The Connected Hospital: Where Do We Go from Here? | npENGAGE

The Connected Hospital: Where Do We Go from Here?

By on Dec 18, 2018


In 2018, Blackbaud Healthcare Solutions has taken healthcare fundraisers on a journey highlighting the interconnections that create a truly connected hospital. In all of our sessions, it has become clear that the connected hospital concept, even connected healthcare overall, is about much more than technology, though technology matters. Connected hospitals are also connected through strong relationships between the people that work in them, through programs that connect across departments, through innovative and vital relationships to their communities, and through enduring relationships with patients and their families. All of these elements build trust in your organization and your values. And trust is the foundation of an organization with which people want to be involved, in which people want to receive care, and that people want to support through donations.

Learn strategies that will help you acquire, engage, and retain patient donors in the Blackbaud Healthcare Solutions’ free Connected Hospital webinar series: Watch now.

What does all of this mean for the future of connection and engagement, especially as it relates to philanthropy? Facing the future as a connected hospital means being sensitive to and responding effectively to the following trends and issues:


Today’s hospitals and philanthropic organizations have more information about patients and potential donors than at any time in history. That information comes with tools that allow you to personalize your outreach to individuals. While this can be wonderful by allowing you to tailor your message to individuals, people may also be uncomfortable if they feel you have too much information about them. Increasingly, organizations are responding by being transparent about what data they collect and how they use it. Being transparent and allowing people to “turn off” information they do not want to be stored can build trust.

Individuals also expect more transparency from philanthropic organizations about how their money is being used, how efficiently the organization operates, and what outcomes it gets. According to a study by Fidelity Charitable, 41% of donors say that an organization’s level of transparency about these factors impacts their giving. Philanthropic organizations must be clear about all of these factors if they want to gain and maintain the trust of their donor community.

New tools for foundations

You, as a healthcare organization, have new resources at your disposal to work with current and potential donors. These include analytic tools that allow you to explore your target audiences and tailor your messages to their preferences. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram not only provide you with new ways to share stories about your organization and how you use donations, but each platform also offers new fundraising opportunities as well. Explore and experiment with alternate channels! Be bold! There’s research that shows that providing opportunities for online donations can make your fundraising more efficient. For example, the cost to raise a dollar from a new donor using direct mail can be as much as $1.25 while telemarketing can cost $.63 to $.80 per dollar raised; meanwhile, the cost to raise a dollar online can be as little as $.05.

New tools for donors

Donors have access to a host of new tools that enable them to invest their money wisely. Several organizations allow donors to compare the efficiency and outcomes of various foundations using convenient online resources. Younger donors, especially, want online convenience in their donations. Various online tools allow donors to donate micro amounts (including by text), target donations with precision, donate through peers, and have global, as well as local impacts. In the same study cited earlier, 27% say these types of micro-lending and online capabilities have influenced their giving. Mobile giving is the fastest growing segment of the market, which fits with the trend that puts convenience as a key factor shaping our lives and our culture.

The article “Disrupting Philanthropy” discusses a variety of ways traditional philanthropic practices are morphing. The article points out that technology, the connected economy, and changing consumer expectations enable individuals to find organizations that are specifically suited to their philanthropic interests. To compete, you need to meet donors on the forums they use with tools that meet their needs.

Cross-sector collaborations

Savvy individuals understand that many of the challenges facing humanity are multi-dimensional and require contributions from all sectors of society. Donors are looking for philanthropic organizations to engage with their communities in creative ways. This can mean collaborations with industry, with similar community organizations, universities, social good organizations, and with public institutions. Being a vital and creative part of your community in your fundraising endeavors can build trust in your organization and position you as a “big picture” foundation. For example, Dignity Health has sponsored initiatives developing affordable housing, providing job training, assisting neighborhood revitalization, and building wealth in underserved communities. Bon Secours, in Richmond, Virginia is helping to develop a low income area of the city while acting as “a fully engaged partner, an advocate for justice, and a voice for social transformation.” Kaiser Permanente has begun to realize that its mission of “total health” needs to include attention to social factors such as housing, jobs, and food that impact health. Your foundation can help you contribute to the community in creative and innovative ways—not alone, but in partnership.

Engagement still matters

People still donate to causes that matter to them. The Fidelity Charitable study found that 49% of people give “because the organization or cause is important to me.” Practices that foster ongoing engagement with your organization among staff members, in the community, in the act of providing care to patients or families, and with the volunteers all reap rewards in building a community of donors and potential donors. A connected hospital connects with all facets of the community and donor base. The more trustworthy and engaging your organization is perceived to be on all of these fronts, the more robust your foundation is likely to be.

What will you do with it?

Now what? All of these trends and changes mean that your foundation needs to pay attention to a broad range of issues in order to remain relevant in the future. If you don’t already, focus now on the way you manage and account for funds, the technology you are using, and the way you reflect transparency of mission and goals in each aspect of your work. Close attention, strategic prioritization and team implementation of all of these factors can indeed create your pathway to being a connected hospital. These actions will build joy and a sense of connection throughout your organization.


Jan Oldenburg, FHIMSS, is passionate about using digital tools to build a healthcare system where patients and caregivers participate as partners. She advises and mentors startups and consults with organizations who want to understand the evolving digital health landscape as the Principal in Participatory Health Consulting.

Ms. Oldenburg has focused on digital transformation for consumers and providers for 20 years. She brings broad experience across all aspects of the healthcare ecosystem, including payers, providers, and integrated delivery systems. Her experience includes advisory firms ranging from EY to boutique professional services firms as well as roles as the Vice President of Patient and Physician Engagement in Aetna’s Accountable Care Solutions organization and senior leadership in Kaiser Permanente’s Digital Services Group.

She is the principal editor of Participatory Healthcare: A Person-Centered Approach to Transforming Healthcare published by CRC Press in August, 2016 as well as the primary editor of Engage! Transforming Healthcare Through Digital Patient Engagement, winner of “Best Book of 2013” honors at HIMSS 2014, along with multiple articles and book chapters. Ms. Oldenburg tweets @janoldenburg.

Comments (1)

  • Pratibha Patel says:

    I’ve found this to be relevant with my work with the non-profit dance organizations, and it makes sense that this doubly applies to large scale hospitals and their foundations. It was certainly game changer to incorporate digital methods in our fund-raising and we knew that we had to collaborate across sectors to connect with different types of donors. Online tools proved to be efficient means of promoting our cause and collecting donations via online methods, but it was important to have cultivated the relationship with the donors first and foremost. They had to feel connected to the cause, the leaders or the organization in order for any type of “ask” to be effective. Transparency was also key – folks want to know where their donations are being used. If it works for the “small guys” it will definitely work for the larger scale hospitals and care organizations.

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