8 tips for health care organizations to foster better communication in 2016

12 Jan 8 tips for health care organizations to foster better communication in 2016

A version of this article originally appeared in the Portland Business Journal on January 5, 2016. To view the original article, please follow the link here.

Stats, facts and guesses abound about the top health care trends in 2016.

The health care PR professionals at LT Public Relations considered the latest insights from industry conferences and the company’s health care clients to identify the top trends affecting health care communications in 2016.

Here are eight forecasts for this year from the firm — presented as potential strategies for managing your reputation. It’s important to note that each strategy will vary depending on an organization’s location, patient base and overall business goals.

1. Make securing patient data a priority.

With ongoing data breaches in the news, patients will continue to have concerns about privacy issues, as will providers and payers. Data security must be heightened to avoid Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act violations that can negatively impact your organization’s reputation. One of our firm’s largest health care clients has dropped the need for obtaining Social Security numbers from its patients, helping to solidify privacy efforts.

2. Consider cost transparency for patients.

As customers gain more influence, transparency in pricing is increasingly important. Depending on your organizations’ systems, consider being upfront and clear about your cost structures. This can help you keep up with the ZOOM+’s of the world.

3. Personalize social media; less you, more them.

As health care consumers feel empowered and encouraged to share their feedback and voice their opinions, they build a personal connection with health care brands. Organizations that engage patients with content that responds to their needs and resonates with their personal journeys will earn patients’ trust and build brand loyalty. The trend for successful brands is to develop patient-focused, data-based content that offers expert advice, shares real-life experiences, and invites readers to connect with fellow patients in an online community.

4. Figure out cross-generational communication — quickly.

Recognize that communicating to your health care consumers is not “one-size-fits-all.” Creating more value for each generation contributes to growth, but this must be done quickly. The longer a health care organization waits to create value, the more difficult — and the more expensive — it will be to make changes efficiently, which then makes it harder to communicate about them positively.

5. Foster engagement by going mobile.

With mobile technology comes engagement. According to the American Marketing Association, a growing number of consumers are using mobile devices to monitor their fitness levels, weight, heart rate and other vital signs. Developing more interactive options to engage these empowered consumers can earn their trust and business. However, the 2016 consumer will want to engage more with docs, not just apps. Doctors who can virtually diagnose health concerns, provide treatment recommendations through Telehealth, and offer specialist referrals will offer greater value to their patients.

6. Cultivate your internal audience for speed and timely communications.

In a world where social media has fostered consumers with shorter attention spans, communicating in real-time is essential. Health care organizations have shorter lead times to address issues and preserve their reputations. As a result, strong internal communications is, and will remain, essential.

Health care brands that direct efforts toward internal communications first will ensure that employees understand the vision and strategy of the organization and communicate to consumers quickly, in a unified voice. This is essential whether updating patients about insurance changes or explaining new technologies. Keep in mind, as the proliferation of new health care technology multiplies, it is imperative that updating your technology does not outpace training your employees.

7. Ensure clinic consolidations support patients, not just business.

Consolidation is a clear trend throughout the various sectors of the health care delivery system as hospitals buy-out physician practices at an accelerated rate. By forming an integrated systems hospitals are better able to coordinate care among physicians and the health care delivery system. As doctors become employees, their role as decision-makers is undergoing a transformation; now health care marketers increasingly target consumers and payers. Helping consumers navigate through the changes that come with consolidation can help protect your own sound reputation.

8. Offer more collaborative tools and education.

According to Pew Research one in three American adults have gone online to assess a medical condition, and 72 percent of Internet users said they looked online for health information within the past year. The most commonly researched topics are specific diseases or conditions and treatments or procedures. In addition, 47 percent of Internet users search for information about doctors or other health professionals and 38 percent of Internet users search for information about hospitals and other medical facilities. It is important to provide more educational content that help patients take health care into their own hands—but it remains important for doctors to communicate about it with their patients.

Casey Boggs is president of Portland-based LT Public Relations, a national firm specializing in reputation management and serving the communications needs of the health care and financial sectors. Before forming LTPR, Boggs served as public relations director at AIG.

CASEY BOGGS
CBOGGS@LTPUBLICRELATIONS.COM
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