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Posted on 11.29.2018

In the know: Five communication tips for keeping health system board members informed and engaged

Whether it’s value-based care, cybersecurity, 340B drug pricing or a new strategic alliance – health system board members have to understand and act upon a host of complex industry issues and trends. As board member responsibilities continue to evolve, health systems need effective strategies to keep board members fully apprised and engaged with leadership teams throughout the duration of an issue or transaction.

In an interview with Modern Healthcare, leading health care policy analyst Paul Keckley discussed the changing role of health system boards. “Boards have more risk. They are going to have to be smarter, more engaged and have some independent judgment,” he said.

Keckley noted boards can sometimes be surprised when problems arise and emphasized the importance of identifying the competencies boards need as strategies evolve. For example, if a health system is expanding into retail health, the board would need to know about Medicaid managed care, formulary design and pharmacy benefit management.

Communications and marketing leaders can play an important role in educating board members and keeping them apprised of emerging issues and trends. Consider the following five strategies to help your C-suite elevate its board communication and engagement efforts.

1. Monitor and discuss priority industry trends. Review your organization’s strategic plan and talk with your leadership team about trends likely to affect the health system in the next 12-24 months. Gather and compile industry articles on priority topics for regular inclusion in board materials.

Once priority topics are identified, the leadership team can set aside time for education during every board meeting. The American Hospital Association cites a number of techniques used by high-performing hospitals to Raise the Bar on Board Education, including assigning board members a specific article for pre-reading and inviting a board member to lead an interactive discussion on that topic during the board meeting.

2. Ensure situational awareness. When a new issue or transaction emerges, the executive charged with leading the effort will need to provide board members with relevant background and details on the organization’s response. Communications leaders can help prepare these materials and build board communications into the larger communication plan.

3. Establish a regular cadence for updates. As with all priority stakeholders, board members need regular updates on the progress of the issue and, where possible, advance notice when an issue is expected to be made public or is likely to generate significant attention in the news media. Communication plans should include a cascade of messages to ensure the right information is shared at appropriate intervals with board members and across the organization.

4. Provide the right tools. As board members interact with other members of the local community, they will look to the organization to provide them with tools to understand the issues at hand – and respond to questions they may get from family, friends and colleagues. In addition to a clear set of talking points and FAQs, consider using infographics or other visual elements to help summarize and solidify understanding of complex topics and trends.

5. Leverage board relationships for stakeholder outreach. Whether the organization faces a tough challenge or a significant growth opportunity, board members will want to play a role in supporting the organization’s success. Tap into the power of your board’s local relationships and identify opportunities for regular outreach through one-on-one conversations, small group meetings and other interactions. Contact our advisors advisors to learn how to build and support those relationships during critical and celebratory moments through our Elevations program.



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