Success Story: The Language of Engagement at Academic Medical Centers


Information fatigue. Disengagement. Lack of buy-in. These were the sentiments expressed by faculty and providers at a large academic medical center in the Midwest. While barraged by a host of internal communications, there was an absence of two-way communication channels. That communication gap was hindering their ability to share best practices and recruit.

The academic health system needed to re-establish buy-in from its faculty, providers and house staff. To do so, they needed effective communication channels that were convenient and timely to internal physician and provider audiences. And the content needed to be instructive, informative and action-oriented.


We were asked to identify and put into place internal communications best practices for the academic medical center.

Understanding the stakeholders. Our initial work was to engage the key stakeholders unique to the academic medical center. Our internal communication audit included personal interviews with faculty, advanced practice providers (APP) and house staff about their preferences for content and two-way communication. Each stakeholder brought a different set of demands, desired outcomes and definitions of success. And to build support, each one needed to be heard and understood.

The right plan. To inform our comprehensive strategy, we analyzed allocation of resources, messaging, frequency, usage, channels and return on investment. The new model enhanced successful methods, subtracted ineffective ones, added innovative channels and reimagined the structure for the Communications department and the work before them. Before implementing the new channels for all faculty and staff, we piloted the new communication formats among target audiences to measure their effectiveness.  

Specifics include:

Utilizing and standardizing communications within existing physician neighborhoods 

Improving volume and relevance of email communication 

Reconfiguring communications vehicles 

Eliminating channels that weren’t utilized by physicians 

Creating a customized physician portal 

Reinvigorating physician leadership councils 


Today, the health system has stronger market position with increased physician and staff satisfaction. Internal communications are managed from a clear blueprint. They are targeted, minimized and relevant.

Two elements were essential to the project’s success. First was our steady engagement with stakeholders. From assessment to plan development to trials to implementation, we were in touch with multiple specialties and disciplines. Second was ensuring that each communication in the plan was aligned with the medical center’s strategic goals. Buy-in has been achieved.


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