3 crisis management tools to protect hospital reputations

Reputation plays a key role in consumer preference when it comes to acute care hospitals, author Susan Neisloss, wrote in a recent Hospitals & Health Networks article.

However, in today's ultra-competitive market in which hospitals and health system vie for the most selective consumers ever, many factors can threaten an organization's reputation, including negative media coverage, critics and competitors, Neisloss, president of Big Bite Inc., a crisis management and media training firm in Santa Monica, California, wrote. Hospitals must prepare before crisis strikes so staff and leaders can respond in a unified, appropriate fashion.

She said the key to minimizing damage from a crisis is identifying in advance who will speak to the issue and what this person will say. Here are the three elements Neisloss said all hospitals must include in their crisis management plans:

  1. Infrastructure. Establish a team to brainstorm possible scenarios. Prepare for each of those problems and formulate response plans, Neisloss wrote. Designate a space or "war room," where the team can meet to gather information, tailor messages, prepare a spokesperson and equip that space with everything needed to manage a crisis.

  2. Training. Be transparent with communication, while finding a balance between protecting stakeholders and the community--ethical conduct and open communication are essential to an organization in crisis. Control the message across all platforms, including broadcast media, social media and face-to-face exchanges. Message continuity is essential.

  3. Action. "Take ownership of the situation and deliver the story accurately, professionally and consistently in a caring and compassionate way," Neisloss wrote. With healthcare at the forefront of news topics, hospitals must come forward with information rather than withhold it, which indicates an open line of communication to the community. Always factor social media into a hospital's crisis communication plan--it's one of the most monitored mediums around.

Hospitals and healthcare organizations must prepare for the worst and act for the best, Neisloss said. By establishing a prepared crisis-communication team, acting quickly and confidently, hospitals can minimize damage from bad situations and keep their positive reputation within the community.

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