sonia Fiorenza:

I’m going to go ahead and get started. Welcome to our session called The New Era of (healthcare) Communications and I’ll explain in just a minute, what we’re thinking of with those brackets. So I want to introduce you, I’m very happy to introduce you to Chris Berger, the VP of Enterprise Communications for Atrium Health, and Chris is going to spend some time today talking with us about Atrium’s program. It’s a SocialChorus program called Teal Insider, and some of the improvements that it’s helped them with, optimizing their communications and even seeing some improvements on their annual employee engagement survey which I was really excited to hear about.

The reason that we put healthcare in brackets is Chris and I have both worked in healthcare. Earlier in my career, I worked at Amgen, a biotech company in California, and we’ve also both worked in retail. I worked for Gap Inc., Chris worked for Walmart, so some pretty large retailers, and we actually believe that the lessons that are learned here apply to all industries. We were talking a lot about that as we were in our prep session, so wanted to say that if you’re not in the healthcare industry, we’ve got something here for you. If you are in the healthcare industry, we’ve definitely got some lessons, especially in the last year and I think even in the last day for Chris, he was just sharing with me.

So before I dive into the session, let me just do quick housekeeping. If you have questions during the session, you can put them in the chat and Chris and I will be answering them. We’ll weave them in throughout the session. We’ve only got 30 minutes. So we’re going to talk fast if we don’t get through all your questions, we’ll definitely follow up. And there’s some members of the SocialChorus team on the line as well so they’ll try to answer some questions directly in the chat. Additionally, we have a tech firm convene here to help with technical issues.

I’m going to let Chris talk in just a minute, I promise, but I want to share a fun fact that I’ve had the pleasure of learning about him as I’ve gotten to know him in the last year or so. And that is in addition to being a stellar communications professional, he’s actually a coffee roaster and I’m a little bit of a coffee geek and a coffee snob and so I was thrilled to find out that Chris runs his own side hustle called Sugar Creek Coffee. In fact, I drink Sugar Creek coffee every single morning. I order it from him and it gets shipped across the country. And funny thing, my canister here is empty, but I think that my post person is arriving during our talk today.

So my Sugar Creek coffee is going to be arriving on my doorstep with my latest shipment. So I heard Melissa Tucson from Providence tell us yesterday that you’re only ever one good yoga class away from a good mood and I think Chris might say you’re only one cup of coffee away from a good mood.

Chris Berger:

Absolutely.

Sonia Fiorenza:

With that, I’ll turn it over to you, Chris.

Chris Berger:

I love it. That’s great. No, thanks for having me is going to be great. Really been looking forward to this since we’ve talked about this and I know we have a lot to talk about in 30 minutes.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Sure do. Well, why don’t you start, for those who don’t know, telling them about Atrium Health and your organization?

Chris Berger:

Sure. So Atrium Health, we are headquartered here in Charlotte, North Carolina, and we are a large system, healthcare system, the largest in the Southeast, and we’re spread throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and really growing all the time with new partners. And it’s been really exciting. I mean, some of the numbers just throwing out there nearly 40 hospitals 71,000 teammates. We have 15 million patient interactions each year and really our whole mission is around health hope and healing for all, and we use that word for all quite a bit because everything that we do really centers around making sure that the same level of care is provided to not just those that can afford it, but those that also can’t.

So we’re really proud about the number of people that we serve each year that really afford free and uncompensated care. It’s amazing. It’s about $5.6 million a day which is, that number always boggles my mind. And a day we provide nearly over-

Speaker 3:

Thank you. Thank you.

Chris Berger:

But yeah, it’s a pretty exciting place to be a part of. I joined about four years ago, actually just celebrated my four year anniversary last week. And we came from Walmart, like you mentioned, and have really been trying to make sure that from a communications perspective we’re modernizing, we’re staying up. And as you mentioned, I think many of the things that retail went through about 10 years ago, we talked about omni-channel and some of those other fun buzzwords, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do in healthcare. It’s becoming much more consumer friendly and we’re maniacally focused on the consumer and that’s really what we’re looking at as we continue to talk internally and externally about communications, how do we make that consumable for them?

Sonia Fiorenza:

I also love that you had the word hope in your mission when you said… Tell me again, it was hope healing?

Chris Berger:

Hope and healing.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Hope and healing. It’s a tongue-twister, but I love that wording there as well. Well, let’s start with that you started to give us the big picture, tell us a little bit more about your goals for communications at Atrium Health and what you’ve achieved in the last four years since you’ve been there.

Chris Berger:

Yeah, yeah. It’s been an exciting journey. It really started, like I said, for me four years ago, there was an incredible team that was already in place. I had the pleasure of coming and joining the team and then just really my goal has been from the beginning of really connecting communications throughout the entire enterprise together. And as you imagine, when you have more than 40 hospitals and 1500 locations and 70,000 teammates everywhere, it’s an interesting endeavor to try and make sure that everybody’s on the same page.

And I know the big shock came for us kind of my second year here when our employee engagement numbers came back and one of the top things that they wanted to address was communication. And if you’ve had the pleasure of working in communications and get employee engagement survey out, you know that communications is typically always on there. It’s been at every single company that I’ve ever worked at. And you take a little bit of time to kind of explain how do you unpack what communications mean, big C communications, which is my team or little C communications, which is just what people do every day. And-

Sonia Fiorenza:

I have to interject and agree with you that yes, in every engagement survey I’ve ever done in my career in communications, it always comes up. I had a CHRO who once said that communications is like air, everybody wants more of it, they’re never going to say they don’t. So unpack that a little bit more. What’s the big C and the little C communications?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. So for me, when I say big C, it’s really the communication function and that’s what my team leads. So my team is separated or combined, I should say. We have a standard internal communications team, we have an executive communications team. We have a crisis management media relations team. We also have a clinical communications team that really focuses on really diving in and supporting all of the service lines within Atrium Health. And then we also have a reputation management team that’s fairly new, a team of one that is really focused on our reputation and how we can advance that nationally.

So those teams work together to really… We’re also combined, interestingly enough, with the marketing function at Atrium Health. So we sit side-by-side, we work with them and we have a division that’s known as marketing communications and consumer, and the consumer part’s really focused on the analytics. So we can look into the numbers and make smart decisions. So it’s really been really a great effort to bring everything together to make sure that they’re all rolling together at the same time and it’s been a lot of fun.

So that big C little C has been really important because we see little C is a lot of times, that’s what teammates they are asking for. They’re asking from their manager, they’re asking for other. Like Malcolm Gladwell said, they’re asking for context. They want to know why something is happening and what is happening. And so what we’re trying to do, have been trying to do on this journey is really giving that information to them at the right time, wherever they are no matter where they are, if they’re at home or at work or wherever, that they can get that information.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s great. And when you think about getting all of their information or getting where they are, can you talk a little bit about where Teal Insider, your SocialChorus platform fits into that?

Chris Berger:

Oh, absolutely. So one of the first things when that engagement survey came out, that wasn’t the greatest numbers. We looked at several different options and one of the things I’ve been wanting to do for a long time is really meet teammates wherever they are and allow them to consume information how they already do that. And typically, what is the one thing that every person has on them? It’s some type of a smartphone. I don’t care who you are, you pretty much have a smartphone of some type that you’re interacting with and so give them what we need to do.

