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Ian Petty

Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, Inc. Adds Four to Team as Healthcare Providers Increase Focus on DE&I

Firm News

Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, a national top 10 healthcare communications consultancy, has added four associates, reflecting growth in work on diversity, equity and inclusion, crisis communications, media relations and design.

The firm, which works exclusively with healthcare providers, is expanding its expertise in these areas to help clients navigate increasing scrutiny of providers, shifts in strategic planning post-pandemic and the critical need to advance health equity.

Erika Matallana has joined as associate vice president in the firm’s Regional Health Systems Practice, bringing clients more than 15 years of experience as a versatile communications strategist specialized in healthcare DE&I communications, multicultural marketing and communications, public relations and creative writing.

Prior to joining Jarrard, Matallana served as director of communications for Amedisys, where she led communications identity, strategy and execution for the hospice division. Previously, Matallana spent a decade at HCA Healthcare in several communications roles, including leading communications strategies and execution for HCA Healthcare’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts. In that capacity, she oversaw development of enterprise-wide messaging, publications and materials in support of diversity and inclusion initiatives for patients in more than 2,000 sites of care and for over 270,000 colleagues across 21 states.

“We continue to see the importance of addressing persistent deficits in health equity, gaps that were brought to the forefront during the pandemic in the realms of both health and society,” said David Jarrard, president and CEO of Jarrard Inc. “We are encouraged, and challenged, by the number of outstanding providers who are dedicating renewed focus and resources on addressing health equity in the communities they serve, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion within their organizations. Erika’s extensive background in DE&I will be an indispensable resource for our clients in that work.”

Other hires include:

  • Lauri Kerns has joined the firm as a senior managing advisor, bringing more than 20 years of experience in crisis communications, media relations and the use of story to inspire change. She previously led communications, marketing and media relations for nine hospitals in the Ballad Health system. Prior to her work in healthcare, Kerns managed all emergency communications for the Tennessee Valley Authority nuclear fleet. She began her career in the U.S. Air National Guard and Reserves, where she led community outreach and crisis communications during deployment operations.
  • Colie Gutzler has joined the firm as a managing advisor and offers more than a decade of expertise in digital marketing communications. Prior to joining Jarrard, Gutzler was the senior marketing manager of CRM and digital marketing at Trustmark Insurance, where she was responsible for the policy owner journey and managed retention efforts. Prior to that, she spent time at NorthShore University Health System in marketing communications, serving as marketing manager for various service lines. At both organizations, she was highly involved in DE&I initiatives.
  • Allie Stivland joined the firm as a senior graphic designer. A multi-disciplinary designer with a background in psychology and public health, Stivland’s approach relies heavily on her knowledge of community health, research methods and consumer psychology. Prior to joining the firm in 2021, she worked as a designer with Chicago-based global healthcare giant Abbott. Earlier, she served at influential nonprofits including the American Kidney Fund and the Alzheimer’s Association.

Along with the six new hires in the first quarter of 2021, the ongoing growth at Jarrard Inc. brings to the firm resources and expertise to help healthcare providers find opportunity in an increasingly challenging landscape and fulfill their mission to care for their communities.

“The past year and a half revealed in new ways the profound importance of mission-driven healthcare and reminded us that no matter how large or small the organization, healthcare is local and personal,” Jarrard said. “Providers are in a unique position to review the lessons learned during the pandemic and find new ways to deliver outstanding, equitable care.”

About Jarrard Inc.

With offices in Nashville, Tenn. and Chicago, Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, Inc. is a U.S. Top 10 strategic communications consulting firm for the nation’s leading healthcare providers experiencing significant change, challenge or opportunity. Founded in 2006, the firm has worked with more than 600 clients in 45 states and served as a communications advisor on more than $60 billion in announced M&A and partnership transaction communications. The firm specializes in M&A, change management, issue navigation and strategic positioning. Jarrard Inc. is a division of The Chartis Group, one of the nation’s leading healthcare advisory and analytics firms.

For more information, visit or follow us @JarrardInc.

Six Critical Ways to Address Falling Short on Community Spending

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Note: This piece was originally published over the weekend in our Sunday newsletter. Want content like this delivered to your inbox before it hits our blog? Subscribe here.

The Big Story: Major nonprofit hospitals’ community spend falls millions short of tax break savings, report says

The Lown Institute last week released its naughty and nice list of hospitals based on their community benefits and found that 72 percent of not-for-profits spent less on the community than they received in tax breaks. The report ranks hospitals as community partners based on spending for charity care, community health initiatives and Medicaid revenue. In a first, it also assessed “fair share spending,” which compares private non-profit hospitals’ spending in those categories against the value of their tax exemptions.

