As a Denver public relations firm that specializes in healthcare PR, we are well aware of the growing challenges facing healthcare communicators. Constant regulatory change means the ground under executives’ feet keeps shifting. Increasingly sophisticated hackers make it clear that no organization is safe from the threat of data breaches and ransomware. Pressure from shareholders and board members means that costs keep rising. A patient population growing continually more diverse and more dispersed means less access to care. And a system focused on “sick care” instead of “health care” means we keep treating the symptom instead of the disease.
Regardless of the challenges their organizations face, the most important question for healthcare communicators remains, “what would a reasonable person expect a responsible organization to do?” If the question your executives are asking is “how many beds do we need to fill?” or “how many pills do we need to sell?” they are asking the wrong question. Because the fundamental question your stakeholders want answered is, “can we trust you?”
The good news is that we are beginning to see a new trend in healthcare that is focused on keeping people healthy instead of treating them when they are sick. According to the Associated Press, more health insurers are covering the cost for things like healthy food deliveries or rides to a fitness center. Hospitals are paying staff to visit patients in their homes so they can really understand what the patient’s needs are and help them avoid the depression and loneliness that often accompanies isolation. Instead of paying providers for each procedure or patient visit, health plans are paying providers to coordinate all the care a patient needs to get and stay healthy.
Instead of just covering the healthiest people, health plans are understanding that directing more care to the people that need it most – patients with low incomes, language and geographic barriers, or chronic conditions that prevent them from getting the care they need – can actually reduce costs and improve long-term outcomes.
The important thing for healthcare PR pros to know is that this trend will also improve your organization’s brand awareness and build a reservoir of goodwill that will pay off in the event of a crisis. Keeping people healthy is not just good for your patients, it’s good for your brand. It lets your stakeholders know that you care, that they can trust you, and that you have the sort of compassion they expect in their healthcare providers.
As healthcare public relations professional, we need to help our boss or client understand how fundamental this is the health of their bottom line. Are you behaving responsibly? Are your patients your top priority? Are you doing what a reasonable person would expect you to do? If the answer to any of those questions is no, it’s time to take a fresh look at how you are communicating. Better and much less costly to do it now when you are healthy, than waiting until a crisis hits and you are too sick to respond.
If your healthcare organization is facing some complex communications challenges, contact us. We can help you develop a communications plan to keep you headed in the right direction.