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The Catalyst

MUHA Communications Corner

Communication Advisory Group doing more than advising

CEO Patrick Cawley, M.D. formed what he called a Communications Advisory Group, made up of a cross section of medical center employees, to devise an effective two–way channel of information between leadership and staff at all levels. “I am looking to deliver the right message, at the right time, to the right people,” said Cawley. The CAG met for the first time in December 2013. After several organizing sessions, it broke into six work groups. The work group chairs and their teams have developed long–term plans — and have, in many cases, created real–time change in the communications structure.  

The goals of the CAG are to 1) identify topics of interest and concern to employees; 2) serve as on ongoing “focus group” to determine the medical center’s communications needs from the employee’s perspective; and 3) solicit and report employees’ perspectives concerning communication methods and content.

Those in the CAG want the committee to be seen as a credible, trustworthy, effective advocate for employee issues and concerns. That requires the CAG to strategically:

  • Identify employee issues and concerns
  • Improve existing communication devices now, while developing a major overhaul
  • Provide employee–to–leadership channels
  • Devise methods to segment messages by importance and relevancy to specific work areas or job functions

Given that two–way communication is essential, the CAG also recognized the need to help employees understand their responsibility — and the value to them — of absorbing and acting on information communicated by leadership.

The Live workgroup, chaired by Andrea Coyle, R.N., has had the most immediate impact. At the suggestion of that group, MUHA Town Halls were reorganized to have only Cawley and Chief Operating Officer Matt Wain conduct sessions. There was a follow–up session for employees to contemplate further questions and pose them to Cawley and Wain on May 22 in person and via web broadcast. Many employees prefer the face–to–face meetings with their immediate manager and work group. Keeping that in mind, the Live committee suggested having administrators present at staff meetings (rather than town halls), to sharpen the focus to issues affecting that unit.

The Web workgroup, chaired by Betty Stuart, a University hospital OR nurse, is coordinating closely with the and teams, which are working on a major overhaul of those websites.

The Social Media workgroup, chaired by Megan Fink, the Epic program communications manager, is focused on creating a dialogue between employees and leadership and between employees using the Yammer platform. Many MUSC groups already use this Facebook–for-–the–workplace platform to communicate, and it could become the official MUSC social media tool for employees and leadership to communicate.  

The Mobile Apps workgroup, chaired by Clay Thompson, senior information security analyst, took on the heady charge of exploring use of mobile devices and apps, and deciding whether to use mobile apps exclusively or a combination of new and existing formats pushed to a mobile platform. Besides the issues the CAG was considering, the Office of the Chief Information Officer always has to factor in the interoperability of the entire university’s systems and the looming Epic go–live event. Faced with these operational challenges, OCIO has moved forward and purchased a new IBM Worklight Mobile Device Framework — an essential platform by which discreet messages can be sent to specified targets. That’s a big step toward getting the right message to the right people.

Email is currently the standard MUSC method of communications. Yet the number of emails employees receive is often overwhelming. For many who work on units, access to email is limited during their shifts.  The Email workgroup, chaired by Michelle Foreman, a data analyst in MUHA Human Resources, suggested trying to tailor email messages that were relevant to logical job functions, including:

  • ITC group (information technology coordinators)
  • All staff
  • RN group
  • ASBs (secretaries)
  • Business managers
  • Inpatient vs. outpatient
  • Timekeepers/schedules
  • HR departmental contacts (admin/support for HR functions)
  • Leaders
  • Departmental groups
  • Physicians
  • Patient related vs. non–patient related
  • Dietary
  • Environmental Services

and standardizing the subject line with some indication of why the recipient is receiving the email.  For example:
FYI if it’s for information only;
ACT if the recipient is to take an action based on the information included;
REPLY if the email is soliciting ideas, suggestions or decisions.

The Promotion workgroup, chaired by business development manager Tom Robinson, is responsible for letting employees know what the CAG is planning, what has been accomplished and how employees can engage in any or all of the new offerings. This article in The Catalyst is a first step in that direction. Future communications will be coming through familiar channels, including emails and live meetings, and the new platforms like mobile apps and Yammer as they come online.

If you have questions, concerns or ideas, email

June 20, 2014



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