Impact on Your Hospital

This failure to cover the tax exemption is red meat for critics of our industry…And where it’s true, it should be. Let’s address what you can do to safeguard your reputation if your organization is one with a deficit in “fair share” spending, at least as Lown figures it. A couple of points to set the stage before we do that:

First, this is real money we’re talking about.

  • The value of tax breaks for nonprofit providers is significant, with the national aggregate a whopping $24 billion in 2011; experts say it’s likely double that today – do the math, that’s something around $50 billion. 
  • Roughly $17 billion.That, per Lown, is the cumulative deficit from the almost three-quarters of the 2,400 nonprofit hospitals reviewed that spent less on overall community benefits than the value of their tax break (as they calculate it, at least).

Second, “community benefit” is notoriously difficult to define and is inconsistently calculated across the country.

Does it include charity care? Of course. Does charity care include just the cost of the care delivered or the margin lost as well? And that margin is based on what charge? If you’re an academic medical center, does it include the cost of research? (Lown says it does not). While we’re at it, how do you determine the potential tax relief you’re receiving as a not-for-profit? What’s included in that calculation?

The days are passing when providers can rely solely on the great, historic strength of their branded reputations to push aside pointed criticisms of our industry based on thoughtful research like we see in the Lown report.

The visibility of the study demonstrates again that if providers aren’t defining their value to the communities they serve, someone else will. And it won’t be to their benefit.

This story is the latest in a series of critical spotlights on the performance of providers, and it will not be the last. Indeed, there’s more data from Lown on the way – the institute said it will release its full hospital index later this year.

Providers need to do well, of course, and be true to their mission in every investment made and in service to the community.

They also need to know how well they do, how they can prove it and then tell that story. It’s not creating a conversation. It’s joining (and shaping) a conversation already in progress.

What Communication Must Happen Today

Shaping that conversation requires intentional focus on both the work of Community Benefit itself and how you talk about it. It means defining the terms and demonstrating how you’re applying them. Because, in our experience, the apparent discrepancies picked up by the Lown report often happen when individual decisions are made in near isolation, without enough connection to or consideration of the larger issue – in this case, Community Benefit.

Therefore, as you dig into the work and the message, consider the following:

  • Know your value. How do you calculate your community benefit? Work with your leadership team, including finance and clinical leaders, to create the formula that reflects your orgs true value.
  • Know your numbers and the story they tell. What does your formula tell you about your organization; what comprehensive narrative do the numbers reveal? Frame it.
  • Tell your story. Set the table so the value of your organization is clear and defined by you before others do it for you. Engage proactively and consistently with the community through your own channels and the media to show the incredible ways you’re meeting their needs and fulfilling your mission.

And then, as you move forward, keep these three tactical considerations in mind:

  • Plan ahead. Work with leadership to determine in advance your charity care and community benefits spending – and then plan for how you’re going to measure and publicize this. Marcom leaders, as connectors between community and hospital, should play a vital role in discerning what people want and need. Focus keenly on your community health needs assessments and prioritize spending to mirror needs. Then do it and get the word out.
  • Stay in the loop and keep others looped in. Your board will be asked about your organization’s policies and actions, especially for community hospitals. Report out regularly on this issue, involve them. After all, as board members they are accountable. Meanwhile, stay vigilant to ensure your organization isn’t engaging in predatory financial practices that are harmful to people and undermine your collective community benefit.
  • Document everything. If it wasn’t written down, it didn’t happen. There’s a decent chance your organization is doing a lot of community benefit work that’s slipping through the cracks and, therefore, you’re not getting credit for. Capture it all – every community meeting, screening event, health fair, hour donated by employees on the clock, etc. Use that documentation to share what’s being done and spent.

Cartels or Safe Havens?

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Note: This piece was originally published over the weekend in our Sunday newsletter. Want content like this delivered to your inbox before it hits our blog? Subscribe here.

The Big Story: Biden executive order calls for action on hospital consolidation, price transparency

The President issued an executive order on Friday “telling the Federal Trade Commission to prioritize hospital consolidation in its enforcement efforts. The order will ‘underscore that hospital mergers can be harmful to patients and encourages the Justice Department and FTC to review and revise their merger guidelines to ensure patients are not harmed.’” The AHA and FAH weighed in with overviews and critiques shortly after.

Our Take

(2-minute read)

It’s a Catch-22: Scrutiny of hospital consolidation is increasing in direct proportion to the need for hospitals to find strong partners.

Biden’s executive order follows a cascade of criticism and Senate hearings directed at hospital consolidation – with one outlet going a step or three further and referring to it as “cartelization.”

Yes, the scale of deals is on the rise. A Kaufman Hall study found that the number of deals through Q2 of 2021 is down markedly from previous years, but the size of those deals is “the second highest in recent years.” And yes, some research shows such mergers can drive up prices.

