One poorly managed crisis or major issue can damage the good reputation and momentum you’ve spent years building.
Our crisis and government relations experts have worked alongside hundreds of healthcare leaders to anticipate and navigate the toughest issues they have today, including government investigations, data breaches, certificates of need, labor issues, medical errors and other high-stakes situations.
Planning for Issues
We arm healthcare leaders with concrete communications and government relations plans to solve strategically significant regulatory puzzles or prepare for crises before they ever surface.
Crisis in the Moment
When you have an issue already in progress, time is of the essence. We immediately assemble a custom team of advisers, ready to walk alongside you 24/7. Our seasoned counselors provide guidance and tools to tackle high-stakes situations confidently and protect the trust your organization has earned among employees, physicians, patients and the community.
Insight into industry trends, healthcare venture capital news and communications best practices. Written from the perspective of our advisers, who work with healthcare leaders making high-stakes decisions every day.
Issue Navigation Case Studies
Leaders at a national hospital company learned that a “60 Minutes” investigative reporter was calling physicians and questioning its admission procedures. Leadership was torn about the best way to move forward. On the one hand, they knew that engaging the reporter risked calling attention to a non-issue if the story never aired. On the other, refusing to comment could give off the appearance that the company had something to hide.
First, we assessed the threat. We quickly learned from a variety of sources that the story would likely run and that we needed to get ahead of it.
We immediately convened stakeholders from the company’s communications, operations and legal teams to coordinate our crisis response plan. Together, we deployed the right team members to out-report the “60 Minutes” crew, making sure that we had all of the information they did. We hired an outside analytics firm to review the company’s admissions data – and the research showed the hospital’s admissions reporting procedures were unproblematic.
Armed with those findings, we engaged reporters and producers to determine the scope of the story. We learned what was likely to run and when.
We then pursued a “pre-sponse” strategy, providing that information, along with data from the outside firm’s analysis, to our own employees and Wall Street analysts, scooping the “60 Minutes” piece and ensuring that key audiences were prepared.
The “60 Minutes” story aired, but did not impact the share price or create an engagement problem with employees. The week following the broadcast, most reports from Wall Street analysts referred to the data from our independent analysis. With a coordinated team stacked with our advisers and hospital company leaders, we turned what could have been a major media mishap into a barely noticeable blip.
A national healthcare company suffered a privacy breach that crossed 13 states and compromised thousands of patients’ private health information.
As soon as the security lapse was discovered — it was caused by a system failure of one of its contracted vendors — the company began a full-scale investigation to uncover exactly what happened and what data and which patients were involved.
Not only did the company need to comply with federal and state reporting requirements, it wanted to preserve its relationships and provide immediate help to patients and hospital partners affected by the breach.
We were engaged as part of the crisis team that included operations, legal and regulatory representatives. The team huddled daily to share the latest information and coordinate work streams.
Early on, the company made the decision to be as open and transparent as possible regarding the details of the breach with both internal and external stakeholders.
We created a comprehensive communications plan to notify affected patients and hospital partners, as well as to comply with federal and state regulations on reporting the incident through media channels. Elements included:
- Personal phone calls to each hospital partner with impacted patients to inform them of the situation;
- Detailed and timely communication to affected patients that included an offer for free credit monitoring and an explanation of actions taken to prevent further inappropriate access to their information;
- Comprehensive communications toolkit for hospital partners to assist them in answering questions from patients in their communities; and
- Notification of media in 13 states to comply with federal and state reporting requirements.
By providing timely, detailed information and ongoing support to affected patients and hospital partners, the company was able to blunt long-term consequences of the incident.
Industry trade publications praised the company’s strong response to the crisis, and media coverage was limited and short-lived.
Thanks to significant planning and seamless implementation of the crisis plan, the company was able to promptly address the crisis and return, more quickly than anticipated, to their mission of improving the lives of patients.
Donors are among a tax-exempt health system’s most important – and delicate – constituents. A multi-hospital health system in the Northeast, which received $10 million to $15 million annually from donors, faced the challenge of communicating embezzlement of foundation funds by an employee.
After an internal investigation discovered the theft of more than $50,000 in donated funds, the health system discharged a trusted, long-time employee and notified the police of a suspected embezzlement case.
While there were no arrests at this point, the investigation and circumstances around the employee’s dismissal began to generate rumors. The system’s opportunity to control the message was quickly fading, and the system’s leaders grew concerned about the damage to donors’ trust and willingness to donate.
We were engaged to create a communications strategy during this critical period. Quickly, we worked with system leaders and legal counsel to establish two specific goals: Keep the news cycle as brief as possible and restore stakeholders’ trust – immediately.
Based on those goals, our work included the following steps and principles:
Create a plan. We developed messages, identified credible spokespeople, prepped our communication channels, and fully equipped the organization with the right tools and information to respond.
Show authentic empathy. We helped the hospital system develop messaging that clearly conveyed the health system’s full responsibility for safeguarding the funds. The system acknowledged donors’ natural concerns and pledged to seek full restitution.
Stay true to your values. Through our work, we also clearly communicated that the health system’s decision to share proactively this information was reflective of its values of openness, integrity and transparency
Tell it first. To take control of the message and defuse malicious rumors, we ensured that our most important stakeholders heard the news from the health system first. This included sending letters to all donors, as well as carefully timing communications so internal stakeholders received the information before it hit the media.
Tell it all. We guided the health system to tell the whole story as they knew it. This is a sure way to restore trust, and is a major factor shortening the news cycle because reporters won’t continue to dig for information if there’s nothing left to uncover.
Tell it yourself. We worked with the system to identify the most credible internal spokesperson and selected the foundation’s president. We also provided intense message and media training to prepare him for communicating the message effectively with internal and external audiences.
Get others to help you tell it. We also identified a highly credible third-party spokesperson – in this case, a widely respected banker who also is a prominent donor and foundation board officer – to reinforce the messages and reassure fellow stakeholders.
Don’t stop communicating. As new milestones occurred, such as the ex-employee’s arrest and sentencing, we continued to ensure that our important internal and external stakeholders heard it from us first.
Through a strategic approach that focused on important stakeholders and the hospital’s values, we helped this health system achieve both of its overarching goals.
The news cycle was limited to well under 24 hours, and the community’s trust in the system and its foundation rebounded quickly. In fact, the year of the theft resulted in the second-highest fund-raising performance in the foundation’s history – and many donors attributed their continued and enhanced support to their level of trust in the organization.