What are the most effective communication channels to share messages to health workers?
Health communication is currently experiencing a proliferation of communication channels to help the dissemination of health information.
As health writers, we need to identify the ideal medium to share our key messages to our target audience to ensure our writing influences health outcomes.
Which media channels do healthcare workers prefer?
UK researchers recently used different media channels to share healthy living messages to health employees working for the National Health Service (NHS) Wales.
Key messages from an internal communication campaign, called ‘Champions for Health’, were distributed to NHS Wales’ employees to challenge lifestyle behaviours and improve their health.
Information was shared through various channels, such as email, text, Twitter and Facebook over six months.
The study, published in the Journal of Communication in Healthcare, indicates the delivery of health messages via social media, emails or text messages was effective in behavioural change in groups or individual employees.
The researchers also suggest giving employees the ability to personalise channels for their selection of content, could allow more control over timing and frequency of communication.
Why were these communication channels effective for health workers?
The study was designed using the framework of medium theory in internal communication, which is how effectively different media can disseminate information to change health behaviour long-term.
The ‘Champions for Health’ campaign in this study incorporated website information focused on news and resources, including tips and health advice for five lifestyle challenges; smoking, alcohol consumption, body mass index, fruit and vegetable consumption and exercise.
SMS (text) messages were sent, such as, “last week 1 champion said ‘I’ve lost 5lbs and my family and friends are all supportive and some have followed suit!’ Can you share something similar?”
Weekly emails directed recipients to further information on websites using “read more” links.
Employees from NHS Wales found the three most useful methods of communication were:
- information on the website
- text messages
In particular, frequent email associated with the ease of accessing useful information on the website significantly improved behaviour change for healthier outcomes.
The UK researchers concluded preference for email as a medium allows the ability to save, store and retrieve information easily, as well as be easily directed to information on the intranet.
Text messages allow employees to respond back encouraging two-way communication.
Practical considerations we can use in our writing
Semi-structured interviews were conducted 9-12 months after the campaign ended for employees who registered to improve two lifestyle behaviours.
The campaign was found to have a notable effect on these registered employees, which can help us understand health employees’ preferences for email and social media.
The researchers found internal communication channels appeal to different people depending on their personal and social aspects.
People’s perceptions of communication channels are fluid and contingent on life-experiences for personal decision-making – a finding that reinforces our article understanding selective exposure, which encourages us to understand our audience to help us frame our messaging.
However, the UK researchers found the NHS Wales health employees liked having a choice to select their communication channel to hear health messages, especially where they can set their schedule for message frequency over time.
This finding suggests we should allow our audience to have preferences to select channels for receiving content.
Real success stories
We have already looked into research that suggested self-affirmation combined with storytelling in your writing is an effective behaviour change tactic.
In the UK study, hearing and exchanging information from real success stories between individuals and groups were also motivational to change their own health behaviour.
However, the researchers stated stories need to be relatable.
“The success of a story of a person who enters triathlons in their spare time would be less motivational than that of someone who has just started exercising and is in training for their first ever fun run.”