What’s missing from the conversation is that consolidation is happening because the system is broken. It’s broken in myriad ways (seriously, it takes two presidents to let us buy hearing aids without a prescription!?), and we’re stuck until we create something new together.

The current version of the escalating-costs narrative critics are using pins the blame squarely on providers by suggesting – implicitly and sometimes explicitly –  that mergers are driven by greed. The White House fact sheet laying the foundation for the order says that “Hospital consolidation has left many areas, especially rural communities, without good options for convenient and affordable healthcare service.”

It’s a compelling narrative. Our question: Where’s the counter? Who’s telling the story of the real reasons a hospital might want – that is, need – to join a larger system? Or of what might happen if they don’t partner up? There’s a taste of that in the AHA and FAH statements, but more is necessary.

It’s time for hospitals and those who care deeply about access to healthcare to build that narrative. To speak up.

Hospitals can and do pursue mergers, acquisitions and partnerships for a variety of reasons. First among them is so they can continue to fulfill their missions. Over and over, we’ve seen hospitals stay open because of a deal.

Which brings up a related reason for deals. Rural providers often have no other option because the math isn’t working in their favor. The government pays as little as 50 cents on the dollar through Medicare and Medicaid. Plus, there’s a downward push by payers to reimburse at lower rates. That means standalone hospitals – particularly smaller community hospitals where relatively little revenue comes from private reimbursement – often must choose between closing or becoming part of a larger system.

Again, you can’t care for your community if you don’t exist.

So instead of the chatter depicting health systems as predatory, let’s share the stories of community providers seeking a partner for true shelter. To be able to survive. Providers and advocates for access can start engaging in that conversation this way:

  1. Articulate the actual value to consumers of a consolidation or merger. To be clear, this isn’t offering the same tired and vague messaging about “value,” “transformation” and “scale.” It’s a direct, honest story about what will happen if the deal goes forward…and the consequences if it doesn’t.
  2. Prepare for state attorneys general, health insurance companies and others to use the administration’s activity to ramp up opposition to consolidation (which challenges their market share). In other words, your government relations work and relationships with opinion leaders matter more than ever.
  3. Explain how you will deliver on promises made. And then do it.

This executive order appears to be a request for more action, not the action itself. That suggests there will be a waiting period, possibly even a comment period. Don’t let that time go to waste. The conversation has been underway for a while, and it’s being dominated by non-providers. Some are well-intentioned and want to improve the value and delivery of care. Others are market competitors (the self-proclaimed disruptors) and adversaries who view this as a zero-sum game and are campaigning to make providers the fall guy. Hospitals, health systems and others who are focused on access need to stand up. This is a new type of scrutiny. It’s time to respond in new ways.

How to do that? Coming soon.

Blame and Balance

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Note: This piece was originally published over the weekend in our Sunday newsletter. Want content like this delivered to your inbox before it hits our blog? Subscribe here.

The Big Story: Health insurers soak in pandemic-fueled Medicaid growth

As Americans lost jobs and suffered major financial hits last year, Medicaid rolls swelled. Insurance companies are reaping the benefits because they now manage roughly 70 percent of Medicaid enrollees.

Our Take

(2-minute read)

It’s a strange time. More than eight in 10 adults think healthcare is too expensive, but who to blame? Everyone’s trying to figure out where to point the finger, and everyone in our industry is jockeying to position themselves as THE patient advocate.

But what do patients think? You know, those people actually receiving the care being offered and funded by our $3 trillion industry.

We decided to ask them through a quick survey of 500 U.S. adults.

Easy stuff first: In a predictable landslide, 85 percent said that healthcare is too expensive.

Next question: Who is primarily responsible for the high cost of care? Almost twice as many respondents (30 percent) blamed insurance companies vs. the next biggest culprit, “the system as a whole” (16 percent). About 13 percent cited hospitals. Women – the primary healthcare decision makers – were more likely to blame insurance companies than were men. On the other hand, men distributed their ire a bit more evenly among the various options, though insurance companies still edged out the dubious win.

It’s an intriguing wrinkle in a moment where we’re hearing of mixed results in payer-provider negotiations – some talks are collaborative; others are gloves-off, with payers squeezing hospitals for lower reimbursements. Meanwhile, insurance companies are enjoying the profits they accuse hospitals of pursuing and growing their revenue through increased management of and enrollees in ACA plans, as noted in The Big Story.

All of these pieces – and there seem to be a lot of them lately – add to the imbalance between insurance companies and those who are actually, well, providing healthcare. (Of course, even that distinction is blurring as insurance companies pursue vertical integration).

