High Stakes

Straight Talk for Communicating a Hack

Ransomware. Malware. Botched IT implementation. Epic fail.

Healthcare is increasingly dependent on technology. With promises of making the delivery of care more efficient, coordinated and precise, speeding up the claims adjudication process and streamlining HR functions, all of us in healthcare are excited about the potential technology holds to better our industry.

But this embrace of technology and all its glory leaves an organization vulnerable to a slew of potential crisis situations that can challenge the true and tested ways of crisis management.

Herein lies the trouble with tech crises. They’re highly complex. They can utterly paralyze an organization’s financial, clinical and communications systems. They can erode consumer trust when affecting patient privacy. And they often take longer to untangle.

And let’s face it: The tech guru at your organization isn’t usually the warm and fuzzy person you put on camera to ease concerns, calm emotions and rebuild trust. No offense tech folks, but you know it’s true.

As these crises grow more common, they’re vexing healthcare and communications leaders and the public they serve.

When you think about developing a crisis response to these situations, consider the following.

  • Think big and act early: The time to extol the virtues of your organization’s top-notch technology is long before anything has gone wrong with it. Proactively educate your constituencies on your deep investments in this area. In telling the story, stay out of the tech weeds and tie that investment to the mission.  Share how these technologies allow you to provide a higher quality of patient care. How they ease patients’ burdens. How they position your organization for success in the long term. Outlining this information ahead of time provides a framework and vocabulary for the moment this conversation becomes necessary (i.e. crisis).
  • Get smart and prepare as a team: Sure you may have an operational or legal protocol in place for a technology crisis, but have Legal and Ops thought through the public dimension? Oftentimes, these colleagues are thinking about the intricacies of the technical functions, the details in how data is collected and ensuring usability and adaption. They’re not thinking about how to talk about it at a layman’s level. All three departments (Legal, Ops and Communications) need to work in concert to know the risks, create a plan and tackle it together. Technology crises are invariably complicated and often far-reaching.
  • Choose the right spokesperson(s): Regardless of who understands the issue best, do they also know how to translate that information to your unique audiences? These crises require a unique confluence of credibility, compassion, technical know-how and the ability to explain clearly without jargon. Your spokesperson(s) must not only be able to explain in layman’s terms how this technology helps patient care, but also must speak to the technical and legal components of the issue at hand. They must have credibility, compassion and connection with the audience. Perhaps it is a communications staffer who needs technical instruction, or a tech guru who needs training on public speaking. Know your staff’s strengths. And tag team if necessary.

These crises are hitting with alarming frequency. With thorough prep planned by a multidisciplinary team, you’ll succeed at protecting the trust your organization relies on from your employees, physicians and the community.


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