PRSA Health Academy Conference: Key Takeaways

22 May PRSA Health Academy Conference: Key Takeaways

prsa1I recently had the privilege of attending the Public Relations Society of America’s 2015 Health Academy Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. Aside from returning to my home state—the land of milk and honey, LeBron James and, more importantly, Urban Meyer and THE Ohio State Buckeyes—the conference was a great opportunity to gather with some of the country’s top healthcare thinkers and PR practitioners.

The challenge of attending a worthwhile conference is how to capture and synthesize all that you learned during a couple jam-packed days of keynotes, luncheons and breakout sessions.

Over the next few weeks, my LTPR colleague Jessica Robnett and I plan to meet this challenge by turning the insights, experiences and conversations from the conference into several blogs. In doing so, we hope to solidify what we learned and hopefully share something of value to our healthcare clients—both present and future!

For the time being, here are a few key takeaways worth noting:

The importance of healthcare education (and, therefore, communications) has never been greater. Consider these stats:

• By 2050, 15% of our nation’s GDP will be consumed by diabetes-related care if current trends hold.
• 84% of all healthcare-related costs currently go toward treating chronic diseases—most of which can be prevented through lifestyle changes.
• 64% of patients don’t use a patient portal, which directly impacts the bottom line of healthcare providers; 35% of patients don’t even know what a portal is, and 31% said their physician has never mentioned the portal to them.
• Patients #1 healthcare fear is that “My doctor won’t listen to me.”
• 1 organ donor can save up to 8 lives.
• 1 in 3 Americans go online for healthcare information.
• Consumers are 3 times more likely to choose the less expensive healthcare plan, regardless of whether it provides adequate coverage.
• 1 in 25 patients have an infection they picked up at “your” facility—in some cases, this is a direct result of employees not following safety protocol.

What do these seemingly disparate stats have in common? Communication—specifically, the need and opportunity to educate, inform and change the behavior of patients, staff and the public.

Hospitals, clinics and other healthcare providers have many great stories—the challenge is to capture and share them appropriately. Most doctors take their work seriously without any thought of promoting it or themselves publicly. It’s the communicator’s job to figure out where the stories are and how to share these stories with the public in a way that builds the organization’s reputation, the trust of prospective patients and the loyalty of current patients.

Patients are customers with more healthcare choice than ever before. It’s, therefore, essential for smaller, community-based organizations to successfully differentiate themselves from larger systems and new, more disruptive models of care.

Employee morale and patient experience are two sides of the same coin. Given the competitive healthcare landscape, providers are rightly focused on offering the very best patient experience. How can an organization do that with high rates of staff turnover and generally low morale? If you want to improve the patient experience, first take a long, hard look at improving your staff morale. Better yet, implement a program that accomplishes both.

Social Media is a powerful tool for patient education and engagement. A little creativity, support from leadership and a pro-active commitment to use social media platforms to educate on health-related topics is all it takes for success. Your biggest challenge will likely be reminding leadership that social media is a conversation. Social media is a conversation. Social media is a conversation. So on and so forth. Speaking of social media…

Don’t “over-brand” health awareness campaigns. The goal of any related campaign is to get people in your community to act—donate blood, get screened, etc. It’s not, or should not be, first and foremost to build brand awareness. Over-branded campaigns will appear canned, less authentic and reduce engagement. Create and execute campaigns without ego that your community partners can easily join and promote. If it’s a good idea with substantive content, credit will be given in due time.

These are just a few key conference takeaways for healthcare PR. In the coming weeks, we’ll elaborate more on each of these, as well as others. Stay tuned!

Kurt Heath
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