And that was we started down this journey and Teal Insider is our app that we use and we have a great team that leads all of the efforts around that. And that has really changed the game of really the way we communicate. And it’s not the only way, obviously, but it is a very important spoke of the wheel of communications that we put out there. And we’ve seen some amazing… Helped by COVID. I mean, in some ways COVID has helped adoption rate. We’re over 50% now. Of those that are on the app, over 60% of them are engaged and have continued to have high retention on those teammates. So we’re seeing some really great numbers, and we’re just trying to capitalize on that so that when we’re past these events in our history that we’ll continue with those great numbers as well.

Sonia Fiorenza:

I love those numbers, by the way. You mentioned that it’s changed the way that you communicate. Can you talk a little bit more about that? How has it changed the way you communicate?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. I think for us email was king and I think that’s a lot of communications, they just relied on communications and on email to send out every single note. And we still use email, don’t get me wrong, but what we do is we coincide that with the Teal Insider app. And I think the way that we can segment and really target teammates, I think that is one of the very huge beneficial parts of the app. Above and beyond the things that you typically think about an app like push notifications. To have that ability of any case to send out a push notification is beautiful and I’ll use yesterday as an example. When the news started hitting about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and we were trying to figure out, okay, how do we quickly get information?

One of the core things our president CEO, Gene Woods, who’s very much one of the spear head leaders of this app and getting better communication platform in place was how do we communicate to every single employee, no matter where they are at the same time if some event were to happen? And I think yesterday was a really good example of that actually taking place. We had an event that kind of here we are rolling out the vaccines, we have the Pfizer, we had the Moderna, and then all of a sudden we have Johnson & Johnson come out and say that we have to the FTC and FDA recommended delaying it or putting a pause on it.

So we wanted to let everybody know about that. We started with a group called Team Teal and that’s our internal ambassador team. And we sent a very first notification out to them, gave them some information that they could then share later. And then from that, we rolled out the rest of our plans to everybody else, but team teal has been vital and really to take it, I guess, a level higher, one of our strategies was to make sure that that we were communicating straight to teammates, the cascade in general. I mean, we all love the cascade of communications, start with the officers and work their way down. We knew that was broken.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Do we really love it? I mean, let’s talk about that.

Chris Berger:

Well we love it, in quotations right? And so we just knew that that wasn’t going to really get us where we wanted to go. And so we had to go straight to teammates and that has helped out tremendously because we’ve been able to give them context, like I said, for whatever’s happening, whether it’s a crisis, whether it’s just an everyday story that we want to share, and it’s really helped build pride, I think, tremendously in teammates as they want to share a lot of different things to their friends, their neighbors, or even during a crisis, so to speak because we have them with 70,000 teammates, we’re going to have something that happens every now and then. It really, really helps to be able to just get straight to teammates to where they have that information at their fingertips, friends or neighbors or asking about things.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Yep. Makes sense. And Stephanie did comment because we were a little disparaging. The cascade can provide context where there is none, but it is definitely a variable and unreliable I think is [crosstalk 00:14:24].

Chris Berger:

And then again, I think this is a, as I mentioned, this is a spoke to the wheel of communications, right? This is not an end all be all solution, but this is a very, very valuable solution because, I mean, I’ll say one of the examples is we have obviously a lot of undesked workers. So everywhere from our environmental services team who they don’t even access email. So how are you going to get down to their level and make sure that they’re the information that they need? And I think that we have a lot of nurses, and nurses, they don’t sit in front of a computer, they’re delivering care. So how do you make sure that they have that information during their breaks?

Guess what, they can go onto the app and now get that information that they didn’t have before, or they would’ve have to go onto an email, which they probably are. And we’re giving it to them in a quick read snackable bites type of information as opposed to a long form email that they would have had to read through.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Right. And you mentioned that this is one spoke. So another piece of your communication strategy you alluded was this Teal ambassadors program. I unconsciously chose teal is my color this morning so I’m actually feeling you must have gotten to me with your ambassador program. But can you talk a little bit about what that program is because it’s pretty innovative, especially in a healthcare organization?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. One of the things that we really wanted to start was an ambassador program, both internally and externally. And internally, our team Teal, they’re comprised of everyday teammates, everything from your lower level, I hate to even use that word, but everyday teammate to vice presidents. And so it’s not if you are just a frontline worker or whatever, that you can’t be part of this program, we actually purposely are putting people in place. And we started it, we were hoping to get 50. We had that. And then we worked our way up from there and now we have over 400, crouching on 500 teammates across the system at different locations who we use as kind of our frontline who to go to for any event that happens or just keeping them informed.

They have their own channel on the Teal Insider app, they get to basically hear about events before most people do, sometimes even officers quite honestly, because we’re making sure that they are the people that everybody knows who to go to. And we also set them up, we make it very exclusive. Before COVID, we had lots of little retreats, we gave them special jackets and it was an exclusive thing. They had to have vice-presidential approval in order to be part of it, so it was a really big deal and that has really helped us as we’ve navigated lots of different events and things like that where we really want to make sure that they understand so that when people, their friends, neighbors, and coworkers are asking about things, they know how to answer those questions, and they hear it from us as opposed to hearing it from the media.

Sonia Fiorenza:

You’ve almost inserted a different place in that cascade that we’ve talked about before with team Teal, as opposed to relying on every single manager to be the ones to do that.

Chris Berger:

That’s exactly right. And we did a external as well, and it was a very conscious effort to make sure that we’re sharing our information externally as much as ensuring. Because I think a lot of times organizations are a little hesitant or they don’t want to be too boastful about their work, but I think that can be a detriment too because nobody knows about the great stuff that you’re doing. And so we really started to engage lots of different platforms to be able to share our stories out there and that started with the brand journalism effort and that was one of the most important teams that I forgot to mention, I can’t believe that our brand journalism team that does social and and also our daily dose blog other things that, that really is our springboard for most of this information that we share.

Sonia Fiorenza:

And I have to encourage people to connect and follow you on LinkedIn. I do that, and the news that you put out, I mean, it feels like you’re a news organization. Throughout COVID, I actually was getting a lot of very helpful tips whether it was masks or vaccinations or what have you. I’m in California across the country and I was getting them from your content. The content that makes me smile the most, I think I’ve shared this with you, is your window washers. Describe for people what the window washers do and why that makes me smile so much when I see the picture on LinkedIn.

Chris Berger:

Yeah. So once a year, we have our Levine Cancer Hospital. It’s just an amazing event where window washers come in and they dress up like superheroes. And they’re basically scaling the sides of the building, washing the windows like they would normally do, but wearing superheroes outfits. So not only are they washing the windows, but they’re interacting with our patients who are obviously in a children’s hospital and providing that, again, goes along with that health, hope and healing.

Just providing that little glimmer of hope, those smiles on their faces. And every time that happens, it is a pretty special event and we love sharing that just because it is so… It’s something you wouldn’t even think about, but it’s something that happens every single year and it is a very, very cool moment.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Yeah. And tell me a little bit about how the ambassador program has changed what you’ve been able to accomplish from an earned media perspective especially in the last year.

Chris Berger:

Yeah. I think earned media is always one of those huge things, and it’s really hard. This last year, I mean, COVID obviously did some amazing things, but I think one of the things that the groundwork was laid before COVID for us to be known as subject matter experts in our field. And I think when COVID hit, that allowed us at that point from a thought leadership perspective to really make sure that news organizations were looking to us.

