Novant Health utilizes the Web to tout washing hands

After three infants died from hospital-acquired infections, Novant Health launched an internal effort to change when and how often employees wash their hands, says Jim Tobalski, SVP of marketing and communications for the health system.

After three infants died from hospital-acquired infections, Novant Health launched an internal effort to change when and how often employees wash their hands, says Jim Tobalski, SVP of marketing and communications for the health system. Novant Health saw its compliance rate increase from 49% to 99% among its 25,000 employees, and decided to offer its materials to other hospitals, clinics, and health systems through a Web site and proactive media effort in 2008.

Strategy
The PR team, which includes Luquire George Andrews, developed tough messaging that was a shift “from the lighthearted approach to the very blunt approach [of] communicating the consequences” of hospital employees not washing their hands, explains Tobalski.
 
By offering the materials online, Novant Health aimed to position itself as a leader in the field.

Tactics

Media outreach targeted mainstream and hospital trade outlets to promote the success and availability of the materials on the Web site launched in May 2008, says Peggy Brookhouse, president and partner of Luquire George Andrews.
 
Novant Health offered the same materials and messaging that it had used internally, including posters, screen savers, mirror clings, cardboard cutouts, yard signs, and computer wallpaper. “We used communication real estate that we had never used before,” Tobalski says.

Results
More than 1,000 hospitals, clinics, and health systems downloaded the campaign materials in the past year. Novant Health also received media coverage in The Washington Post, Hospital Infection Control, and MSN Health and Fitness

Future
Novant Health is maintaining its internal effort and will continue promote its materials, Tobalski says.

PR Team: Novant Health (Winston-Salem, NC) and Luquire George Andrews (Charlotte, NC)

Campaign: Washing Hands Saves Lives

Duration: January-December 2008

Budget: $75,000

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