A non-profit healthcare network of hospitals, clinics, physicians and care providers covering Hawaii and the Pacific Region, Hawai’i Pacific Health (HPH) is the largest healthcare provider in the state. Given the location of the Hawaiian Islands, it’s not a simple case of sending a patient to another county to receive the care they need. As such, it is critical for Hawai’i Pacific Health to deliver quality care in the islands for the Hawaiian people.
That critical need for quality care increased sharply in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit worldwide. As businesses began shutting down and cases began to climb, Raquel Hicks, Director of Organizational Effectiveness, said that the first and most pressing need, for both patients and employees, was the need for information. With much of the staff working twelve-hour shifts on site, it was vital to be able to communicate with staff members in a fast, mobile method.
“We were sort of joking at the time that we’re not really going day by day, we’re really going hour by hour right now as the protocols were changing, and the policies needed to be changed, and the information was changing,” she said. “There was just such a desperate need for information because the anxiety level was so high, that we needed a way to get messaging out to people very, very quickly because there were just so many unanswered questions. This really helped us communicate with our folks quickly.”
Clarity, Confidence and Compassion
With anxiety running high across the islands, Hawai’i Pacific Health adopted Dynamic Signal’s platform as a means of delivering information and easing tension. The platform allowed the internal communications team to reach out in ways they previously hadn’t been able to. For example, while executive communications had been limited to emails or newsletters, the new platform allowed the CEO to speak directly to the teams.
“We’re fortunate to have a CEO who’s an incredibly wonderful speaker, very authentic, very dynamic, very transparent,” said Raquel. “To be able to see and hear his voice via the video feature, I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and said, ‘I’m so comforted by being able to hear Ray talk to us directly. We’ve never had that before.’”
Additionally, the video feature has allowed the HPH team to deliver visual information that helped answer staff members’ questions in an easily digestible manner. As an example, there were a lot of questions at the outset about PPE, its use, its sterilization and proper safety measures. To help answer questions on the sterilization of N95 masks, the team created a video that explained it clearly.
“There’s just no substitute for a visual on how that process works than having somebody talk you through it,” said Raquel. “Videos have been just a huge element of our communication plan.”
Targeted Push Notifications, Stat
The new platform also allowed for the delivery of mobile notifications, with daily COVID bulletins, PPE protocols and return-to-work guidelines being sent out regularly. This proved particularly helpful for both remote staff and frontline workers, who often spent hours on their feet unable to receive email easily.
“Being able to broadcast and push out critical information has been extremely helpful in keeping all of our staff, who are currently working virtually from home, informed, as well as our frontline staff who don’t have easy access to computers to get that information via email,” said Ke‘ala Aki, Internal Communications Manager. “Having this platform to be able to push out information via email and mobile, as well as allowing our managers to communicate and connect directly with their staff who may not be on schedule every day has been very, very valuable.”
Lifting Spirits and Connecting to Critical Wellness Resources
As the pandemic wore on, sixty percent of healthcare workers reported experiencing some kind of burnout, which meant that the Hawai’i Pacific Health comms team had to put as much focus on wellness as they did on communication. To that end, the team launched a number of wellbeing initiatives, offering mindfulness and meditation opportunities and a wellbeing podcast, in which two HPH employees share stories and conversations from frontline workers across the community.
They also used video as a means of lightening people’s spirits, creating a rap video, featuring frontline workers singing, dancing and rapping while extolling the virtues of PPE.
“That video has had so many views and so many shares, it’s just been a phenomenon,” Raquel said. “It allows people to see their colleagues. Those are physicians, nurses, delivery people. It just really brightens people’s day to have some fun in a really difficult environment, and you can really only do that with video. There’s nothing an email or newsletter could have done to bring people’s spirits up like that video has.”
Communications as Meaningful, Purposeful Work
It’s been a difficult year, with HPH employees, both in comms and throughout the company, working harder than ever before. But, for Raquel and Ke‘ala, the work has been meaningful and has helped make a difference, which has made all of the long hours worthwhile.
“The biggest antidote to anxiety is information,” Raquel said, “and so being able to provide our amazing, wonderful, incredible staff the information they need to lessen that anxiety has been very meaningful. While it’s been difficult work and very busy work, we’re proud of the difference that we’re making for our wonderful people that work here.”
Raquel and Ke‘ala were panelists in a recent Dynamic Signal webinar titled “Lessons in Resilience: How Healthcare Treats Communication in the New Reality.” Watch the webinar in full here.