So, let’s look at a few facts to help balance the conversation:

  • Rural hospitals across the country are at increasing risk for closure, potentially leaving wider and wider gaps in care.
  • Safety net hospitals are barely hanging on.
  • Payers managing the Medicaid population seem to be doing just fine.
  • The five biggest health insurance companies control 44 percent of the market.
  • Medicare Advantage and Managed Medicaid grew from 26.8 percent of payer revenues in 2007 to 51.6 percent 10 years later, per Axios. That means they’re making more money from managed care even as providers make less relative to private insurance due to lower reimbursement.
  • Seventeen percent of in-network claims in ACA marketplace plans were denied in 2019, and only a fraction of a percent are ever appealed, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study. That means insurance companies managing those marketplace plans are putting consumers on the hook for the cost of care.
  • MACPAC reported that “There is no definitive conclusion as to whether managed care improves or worsens access to or quality of care for beneficiaries.” More on that story can be found in this article from NPR, also linked in the Axios piece above.

There’s a campaign taking shape against providers in the halls of Washington and the pages of the press.

In a sense, it’s an effort to change the survey results you see above. Will it take hold? Time will tell. For now, though, we see that people are more likely to point the finger at insurance than hospitals. Hospitals have a solid reserve of goodwill earned from their long history and pandemic heroism. That’s a reserve they must not squander.

Data and The Upside Down

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Note: This piece was originally published over the weekend in our Sunday newsletter. Want content like this delivered to your inbox before it hits our blog? Subscribe here.

The Big Story: CVS Health database leak left 1B user records exposed online

Another week, another huge stack of patient information left on a virtual desk for the unscrupulous to rummage through. FierceHealthcare reported that back in March, CVS – through a third-party vendor – left customer data exposed to the tune of one billion search records. As in, not password protected. That’s right, the database had no form of authentication in place to prevent unauthorized entry. The situation was quickly controlled, but it begs the question to healthcare leaders: “How safe is the data you’re entrusting to vendors?”

Our Take

You’re sitting on a gold mine of information, and companies are coming to you with great opportunities for partnerships or you need someone to help manage it all. You have the chance to advance healthcare AND differentiate the care you provide your patients.

What’s not to love?

Maybe nothing. Hopefully nothing. But maybe a lot. So be careful.

With all the growth and excitement taking place around healthcare’s digital front door, a dose of caution is warranted. Because there’s the other side – the Upside Down, for you Stranger Things fans: While more data creates more value for patients, providers and innovators, in the Upside Down, the value goes to the hackers and scammers.

How do healthcare providers run that risk-benefit analysis? You’re certainly not going to build these digital tools yourself, so, how do you pick the right partner and set appropriate expectations with them and your patients? And how do you explain you’re winding down a project if things don’t work out? Finally, do you play a role in educating patients about health tech and navigating the myriad consumer health tools available to them? (Because really, what is Dr. B doing with all that info it collected?)

Here’s our advice.

  1. Create a governance structure in your organization that provides protection from abuse for all stakeholders – including patients, clinicians and staff. Involve everyone in that process: compliance, legal, IT, communications, marketing, operations and clinical. These guardrails will be invaluable as you evaluate any given project.
  2. Ask why you’re considering adopting a technology. Answer the question, “What are we giving up or putting at risk for the sake of convenience?” Run the risk-benefit analysis and make sure there’s a compelling case for the benefits, no matter how shiny the object is.
  3. Consider whether you can achieve the stated goal. Can you do what the end user wants (most likely either your patients or doctors and nurses)? Is partial success possible and acceptable, or is this an all-or-nothing thing? Of course, you can’t really figure this out unless you…
  4. …Talk to the consumer. Find out the value to them and ask about their risk tolerance.
  5. Be open about your decision. If you do move forward, make very clear to the consumer what you’re doing when they sign up. Don’t give them the typical 17 pages of small print terms of service. This is their health, their life and their privacy at stake. Be clear.
  6. Understand from the get-go where the offramps are, whether you achieve success or it doesn’t work out. Have an exit strategy. And then, communicate that exit strategy upfront to all stakeholders. Don’t wait until the project ends – especially if it ends because it didn’t work. People will ask what you’re doing with their data. Answer those questions before you start, not when you decide to quit.

For more on how to prepare for a data breach, check out this recent post.

Questions about your digital footprint? We can help.

You Can’t Please Everyone

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Note: This piece was originally published over the weekend in our Sunday newsletter. Want content like this delivered to your inbox before it hits our blog? Subscribe here.

The Big Story: 178 hospital workers suspended for not complying with coronavirus vaccination policy

Houston Methodist took a hard line on employee vaccinations for COVID-19 and is under fire for enforcing that rule. Neither the mandate nor the protest is a surprise – a big talking point all year has been, “Can and should healthcare organizations mandate COVID-19 vaccines?”

Our Take

(3-minute read)

The bad news: No matter what you do, someone isn’t going to be happy about it.

The good news: There’s a certain freedom and clarity in knowing that you can’t please everyone. When grounded in mission, it’s an opportunity to do the best you possibly can and then rest assured.

