High Stakes

Healthcare Communications in the Golden Age of BS

golden age of bs

We are living in a golden age of BS, according to the usually-staid Wall Street Journal in an observation that passes the, er, smell test.

“…false information moves faster and farther these days, thanks to social media. A new study conducted by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, published earlier this month in the journal Science, analyzed the spread of 126,000 rumors tweeted by 3 million people over more than 10 years and found that false news spreads faster than truth.”

Sounds bad. It gets worse. Artificial intelligence is developing the ability to create fake video footage and audio of people. The latter actually has some positive impact for people whose health conditions (like ALS) have deprived them of the ability to speak. But for everyone else, it’s a brave new terrifying world out there.

This age of misinformation, disinformation and non-information should be particularly notable for healthcare industry leaders. Our industry is extremely complicated (something nobody knew until recently), exceptionally opaque and deeply personal to everyone who encounters it. Which is everyone. With that playing field, it’s no wonder that when behemoths like Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase announced plans to collaborate on…well, uh, something – the  announcement set the world on fire for days, despite being virtually substance-free.

This reflects how desperate people within and outside the healthcare industry are for legitimate, no-BS change. What they may not know is that many leading health systems are already working toward that future. However, it’s up to you as a healthcare leader to show where your system is being innovative. Steal a page from Geisinger and Dr. David Feinberg (seriously, he’s telling you to) and offer refunds to unhappy patients. It doesn’t even have to be on such a grand scale: MedStar made national headlines for thinking about the hospital gown differently.

Amazon isn’t going to totally disrupt American healthcare tomorrow. But they’ve got a trillion reasons to keep trying. Meanwhile, remember this: You have expertise, institutional wisdom and the trust of your community. Give your boldest thinkers a louder voice within your organization, and show people that you’re doing the real work to make their experience of healthcare better.

The right communications approach will leverage all the new and old vehicles and strategy to get your story out. But the story has to be genuinely fresh, reflective of the era and driven toward actually delivering on better care at lower costs. People want to believe in their local health system and its leaders. Help them do that by giving them something real to grab onto.

We’re devoting a good deal of our energy this year developing practical solutions for healthcare leaders looking to leverage smart communications to cut through the noise. Stay tuned for more of our thinking about how transparency in healthcare can help fend off BS.


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