Channels: Reaching the Audience for a Health Care Quality Report
Sponsors of quality information projects need to think broadly and creatively about potential distribution channels for their reports. Within any given setting, there may be many possible approaches to reaching your audience.
This page reviews some options worth consideration.
Consumer Advocates and Patient Educators
If the partners in your project include organizations who function as advocates or educators of health care consumers, they can play an important role in reaching and connecting potential users to your report. To learn more about working with these types of organizations, go to The Community Quality Collaborative Leader’s Guide to Engaging Consumer Advocates.
Influencers and Other “Distribution Brokers”
People who have relationships with your audience and are regarded as trusted sources of information are important channels to cultivate, particularly for audiences who are hard to reach. Who is perceived as a “trusted source” will vary by setting and topic. Friends and family members, for example, may recommend health plans, but physicians are more likely to influence decisions about clinical care and other providers. Leaders of faith-based, social, and service organizations may also serve as effective channels or middlemen for quality information.
Identifying Distribution Brokers
Whenever you have some contact with your audience, ask questions that can help you learn who the “influencers” are for different segments. In addition, consult with people you already know and trust (including any current partners or funders) to learn who in the community is serving the populations you want to reach. You can then reach out to these influencers to determine how best to reach them with your message and how they can deliver the information to your audience.
Criteria for identifying distribution brokers include the following:
- They have access to your intended audience.
- Your audience considers them to be a trusted source of information, which enhances the credibility of the information you are distributing.
- They have resources available to help you (e.g., volunteers, funding, time).
- They have some expertise that you can use, whether familiarity with health care issues or with the needs of your intended audience.
- They are highly engaged in health issues.
- They are “natural helpers” (e.g., social workers).
- They are early adopters of new health information.
- They can co-sponsor events that would help to reach your audience.
Once you have identified some possibilities, invite the leaders of those community organizations to a meeting where you can brief them on the goals of your project and gauge their level of interest. You can also ask if they know of any other organizations that may be interested.
Communicating with Distribution Brokers
Based on what you learned from the process of finding potential distribution brokers and initiating contact, begin the outreach process.
- Tell them about your project and its goals. Recognize that most of these organizations don't know much about you or your mission.
- Listen to them. The organizations you’ve contacted have their own priorities and concerns. Provide a forum for them to share their needs and concerns. If your needs don't overlap, they are unlikely to be enthusiastic supporters of your initiative. Rather than imposing your strategy on these organizations, you want it to be something that responds to their needs. If you can earn their trust in the first year, future partnerships will go more smoothly.
- Invest the time in building a relationship. It is helpful to cultivate a relationship with these “brokers” so that you are in a position to push information out to them rather than waiting for them to ask.
- Explore different ways of educating them. You can educate distribution brokers about your report through community organization newsletters, health-related blogs, social networks, as well as more traditional means. For example, The Alliance, an employer coalition in Wisconsin, creates Powerpoint® slides that employers can use to educate their employees, and provides educational sessions for employers to help them bring messages back to employees.
- Train them to educate. Ideally, distribution brokers provide more than just a channel for your quality report. Some may be well suited to answering questions and providing support to consumers. To help these organizations support use of the report, be sure to provide adequate training so that they can answer questions, guide their constituencies through the material, and even help them use the information to make decisions. Learn more about providing access to information intermediaries.
Other Web Sites
If you have produced a Web report, look for opportunities to get links to your site embedded in other Web sites, particularly those that:
- Appeal to consumers who are seeking information about a health problem or decision.
- Are known to attract your audience.
- Are perceived as trustworthy.
Since your objective is to bring users to your Web site, pursue any sites your audience may visit when searching for information on health care, which they do far more often than seeking information on health care quality. If prompted to consider quality, some will be intrigued enough to follow the link.
Ask all the organizations involved in the reporting project to link to the quality report as well. You can include health care organizations that share an interest in the information. For example, if you have produced a report about the quality of local clinics, all health plans in the area could provide access to your information from their sites.
It is especially important to plan ahead regarding links from the organizations whose performance is being reported. Ideally, all the organizations should agree to do this ahead of time, before the ratings have been published. Consider negotiating similar agreements for the distribution of print reports and promotional materials through waiting rooms and medical offices. It is not always feasible to get that level of cooperation, especially when a report is new, but some organizations will embrace this opportunity to support the reporting initiative.