Top 3 Tips for Managing the Media in a Healthcare Crisis
Even the cleanest and most competent hospital or healthcare facility can be the center of a healthcare crisis. If the administration does not act quickly to manage the crisis, however, your facility can suffer from a negative public backlash caused by bad press. This can erode your patients' trust in your facility, cause lost revenue, and even cause review boards and accrediting agencies to take a closer look at your organization. Managing the media during the crisis, as well as taking fast action to limit the damage caused by the crisis, is the only way to manage the public's impression of your facility and to avoid scrutiny from accrediting and review boards.
Manage the Situation
The first, and most important, order of business during a healthcare crisis is to manage the immediate healthcare crisis. The health and safety of your patients and your employees should be your first priority, and the media and review boards will take into account the steps the administration took to stave off disaster during the crisis. Develop an emergency action plan and implement it as soon as possible. The more people you can keep safe, the fewer people will be affected and the better your organization will look in the press.
Create a Communications Team
You need a designated communications team to be the liaison with the media. This team should consist of administration as well as key medical staff who can lend credibility to the communication by answering specific questions about the healthcare crisis. The public is more likely to believe information from a physician than from an administrator in many instances.
The team should meet and develop a plan for dealing with the media. Other staff should be notified of the existence of the team and should be asked to refer all media inquiries to the head of the team. This will prevent staff who are uninformed or who might inadvertently put a negative spin on the information from talking to the media.
In many cases, you should report the crisis to the media yourself. For example, if your hospital has experiences a tuberculosis outbreak, it is impossible to track and contact the hundreds of visitors, delivery people, and other guests. As a result, your best bet for notifying the widest range of people is to issue a press release that explains the situation and instructs those who might have been affected about what they should do next.
If the administration decides that a press release is not in the facility's best interests, they must work with the communications team to develop a plan for dealing with the inevitable media inquiries. Make sure to stick to the facts, but to put the situation in the best possible light. Highlight steps that you have taken to rectify the situation. Above all, do not make it seem as if your facility has attempted to cover up the crisis. This can lead to speculation and rumors about the "cover-up" that can be very damaging to your facility's reputation.
Finally, administration should develop a comprehensive long-term plan. They should work to develop safeguards to anticipate future problems and develop a plan to prevent a similar occurrence from taking place. Developing a plan of this nature makes sense because if a problem happens once, it can happen again. In addition, working to develop a plan to guard against similar events can enhance your facility's reputation and prevent damaging editorials and articles from being written that highlight the facility's negligence or the weaknesses in the facility's systems. While your healthcare organization may experience some negative press, overall the public and the media will appreciate the steps you are taking to prevent future occurrences.
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Justine King is a healthcare manager and guest author at Best MHA Programs, where she contributed to the guide to the Top 10 Best Online MHA Programs and Degrees.