And so it’s quite frequent that you’ll see representatives from our organization, from our president and CEO down to leaders within each area to be on CNN, to be on Fox, to be testifying before Congress about all of the things that have happened and that we’ve seen and experienced and adding a little bit of thought of how can we make this better? How can we make healthcare better experience for everyone?

And some of the things that we’ve done have just been truly hugely innovative. We started when we saw some testing back in the beginning, when we started seeing some of the COVID testing irregularities and disparities in underserved neighborhoods, we started bringing [inaudible 00:21:34] vehicles right to them in the neighborhoods. We didn’t wait for other things to happen, we brought them to them and we geographically knew where those were based on the systems that we already had in place.

We had hospital at home system that we alleviate and where most places we’re dealing with the hospital being overrun, we’ve served over 60,000. I can’t remember the last number but 60,000 patients in the comfort of their home through this program. And so those are some of the things that we’re putting out there and making sure that everybody knew about, and obviously everybody’s wanting to know more about that, and it’s just been really fantastic, just a way to get out there.

But that started with making sure that we had a great platform at the beginning to be able to do this and share this information externally, and again, that brand journalism telling the stories and making sure that we had a way to share those stories effectively. It’s just really proved hugely beneficial our earned media. I know we had to set our goals for this next year, and I was just like, no, hold on.

Sonia Fiorenza:

You can’t make stuff around here.

Chris Berger:

Let’s not do a year over year please, because we all know last year was unbelievably crazy and it was going to be hard to beat. But this year has started off obviously just as well and it’s been exciting to see, and that’s because the team that I have in place and the leadership team that I have in place is just really… I feel like I’ve worked a lot of places and I’ve told them this is the most phenomenal team I’ve ever worked with. Everybody working together and caring about each other is truly like a work family. And I think most of them feel the same way.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s fantastic. It makes the work even more rewarding.

Chris Berger:

Yeah.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Let’s kind of close the loop or cycle back all the way around here, you started out and Ray asked this question and it looks like some of your team is actually on here. Dolly is answering questions as well, but you talked about the big C, little C communications, the employee engagement survey, Teal Insider and then we went on this whole tangent of fields like about external communications, right? But let’s close that loop, what does that look like for when you bring it back your employees and how does that boost morale and change your employee engagement survey?

Chris Berger:

Yeah, I think what we saw was, I mean, it’s not what I think I saw, what we saw was a dramatic change in the numbers and people feeling, I think, for the first time in a very long time that they were actually being informed. And not just talked to, but the ability to share information themselves, things that they were proud about. We have that obviously set up through the app or on appropriate stories that they can share that externally, we have that enabled. And then we have lots of different things set up through the app just to continually keep them informed and we’re using a lot of those tools.

And what I tell everybody, it’s an investment. It’s something that we definitely say, “Look, you’ve got to have buy-in from the top,” because it’s not just an investment in time and resources, it’s also an investment in money obviously, but it has a huge, huge payoff at the end of the day and it is able to really engage everybody and pull them together and make them really proud. I think about the place that they work when you’re sharing those stories that already resonate with them but just aren’t being told. And so we’re able to get those increased special channels or different parts of the organization that during the election, obviously, the government relations channel was buzzing all the time.

There are so many things that we created a ability for them to share. We’re rolling out some new ones with nurses and they’re going to curate it and handle it all themselves. So there is a set it and forget it model that can be put in place, but there’s also a curated model where you need to approved things, obviously, before they go out. But it’s an investment, but I 100% think that the implementation of the app was one of those things that has helped us turn the tide and really turn from low engagement numbers when it came to communication to very high and I’m excited about that.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s awesome. So you are a health care company, and I worked at a healthcare company. There are a lot of regulations that go into how you communicate at the healthcare company, and one of the biggest resistances I hear is like, “No way. We can never have our employees sharing information.” Can you talk a little about that? How have you done that?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. And I think our team is incredibly… we deal in this HIPAA environment where everything is very much… they’re aware of the policies and there isn’t anything that goes out to the masses without being approved. And I think we follow and make sure that all of the policies are followed. We have social media policies just like we do with anything else. So I think it’s one of those things that we make sure, absolutely, that we’re following all the guidelines, but we also are really encouraging of people to share their stories and make sure that if they had a story to share to let us know about it.

So we are never at an end. I mean, we joke about this all the time. We’re not at an end for stories to share because we have tremendous stories that we share all the time, not just from patients who are recovered from miraculous injuries and things and things, and the doctors and through the system have been healed. But I think there’s so many other great stories out there just from a teammate side that it just makes you proud to work for an organization like this.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s great. Okay. I know we’re coming up to the wire, but let’s see if we can fire off a couple of these questions and maybe we’ll go a minute or so long since we’ve got a break. How did you choose your external ambassadors?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. So we have a key influencer list that, again, it started out very small, it’s now massive. And basically each executive owns a certain amount of key influencers that we chose, and we met with them and said, “Who are the people that you think are the most important and who do you have connections with?” So each one of them before any major event that we have, we just announced the location of our new school of medicine, wake forest school of medicine, the second location in Charlotte or in the Charlotte area, it’s part of the regional campus now with Wake Forest School Medicine in Winston-Salem. But we have a key influencer list that we made sure that we hit before hit went public that came from that.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Got it. And how many people in your team… I’m totally changing gears on you here, but how many people in your team are dedicated to internal communications and especially through your platform?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. So it’s not a dedicated person either. So Dana, I’ll call you out, does an amazing job on this platform and it helps out tremendously. And then Jolie Shifflet who you saw earlier interacting, she leads this incredible team that really keeps everybody informed. It’s also in collaboration with our HR partners. So that’s really important. Our HR communication partners really important to collaborate with them as well, but it’s not even the full-time role. Dana obviously does a whole lot more than this, but she is dedicated to kind of be in the product manager, so to speak, and she helps with this platform.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s great. And that’s one of the things that we find is a best practice across our customers is that the more you can distribute that communications and to allow others to help you, it grows your communications organization, right? You’ve got all these ambassadors and you have other business functions that are helping with your internal communications through the platform and that allows you to add more value.

Let’s see, we are right at the bottom of the hour here. We’ve got all the questions in the chat, so we’ll make sure that we follow up with some of these. I do want to thank you so much for your time. We both knew that this 30 minutes was going to go by so fast. If our attendees want to get in touch with you and learn more from your team, what’s the best way to do that?

Chris Berger:

Sure. You can connect with me on LinkedIn. Look for me. It’s Chris Berger. It’s B-E-R-G-E-R. Connect with me there, or chris.berger@atriumhealth.org. So either one of those, happy to help out and happy to answer any questions. And one of the things I love to do is make my team available to answer questions about this app because it’s been so transformative for us.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Well, we really appreciate how generous you are with your time now and also before and after this. So everyone knows we have a 30 minute break so everyone stretch and take that mental break that you need and grab a snack if you need one. And we’re going to regroup at 4:00 PM Eastern for our second set of breakouts. You can look at the list of breakout options on the agenda, on the Atrium page. And thanks again, Chris. I’m super excited for my coffee to show up in the next hour. I need some. All right. Thank you.

Chris Berger:

Thank you.

Sonia Fiorenza:

I don’t know if people can still hear us. We’re still about 60 or so people on the line. Wonder if you should start to answer any of these other questions that people are hanging out?

Chris Berger:

All right. [inaudible 00:31:19] says she can hear us.

Sonia Fiorenza:

[crosstalk 00:31:20] can hear you.

