Poor communication can hinder collaboration and success in business and in relationships. I recently read an article about how Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman turned around their company by implementing more effective communication strategies. She contends that, for a company to be successful, everyone from stakeholders to employees to customers must have a clear line of sight, thus a more transparent view, into the company’s strategy and performance, whether it is good or bad. She suggests that if you acknowledge your problems and issues in addition to your successes, people are more likely to build trust in your brand.
Most industries, especially retail, have caught on to the idea of transparent communication, whether that’s via social media or price transparency. One industry, however, is lagging behind this trend— the healthcare industry. It is considered a complex and misunderstood industry, and some healthcare practitioners still have difficulty in their efforts to be more transparent with their patients.
Modern Healthcare recently published an article encouraging healthcare consumers to demand price transparency. They equated it to being as simple as receiving a receipt for the services performed. They referenced that we, as customers, can go into a Dunkin Donuts and see all the prices laid out; if you don’t receive a receipt, your order is free. Now, the healthcare industry has a lot more moving parts than your decision about what to eat for breakfast, but, according to Modern Healthcare, this year employers and their workers will pay close to $900 billion for insurance coverage, making it reasonable for consumers to expect some upfront accountability.
According to Forbes, Dan Munro, pricing transparency is the healthcare story of the year.
In May, the Washington Post announced that the federal government would release the prices hospitals charge for the 100 most common inpatient procedures. When The Post reviewed what some hospitals charge, there were vast differences in price. According to the article, “Experts attribute the disparities to a health system that can set prices with impunity because consumers rarely see them — and rarely shop for discounts.” If I had to guess, I would say that 2014 will be filled with consumers demanding more information like the government’s reports to see what they are really paying for, causing hospitals to do more research on their end for the “best prices.”
Transparency in other industries has become so natural and expected; I think it will only be a matter of time before consumers demand more transparency in healthcare. They want to know what they are paying and for what services…. in advance.
What do you think about transparency? Will the healthcare community be able to provide it? Where do you see this heading?
On Dec. 7, Lovell Communications and our client, Metro World Child, visited the Fox News studio in Washington, D.C., to talk about Operation Holiday Hope, the nonprofit organization’s annual campaign to provide Christmas gifts to inner-city children living in poverty.
Sitting down with anchor Uma Pemmaraju, Metro World Child founder Pastor Bill Wilson discussed how, after being abandoned by his mother at the age of 12, he chose to devote his life to helping children in need. Today, Metro World Child works with 100,000 children around the globe each week. And this year its Operation Holiday Hope program will provide Christmas gifts to 150,000 children in need.
Please take a minute to check out the interview.
Looking to buy a last minute gift for that hard-to-please medical coder, or just want to bring a little holiday humor to the hospital or clinic billing office? Well, look no further. “Struck by Orca,” a book of 32 color and black and white images illustrating some of the most unusual new ICD-10 codes, just launched its first print run.
Highlighted recently in Modern Healthcare’s business blog, the idea emerged after a group of friends began amusing themselves by looking up odd codes like W56.22xA, “struck by orca, initial encounter,” and V91.07xD, “burn due to water-skis on fire, subsequent encounter.”
While the concept may sound funny or dismissive to those in the industry given the amount of time and stress spent preparing for ICD-10 implementation Oct. 1, 2014, the release of “Struck by Orca” illustrates a very important point that is often overlooked in healthcare these days – finding creative ways to communicate changes that are, well, not so fun.
As professional communicators, we are often assigned the task of developing tools to deliver a message to diverse groups of stakeholders that can break through the noise. Often, that message may be complicated and we may fall back to tried and true tactics, like newsletters and brochures. The ICD-10 implementation, which increases the number of medical diagnoses codes from more than 14,000 to more than 68,000, is daunting, and a tool like “Struck by Orca” can bring some much-needed lightness among the sea of newsletters, brochures, emails, intranet posts, break room flyers and small-group huddles.
A book of humorous illustrations is not the end-all-be-all answer to internal communications, but it is a good awakening to the possibilities that exist when we think creatively. Oh, and the publishers are thinking about producing a countdown calendar for next year. Be on the lookout!
