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Why the University of Maryland Medical System Invests in Visual Storytelling

UMMS securely shares healthcare content to boost brand consistency and team collaboration.

“I always say we indirectly save lives,” says Michelle Bamburak, Creative Manager for the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS).Michelle is part of a small team of creatives who produce stories with an incredible ripple effect: they provide comfort and answers to people who are feeling lost, worried or fearful about their health.

Watch the behind the scenes video to see how this team creates moving patient stories that build trust in the community and inspire people to seek out the care they need. Plus, find out why they believe investing in an in-house creative team has strengthened the UMMS brand, improved the quality of their visual content, and created real connections with patients and future patients across the state of Maryland.

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Behind the Scenes with the Storytellers

The creative team at UMMS is setting a high bar in healthcare – shifting away from stock imagery and creating their own unique, authentic content.

But what makes this in-house creative team even more amazing is their ability to produce this compelling, effective content at scale. They serve more than 100 clients across the University of Maryland Medical System, providing everything from photo shoots and television commercials to brochures, ads and print publications. And despite the growing demand for visual content, all of those clients have come to expect quick turnarounds.

“Efficiency is everything in what we do,” says Production Manager Chris Lewkovich. “It’s been a huge challenge that was conquered by digital asset management and the way we’ve worked it into our workflow and made it a crucial part of what we do.”

Let’s break down how an efficient workflow has helped this team meet the demand for visual content.

Fast, widespread content distribution

“It is paramount to have some sort of place to put all this content,” says Chris, whose first task as a member of the UMMS creative team was to build a go-to place for UMMS photos, videos, logos and other creative assets. “Not having a solution wasn’t an option.”

If they were going to deliver several projects a week, they couldn’t waste time trying to compress files to fit into an email or hoping their emails wouldn’t bounce back due to the large file size.

Now, the UMMS creative team organizes and delivers all of their content with PhotoShelter for Brands (formerly Libris). Everyone in the organization can log in and access the content they need on their own. Plus, Chris can deliver broadcast quality commercials to local television stations with a simple download link, and even fill image requests when he’s out on a shoot.

With the right workflow, the team has managed to save time and delight their clients.

“Our turn around times are so fast that it’s now become the standard,” says Chris. “Across the board, we are valued in the fact that we not only can do the quality of work that they would otherwise have to spend thousands of dollars typically for a freelance professional to do what we’re able to do internally, but they’re also getting as good of quality if not better than what they would have gotten from their freelancer. Plus, they’re typically getting it way faster than dealing with outside agencies and freelance talent.”

One hub for UMMS creative assets

Now that the entire health system has one go-to place for creative assets, everyone knows where to find exactly what they need. They can browse visual thumbnails of photos, videos and logos, or type in a keyword like “blood pressure” to search for something specific. Every asset is tagged with relevant keywords so stakeholders across the organization can find what they need quickly.

“I’m like the tagging queen,” says Michelle, who tags all of her design assets with the location involved, the service line, the name of the project and the type of project (for example, “flyer,” “ad,” or “invitation”).

Chris has also invited creatives at the system’s many other locations to upload their own assets to the library. Now, teams across the state are moving images from network drives and office computers to one centralized, cloud-based library, which makes searching and sharing assets easier for everyone. Having one home for content has helped streamline the creative process and cut down on the duplication of assets.

“If there’s a flyer that’s going out or a digital screen talking about preventative measures for the flu, we can create it once, and then we can share it,” says Director of System Creative Communications Mike Ruddock. “It makes us more efficient as a team because we’ve got one creative that we can share across multiple locations.”

A gallery of logos in the UMMS media library.

This helps the UMMS team maintain a consistent brand across the entire system – even when they add a new location.

“Within the last year, we added a new health system to our existing portfolio, and it was a great opportunity for us to deploy the new logos for that medical system, as well as some of the simple things like branded stationery and business card templates to the new teams at that location – not only to other creatives, but also to our human resource teams and our legal teams,” says Mike.

Now, the team members across the organization are saving time – and spending it instead on new projects.

“Many times you’ll hear me say, ‘So, how are we going to divide and conquer?’” says Mike. “We can be in more places, and document more of the great discoveries that are happening here, of the patient care that’s happening here, because we’ve got more people contributing to this one centralized database.”

Collaboration across the state

When you have creative teams working in several locations, you need to the right tools in place to foster collaboration. The graphic designers at UMMS get new requests every day, and they produce around 120 projects a month.

Now that all of their work is in one place, they can make sure they’re not recreating something they already made for another client. Plus, clients across the state can do a quick keyword search for the word “creative,” pull up everything the design team has produced in the last year, and browse the files for inspiration.

“It’s a great way for them to get the ball rolling on a project if they are kind of at a loss for how to start something,” says Michelle.

A look at some recent graphic design work in the UMMS media library.

Visibility and appreciation

An added bonus of this system is a new level of visibility into the creative work happening every day at UMMS.

Every month, the designers share a PDF highlighting their best work of the month in a gallery called, “Spotlight on Creative.” It’s a great way to celebrate their latest projects and inspire clients moving forward.

Meanwhile, Chris can share his creative work not only with his clients, but also with his peers and his bosses.

“It’s awesome because at the same time I’m sending it to the client, I’m CC-ing everyone else in that loop so they’re able to see,” says Chris. “It’s just reassuring to know that they’re seeing our work that we’re doing every single assignment.”

This visibility keeps everyone in the loop, makes everyone feel appreciated, and helps everyone on the creative team – including senior level directors like Mike – understand their impact.

“I’m constantly wowed,” says Mike. “A few weeks ago, one video brought me to tears in my office.”

Security and HIPPA compliance

As Chris built the UMMS media library, security was top of mind.

“The fact that we can completely lock down our site (only we know who’s coming, who’s going), grant access for certain things, and most importantly prevent the outside world from seeing a lot of our assets is crucial because we’re in the healthcare industry,” says Chris. “I know I can sleep better at night knowing that those tools are in place.”

The creative team works closely with the legal, marketing and media relations teams to ensure they have all necessary rights and permissions from patients before they share their stories.

“Patients dictate how they want their stories to be shared,” explains Mike. “If they have any restrictions we document those.”

The team only shares approved assets across the system, and they remind everyone to reach out if they have any doubt that an image should be included in a campaign.

A system built to last

Every day, Chris and Director of Integrated Communications Alexandra Bessent capture new stories of the University of Maryland Medical System. Whether they’re documenting the construction of a new building or following a patient through the recovery process, their stories will be preserved for years to come. They’re building a library of unique, authentic creative assets that their team members will be able to use to share the UMMS message.

“There’s so many ways that it’s important to preserve these assets in an archival form,” says Chris, noting that marketing teams can always find ways to give life to old photos – especially when you’re documenting medical breakthroughs. “There’s the medical significance of certain assets that could come back in a time where we need something that we shot 10, 15, 20 years ago.”

Now, unlike forgettable stock photos, the stories of UMMS patients, doctors, nurses and discoveries will live on through the work of this innovative creative team.

The Strategy Behind the University of Maryland Medical System’s In-House Creative Team

Want to learn more about this team’s cutting-edge visual storytelling strategy? Dive deeper in this PhotoShelter Visual Storytelling Webinar!


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