Advice: Mandates are a tough call for healthcare leaders. Whatever you choose be clear.

Now let’s get down to brass tacks. Most people want healthcare workers to be vaccinated. Our own poll from Spring found that 79 percent of Americans believe healthcare workers should be required to be vaccinated. Out of Houston Methodist’s roughly 26,000 staff members, 99 percent got their shot – just over 600 received an exemption or were allowed to defer and 178 refused. Pretty impressive.

Yet questions are swirling as to whether vaccine mandates are legal. Just check out the lawsuits making their way through the courts. One look at the protests at Houston Methodist and you can quickly discern that not all healthcare workers are keen to comply.

This isn’t an easy call. We spoke with David Pate, MD, JD, former CEO of St. Luke’s Health System and our resident expert on this dicey and consequential topic. From that conversation and what we’re hearing from our client network, we know that many leadership teams are making that call based on the following decision framework:

  1. What legitimate reasons do you have as a healthcare provider for mandating staff vaccination? For staff, patients and community.
  2. What other vaccinations are currently required?
  3. Who does the mandate cover – from physicians to vendors to volunteers?
  4. What exemptions are there?
  5. Will vaccinated employees be identified? How?
  6. What changes to current precautions will be permitted for the fully vaccinated?
  7. Who will be educating your workforce about the process for vaccination and answering questions about its safety and efficacy?
  8. Should you first seek voluntary compliance with incentives?
  9. What are the consequences for refusal to get vaccinated?
  10. Do state laws against vaccine passports apply to healthcare employers?

Once you’ve made a decision on your organization’s position, consider these seven communications practices before uttering a sentence or sending your first “Dear Colleagues” email. Above all, know that tension grows when communication is confusing. Inconsistency breaks trust.

  • Explain clearly and often the reasoning and logic behind your decision.
  • Connect your decision with your mission of care for patients and employees.
  • Provide venues for those who feel negatively impacted to voice concerns. Acknowledge their insight, it’s valuable, even if you are staying the course.
  • Define the terms to avoid: “Why does this apply to me and not to them?” Don’t let nuanced decisions appear to be arbitrary double-standards.
  • Prepare for pushback and special requests. Patients may ask to see clinicians who are vaccinated – or demand proof. Have procedures and messaging in place to respond.
  • Put the decision in context. Discuss what other measures you’re taking. If mandating the vaccine, explain who is exempt and any additional precautions they must take. If you’re not requiring vaccinations, lay out plans to keep patients and staff safe.
  • Give people steps they can take. Encourage actions that will promote public health. Reinforce existing guidelines and best practices, voluntary vaccination. Educate people on the benefits of doing so: getting back to “normal.”

Want this information in an easy-to-use resource? Download the one-page checklist here.

Four-Letter Word or Healthcare Hero?

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Note: This piece was originally published over the weekend in our Sunday newsletter. Want content like this delivered to your inbox before it hits our blog? Subscribe here.

The Big Story: Seesawing Perceptions on the Payer-Provider Playground

This week Modern Healthcare cast providers as potential bullies, taking advantage of COVID-19 to pressure payers for higher rates and bigger margins. This followed on the heels of a tough review of hospital consolidation in The New York Times while America’s Health Insurance Plans rebranded themselves to just “AHIP” as they become providers, too. We’re noticing a thread here.

Our Take

2020 was a banner year for insurance companies, even with a costly Q4. So payers celebrated by rebranding. As the Good Guys. As the ones “guiding greater health.”

This week saw America’s Health Insurance Plans convert to the simple “AHIP.” Very hip to ditch an apparently unpopular word from the moniker. We note, as Modern Healthcare did, what the Edelman Trust Index says about the trust consumers have for “insurance” companies today.

With their reframe, AHIP smartly took a page right out of the provider playbook by using mission-oriented, self-descriptive language such as “champions of care,” and “advancing mental and physical health.”

This blurring of lines might work. Still, wasn’t it jarring to see the news sitting atop the flagship trade publication for, ahem, providers? A sign of the times…and of an opportunity not to be missed.

Each of our picks for The Big Story painted healthcare providers, in part, as bad guys using their size, clout, public goodwill and financial resources to wield power over smaller hospitals and/or insurance companies to boost profits and plump their margins.

This ink is the latest in an accumulating narrative that pins blame for healthcare’s myriad problems – cost, price, pick your poison – on providers. And then elevates payers as the patient-focused advocates for a healthy society.

But that’s not the whole story, of course.

To be clear: Hospitals and health systems are not blameless victims. There are plenty of head-scratching examples of bad practices by providers and, frankly, providers don’t always do the best job of telling their side of the story even when they do the right thing (ahem again).

