Finally gone are the large, clumsy, beady-red-eyed cicadas that plagued the fair city of Nashville for 6 weeks. Gone are the mounds of carcasses and ear-splitting mating songs. Gone is the invasion of outdoor cook-outs and other summertime activities. Gone is the common conversation piece among all walks of Nashvillian… Until next time, that is… We’ll see you again, little devils, in 2024.
Perhaps by then, we will we have forgotten the pain, the inconvenience and overall nuisance of this year’s cicada invasion. Let’s face it – it was just not a good experience.
So, what does this have to do with hospitals? Glad you asked.
Hospitals, like cicadas, are an uncommon experience. In fact, the average person visits a hospital every four years. The experience a patient has – good or bad – is likely to shape that person’s perception of the hospital… Do I trust them? Would I recommend them? Would I go back? And, their perception – especially if it’s negative – is also likely to shape other people’s opinions. Lots of other people. Because, after all, word-of-mouth is gospel.
That’s why hospitals – even after they have worked hard to make positive changes – often suffer a bad rap for a long time. It’s very hard to turn a poor reputation because people don’t have the opportunity very often to see that you’ve changed.
The lesson for hospital leaders? It’s not enough to make positive internal changes. (That’s the first and most important step, of course.) But, then you must deliberately tell your story. All the time.
Not only do you have limited opportunities to prove yourself to individual patients, but you also face the 7x rule of communication – i.e. that people need to hear something seven times to actually process the message.
How on earth do you do it? Start internal: make sure employees, physicians, board members and volunteers know your story – your quality and satisfaction metrics, awards, key things that make you different, key improvements you’ve made. Then, take it on the road: tell the community through civic engagement, grassroots, advertising, media. If people don’t know, it’s your job to tell them (and of course, to show them with every new experience).
Otherwise, there may be patients in your community avoiding you or dreading the next time they have to visit you – for more reasons than the fear naturally associated with illness and injury.
Cicadas can’t turn their reputation, bless their little hearts. But, hospitals can and do, every day.