Chris Berger:

Okay. If they can, let’s answer some questions. I don’t mind that at all.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Okay. So let’s see. [Kurtsy 00:31:27] wants to know, with respect to external communications, can you share your strategy on increasing patient engagement through this platform? So you’ll have to talk about whether or not you’re…

Chris Berger:

Yeah. Through this platform, we don’t really do a whole lot of external. Besides there are some stories that, like I said, you can enable to have those be shared, and certainly the ones that we feel are appropriate and that would help us with what we want to do. Absolutely, they can share from the actual app. But for the most part, we use this as an internal communications app. We have a separate strategy from an external communication where we’ve used LinkedIn elevate in the past to basically share our stories a whole lot across their platform because that’s where we think a lot of thought leaders are. So we’ll continue that and I think it’s a really good way.

But we also, from an external standpoint, like I said, everything starts with our daily dose blog. And then we use our social media channels to obviously make sure that we’re sharing those appropriately, those stories. So it’s been exciting really to see the… And our newsroom page has been huge for that. As you mentioned, Sonia, it was like you get some of the information from our infographics and things like that.

When we share those a lot of times there’ll be organizations not even in our service area that we’ll use our graphics and things like that because they’re so informative. And that’s what we’re always trying to do, is try to simplify, make sure that they’re easy to understand, and I think that’s something that we’ll continue to try to do is use all of our platforms and make them as digestible as possible.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s amazing. I have to tell you last year that when everyone was trying to figure out what to do with masks, my mom and I had a conversation about it, and I sent one of your infographics about the different types of masks and what you needed to my mom. So you are helping people.

Chris Berger:

I kind of laugh a little bit. I remember back, gosh, more than a year ago now, when, I mean, this talks about the need for an app this. I can remember back when we were discussing whether healthcare workers, nurses, and such should be wearing masks in front of patients because it might scare them. Quickly that changed obviously, “Yes, wear the mask. Everybody needs to wear a mask,” but it was just very much having to [inaudible 00:33:50]… Joey lived that little piece of hell of mass content, and then it was changing by the minute of what to do and then mask shortage and whatever. Yeah. How do you clean your masks? All kinds of stuff.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Right. Kristy’s asking COVID provided an excellent opportunity for people who want to receive information. How will you re-engage your workforce on non-COVID content? Strategy [crosstalk 00:34:13] information, yeah.

Chris Berger:

To me we’re not re-engaging them, to me we’re just continuing to engage them. So I think, like I said before, it wasn’t a strategy that we started when COVID hit, this was something we had already laid the groundwork for before COVID so what it did is just reinforced what we were doing and maybe refine some of it. It probably made us a little bit more agile as well. Being an organization like we are, there was a lot of information that had to be shared and quickly approved and things like that, and so we had to set up some quick processes of something that probably would have taken a couple of days, a couple hours if that. So it was a lot of things that we had to make sure that we were oversharing, if anything.

I mean, we had to make sure that we set up a cadence of how to share certain information, what to look for if it came from our emergency operation center. And what was the frequency of that? Obviously, it was a whole lot more at the beginning than it is now, but those were important things. And then even within that communication what was new? So you might have information that is always good to have that is information at your fingertips, but there’s also information that had to go in there that was like, okay, we have to point out and we just had a policy change for a mask, we just had a policy change for visitors, visitor restrictions or whatever it was going to happen. Now we’re loosening the risk that a visitor guidelines. So all of those things require people say, “Okay, it’s a new pay attention to this.”

Sonia Fiorenza:

Well, and you we’re in different states so I imagine you also had to target the information to be relevant state by state because…

Chris Berger:

Yeah. The one thing, we didn’t hit on this unfortunately, was like I said, Navicent Health and now Atrium Health Navicent Health in Georgia and Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem North Carolina, we are joining them to the system. And that was one of the things I remember talking to them way back in the day before we were even joined up, and they were so excited about having this app because I think it is something that everybody wants they just don’t how to get that. And now that we’re going to be joining, it’ll be even more seamless communication. I think that’s something that everybody’s excited about.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Yep. And we’re excited too, because we’re partnering with you on joining those organizations and communicating with those employees.

Chris Berger:

Yeah. For sure.

Sonia Fiorenza:

So I’m not sure if Scott Shepherd is still on, but he asked a little earlier, if you can share insight into your strategy of balancing corporate enterprise content versus facility local content on the platform. And you just touched on that a little bit, I don’t know if you want to expand on it at all.

Chris Berger:

Yeah, I would say, I mean, if I had to guess on a percentage wise it really depends on the facility. And there is the ability, and this is the great thing, through it depends on your directory and your list and how great they are. Ours were not great when we started. And that’s always one of the bigger, bigger things. It was an atrium health thing, not a SocialChorus thing is how can you segment and how can you target? But targeting teammates is a huge, huge, huge benefit. So however great your directory is, is however great your targeting will be on the list. And so theoretically, if a facility president wanted to send an email or, sorry, a note out, or a video, or whatever out to just those workers, they could do that if your lists are that good.

But I think probably for the most part, we are more of a department. If there is, I will say, I think there’s one. I was trying to remember some of the teams that the nurses I’ll use an example. Nurses are spread, obviously, throughout the whole system. They need to be connected and know kind of everything that’s happening and so they have their own channel. I mentioned the environmental services worker, that’s another huge one. EVS workers obviously hugely important, especially during COVID. Some of the unsung heroes of COVID. Those are the ones going in and cleaning the rooms even after those patients that have been in there that have had COVID.

So there’s so many things there. But pathogen posts through infectious disease, that was another special channel. Nursing news went to all nurses, Code Lavender was a group started by our chaplains that was meant for making sure that everybody’s taking those times to recharge. And if there wasn’t that time out that was needed because things were becoming so stressful, that was tips for how to do that. I mentioned government relations. Some of those were really, really important channels to keep everybody informed. So we more of we’re by department, as opposed by facility, but I would say 75% of what we do is across the entire organization and then we have those that we do within each area too.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Great.

Chris Berger:

But there’s that ability, and I love that ability. That was one of my huge things was we had an event, unfortunately some of you guys might remember in national news where there was a shooting at UNC Charlotte. And that was another event where our facility president was able to send a special note out to those workers there. So it can be as targeted. I used to, and shame on me, I used to send out a video kind of every week or something like that to my corporate communications team, and I don’t know whatever happened to that. I’m embarrassed to say, but anyway…

Sonia Fiorenza:

[crosstalk 00:39:49] why so that I can ask you about it later.

Chris Berger:

Yeah.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Well thar example of the shooting, I mean, talk about high context communications and a multicultural communications that the Malcolm Gladwell talked about yesterday. So to be able to have that ability is fantastic. Well, we went 10 minutes over and we were able to get to everybody’s questions so I think Bobby called this the Encore Encore. So we kept about 30 people and I think that we’ve covered everything. So thank you again for your time. Really appreciate you sharing what you’ve learned and you know how much we appreciate your partnership so thank you for that as well.

Chris Berger:

Well, thank you all. One of the compliments I always hear from the team is that you guys are great customer service. And that’s why we keep you around.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Great. We love hearing that. All right, everyone, we’re really going to end at this time. Thank you so much. Have great day. We’ll see you at the next breakout session. Bye-bye.

Chris Berger:

Have a good one.