But there’s another side of the story to tell. One that explores how major insurance companies are raising premiums while pushing for steady or even lower reimbursement to providers. And one pointing out that provider rates are increasing with single-digit speed, while premiums jump by double digits.

It’s an awkward, sometimes contentious moment for providers. We’re not looking to flip the script, but a conversation that will truly make healthcare better needs more balance. An all-around honest and self-reflective look at our healthcare system and how it’s paid for is needed. Because we can’t improve the system without fully diagnosing the problems – all of them.

It’s a big challenge for those covering our overheated industry.

It’s an opportunity and an obligation for providers, too.

So what’s our advice for providers who find their organizations in the middle of these stories? Or who are having to duke out tense negotiations with payers both behind closed doors and in the court of public opinion? Approach it this way:

Steel yourself. Be aware. The tactics and lines of argument used in mainstream media for national stories will make their way into your next local negotiation. One side of this equation (sad that we’re even positioning our healthcare system as having “sides”) has been building a clear narrative and telegraphing that they’ll use it. No provider should be caught off guard. Tune into news like the stories above for the playbook’s X’s and O’s.

Be honest. Engage in some serious self-reflection on how you’re providing care, supporting your teams and doing what you can to fulfill your mission. Don’t let the perception of unfair coverage distract from any real issues that may need to be addressed.

Keep going. If the insurance industry is jockeying for position as the patient advocate, that means it’s a provider’s space to lose. Let payers roll out their new branding. Hospitals and clinics and medical practices are where people go for care, not insurance offices. Nurses and doctors and techs and LPNs touch patients, not actuaries. That’s the story you need to tell.

Get Engaged. It’s a long story. The insurance industry won’t remake their image overnight and providers won’t balance the conversation overnight either. But providers must begin by speaking with a collective voice about their value and engaging in a real, ongoing conversation about the balance our industry must achieve to serve.

Questions about your managed care strategy? We can help.

Don’t Duck. Fight.

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Note: This piece was originally published over the weekend in our Sunday newsletter. Want content like this delivered to your inbox before it hits our blog? Subscribe here or at the link below.

The Big Story: The Healthcare Divide

The healthcare industry was tossed out of the pandemic frying pan and into the media fire this week when NPR and “FRONTLINE” aired The Healthcare Divide, their joint investigation into the growing inequities in American healthcare exposed by COVID-19. More scrutiny came Wednesday when the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on provider consolidation and antitrust issues. Then on Friday the New York Times ran a story about COVID-19 bills.

Our Take

(3-minute read; 10-minute podcast)

Healthcare providers, it’s time to think less like institutions and more like your detractors.

The halo your organization earned through the pandemic is dimming as the negative spotlight shifts back onto institutions providing care. Everyone’s in on the game. Unions are trying to drive a wedge between provider organizations and healthcare workers. The media is collecting hospital bills from readers. Lawmakers are considering how to wield their antitrust powers. Payers are claiming providers are responsible for the high cost of care. And when consumers truly get on board, winter won’t be coming, it’ll be here.

So why aren’t healthcare organizations consistently better at addressing these arguments? Why do responses often sound weak and platitude-rich – like bland, gray word salad? Like they’re ducking the debate?

Fact is, many still aren’t harnessing the power of communications to tell stories in a human way and are thereby yielding their positions as the owners of patient advocacy. Writ large, the provider side of the industry has traditionally operated from a stance of defense and risk management.

But the pandemic showed us a different way; to tell true-grit stories of how they were making the impossible work.

Let’s hold onto that “what works” and make it permanent.

Because all eyes are on provider behavior. Trotting out outdated studies or spreadsheets won’t cut it. That approach doesn’t hold a candle to the other groups bringing in patients harmed by alleged anti-competitive behavior, telling stories of healthcare workers living on food stamps and being sued by their own employer and painting private equity rollups as dirty, get-rich-quick schemes.

Each of those scenarios has taken place at a national level, but similar conversations are happening in local markets. Want to be prepared for when the spotlight turns to your organization? Consider the following.