Looking for creative ways to communicate not-so-fun topics? Learn the 6 Secrets of Effective Hospital Internal Communication or share your thoughts and best practices in the comments
After a lively discussion on the financial and cultural impact of hospitals employing physicians, panelists at the Becker’s Hospital CEO Roundtable in Chicago last week were asked by healthcare publishing veteran Chuck Lauer what was foremost on their minds today about healthcare. They had only 30 seconds to respond; here is a summary of their comments.
- Data collection. It will be at the center of quality outcomes and financial reimbursement.
- Evidenced-based medicine. Physicians won’t get “aligned” unless you show them the data. They are scientists.
- Cost control has never added any value to patients
- We need payment reform and we need it fast.
- 90 percent of all the scientists who have ever lived are alive today. Change will escalate.
- Patients need more skin in the game. Providers need to better educate patients so they can more actively participate in their own care.
- “The changes we dread most may contain our salvation.” With credit to Barbara Kingsglover.
- Providers need to be encouraging patients to have advanced directives. It will save an enormous amount of money.
- We don’t have any choice: If we don’t’ collaborate, we won’t make progress.
- We’re still excited about healthcare.
Looking forward to the next annual Becker’s Hospital Conference May 15-17 in Chicago.
Good news, hospital marketing directors! The government shutdown message on the CMS Hospital Compare website has been updated and it looks like we’re back on track for a December 12 data refresh.
If the prospect of explaining your hospital’s quality performance (again) makes you feel like calling in sick, you’re not alone. From our earliest years in school we learn that talking about report cards is no fun – particularly if a sibling or neighbor down the street has something to crow about.
But the reality is that hospital quality, in general, continues to improve. According to The Joint Commission, their accredited hospitals in 2012 achieved 97.6 percent composite accountability on core measures – an improvement of 15.8 percentage points since 2002. So even if your hospital doesn’t score quite as well as a competitor in your market, you may be able to share a few positive sound bites with stakeholders and reporters to help bring balance their analysis.
- Be sure to review all of your hospital’s scores and understand how the organization has performed over time. If your hospital is following The Joint Commission’s trend, odds are good you’ve consistently improved year over year. So if your scores went up in 24 of 28 measures last year, for instance, you’ve got positive news – even if a nearby competitor outperformed you on individual comparisons.
- To bring context to the full data set, analyze your scores not only against your competitors, but against state and national averages as well. Telling an inquiring reporter that your hospital meets or exceeds state and national averages in 60% of measurement areas increases the likelihood they’ll look beyond the initial “who scored best” perspective.
- Don’t forget to consider your hospital’s readmission and mortality rates. Though many hospitals have gotten good at “taking the test” and performing well on core measures, mortality and readmission can pose a different kind of challenge. Some popular analysis efforts, including Leapfrog and Consumer Reports, place greater emphasis on these measurements and can seemingly contradict strong core measure results.
In addition to Hospital Compare, healthcare providers and consumers (as well as reporters) can access WhyNotTheBest.org, a transparency effort of the Commonwealth Fund that produces side-by-side comparisons of 4,500 hospitals nationwide, tracks performance over time and provides numerous benchmarks. Unlike the CMS site, which provides somewhat clunky, measure-by-measure graphs among up to three hospitals, WhyNotTheBest has a nimble, intuitive interface that provides a numbered ranking in a visual format. If your hospital performs well in their analysis (which includes core measure data, but also factors in information from the CDC, AHRQ and other sources), this website can be a real boon in your tool kit for educating stakeholders and the media.
If the data refresh still makes you feel like the flu is coming on, remember: transparency sites are useful tools, but they only tell a part of a hospital’s story, and even “refreshed” data is inherently dated. Patients making decisions about hospital care should speak with their physicians, talk to family members and friends about personal experiences, and arrange to visit their local hospitals to be truly informed consumers.
We love our phones and depend on them to talk, shop, navigate, connect, photograph and research. Most of us would be lost without our beloved technology sidekick.
It’s not shocking that findings from a recent survey reported 68 percent of people sleep by their phone and 66 percent would choose taking their phone to work over their lunch. Our phones are with us all day, every day which is why they are such effective marketing tools for businesses.