 

Expand Transcript

Video Transcript

Sonia Fiorenza:

I’m going to go ahead and get started. Welcome to our session called The New Era of (healthcare) Communications and I’ll explain in just a minute, what we’re thinking of with those brackets. So I want to introduce you, I’m very happy to introduce you to Chris Berger, the VP of Enterprise Communications for Atrium Health, and Chris is going to spend some time today talking with us about Atrium’s program. It’s a SocialChorus program called Teal Insider, and some of the improvements that it’s helped them with, optimizing their communications and even seeing some improvements on their annual employee engagement survey which I was really excited to hear about.

The reason that we put healthcare in brackets is Chris and I have both worked in healthcare. Earlier in my career, I worked at Amgen, a biotech company in California, and we’ve also both worked in retail. I worked for Gap Inc., Chris worked for Walmart, so some pretty large retailers, and we actually believe that the lessons that are learned here apply to all industries. We were talking a lot about that as we were in our prep session, so wanted to say that if you’re not in the healthcare industry, we’ve got something here for you. If you are in the healthcare industry, we’ve definitely got some lessons, especially in the last year and I think even in the last day for Chris, he was just sharing with me.

So before I dive into the session, let me just do quick housekeeping. If you have questions during the session, you can put them in the chat and Chris and I will be answering them. We’ll weave them in throughout the session. We’ve only got 30 minutes. So we’re going to talk fast if we don’t get through all your questions, we’ll definitely follow up. And there’s some members of the SocialChorus team on the line as well so they’ll try to answer some questions directly in the chat. Additionally, we have a tech firm convene here to help with technical issues.

I’m going to let Chris talk in just a minute, I promise, but I want to share a fun fact that I’ve had the pleasure of learning about him as I’ve gotten to know him in the last year or so. And that is in addition to being a stellar communications professional, he’s actually a coffee roaster and I’m a little bit of a coffee geek and a coffee snob and so I was thrilled to find out that Chris runs his own side hustle called Sugar Creek Coffee. In fact, I drink Sugar Creek coffee every single morning. I order it from him and it gets shipped across the country. And funny thing, my canister here is empty, but I think that my post person is arriving during our talk today.

So my Sugar Creek coffee is going to be arriving on my doorstep with my latest shipment. So I heard Melissa Tucson from Providence tell us yesterday that you’re only ever one good yoga class away from a good mood and I think Chris might say you’re only one cup of coffee away from a good mood.

Chris Berger:

Absolutely.

Sonia Fiorenza:

With that, I’ll turn it over to you, Chris.

Chris Berger:

I love it. That’s great. No, thanks for having me is going to be great. Really been looking forward to this since we’ve talked about this and I know we have a lot to talk about in 30 minutes.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Sure do. Well, why don’t you start, for those who don’t know, telling them about Atrium Health and your organization?

Chris Berger:

Sure. So Atrium Health, we are headquartered here in Charlotte, North Carolina, and we are a large system, healthcare system, the largest in the Southeast, and we’re spread throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and really growing all the time with new partners. And it’s been really exciting. I mean, some of the numbers just throwing out there nearly 40 hospitals 71,000 teammates. We have 15 million patient interactions each year and really our whole mission is around health hope and healing for all, and we use that word for all quite a bit because everything that we do really centers around making sure that the same level of care is provided to not just those that can afford it, but those that also can’t.

So we’re really proud about the number of people that we serve each year that really afford free and uncompensated care. It’s amazing. It’s about $5.6 million a day which is, that number always boggles my mind. And a day we provide nearly over-

Speaker 3:

Thank you. Thank you.

Chris Berger:

But yeah, it’s a pretty exciting place to be a part of. I joined about four years ago, actually just celebrated my four year anniversary last week. And we came from Walmart, like you mentioned, and have really been trying to make sure that from a communications perspective we’re modernizing, we’re staying up. And as you mentioned, I think many of the things that retail went through about 10 years ago, we talked about omni-channel and some of those other fun buzzwords, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do in healthcare. It’s becoming much more consumer friendly and we’re maniacally focused on the consumer and that’s really what we’re looking at as we continue to talk internally and externally about communications, how do we make that consumable for them?

Sonia Fiorenza:

I also love that you had the word hope in your mission when you said… Tell me again, it was hope healing?

Chris Berger:

Hope and healing.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Hope and healing. It’s a tongue-twister, but I love that wording there as well. Well, let’s start with that you started to give us the big picture, tell us a little bit more about your goals for communications at Atrium Health and what you’ve achieved in the last four years since you’ve been there.

Chris Berger:

Yeah, yeah. It’s been an exciting journey. It really started, like I said, for me four years ago, there was an incredible team that was already in place. I had the pleasure of coming and joining the team and then just really my goal has been from the beginning of really connecting communications throughout the entire enterprise together. And as you imagine, when you have more than 40 hospitals and 1500 locations and 70,000 teammates everywhere, it’s an interesting endeavor to try and make sure that everybody’s on the same page.

And I know the big shock came for us kind of my second year here when our employee engagement numbers came back and one of the top things that they wanted to address was communication. And if you’ve had the pleasure of working in communications and get employee engagement survey out, you know that communications is typically always on there. It’s been at every single company that I’ve ever worked at. And you take a little bit of time to kind of explain how do you unpack what communications mean, big C communications, which is my team or little C communications, which is just what people do every day. And-

Sonia Fiorenza:

I have to interject and agree with you that yes, in every engagement survey I’ve ever done in my career in communications, it always comes up. I had a CHRO who once said that communications is like air, everybody wants more of it, they’re never going to say they don’t. So unpack that a little bit more. What’s the big C and the little C communications?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. So for me, when I say big C, it’s really the communication function and that’s what my team leads. So my team is separated or combined, I should say. We have a standard internal communications team, we have an executive communications team. We have a crisis management media relations team. We also have a clinical communications team that really focuses on really diving in and supporting all of the service lines within Atrium Health. And then we also have a reputation management team that’s fairly new, a team of one that is really focused on our reputation and how we can advance that nationally.

So those teams work together to really… We’re also combined, interestingly enough, with the marketing function at Atrium Health. So we sit side-by-side, we work with them and we have a division that’s known as marketing communications and consumer, and the consumer part’s really focused on the analytics. So we can look into the numbers and make smart decisions. So it’s really been really a great effort to bring everything together to make sure that they’re all rolling together at the same time and it’s been a lot of fun.

So that big C little C has been really important because we see little C is a lot of times, that’s what teammates they are asking for. They’re asking from their manager, they’re asking for other. Like Malcolm Gladwell said, they’re asking for context. They want to know why something is happening and what is happening. And so what we’re trying to do, have been trying to do on this journey is really giving that information to them at the right time, wherever they are no matter where they are, if they’re at home or at work or wherever, that they can get that information.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s great. And when you think about getting all of their information or getting where they are, can you talk a little bit about where Teal Insider, your SocialChorus platform fits into that?

Chris Berger:

Oh, absolutely. So one of the first things when that engagement survey came out, that wasn’t the greatest numbers. We looked at several different options and one of the things I’ve been wanting to do for a long time is really meet teammates wherever they are and allow them to consume information how they already do that. And typically, what is the one thing that every person has on them? It’s some type of a smartphone. I don’t care who you are, you pretty much have a smartphone of some type that you’re interacting with and so give them what we need to do.

