Integrated Crisis Communication Done Right with Caremerge at Friendship Senior Options

When Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced a stay-at-home order due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Friendship Senior Options (FSO) adapted quickly to protect its Chicagoland Continuing Care Retirement Communities: Friendship Village of Schaumburg and Greenfields of Geneva. 

FSO leaders recognized that to prevent the spread of the virus in both communities, they needed to enhance their communication with residents and staff on how to comply with safety best practices. Fortunately, FSO was prepared. The communities already had a pre-established robust disease management strategy and a digital communication platform like Caremerge in place prior to COVID-19. 

We spoke to CEO Steve Yenchek about how FSO was able to deploy an agile communications plan to keep all members of both communities safe, compliant, and informed.

Building the COVID-19 Communication Plan

In March, FSO leadership settled on two main goals for their COVID-19 communication plan.

Goal #1: Be transparent, timely, and accurate. FSO needed to deliver COVID-19 updates that satisfied government regulations and provided essential information. But it was also important to give residents and their families peace of mind during the stressful time, which FSO knew if they delivered accurate information, the families and residents would be reassured of the measures they were taking. 

Goal #2: Align all community members on prevention protocols and operational changes. Corporate decision makers needed resident-facing teams to comply with new COVID-19 safety measures and screening processes so that FSO would be well positioned to prevent COVID-19 from entering and spreading within the communities.

FSO leaders know that redundant communications through various channels like email, app, and print was the way to accomplish both goals. A multi-path approach ensures audiences with different communication preferences receive all messages. 

To enact this plan, FSO knew that a technology solution like Caremerge would be the key to circulating consistent, redundant communications. FSO leaders chose Caremerge in the first place because they knew it would be critical in all their communication efforts.

FSO’s communities used Caremerge well before the pandemic, and leaders knew that they could easily amend and expand the platform’s functionalities to meet current objectives. Leaders identified video on their Community Engagement platform in particular as an effective way to speak to its audiences, and it’s In-Room TV Channel as an efficient way to broadcast FSO’s videos.

Executing the Plan with the Caremerge Platform

FSO leaders refined its disease management strategy for COVID-19 rapidly after Illinois announced its stay-at-home order.

They followed this four-step execution process for communications, with the help of the Caremerge platform:

  1. Get the communications team up and running. FSO assembled a 60-person task force across both communities for COVID-19 communications, led by the Director of Risk Management. The group included corporate and community staff representatives and met three times per week.
  2. Set parameters for content and audience. Leaders decided what kinds of messages FSO would regularly publish. Different content would be created for distinct audiences, such as staff, residents, and family members.
  3. Find a distribution tool for content. Alongside its own channels, FSO used the Caremerge platform to circulate updates via community portals and broadcast its videos across the community.
  4. Establish frequency. Daily communication during a crisis is vital. Caremerge allowed FSO to publish updates and Yenchek’s videos at that pace.

The Caremerge platform helped FSO achieve its goal of multi-path communication in two main ways:

  • Channel updates redirected readers to Caremerge hubs like the Family Engagement and Community Engagement portals for more information. 
  • Yenchek himself distributed daily videos using the Community Engagement portal to personally communicate updates to residents.

Having the right strategy and the right technology was critical to successfully executing these steps.

The Caremerge Value: Efficiency, Efficacy, Compliance

With the crisis communication process underway, FSO leaders started to see the plan’s dividends. Prompt communications-enabled FSO’s communities to quickly grasp the severity of the situation and act accordingly.

“Having this communication tool in place was really valuable to us in getting out that message and boosted our communication plan’s efficiency, efficacy, and compliance,” says Yenchek about Caremerge.

  • Efficiency: Caremerge’s platform lets FSO scale hundreds of tailored updates and videos to residents, staff, and families on a regular cadence. This efficiency enables transparent, timely, and accurate communication.
  • Efficacy: FSO leaders knew the multi-path execution plan was working because per FSO protocol, staff who tested positive for COVID-19 complied with the communities’ screening processes. And because the communities caught people during screening, they were able to administer fewer tests. Plus, residents were adhereing to the stay-at-home order and followed internal community guidelines.
  • Compliance: Caremerge increases FSO’s ability to comply with new regulatory compliance standards.

Next Steps: Leveraging Communications Success as Marketing Assets

Caremerge has equipped FSO directors with the communication tools they need to distinguish their communities as trusted advisors, in this time of crisis and into the future.

Through FSO’s crisis communications system with Caremerge, Steve says its communities have collected valuable feedback from residents, staff, and families. FSO plans to highlight these stories in its marketing and sales initiatives as both communities gradually resume normal operations, in hopes of attracting its next generation of residents.

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