How to Launch a Clinically Integrated Network: The Communications Foundation

By Stephanie Helline posted 18 days ago


The investment at the beginning of any new endeavor, like starting a clinically integrated network (CIN), can seem daunting. In 2017, Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC) set out to build one. While the actual network was in development, AAMC approached Strategic Design Studio to develop a communications plan to articulate its value, promote adoption and get everyone on board.

The initial request was for key messages and marketing communications materials to drive awareness of the CIN. We knew exactly where to start: with a comprehensive Facilitated Discovery process.

The goal of this process is to answer the four simple questions that build a solid communications foundation.

  1. Who are you?
  2. Who needs to know?
  3. Why should they care?
  4. How will they find out about your solution?

Here’s how we approached it and how you can approach any new endeavor that needs buy-in to success.

Facilitated Discovery
CINs are gaining in popularity; however it may be a new concept for your communications team. The AAMC team needed to begin by understanding the benefit of the CIN to hospitals, providers, patients and the role of community and social services partners.

We started with an afternoon segment that brought together community members, clinicians, the medical director, CIN leadership and internal marketing staff. We focused on the “brand attributes” of the CIN. Utilizing a timed exercise, the group described each of the brand attributes below:

  • Culture – How would your customers describe your culture?
  • Customers – How do you describe your customers?
  • Voice – How do you sound to your customers?
  • Feeling – How do your customers feel after interacting with you?
  • Value – What value do you bring to your customers?
  • X-Factor – What makes you unique?

Then, a final adjective was selected for each attribute. This information became the foundation for the value statement for the CIN.

Next the group focused on profiling the six customers who had been identified:

  1. Internal – Health system leaders and current CIN members.
  2. Payers.
  3. Community partners.
  4. Patients.
  5. Prospects – Primary care doctors.
  6. Prospects – Specialists.

Group participation was essential as the profiles were built, focusing on demographics/psychographics, jobs, pains and gains.

Because physicians are essential stakeholders but notoriously difficult to schedule, we held an evening segment for physicians who serve on the CIN board of directors (primary care and specialists), CIN staff and internal marketing. To accommodate physician’s schedules, the meeting was planned well in advance and dinner was served.

The goal of this segment was to share the work done thus far and gather their input in order to validate the brand attributes and customer profiles and identify anything that was missing.

The outcome of the Facilitated Discovery was:

  • Clear documentation of the CIN vision.
  • The why of its creation.
  • The benefits to physicians and patients

While the Facilitated Discovery yields a tremendous amount of information, the challenge is to transform that treasure trove into an easily accessible foundational document that guides brand development and messaging.

The Brand Brief we delivered serves that purpose. It’s a single 11x17 sheet that documents and explains the CIN’s:

  • Big idea/brand essence.
  • Purpose.
  • Vision.
  • Value statement.
  • Brand attributes.
  • Positioning.
  • Key services.
  • Similar organizations.
  • Primary and secondary customers.
  • Audience segments.

The Brand Brief and the customer profiles contained everything necessary to become the basis for the development of audience specific messaging, an integrated marketing communications plan, website copy and marketing collateral, beginning with the Physician On-Boarding Kit.

AAMC’s Physician On-Boarding Kit is an example of how everything comes together and can serve multiple purposes. The kit includes:

  • Pocket folder.
  • Welcome letter.
  • Twelve-page Provider Overview brochure.
  • Eight-page Provider Resources and Tools brochure (physicians’ favorite piece).
  • One-page Point-of-Care Talking Points.
  • One-page Clinical Integration Measures.
  • Contacts card.

Initially conceived as a piece for new physicians, the kit has since become AAMC’s informative leave-behind marketing tool for prospective physicians and physicians who have joined the network, supporting in-person meetings. AAMC staff quickly noticed that the kit was achieving more than originally planned because:

  1. It suddenly made the CIN “real.” Rather than just an ambiguous concept, the CIN took on more reality and credibility with the delivery of the launch package.

  2. It provides a cohesive and consistent point of reference for AAMC staff to speak from when approaching prospective members, and serves as an information-packed leave-behind for providers.

  3. It demonstrates tangible value for the time and effort invested in preliminary foundational work. The speed with which the package was developed would not have been possible without having completed the discovery process up-front.

  4. It represents a visual standard and streamlines future creation and development processes by serving as an example for the AAMC team of how the CIN’s branding and messaging platform can be applied to an actual communications project.

  5. It is designed for flexibility, self-sufficiency and economy. Pieces that change frequently were created using software that AAMC staff can use, so updates can be made internally. Some of the pieces were also designed to allow in-house printing for additional flexibility and cost savings.

Physician’s Favorite Piece
The Provider Resources and Tools has quickly become a favorite piece for physicians who have recently joined the CIN. It’s also popular with prospects since it covers the benefits of joining the CIN. They continue to refer to it during the decision process.

“Providers love the resources we offer. They’re a real driver for physicians to join the network, so our Resources and Tools brochure (included in the kit) really speaks to them. When physicians see the kit, they are very interested in our program.”
—Renee Kilroy, Manager of Field Operations for AAMC’s Collaborative Care Network

By Stephanie Helline | Posted October 30, 2018
Creative Director and Owner
Strategic Design Studio
44 Briarwood Rd.
Baltimore, MD 21228