  • Define the terms. It’s your story, so own it from the start. Use people. Back it with data. Be straightforward. Words like “integration” may help obscure some of the baggage carried by “merger” or “consolidation.” But people need to understand what you’re talking about. Hospital administrators must be masters at simplifying the complexity of business. Lack of clarity leads to frustration and confusion in the long run.
  • Learn the language. What motivates your hospital isn’t always what motivates the PE firm, payer or union who’s sitting across the table from you as you hammer out a partnership. Don’t talk past them. Understand what they’re trying to accomplish, how they think about the industry and the tools/tactics they like to use. Then address the actual issues they’re bringing to the conversation and articulate how you balance operating a company with providing for a critical need.
  • Be specific. Make it a practice to avoid vagaries. You’re better served calling out datasets and concerns specifically. That way, when it comes time for a rebuttal, you’re addressing a real idea rather than muddying the waters and leaving yourself open to interpretation.
  • Don’t keep using the same narratives. People today are responding to things right in front of them – an unexpected hospital bill, changes in the local labor market, mothballing of services at the community hospital. You need to do the same. Stop running with that same old consolidation study. Align yourself with your doctors, nurses and staff and show specifically what you’re doing businesswise to provide support. If you’re called out for negative effects, respond with responsible transparency and humility, not defensiveness.
  • Call out the bad actors. Yes, there are some in every industry niche who don’t have good motives. Don’t sweep that under the rug, because it’ll just mean you get lumped in with them. Some critics, like the Judiciary Committee, are questioning if the PE model is compatible with providing care. If you’re working to show that it is, you need to share the good stories, but be willing to acknowledge when your peers don’t live up to expectations.

Want more? Check out the 10-minute conversation featuring Jarrard Inc.’s David Jarrard and Isaac Squyres:

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Late Night Jabs

Three red banners that hang in front of the Hollywood Masonic Temple that read "Jimmy Kimmel Live"

Note: This piece was originally published over the weekend in our Sunday newsletter. Want content like this delivered to your inbox before it hits our blog? Subscribe here or at the link below.

The Standout News: Brought to You By People Who Are Smarter Than We Are

Jimmy Kimmel, who’s used his talk show to speak on healthcare and politics numerous times, jumped in again last week with a pro-vaccine montage. It featured a handful of physicians who flashed their credentials (and student debt) and insulted people who haven’t gotten the shot. It was self-righteous, hilarious and very cathartic. But not helpful.

Our Take

(2.5-minute read)

We’re offering the white coats a little free communications advice: Skip Plan A – “A” for Aggression – when trying to change behavior. When we talk about using doctors and nurses to advocate and inform because they’re your most trusted voices…this isn’t what we’re recommending. Put simply: Don’t go all Kimmel on your patients. Leave the biting comedy to the pros.

Look, we get it. The absolutely legitimate frustration your caregivers feel having experienced firsthand the trauma COVID-19 can cause and continuing to hear people railing against the vaccines or still denying the virus is an issue.

Even so, wanna make someone dig in their heels? Insult them. Make fun of them. Piss them off.

Of course, Kimmel’s doing a bit, not offering an actual public health PSA (as far as we know). We haven’t seen any of you take his approach. But don’t let it rub off. Don’t let the frustration you feel about stagnant vaccination numbers cloud your pro-vaccine communications going forward. As much as you’d like to verbally throttle people who aren’t inclined to contribute to herd immunity, just…don’t.

Experts say the next 100 million doses will be harder to give than everything we’ve done up to this point. A recent STAT News article titled Vaccinations are plateauing. Don’t blame it on ‘resistance’ put it this way: “As daily vaccination rates settle and the country’s progress toward herd immunity slows down, let’s not rush to the same misguided conclusion that this is mostly about lack of vaccine confidence.” Labeling those who buy into falsehoods “as hesitant or resisters only hardens their viewpoints.”

So how do we make this easier? Well, the CDC’s lifting of the mask mandate is certainly a significant carrot (vs. stick) that ought to go a long way. Otherwise, here’s some advice from your favorite spin doctors – that’d be us – about how to get people to roll up their sleeves.

Listen to understand. You knew we’d include “listen” here. There’s a lot of research out there about what’s keeping people from getting vaccinated. Digest it. Consider what it means for the specific communities you serve. Go to those communities and ask about their experience with the vaccine – why they got it or why they didn’t. Check with influential leaders like clergy and teachers to get a sense of what their communities are thinking and feeling.

Recognize that data only goes so far. Numbers are good to back the position you’re advocating. Combine those with real-life anecdotes for a one-two punch that brings home understanding. Stories resonate far more than bar charts, which is something people who intentionally mislead know well. So as healthcare providers, tell stories about what the vaccine allows people to do, the peace of mind it brings – and back them up with good data. People aren’t asking, “What are the numbers?” They’re asking, “How will this affect me?” Paint the picture.

Set expectations with your clinicians. Doctors and nurses have a lot on them already, so arm them to inform, educate and advocate. Give them the tools they need to do so – whether it’s talking points, collateral, access to your organization’s channels or coaching on how to engage with people who have a contrarian view. Remind them that what they say about this issue reflects on the organization, even when speaking on their own time and channels. This isn’t to say you should take action against a physician who speaks out in a way you don’t approve of; instead, be proactive in reminding people about their role, their mission and the trust people have in them.

Remember that carrot. The CDC lifting mask mandates for those who have been vaccinated is an incentive for those who haven’t. The promise of returning to normalcy should be more effective than threats and insults for those who are still on the fence. Reinforce messages focused on the benefits of vaccination.