And that was we started down this journey and Teal Insider is our app that we use and we have a great team that leads all of the efforts around that. And that has really changed the game of really the way we communicate. And it’s not the only way, obviously, but it is a very important spoke of the wheel of communications that we put out there. And we’ve seen some amazing… Helped by COVID. I mean, in some ways COVID has helped adoption rate. We’re over 50% now. Of those that are on the app, over 60% of them are engaged and have continued to have high retention on those teammates. So we’re seeing some really great numbers, and we’re just trying to capitalize on that so that when we’re past these events in our history that we’ll continue with those great numbers as well.

Sonia Fiorenza:

I love those numbers, by the way. You mentioned that it’s changed the way that you communicate. Can you talk a little bit more about that? How has it changed the way you communicate?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. I think for us email was king and I think that’s a lot of communications, they just relied on communications and on email to send out every single note. And we still use email, don’t get me wrong, but what we do is we coincide that with the Teal Insider app. And I think the way that we can segment and really target teammates, I think that is one of the very huge beneficial parts of the app. Above and beyond the things that you typically think about an app like push notifications. To have that ability of any case to send out a push notification is beautiful and I’ll use yesterday as an example. When the news started hitting about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and we were trying to figure out, okay, how do we quickly get information?

One of the core things our president CEO, Gene Woods, who’s very much one of the spear head leaders of this app and getting better communication platform in place was how do we communicate to every single employee, no matter where they are at the same time if some event were to happen? And I think yesterday was a really good example of that actually taking place. We had an event that kind of here we are rolling out the vaccines, we have the Pfizer, we had the Moderna, and then all of a sudden we have Johnson & Johnson come out and say that we have to the FTC and FDA recommended delaying it or putting a pause on it.

So we wanted to let everybody know about that. We started with a group called Team Teal and that’s our internal ambassador team. And we sent a very first notification out to them, gave them some information that they could then share later. And then from that, we rolled out the rest of our plans to everybody else, but team teal has been vital and really to take it, I guess, a level higher, one of our strategies was to make sure that that we were communicating straight to teammates, the cascade in general. I mean, we all love the cascade of communications, start with the officers and work their way down. We knew that was broken.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Do we really love it? I mean, let’s talk about that.

Chris Berger:

Well we love it, in quotations right? And so we just knew that that wasn’t going to really get us where we wanted to go. And so we had to go straight to teammates and that has helped out tremendously because we’ve been able to give them context, like I said, for whatever’s happening, whether it’s a crisis, whether it’s just an everyday story that we want to share, and it’s really helped build pride, I think, tremendously in teammates as they want to share a lot of different things to their friends, their neighbors, or even during a crisis, so to speak because we have them with 70,000 teammates, we’re going to have something that happens every now and then. It really, really helps to be able to just get straight to teammates to where they have that information at their fingertips, friends or neighbors or asking about things.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Yep. Makes sense. And Stephanie did comment because we were a little disparaging. The cascade can provide context where there is none, but it is definitely a variable and unreliable I think is [crosstalk 00:14:24].

Chris Berger:

And then again, I think this is a, as I mentioned, this is a spoke to the wheel of communications, right? This is not an end all be all solution, but this is a very, very valuable solution because, I mean, I’ll say one of the examples is we have obviously a lot of undesked workers. So everywhere from our environmental services team who they don’t even access email. So how are you going to get down to their level and make sure that they’re the information that they need? And I think that we have a lot of nurses, and nurses, they don’t sit in front of a computer, they’re delivering care. So how do you make sure that they have that information during their breaks?

Guess what, they can go onto the app and now get that information that they didn’t have before, or they would’ve have to go onto an email, which they probably are. And we’re giving it to them in a quick read snackable bites type of information as opposed to a long form email that they would have had to read through.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Right. And you mentioned that this is one spoke. So another piece of your communication strategy you alluded was this Teal ambassadors program. I unconsciously chose teal is my color this morning so I’m actually feeling you must have gotten to me with your ambassador program. But can you talk a little bit about what that program is because it’s pretty innovative, especially in a healthcare organization?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. One of the things that we really wanted to start was an ambassador program, both internally and externally. And internally, our team Teal, they’re comprised of everyday teammates, everything from your lower level, I hate to even use that word, but everyday teammate to vice presidents. And so it’s not if you are just a frontline worker or whatever, that you can’t be part of this program, we actually purposely are putting people in place. And we started it, we were hoping to get 50. We had that. And then we worked our way up from there and now we have over 400, crouching on 500 teammates across the system at different locations who we use as kind of our frontline who to go to for any event that happens or just keeping them informed.

They have their own channel on the Teal Insider app, they get to basically hear about events before most people do, sometimes even officers quite honestly, because we’re making sure that they are the people that everybody knows who to go to. And we also set them up, we make it very exclusive. Before COVID, we had lots of little retreats, we gave them special jackets and it was an exclusive thing. They had to have vice-presidential approval in order to be part of it, so it was a really big deal and that has really helped us as we’ve navigated lots of different events and things like that where we really want to make sure that they understand so that when people, their friends, neighbors, and coworkers are asking about things, they know how to answer those questions, and they hear it from us as opposed to hearing it from the media.

Sonia Fiorenza:

You’ve almost inserted a different place in that cascade that we’ve talked about before with team Teal, as opposed to relying on every single manager to be the ones to do that.

Chris Berger:

That’s exactly right. And we did a external as well, and it was a very conscious effort to make sure that we’re sharing our information externally as much as ensuring. Because I think a lot of times organizations are a little hesitant or they don’t want to be too boastful about their work, but I think that can be a detriment too because nobody knows about the great stuff that you’re doing. And so we really started to engage lots of different platforms to be able to share our stories out there and that started with the brand journalism effort and that was one of the most important teams that I forgot to mention, I can’t believe that our brand journalism team that does social and and also our daily dose blog other things that, that really is our springboard for most of this information that we share.

Sonia Fiorenza:

And I have to encourage people to connect and follow you on LinkedIn. I do that, and the news that you put out, I mean, it feels like you’re a news organization. Throughout COVID, I actually was getting a lot of very helpful tips whether it was masks or vaccinations or what have you. I’m in California across the country and I was getting them from your content. The content that makes me smile the most, I think I’ve shared this with you, is your window washers. Describe for people what the window washers do and why that makes me smile so much when I see the picture on LinkedIn.

Chris Berger:

Yeah. So once a year, we have our Levine Cancer Hospital. It’s just an amazing event where window washers come in and they dress up like superheroes. And they’re basically scaling the sides of the building, washing the windows like they would normally do, but wearing superheroes outfits. So not only are they washing the windows, but they’re interacting with our patients who are obviously in a children’s hospital and providing that, again, goes along with that health, hope and healing.

Just providing that little glimmer of hope, those smiles on their faces. And every time that happens, it is a pretty special event and we love sharing that just because it is so… It’s something you wouldn’t even think about, but it’s something that happens every single year and it is a very, very cool moment.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Yeah. And tell me a little bit about how the ambassador program has changed what you’ve been able to accomplish from an earned media perspective especially in the last year.

Chris Berger:

Yeah. I think earned media is always one of those huge things, and it’s really hard. This last year, I mean, COVID obviously did some amazing things, but I think one of the things that the groundwork was laid before COVID for us to be known as subject matter experts in our field. And I think when COVID hit, that allowed us at that point from a thought leadership perspective to really make sure that news organizations were looking to us.

