Bringing Responsive to the Intranet

UHS_Intranet_BlogThe mobile revolution is already in full swing, and while Internet sites have caught on, intranets are a little behind the curve. With over a billion people accessing mobile applications and 40 percent of Web browsers using a mobile device to find local products and services, why wouldn’t you want to cater to your employees’ mobile usage with a responsive intranet?

UHS in New York decided to ask that question, and answer it with the first responsive intranet site from Geonetric.

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Who Should Build Your Hospital Intranet?

A road sign showing two opposite directions to turn.
The intranet is a critical piece of your hospital’s infrastructure. It’s typically composed of multiple systems, applications and devices that work in concert to provide your staff with the critical resources they need to work effectively. At the center of this oft-dizzying array of systems is the ‘intranet website.’ Sometimes called an ‘employee portal,’ this website is the home base for your employees. It’s where they stay current with recent organizational news and policies. It’s where they find the day’s lunch menu, the CEO’s blog, the most recent vacation policy, contact information for colleagues, links to the other systems and more.
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The Power of Organization: Building Your Intranet


When you’re shopping at the grocery store, inevitably you always forget an item or two, and quickly realize you have to backtrack a few aisles to find it. The clearly labeled aisles help you find what you’re looking for quickly so you can head out the door.

As humans, we’re destined to group like items together, and at the very least, expect like items to be in the same place.
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VitalSite 6.7.6 – Secure Content Enhancements for Hospital Websites, Intranets and Extranets

Image of a lock symbol on the key of a keyboard
As 2013 finally draws to a close, we have one more release to announce: VitalSite 6.7.6. This release contains a few new features related to secure content (CMS pages and secure files), and a number of fixes and updates requested by clients (full details are provided to clients in GeoCentral). The new features will be of interest to clients using VitalSite to host content for authenticated users on hospital intranets, board extranets and secure sections of their public websites.
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Owensboro Medical Health System Launches New Employee Communication Tool

We’re excited to announce Owensboro Medical Health System (OMHS) has launched a newly redesigned intranet, called Extra+.  Extra+ helps OMHS communicate with employees and gives employees a central hub for all internal communication.

What’s best about Extra+ is the wide variety of information employees can find, including policies, documents and departmental information. OMHS employees can search through more than 1,000 documents using VitalSite’s policy and procedure manager! For example, if you recently completed a very large EMR implementation and wanted to make training documents available to all departments. Extra+ has you covered! Or, what if you’re interested in learning more about how OMHS supports health and wellness and maybe even sign up for screenings? No problem!

Congratulations OMHS! Geonetric has enjoyed helping you create an intranet that’s truly extraordinary.

Image of the OMHS hospital intranet

Intranet in Your Pocket?

IImage of a woman surfing the intranet on her smartphone‘m at the mHealth Summit outside of Washington D.C. learning about the emerging role that mobile technology is playing in healthcare delivery. The numbers are the ones we’ve heard over and over again – growing smartphone and tablet adoption, faster data plans and pervasive Wi-Fi.

Most of my focus relates to the ways in which consumers use mobile technology and the opportunities mobile provides for healthcare organizations to connect with consumers.

In contrast, much of the mHealth Summit discussion revolves around how clinicians and staff use mobile devices. A recent study from Manhattan Research indicates that large numbers of clinical professionals are using smartphones during patient consultations.

This BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) world presents an opportunity to change the way we communicate within our organizations, and yet very few healthcare organizations have a mobile-optimized intranet.

One of the challenges that regularly pops up in intranet discussions is one of access. Many of our hospital employees don’t sit in front of a computer most of the day. However, they do have smartphones in their pocket which would be an ideal way to deliver intranet communications.

There are a few steps to make this work. For starters, intranets need to be made accessible via mobile devices, the authentication process needs to be streamlined, and most importantly, intranets need to apply responsive design concepts to ensure they work smoothly on all devices.

These are little more than speed bumps on the road to new opportunities.

Watch our webinar to look more deeply at how to enhance communications with your employees and staff through your intranet.

New Genesis Healthcare System Intranet Empowers Employees

So you’re considering turning your intranet into a lean, mean communication machine? Well, we have good news! It can be done. Genesis Healthcare System recently worked with Geonetric to overhaul their intranet, aptly called iGenesis. (This is in addition to the website we recently launched for the organization.)

With consistency being a big focus, it was important for the intranet design and information architecture to coordinate with Genesis’ new public facing site. So, many of the same design elements on their website are shared throughout iGenesis as well.

We included our Policies & Procedure Manager software as part of the build. Like many healthcare intranets, over the years iGenesis had become a central repository of information, housing numerous outdated documents and broken links. The goal was to create a centralized location where human resources could not only house current and up-to-date policies, but also quickly communicate changes via the intranet to employees.

