Incorporating Human Factors into a Healthcare System’s COVID-19 Pandemic Communication Strategy
Event Type
Oral Presentations
TimeTuesday, April 133:30pm - 3:50pm EDT
LocationHospital Environments
DescriptionThe everchanging landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic has required healthcare systems across the world to rapidly communicate new information and protocols to their associates on a regular basis. While communication strategies may typically be driven by a communications department in isolation, at MedStar Health the pandemic revealed the necessity of strong collaboration between human factors experts, clinical teams, and communications partners. Together, these teams developed a three-pronged strategy for effective communication that incorporates the following components:

1) Using human factors and usability concepts to distill complex clinical information into easy-to-understand infographics for frontline associates;
2) Creating regular, succinct email messages to distribute the information and frequent updates throughout the healthcare system; and
3) Designing and maintaining a usable webpage where associates can access up-to-date information relevant to their specialty at any time, on or off the hospital network.

This presentation will detail the development of these three components and teach audience members how to integrate human factors into communication strategies at their healthcare systems.

Examples of graphics developed by MedStar Health will be shared to demonstrate how complex textual information can be transformed into graphics that can be easily understood by all frontline associates. These examples will include 1) a COVID-19 testing decision algorithm that was converted into a simple table using a stop light (red, yellow, green) format and 2) complex personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements that were organized into an easily digestible grid. Both graphical formats have successfully supported numerous changes throughout the pandemic and demonstrate the benefit of usable design.

In addition, the format of the regular email updates and the design process for the COVID-19-focused webpage will be shared, highlighting the value of collaboration between communications and human factors experts in a healthcare system’s communication strategy. While the MedStar Health communications department coordinated the email updates, human factors experts oversaw the design and implementation of the webpage. Close collaboration was necessary to ensure consistent messaging, easily identifiable updates, and a usable design to ensure important information was not missed. As protocols were sometimes updated several times a week, particularly at the beginning of the pandemic, it has been vital for associates to be able to efficiently identify changes and always have access to accurate content. This has been made possible by incorporating human factors design concepts into the distribution strategy, such as using color and placement of information to direct readers’ attention to the most critical content. The design process of the email and webpage components of the MedStar Health strategy will be outlined, from initial wireframes to the end products.

While this strategy was developed in response to the unique needs of the pandemic, it can serve as a model for communication at any point in time. The effectiveness of this strategy is supported by positive results on a recent MedStar Health associate survey, in which associates gave an overwhelmingly positive response to questions about timely COVID-19 communication and ranked COVID-19 email updates and the COVID-19 resource website as highly effective communication platforms. This presentation will demonstrate the value of incorporating human factors into an area where this expertise is not typically leveraged.