And so it’s quite frequent that you’ll see representatives from our organization, from our president and CEO down to leaders within each area to be on CNN, to be on Fox, to be testifying before Congress about all of the things that have happened and that we’ve seen and experienced and adding a little bit of thought of how can we make this better? How can we make healthcare better experience for everyone?

And some of the things that we’ve done have just been truly hugely innovative. We started when we saw some testing back in the beginning, when we started seeing some of the COVID testing irregularities and disparities in underserved neighborhoods, we started bringing [inaudible 00:21:34] vehicles right to them in the neighborhoods. We didn’t wait for other things to happen, we brought them to them and we geographically knew where those were based on the systems that we already had in place.

We had hospital at home system that we alleviate and where most places we’re dealing with the hospital being overrun, we’ve served over 60,000. I can’t remember the last number but 60,000 patients in the comfort of their home through this program. And so those are some of the things that we’re putting out there and making sure that everybody knew about, and obviously everybody’s wanting to know more about that, and it’s just been really fantastic, just a way to get out there.

But that started with making sure that we had a great platform at the beginning to be able to do this and share this information externally, and again, that brand journalism telling the stories and making sure that we had a way to share those stories effectively. It’s just really proved hugely beneficial our earned media. I know we had to set our goals for this next year, and I was just like, no, hold on.

Sonia Fiorenza:

You can’t make stuff around here.

Chris Berger:

Let’s not do a year over year please, because we all know last year was unbelievably crazy and it was going to be hard to beat. But this year has started off obviously just as well and it’s been exciting to see, and that’s because the team that I have in place and the leadership team that I have in place is just really… I feel like I’ve worked a lot of places and I’ve told them this is the most phenomenal team I’ve ever worked with. Everybody working together and caring about each other is truly like a work family. And I think most of them feel the same way.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s fantastic. It makes the work even more rewarding.

Chris Berger:

Yeah.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Let’s kind of close the loop or cycle back all the way around here, you started out and Ray asked this question and it looks like some of your team is actually on here. Dolly is answering questions as well, but you talked about the big C, little C communications, the employee engagement survey, Teal Insider and then we went on this whole tangent of fields like about external communications, right? But let’s close that loop, what does that look like for when you bring it back your employees and how does that boost morale and change your employee engagement survey?

Chris Berger:

Yeah, I think what we saw was, I mean, it’s not what I think I saw, what we saw was a dramatic change in the numbers and people feeling, I think, for the first time in a very long time that they were actually being informed. And not just talked to, but the ability to share information themselves, things that they were proud about. We have that obviously set up through the app or on appropriate stories that they can share that externally, we have that enabled. And then we have lots of different things set up through the app just to continually keep them informed and we’re using a lot of those tools.

And what I tell everybody, it’s an investment. It’s something that we definitely say, “Look, you’ve got to have buy-in from the top,” because it’s not just an investment in time and resources, it’s also an investment in money obviously, but it has a huge, huge payoff at the end of the day and it is able to really engage everybody and pull them together and make them really proud. I think about the place that they work when you’re sharing those stories that already resonate with them but just aren’t being told. And so we’re able to get those increased special channels or different parts of the organization that during the election, obviously, the government relations channel was buzzing all the time.

There are so many things that we created a ability for them to share. We’re rolling out some new ones with nurses and they’re going to curate it and handle it all themselves. So there is a set it and forget it model that can be put in place, but there’s also a curated model where you need to approved things, obviously, before they go out. But it’s an investment, but I 100% think that the implementation of the app was one of those things that has helped us turn the tide and really turn from low engagement numbers when it came to communication to very high and I’m excited about that.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s awesome. So you are a health care company, and I worked at a healthcare company. There are a lot of regulations that go into how you communicate at the healthcare company, and one of the biggest resistances I hear is like, “No way. We can never have our employees sharing information.” Can you talk a little about that? How have you done that?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. And I think our team is incredibly… we deal in this HIPAA environment where everything is very much… they’re aware of the policies and there isn’t anything that goes out to the masses without being approved. And I think we follow and make sure that all of the policies are followed. We have social media policies just like we do with anything else. So I think it’s one of those things that we make sure, absolutely, that we’re following all the guidelines, but we also are really encouraging of people to share their stories and make sure that if they had a story to share to let us know about it.

So we are never at an end. I mean, we joke about this all the time. We’re not at an end for stories to share because we have tremendous stories that we share all the time, not just from patients who are recovered from miraculous injuries and things and things, and the doctors and through the system have been healed. But I think there’s so many other great stories out there just from a teammate side that it just makes you proud to work for an organization like this.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s great. Okay. I know we’re coming up to the wire, but let’s see if we can fire off a couple of these questions and maybe we’ll go a minute or so long since we’ve got a break. How did you choose your external ambassadors?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. So we have a key influencer list that, again, it started out very small, it’s now massive. And basically each executive owns a certain amount of key influencers that we chose, and we met with them and said, “Who are the people that you think are the most important and who do you have connections with?” So each one of them before any major event that we have, we just announced the location of our new school of medicine, wake forest school of medicine, the second location in Charlotte or in the Charlotte area, it’s part of the regional campus now with Wake Forest School Medicine in Winston-Salem. But we have a key influencer list that we made sure that we hit before hit went public that came from that.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Got it. And how many people in your team… I’m totally changing gears on you here, but how many people in your team are dedicated to internal communications and especially through your platform?

Chris Berger:

Yeah. So it’s not a dedicated person either. So Dana, I’ll call you out, does an amazing job on this platform and it helps out tremendously. And then Jolie Shifflet who you saw earlier interacting, she leads this incredible team that really keeps everybody informed. It’s also in collaboration with our HR partners. So that’s really important. Our HR communication partners really important to collaborate with them as well, but it’s not even the full-time role. Dana obviously does a whole lot more than this, but she is dedicated to kind of be in the product manager, so to speak, and she helps with this platform.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s great. And that’s one of the things that we find is a best practice across our customers is that the more you can distribute that communications and to allow others to help you, it grows your communications organization, right? You’ve got all these ambassadors and you have other business functions that are helping with your internal communications through the platform and that allows you to add more value.

Let’s see, we are right at the bottom of the hour here. We’ve got all the questions in the chat, so we’ll make sure that we follow up with some of these. I do want to thank you so much for your time. We both knew that this 30 minutes was going to go by so fast. If our attendees want to get in touch with you and learn more from your team, what’s the best way to do that?

Chris Berger:

Sure. You can connect with me on LinkedIn. Look for me. It’s Chris Berger. It’s B-E-R-G-E-R. Connect with me there, or chris.berger@atriumhealth.org. So either one of those, happy to help out and happy to answer any questions. And one of the things I love to do is make my team available to answer questions about this app because it’s been so transformative for us.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Well, we really appreciate how generous you are with your time now and also before and after this. So everyone knows we have a 30 minute break so everyone stretch and take that mental break that you need and grab a snack if you need one. And we’re going to regroup at 4:00 PM Eastern for our second set of breakouts. You can look at the list of breakout options on the agenda, on the Atrium page. And thanks again, Chris. I’m super excited for my coffee to show up in the next hour. I need some. All right. Thank you.

Chris Berger:

Thank you.

Sonia Fiorenza:

I don’t know if people can still hear us. We’re still about 60 or so people on the line. Wonder if you should start to answer any of these other questions that people are hanging out?

Chris Berger:

All right. [inaudible 00:31:19] says she can hear us.

Sonia Fiorenza:

[crosstalk 00:31:20] can hear you.