The new content structure and organization enables users to efficiently find searchable content. Users can search by using an internal search or find what they are looking for in just one to two clicks. For example, a nurse looking for the most recent policy on Insulin: Continuous IV Administration can navigate directly to this policy in a few clicks or search directly by typing out a few keywords in the main navigation.

Congratulations to Genesis Healthcare System on yet another launch that empowers employees!

Now, what’s on the menu for lunch today?

Image of Genesis Healthcare System's hospital intranet

60 Minutes Just Wasn’t Enough: Webinar Follow-Up Questions Addressed

We had a great webinar last week, Using the Web to Empower Employees, and had lots of great questions.  So many questions, in fact, that we weren’t able to address all of them during the session.  So I’d like to cover some of those here.  Because many of them covered similar topics, I’ve combined a few that had the same answer.

Q: How do we encourage adoption and usage of our intranet?
A: Obviously this is a complex goal to accomplish.  “Build it and they will come” is a sure recipe for failure.  I see three major pillars to growing usage and adoption of your intranet.

The first pillar is credibility.  Building strong credibility requires a holistic approach to quality in everything that is delivered.  Content needs to be accurate and well written.  Executives need to communicate with candor, substance and transparency.  Functionality needs to work and be easy to use, and design needs to be engaging.   Yes, design – there is a growing set of research demonstrating the very significant impact of design on the perceived credibility of both public websites and intranets, but intranet design is often neglected.

The next pillar is anchor content and capabilities.  Think of your local mall.  Many of the stores would never be able to survive as stand-along shops, so they depend on anchor stores to draw the crowds What are the anchors of your intranet?  Cafeteria menus, classified ads, HR self-service for benefits selection and executive blogs =may not be significant value drivers in their own right, but they serve as excellent anchors to get users in the habit of using the intranet on a regular basis.

The final pillar is access.  Users need to be capable of using the tools.  For some employees, it’s a matter of providing available computers or kiosks when they may not use them on a regular basis along with the training so they are able to use them.  For other users, it’s a matter of making the intranet, which is designed to be available within in the walls of the hospital, available remotely.

Q: How do internal social networking tools fit in with the intranet?
A: Enterprise 2.0, the movement to implement Web 2.0 tools within organizations for knowledge sharing and collaboration, is one of the most exciting emerging areas in the intranet space today.  Setting up collaborative workspaces to facilitate the group work and knowledge management that is such a big part of healthcare today has great potential to make our organizations better at what they do.

The intranet should serve as the jumping off point for the range of Web-based tools available in the organization including your Enterprise 2.0 solutions.

Q: What are effective platforms for an intranet?
A: Make sure your platform supports what you want to accomplish. Platforms like SharePoint are, in many ways, development tools and come with little in the way of the specific functionality that you’ll need, so make sure that you have the I.T. resources committed for the long-term be able to execute your vision.  Tools like Wikis, in contrast, are very easy to use but are functionally limited and aren’t likely to be solutions for the range of needs that you’ll have on your intranet.

Look also at the costs of licensing very carefully.  If your organization will need to purchase licenses for each end-user, costs may grow out of control.

I’m a big fan of using platforms that are designed for healthcare providers and have already worked through many of the unique challenges of organizations like yours. You see very few organizations buying generic tools and building their own electronic medical records these days.  I’m not sure why so many organizations are trying to solve other problems in that way.

Take Your Intranet to the Next Level

Image of person pressing an elevator's Up buttonMost hospital Web teams focus almost exclusively on communicating with outside audiences – patients, consumers and the media. Web technologies can deliver value to employees as well.

Private websites for employees, also known as intranets, have been around for awhile. You’re probably even thinking, “We have one of those!”

However, it’s not enough to simply have an intranet. Many hospital intranets are little more than a pile of links to various applications. Although that’s important, your intranet should also help you engage and communicate with employees.

Usability guru Jakob Nielsen’s research shows that a well-designed intranet can save a mid-sized organization 5 million dollars per year. Is your intranet providing this level of value? Is there more you could be doing?

At the very least, your intranet should serve as a source of information. But once you achieve that, work on taking your intranet to the next level. Add more capabilities to increase the value it provides.

There are few key areas to focus on as you evolve your intranet.

