Success Story: Keeping the Faith: Guiding a Religious Non-Profit Healthcare System Through Strategic Changes

STRATEGIC GOALS

An independent, mission-driven Catholic healthcare system that can trace its ministry back 800 years was about to make a momentous change.

They decided to merge into another – much larger – Catholic healthcare system, which triggered sweeping changes to nearly every part of their organization.

While the change of sponsorship was the first transition to unfold, other strategic initiatives followed as the combined organizations deployed new strategies, all of which would strengthen their historic missions of healing and service.

Within four years, this included a certificate of need to replace a key healthcare facility, the creation of a new division of senior living centers nationwide and – the most sensitive – a joint operating company with a system owned by a Protestant denomination. Last, but certainly not least, the combined organization rebranded itself.

Each initiative was a major chapter for the company. To be successful and advance their strategic goals, leaders knew their organization needed to engage on long-term basis with internal and external stakeholders in a meaningful way – a way that would gain buy-in, accelerate change, alleviate fears, align constituents and build trust.

OUR APPROACH

To advance these strategic initiatives, the organization needed a long-term partner to develop issue-specific communications and engagement plans. Those plans would have a deep understanding of their overall vision and drivers of change behind these decisions.

Over a four-year timeframe, our guidance helped transform these organizations by advancing their vision for healthcare as a combined entity while honoring their histories.

For example, to win the certificate of need, we developed a grassroots campaign to turn around initial zoning approval opposition from nearby residents.

And to develop a new division of senior living facilities and services, we assessed their current resources then built a communications strategy and infrastructure from ground up to unify the centers, which were accustomed to independence.

Developing the operating company with the Protestant system and rebranding the combined organization were the most complex and sensitive strategic initiatives.

This partnership was essential to their combined success because it strengthened both organizations in key areas, all within a large, highly competitive market. While it made sense from a business standpoint, the partnership needed to make emotional sense for employees, many of whom had worked in their respective health system for more than 30 years.

Moreover, each organization had a very strong culture around its faith-based mission. Mission, vision and values were a living, breathing part of the inner workings, from bedside to the business office. Indeed, it was the reason many employees chose to work there.

To advance the integration of these organizations, we engaged with the leadership team and developed a comprehensive communications and engagement strategy that spanned 18 months and was developed in collaboration with senior executives.

Internally, it was shaped by the findings from a communications audit; placed a strong emphasis on their rich histories, missions, and legacies; engaged employees in key decisions; and provided valuable training opportunities.

Externally, this effort was fueled by consistent engagement with physicians, patients, media, industry leaders, community leaders, elected officials and trade associations.

THE RESULTS

This organization has successfully orchestrated significant change, challenge and transformation through a disciplined commitment to strategic communications and engagement.

Through a long-term partnership, we have helped this organization align its most important internal and external stakeholders toward a shared vision, mission and values.

Our work facilitated the integration and helped increase the pace of change within these two organizations, all at a critical juncture in their historic – and admirable – legacies. The success of their combination means they are now poised for more growth.

 

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