This article was written by Chris Hopkins, MBA, VP of Strategy and Business Development for Montana Health Network, for the July 2016 edition of “Networking News.” The Network Technical Assistance Project is funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through a contract to Rural Health Innovations, LLC, a subsidiary of the National Rural Health Resource Center.
Montana Health Network has received several grants throughout its existence, and with each new grant the required task of communicating results seems to grow in frequency, depth and complexity. In short, the reporting burden seems to grow with each opportunity. Providing information can add to the work load, but there are important reasons behind communicating results.
First, know your audience
When providing results, the target audience must be kept in mind. Are these results going to a project officer, community members, board members, other stakeholders or the press? Each entity may have different data requirements or wish to see different things. The communication of results should not be one-size-fits-all.
Other than grant requirements, which may have a pre-prescribed data set, the main reason to provide and share results is to show value to the intended audience. Results can come in many forms, including graphs, charts, financial statements, statistical reports and personal impact stories. How and what gets presented depends greatly upon the audience’s needs. When a network is providing value and can demonstrate its results, then sustainability is close around the corner.
Many of Montana Health Network’s successes came in the form of demonstrated cost savings. The initial strong, demonstrated cost-saving results of our service lines, communicated to the board members through financial charts, have led to increased trust and the opportunity to explore new products and to continue to grow the network. These are specific results communicated to a specific audience and have the desired result of continued support.
Another purpose in sharing results is to educate. Recently Montana Senator Jon Tester, together with CMS and other federal partners, held a rural health summit in western Montana. Members of Montana Health Network were in attendance and able to present information about rural health topics such as workforce, healthcare needs and hospitals.
This was not the time for charts and graphs. The presentations shared results through stories of the need for rural healthcare and the difference it has made in people’s lives. Horror stories were shared regarding labor shortages, but success stories were also shared about saving lives and grateful families and patients. The purpose was to paint a picture of what life was like in a rural/frontier healthcare environment. Both successes and failures were shared, through stories, in an effort to educate and paint an accurate picture. In this case, this method of presenting results was effective in meeting the goal of educating and soliciting change.
Posting and sharing results internally is a great way to motivate staff and to solidify the organizational message. Together with staff, the organization can celebrate successes and rally around struggles, as long as everyone understands what the organization is trying to accomplish (mission) and the results that indicate progress towards that goal. It is rare to walk into a rural healthcare facility and not see current trends and results posted in a public area or at least an area open to the view of the staff. Progress toward results can share the organization’s story to potential new recruits and explain why the organization matters and where it is making a difference.
Don’t leave out the bad results
Sharing results is crucial, especially with board members, grant administrators or stakeholders, at a time when you wish to solicit guidance or direction. Without really showing a true picture of a project’s current status, it is hard to get the direction needed to reverse a negative trend. Everyone would like to successfully implement a project or meet grant objectives. Unfortunately, that cannot always be accomplished.
There are two key factors in sharing bad results. First, did the effort not succeed due to a bad idea, or bad execution? Without consistently reporting results and measuring impact, there really is no way to tell an accurate story. Additional support and wisdom from stakeholders, board members and grant officers can often mean the difference between success and failure, but not if they don’t know the current results.
Secondly, the importance of frequency and timing is crucial. If the organization is consistently sharing results, either positive or negative, there should not be any surprises. For board members, surprises, especially negative, can be very frustrating. Establish early on in the organizational process what kind of data is needed by each of the stakeholders and how frequently they should receive it.
While it is never comfortable to communicate bad results, the frequency and honesty with which they are shared will dictate whether a supportive team environment, looking for solutions, will be created, or whether the interactions will be less pleasant. Many grants are designed to be exploratory, and therefore less-than-successful results only add to the learning process.
Communicating results, both good and bad, can be a useful tool to solicit support, tell your story, show value and motivate staff. The keys to communicating results are to be aware of your audience and determine the frequency and best method to display the results you share. The proper sharing of results will help strengthen support for your network and create an air of transparency and trust within the organization.
Montana Health Network’s (MHN) mission is to support and influence the evolution of healthcare organizations, and enhance the well-being of individual communities through:
The National Rural Health Resource Center (The Center) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to sustaining and improving health care in rural communities. Rural Health Innovations, LLC is a subsidiary of the National Rural Health Resource Center.