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by GK Strategy 5th January, 2017
3 min read

Healthcare providers: Is your organisation ready for a crisis?

All too often leadership teams will opt for the ‘wait and see’ option when it comes to managing reputational risks, hoping that nothing major happens to undermine the credibility or confidence that the public entrust in their services. No matter how good your organisation is sometimes things will go wrong, and when they do reputational damage can be swift.

In healthcare, like in education, organisations that fail to nurture a culture of accountability and transparency lose trust with the public. This distrust is speedily put on display when issues associated with poor care, patient safety or financial mismanagement are exposed. Services that are commissioned using public funds should always bear this in mind.

So what are the practical steps a healthcare organisation can take to build and protect its reputation?

 

Understand your exposure to reputational issues or crises

You can only put in place measures to prevent issues or crises emerging if you understand the source of the problem. The list of issues that can reach the public domain nowadays is broadening. Healthcare providers often have many touch points with the public and cover large geographical areas – they’re most at risk as they have less visibility of potential issues and less control over resolving them.

 

Have clear protocols and policies in place to deal with issues when they happen

If you employ a large workforce, it can be difficult to be on hand every time an issue kicks off so having clear external relations and social media protocols and policies in place is particularly important. Staff can be trained to recognise why they’re important and how to adhere to them so that negative reputational exposure is minimised.

 

Getting a system in place to filter media requests and deal with them effectively

Make sure you have a dedicated media telephone line which is published and easily accessible on your website. Otherwise you risk having untrained staff answering calls from journalists who are often trying to catch them out. Cynical I know.

 

Assign a team to lead with the management of serious media requests

There should be specific and trained people assigned to answer calls when they come through. More than this, there should be a clear grid of people or chain of command to liaise with when specific requests come through, clearly defined according to area responsibility and seniority. In complex organisations it is important that requests are not answered in isolation – so compliance teams, legal teams, internal communications teams and often the executive team should be consulted before any response is given.

 

Having spokespeople ready

In healthcare it is especially important that leaders conducting media interviews are trained on how to do so. A bad performance can undermine confidence in a service being provided and can make the public ask, ‘Why is this executive being paid so much?’ – the reputation you’ve built up can be eroded quickly. So you should be well practiced in the simple things like saying ‘I’m sorry’ and explaining your argument in terms your patient group will understand before ‘going live’.

 

Thinking about your communication channels

Going on the TV or Radio used to be enough. Now you must consider what people are saying on social media and how you interact with them, so have trained teams and a strategy in place for how you will do this.

 

Your Staff

Don’t forget your staff. They are the ones who need to know if their reputation is being called in to question or their ability to deliver the service they’re professionally qualified to deliver is being undermined. They are what makes a happy workplace. It is their good morale that gives them the energy to deliver a great service. So above all, make sure you engage with them when times are hard.

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