Chris Berger:

Okay. If they can, let’s answer some questions. I don’t mind that at all.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Okay. So let’s see. [Kurtsy 00:31:27] wants to know, with respect to external communications, can you share your strategy on increasing patient engagement through this platform? So you’ll have to talk about whether or not you’re…

Chris Berger:

Yeah. Through this platform, we don’t really do a whole lot of external. Besides there are some stories that, like I said, you can enable to have those be shared, and certainly the ones that we feel are appropriate and that would help us with what we want to do. Absolutely, they can share from the actual app. But for the most part, we use this as an internal communications app. We have a separate strategy from an external communication where we’ve used LinkedIn elevate in the past to basically share our stories a whole lot across their platform because that’s where we think a lot of thought leaders are. So we’ll continue that and I think it’s a really good way.

But we also, from an external standpoint, like I said, everything starts with our daily dose blog. And then we use our social media channels to obviously make sure that we’re sharing those appropriately, those stories. So it’s been exciting really to see the… And our newsroom page has been huge for that. As you mentioned, Sonia, it was like you get some of the information from our infographics and things like that.

When we share those a lot of times there’ll be organizations not even in our service area that we’ll use our graphics and things like that because they’re so informative. And that’s what we’re always trying to do, is try to simplify, make sure that they’re easy to understand, and I think that’s something that we’ll continue to try to do is use all of our platforms and make them as digestible as possible.

Sonia Fiorenza:

That’s amazing. I have to tell you last year that when everyone was trying to figure out what to do with masks, my mom and I had a conversation about it, and I sent one of your infographics about the different types of masks and what you needed to my mom. So you are helping people.

Chris Berger:

I kind of laugh a little bit. I remember back, gosh, more than a year ago now, when, I mean, this talks about the need for an app this. I can remember back when we were discussing whether healthcare workers, nurses, and such should be wearing masks in front of patients because it might scare them. Quickly that changed obviously, “Yes, wear the mask. Everybody needs to wear a mask,” but it was just very much having to [inaudible 00:33:50]… Joey lived that little piece of hell of mass content, and then it was changing by the minute of what to do and then mask shortage and whatever. Yeah. How do you clean your masks? All kinds of stuff.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Right. Kristy’s asking COVID provided an excellent opportunity for people who want to receive information. How will you re-engage your workforce on non-COVID content? Strategy [crosstalk 00:34:13] information, yeah.

Chris Berger:

To me we’re not re-engaging them, to me we’re just continuing to engage them. So I think, like I said before, it wasn’t a strategy that we started when COVID hit, this was something we had already laid the groundwork for before COVID so what it did is just reinforced what we were doing and maybe refine some of it. It probably made us a little bit more agile as well. Being an organization like we are, there was a lot of information that had to be shared and quickly approved and things like that, and so we had to set up some quick processes of something that probably would have taken a couple of days, a couple hours if that. So it was a lot of things that we had to make sure that we were oversharing, if anything.

I mean, we had to make sure that we set up a cadence of how to share certain information, what to look for if it came from our emergency operation center. And what was the frequency of that? Obviously, it was a whole lot more at the beginning than it is now, but those were important things. And then even within that communication what was new? So you might have information that is always good to have that is information at your fingertips, but there’s also information that had to go in there that was like, okay, we have to point out and we just had a policy change for a mask, we just had a policy change for visitors, visitor restrictions or whatever it was going to happen. Now we’re loosening the risk that a visitor guidelines. So all of those things require people say, “Okay, it’s a new pay attention to this.”

Sonia Fiorenza:

Well, and you we’re in different states so I imagine you also had to target the information to be relevant state by state because…

Chris Berger:

Yeah. The one thing, we didn’t hit on this unfortunately, was like I said, Navicent Health and now Atrium Health Navicent Health in Georgia and Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem North Carolina, we are joining them to the system. And that was one of the things I remember talking to them way back in the day before we were even joined up, and they were so excited about having this app because I think it is something that everybody wants they just don’t how to get that. And now that we’re going to be joining, it’ll be even more seamless communication. I think that’s something that everybody’s excited about.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Yep. And we’re excited too, because we’re partnering with you on joining those organizations and communicating with those employees.

Chris Berger:

Yeah. For sure.

Sonia Fiorenza:

So I’m not sure if Scott Shepherd is still on, but he asked a little earlier, if you can share insight into your strategy of balancing corporate enterprise content versus facility local content on the platform. And you just touched on that a little bit, I don’t know if you want to expand on it at all.

Chris Berger:

Yeah, I would say, I mean, if I had to guess on a percentage wise it really depends on the facility. And there is the ability, and this is the great thing, through it depends on your directory and your list and how great they are. Ours were not great when we started. And that’s always one of the bigger, bigger things. It was an atrium health thing, not a SocialChorus thing is how can you segment and how can you target? But targeting teammates is a huge, huge, huge benefit. So however great your directory is, is however great your targeting will be on the list. And so theoretically, if a facility president wanted to send an email or, sorry, a note out, or a video, or whatever out to just those workers, they could do that if your lists are that good.

But I think probably for the most part, we are more of a department. If there is, I will say, I think there’s one. I was trying to remember some of the teams that the nurses I’ll use an example. Nurses are spread, obviously, throughout the whole system. They need to be connected and know kind of everything that’s happening and so they have their own channel. I mentioned the environmental services worker, that’s another huge one. EVS workers obviously hugely important, especially during COVID. Some of the unsung heroes of COVID. Those are the ones going in and cleaning the rooms even after those patients that have been in there that have had COVID.

So there’s so many things there. But pathogen posts through infectious disease, that was another special channel. Nursing news went to all nurses, Code Lavender was a group started by our chaplains that was meant for making sure that everybody’s taking those times to recharge. And if there wasn’t that time out that was needed because things were becoming so stressful, that was tips for how to do that. I mentioned government relations. Some of those were really, really important channels to keep everybody informed. So we more of we’re by department, as opposed by facility, but I would say 75% of what we do is across the entire organization and then we have those that we do within each area too.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Great.

Chris Berger:

But there’s that ability, and I love that ability. That was one of my huge things was we had an event, unfortunately some of you guys might remember in national news where there was a shooting at UNC Charlotte. And that was another event where our facility president was able to send a special note out to those workers there. So it can be as targeted. I used to, and shame on me, I used to send out a video kind of every week or something like that to my corporate communications team, and I don’t know whatever happened to that. I’m embarrassed to say, but anyway…

Sonia Fiorenza:

[crosstalk 00:39:49] why so that I can ask you about it later.

Chris Berger:

Yeah.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Well thar example of the shooting, I mean, talk about high context communications and a multicultural communications that the Malcolm Gladwell talked about yesterday. So to be able to have that ability is fantastic. Well, we went 10 minutes over and we were able to get to everybody’s questions so I think Bobby called this the Encore Encore. So we kept about 30 people and I think that we’ve covered everything. So thank you again for your time. Really appreciate you sharing what you’ve learned and you know how much we appreciate your partnership so thank you for that as well.

Chris Berger:

Well, thank you all. One of the compliments I always hear from the team is that you guys are great customer service. And that’s why we keep you around.

Sonia Fiorenza:

Great. We love hearing that. All right, everyone, we’re really going to end at this time. Thank you so much. Have great day. We’ll see you at the next breakout session. Bye-bye.

Chris Berger:

Have a good one.

 

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