Why Your Healthcare Organization Needs a Crisis Communication Plan
The healthcare industry is highly regulated and focused around addressing personal patient matters, so it’s no surprise that crises are easy to come by. From HIPAA violations to malpractice to failing to comply with safety regulations, there are a variety of scandals to which healthcare organizations can fall victim. But how your organization handles these situations can make or break its reputation in the community.
That’s where a crisis communication plan comes in. If you don’t already have a plan in place, here are five key reasons why your healthcare organization needs one.
1. It eases the process
In the midst of a major crisis, everyone is stressed from the top down and the last thing you want to do is make a mistake. Crisis communication plans are created to eliminate that stress and make sure nothing falls through the cracks. A good plan typically includes a wide variety of things including examples of potential crises, key stakeholders to involve in order to address each type of crisis, internal and external communication tactics, and staff members responsible for activating each part of the plan. Being able to reference a well-written crisis communication plan at the start of any crisis will help you focus and manage the situation with more ease.
2. It helps with immediacy
In today’s digital world, people are used to connecting with organizations and businesses at the drop of a hat through social media. If your healthcare organization falls victim to a crisis that is made public, your patients will be expecting a response immediately. Depending on the magnitude of the crisis, it is also very likely that your patients and others in the community will be proactively discussing the situation on social media, spreading news of the crisis even further. It is important that you share accurate and thoughtful information through social media as quickly as possible – the more time that passes between a crisis and a response, the less opportunity an organization has to control the narrative. Having a crisis communication plan in place will help you gather all of the information you need about the crisis from internal stakeholders, external stakeholders, your legal department, etc. in a timely fashion so that you can craft a statement that answers all potential questions, shows transparency and keeps your organization’s reputation in tact.
3. It makes media relations easier
Not only do you have to be prepared to respond to your patients in a crisis, you also have to be prepared to answer questions from the media. To address relatively minor and common crises, you may want to incorporate pre-written statements into your crisis communication plan that you can send to the media quickly. For larger, more complex crises that require multiple layers of approval, refer to the crisis communication plan for all of the key stakeholders you need to involve in the preparation and approval of the media statement. Responding to the media quickly and effectively will build trust and credibility with the journalists and also help you get control of the crisis conversation immediately.
4. Crises can be costly if not handled properly
It you run into a major crisis and it isn’t handled properly, it can become costly for your organization in the long run. For example, if the crisis is HR related, you may have to invest time and monetary resources into building a new team. If the crisis is detrimental to the organization’s perception in the marketplace and leads to a decrease in patients, you may have to invest money in rebranding or in hiring an outside PR firm to try and fix your perception. A crisis communication plan is a relatively cost effective way to ensure that your team handles all crises properly the first time. For crises that are beyond the scope of your internal team’s understanding or expertise, it may be worth hiring a PR firm that handles healthcare crises and can review your plan and handle execution.
5. A crisis will happen
This goes without saying – every organization will face a crisis at some point or another. When you prepare your crisis communication plan, identify common crises that your organization and other similar organizations have handled (such as HIPAA violations or C-suite scandals), and how those organizations handled each crisis. Anticipating these situations ahead of time will position your organization for success.
Need help with your healthcare organization’s crisis communication plan? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.