Have you considered a mobile marketing campaign? Is your company web site built appropriately for mobile use? If you answered no, here are three reasons why you should sharpen your mobile marketing skills.
1. Mobile Web Use May Surpass Desktops by 2015
According to Morgan Stanley analysts, there will be a dramatic shift towards mobile web use in the next few years. So much so that Google just launched a new algorithm called Hummingbird that, according to Forbes Magazine, will help Google better perform as it provides users with mobile web search results. What does that mean for companies? You must have a mobile friendly site that includes a strategy for providing users with easy to view content. As Forbes mentions, think large fonts, eye-catching images, responsive design, videos and concise, actionable content. Reaching your customers via their phone is going to increase in popularity, so get on board.
2. Mobile Marketing Budgets Have Increased by 142% since 2011
The Interactive Advertising Bureau conducted a mobile marketing study in 2011 and bench marked it against a similar study conducted this year and found that companies surveyed had significantly increased their mobile marketing spend over the last two years. In fact, the trend looks to continue as one in five marketing executives surveyed said they expect to increase their budget by another 50 percent by 2015. Companies understand the importance of mobile marketing and are making the investment.
3. 80 Percent of Smartphone Users Want Consumer Driven Text Messages
CMO.com reports that mobile messaging company mBlox conducted a study among smartphone users and found the majority surveyed were incredibly receptive to receiving text messages that pertained to coupons or deals…as long as they have opted in to receiving the messages. So, are the days of searching the newspaper for the weekly coupons nearing extinction? Stacy Adams, vice president of marketing for mBlox said, “We see SMS and push as a missed opportunity for marketers. So when you look at that, combined with the fact that 4 billion people in the world have mobile phones and thus have access to SMS and text messages, that means SMS has more users than Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn combined.” Again, we basically sleep with our phones so notifying your customers of important information via texts is an effective approach.
So, put your phone down and give mobile marketing some thought.
Want to write something fresh for the CEO? Scratching your head over how to make the CFO seem more multi-dimensional? Tired of having legal eviscerate your press releases?
Communicating for the C-suite can be challenging. Corner offices tend to be populated by strong minded, fast thinking, hard driving professionals who don’t have a lot of time for rewrites or coming up with just the right word.
That’s our jobs as professional communicators. But it doesn’t take many emails from the C-suite to realize there is a big difference between writing well and writing well for a particular person.
First, it’s important to consider the person in the corner office – and the character as well. Typically, chief executives are the visionary of the organization: proactive thinkers and, often, charismatic entrepreneurs. Consider what your CEO is like as a person and a professional, and seek to understand his or her voice and priorities.
Next, think about their main audiences. This can be tricky, because chief executives are often the face of the organization and the lead spokesperson to many – if not most – stakeholders. Focusing on a CEO’s main external audiences, you’ll likely want to consider customers (not necessarily end users), investors, competitors and media on the list; for CEOs of publicly traded companies, add analysts, shareholders, regulators and the financial media.
Lastly, consider the primary concerns for a chief executive and you’ll have the topics about which he or she will most need to communicate. (And if a topic is not a primary concern, consider if the CEO should speak to it all: CEOs are strategists, so keep their communications well above mundane tactical matters). Company heads are generally focused on “big picture” matters like growth, strategic opportunity and performance. And more so than others in the executive suite, they are sensitive to reputation and perception issues, and often more attentive to the company’s relationships and strategic partners.
On the quirky side, that focus on relationships can sometimes make CEOs the more emotional members of the executive team. Unlike the uber-analytical CFO or legalistic general counsel, CEOs often approach their jobs more personally and can be sensitive to criticism. They are prone to middle of the night revelations (and emails) and are more likely to be hurt (or infuriated) by a headline they find disagreeable.
So if the phone rings at 5:30am with a last minute edit to a press release, just remember: writing for a chief executive is an honor. It provides the professional communicator an opportunity to see into the mastermind behind a company, and it allows you to contribute at a very high level. But never try to make them fit your style or voice. Approach your writing assignment for a CEO with his or her personality, concerns and audiences in mind, and you’ll find yourself on the way to a fantastic final piece.