Stick with it. We know this is yet another frustration in a year full of them. Hang in there. We may not be able to convince all, but with persistence and calm patience we can convince many. A positive approach – and even a little good-natured humor – will go a long way toward getting more jabs in arms.

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Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, Inc. Continues Record Growth as Healthcare Providers Move Beyond Pandemic Operations

Firm News

National healthcare communications firm Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, Inc. has added six new hires with expertise spanning crisis management, public health, government relations, corporate communications and digital marketing. The consultancy, which focuses exclusively on healthcare providers, is in greater demand as its clients shift from COVID-19-centric operations toward addressing a new equilibrium emerging from the pandemic, alternative models of care, shifts in Washington and renewed focus on health equity.

Leading the new hires is veteran healthcare communicator Robert Scarola. He joined the firm as a vice president, bringing an extensive background in crisis communications and brand management borne out of time in healthcare communications, metropolitan politics and global public relations. Previously, Scarola served as vice president for communications and public affairs at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. He earlier served as assistant press secretary to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and also managed crisis communications, public relations campaigns and brand awareness work for a regional health system. He is a former managing director at Burson-Marsteller in New York.

Two other senior executives have affiliated with Jarrard Inc.:

  • Katie Ballay joined the firm in an of-counsel role following a 22-year career with Cardinal Health, most recently serving as vice president for communications. Experienced in strategic communications, brand strategy, marketing and executive leadership coaching, Ballay focuses on organizational culture and storytelling to help increase stakeholder engagement and drive growth.
  • Kristen Hinton specializes in strategic communications, government relations and media for healthcare providers. Prior to joining Jarrard Inc. in an of-counsel role, Hinton led communications and government relations at Presbyterian Healthcare Services, New Mexico’s largest integrated healthcare system of hospitals, multi-specialty medical group and health plan. There, she was responsible for all public policy and government relations efforts at both the federal and state levels.

“In working with clients across the country, we’ve seen the need for a shift in communications towards long-term strategy, workforce resiliency, partnerships and care delivery models,” said Jarrard Inc. CEO David Jarrard. These were all top of mind in 2019 and have been brought back into the conversation but through the lens of a world still being reshaped by COVID-19.”

Accomplishing so much difficult but necessary change will require a ‘political campaign’ approach, a mindset that the firm has long brought to healthcare communications.

“The backgrounds that Robert and Kristen bring to our team add additional perspective and real-world experience to this approach,” Jarrard said. “Meanwhile, Katie’s impressive experience blending data-driven strategy with culture and engagement to drive growth, enhances our ability to guide clients through the human elements necessary to produce sustainable change.”

Other hires include:

  • Matt Muenzberg specializes in digital copywriting, focusing largely on enterprise website work, ad campaigns and digital marketing products. With a decade of writing experience, Muenzberg previously worked as a copywriter at The Lacek Group, a specialty agency of Ogilvy, where his clients included prominent consumer brands such as Carnival Cruise Lines, W Hotels and Marriott Bonvoy.
  • Savannah Collier is a new advisor in the firm’s National & Academic Health System Practice. In her prior role with the Tennessee Department of Health, she was involved in community health assessments and state government commissions – work that has given her deep understanding of public health issues and the communications best practices needed to drive significant change in health and health policy.
  • Olivia Steaban is also an advisor in the firm’s National & Academic Health System Practice. Having worked in communications for international development and global health organizations, Steaban specializes in strategic planning. Before Jarrard Inc., she served as a program development specialist at Nashville-based Raise the Roof Academy, where she worked on community-wide advancement programs for rural Uganda.

The sustained growth at Jarrard Inc. brings the firm additional expertise to help hospitals, health systems and health services companies emerge through the pandemic.

Internally, supporting and retaining healthcare workers is top-of-mind for providers, along with adjusting operations and communications to reflect new expectations around remote or hybrid work models. At the same time, providers are focused on consolidating and improving new models of care such as telehealth and hospital at home services that became necessary due to pandemic shutdowns.

“Today offers the unique opportunity to make important changes to further improve healthcare delivery in this country and engage with employees, the public, media and policymakers as our industry applies the lessons from the pandemic,” Jarrard said.

About Jarrard Inc.

With offices in Nashville, Tenn. and Chicago, Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, Inc. is a U.S. Top 10 strategic communications consulting firm for the nation’s leading healthcare providers experiencing significant change, challenge or opportunity. Founded in 2006, the firm has worked with more than 500 clients in over 40 states and served as a communications advisor on more than $60 billion in announced M&A and partnership transaction communications. The firm specializes in M&A, change management, issue navigation and strategic positioning. Jarrard Inc. is a division of The Chartis Group, one of the nation’s leading healthcare advisory and analytics firms.

For more information, visit or follow us @JarrardInc.

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