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April 9, 2013

Big Data and the Quality Conundrum

It used to be a word-of-mouth game, working with referring physicians, engaging the community at local events and working as hard as possible to impress upon patients and family members the quality of the care they are receiving.  Now, as with other industries, hospitals and health systems are getting a glimpse of the downside to Big Data.  Public quality data is becoming more accessible than ever with the recent introduction of the Association of Healthcare Journalists’ (AHCJ) Hospital Inspections website, as well as CMS’ Hospital Compare site.

This new ease of access to previously daunting data provides patients, communities, and local media with relevant information on their local healthcare, but often without any context, which places the responsibility of educating these different interest groups on hospitals and health systems.  The question for leadership is how best to address education and protect your facility’s reputation?

In this issue of Off the Shelf, we offer tips for addressing quality considerations with your community.

Highlight Outcomes

Every facility has programs and patient outcomes that they can be proud to discuss in greater detail with the community.  The key is ensuring you get the positive message out.  A starting place is developing a message platform or adding to an existing one if it does not address key quality considerations.

A few additional tips for facilitating this discussion include:

  • Be Proactive
    • Create a working group between Quality, Marketing, PR/Community Outreach, and any third-party consultants or agencies you utilize
      • This group can develop impactful message platforms
    • Incorporate key messages and numbers into your materials, events, and key talking points
    • Engage local media on your positive outcomes and any significant improvements
  • Be Specific
    • Healthcare providers, in particular, need to hear from your organization areas where you excel
  • Be Honest
    • Ensure your messages are accurate and pass muster.  This means adding context especially when comparing yourself to facilities in your area or the rest of the country
Address Quality Concerns

The honesty that comes with highlighting your outcomes in your message platform should include preparation to answer any questions about areas your facility needs to address.  As with other areas that can drastically impact your brand, ensuring you have a crisis communications plan is critical.  A few recommendations on getting one started include:

  • Address the operational issue
    • First and foremost is ensuring that your organization is addressing quality concern areas.  All too often issues get delegated to the manager who is responsible for the area (and was responsible for the area when the issue occurred) without appropriate follow-through as to whether they addressed the underlying problem.  Engaging a third-party either from outside your organization or from another department is important to ensuring accountability.
  • Anticipate areas of concern
    • Use the working group previously discussed to develop a prioritized laundry list of quality issues that may need to be addressed from a communications standpoint
  • Tie your crisis plan into your message platform
    •  Ensure that you have talking points for these concern areas that dovetail off of your existing message platform
  • Quantify the problem
    • It is important to add context to any problem areas.  This includes prioritizing whether a response is even necessary as sometimes even addressing a critique can add credence to the person voicing it
Educate Staff

Communications starts with the first interaction between your patients and their caregivers and your organization.  Highlighting your outcomes and addressing quality concerns is critical to safeguarding your reputation (and improving your patient satisfaction scores).  Some tips for educating staff on quality communications include:

  • Customize message platforms
    •  Develop succinct messages for different staff levels from management, to providers, to nursing and support staff for patient communications
  • Train staff on improved communication
    • Work with your education departments to appropriately incorporate message platform delivery discussions in their sessions
    • Make quality communications an administrative priority and communicate it to your management
  • Update your plans
    • Your communication plans will need to be updated annually (at the least) and any changes will need to be communicated through the above mechanisms as well
Soyring's Solution

Need assistance in your hospital or department?  Know you have a communications issues, but not sure where to start? Contact Us.

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