  • A basic information source: The most basic intranets are a conduit of information for hospital employees. These intranets provide information on daily news and happenings, as well as reference materials such as hospital policies and procedures, form libraries and training manuals. At its most basic, this information is centrally controlled and equally available to anyone with access to the system.
  • Distributed authoring: Intranets that offer distributed authoring enable employees to add and manage content. Once distributed authoring is implemented, the amount of information available grows quickly, which often leads to the addition of roles-based segmentation, meaning users can access only the information that’s necessary and appropriate for their position.
  • Search: Intranets become even more valuable when they help employees find the information they need … and fast. This is one of the easiest ways to generate ROI from your intranet. Adding search technology that allows employees to search information across a wide range of data sources saves everyone time, and saves the organization money in the process.
  • Department-specific functionality: The most sophisticated intranets move beyond being a resource for sharing information and serve as a focused solution to solve specific problems. Examples of this include employee applications for managing benefits, brand asset management systems, systems that help manage the budgeting process, and contract management systems.
  • Collaboration: Much of the current buzz around intranets is in the area of collaboration. Sometimes referred to as Enterprise 2.0, collaborative intranets offer Web 2.0 capabilities, such as crowdsourcing, ratings and active online collaboration. Employees can use the intranet to post questions and answers, share best practices and policies, and talk about breaking news or research on a topic.

The value intranets provide to the organization increases as more capabilities are added. The Enterprise 2.0 movement has certainly injected new life into the idea of using intranets to improve collaboration.

A major element that’s moving intranets in new directions is mobile devices. While mobile versions of intranets are still rare, we’re starting to see them appear in a growing number of industry-leading intranets. Looking again to Jakob Nielsen’s research, six of the 10 Best Intranets of 2011 included a mobile version , up from only three in 2010’s review. With the incredible growth of smartphones and tablets, mobile applications are certainly a feature that most intranets will be adding in the next few years.

Building on Success: Southern Regional Launches Impressive Intranet

Image of Southern Regional Health System's  hospital intranet

Southern Regional Health System Intranet

An intranet site can be a powerful tool to improve transparency and internal communications – but only if it’s user-friendly and highly-functional.  And of course, it needs to reflect the organization’s brand and extend information already being distributed on the Internet site.

Those were the challenges presented as we kicked off an intranet project with Southern Regional Health System earlier this year.

On the plus side: 1) we’d already partnered with them to deliver a highly successful Internet site, so we were knowledgeable about their hospital’s brand and messages, 2) we’d developed great working relationships with their awesome marketing team, and 3) our VitalSite software makes it incredibly easy to distribute content ownership to many departments while maintaining control over brand standards.

The site launched last week to great internal accolades. The homepage has features that employees want at their fingertips: the cafeteria menu, a weather feed, and quick links to frequently-used content. It also highlights important organizational announcements and a message from CEO, where their top executive – brand new to the organization – can connect with employees and speak his mind on a variety of topics.

And did I mention that the design is both functional and beautiful, that the navigation is intuitive, and that the departmental sites take full advantage of VitalSite’s flexibility and functionality?

Any veteran of employee communications will tell you that one of the biggest challenges they face is cutting through the layers of the organizational structure and getting timely and accurate information distributed to all of their employees … in other words, outrunning the grapevine! Kudos to Southern Regional for their new intranet that does exactly that.

The Bing is Live!

Image of Bing, Abington Memorial Hospital's newly redesigned employee intranetIf you walk the halls of Abington Health, you may hear a physician or other employees refer to it as “The Bing.”  So when Geonetric and Abington began working on their new intranet, it was no surprise the intriguing name was quickly assigned. It just seemed to fit, even to me, someone who didn’t work there.

The name, of course, is only the tip of the iceberg for this new intranet.

The Bing showcases Geonetric’s Web-based policy and procedure manager that will help Abington’s 6,400 employees better manage and organize important documents. Other features include a unique approach to content organization and using tabs to separate organizational information from clinical information. The site also features an employee spotlight. Organizations understand the importance of employee recognition and these features add a unique ‘personal’ feeling to the site. Now that I have a teenager in the house, I compare it to ‘athlete of the week’ on the local news. I checking out the athlete of the week to see if it may be someone I’ve seen walk through my house or play against my child.

It was awesome to work with Abington on this project – especially because they truly appreciated the need that the new intranet was fixing. They acquired a new hospital in late 2008 and the old system wasn’t meeting employee needs. Plus new standalone sites were appearing to take the place of the aging intranet – and of course marketing wasn’t thrilled about that.

Abington needed a site that gave the Web team more control, and since they’d just launched their public Web site on VitalSite last year, it only made sense to build the intranet on the same platform.

The Bing is now officially up and running – and is not only poised to meet Abington’s needs today – but grow with them in the long-term. It’s been great working with their team and I can’t wait to see how it grows in the coming years.

What’s so great about having an intranet anyway?

Sure, every hospital needs a Web site, but what about an intranet?  Is having an intranet for your employees truly worthwhile?  Really, what can an intranet do for your employees?  You hear about time efficiencies and cost savings, but what does that really mean?

Let’s take a look at a few Geonetric clients who have recently implemented intranets: Methodist Medical Center of Illinois (MMCI) and University of Colorado Hospital (UCH).

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