Still struggling to make social media work for your hospital?

October 15th, 2012 by worddrive No comments »

Here’s an excellent short piece by Jenn Riggle about the surprising number of hospitals having trouble making meaningful use of social media. Looks like the essential element can be missing: the ability to build dialogue rather than send out marketing blips into the internet void.

The heart of the matter is the power to engage with your community by using these still new tools, not for advertising but for connection. I’ll say it again: not for advertising but for connection. Inviting people to connect results in building community. People become engaged when you offer them the ability to respond–and something substantive to respond to.

Once again, the challenge is not the technology but the understanding of how to connect. We used to do it in person, by hand delivered messages, then by telephone. Now social media calls on us to learn, again, how to engage, in this vital area of health care.

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Obtain meaningful quotes for articles

May 21st, 2012 by worddrive No comments »

I’ve written about this before, and write about it again because it’s so important: to get your source talking in ways that will interest your reader, you need to know how to warm them up–unless they are ready to roll at the start.

One thing to do is think in advance about your source–if they are leaders in the field, they’ll likely be eager to share their views and educate you. If they are experienced but not used to talking about it, they’ll need some sign of your interest. Good questions are always helpful. A good question is one that shows you’ve been thinking carefully about the subject: ask about a current controversy, or about some contradictory issue, but not in a challenging way. Use a “could you help me out here” tone of voice.

And, share your fascination with the subject. The more you want to learn, the more likely you are to engage your source. Good luck!

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More health reform terms to clarify in your newsletter

May 16th, 2012 by worddrive No comments »

Writing about coordinating the full range of a patient’s health care? Will your readers know that’s what you mean if you say “clinical integration”? Will they know that you want to get organized so that everything from regular checkups to hospital releases to home care for chronic illness is recorded and managed by the same, informed group? If you insist on using “clinical integration” be sure you start by explaining what you mean.

Here, for example, is what the AHA says: “Clinical integration is needed to facilitate the coordination of patient care across conditions, providers, settings, and time in order to achieve care that is safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable, and patient-focused. ”

And, if you are already really good at clinical integration, be sure to emphasize this to your readers. Because you are way ahead of the pack!

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Tips for interviews that work, part 2

May 11th, 2012 by worddrive 1 comment »

Let’s say your source just can’t schedule a phone call. Usually this is true with someone who is extremely busy–and being extremely busy means either that they are disorganized or, better, that they are a leader in the field you are writing about for your newsletter. This means, of course, that they are just the kind of person you want to quote in your article.

The solution is to use email as a conversation. Start with a question, e.g. “Can you tell me why human factors engineering is such an important part of your field?” Real leaders will be so engaged in their work that most of the time they’ll be happy not only to answer your particular question, but to respond to follow up questions.

Your job is to provide intelligent and thoughtful questions that keep your source interested and stimulate a dialogue. If your curiosity is genuine, their responses will be, too (unless they are merely disorganized).

Good luck!

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Tips for interviews that work

May 9th, 2012 by worddrive No comments »

(First, to faithful readers, sorry to have been away so long. I know blogs that succeed are blogs that are tended. Some illness in the family, all better now.)

Now, as to interviews, here’s why I prefer a live conversation, even if we can’t do it face-to-face because my source lives 3,000 miles away–and doesn’t Skype:

  • There’s room for new and unexpected topics, angles, opinions to emerge during the back-and-forth process.
  • Spontaneity means livelier language from my source, and livelier language is always better for my readers.
  • My source can hear from my voice how interested I am in the topic and in what people have to say about it. This means that my source will open up more and give me a richer perspective.

And if email is the only possible connection? That’s for next time.

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Communicating “population health management” in your newsletter

March 22nd, 2012 by worddrive No comments »

In my last entry I suggested the use of striking examples to help explain a new, health care idea. Since then I’ve learned more about the concept of “population health management” thanks to a white paper by Aegis Health Group, and I’m even more convinced about the value of examples.

PHM, as it’s referred to, is a rapidly emerging approach to health care reform. So it’s critical for hospitals, especially, to manage related communications. And since the concept is going to be new to most people, this is where examples can play a key role.

So, for example (!), let’s assume that your hospital is reaching out to community groups–churches, a YMCA, a senior center–to arrange for preventive care–the kind of care that happens even before you visit your doctor. An excellent example, in your communications, might be someone named Patricia, age 66, who, with the help of the hospital’s PHM group, has joined a fitness club of like-minded women her age and feels better than she has in years.

In other words, stay away from the sociological-fiduciary-managerial language, and speak in words that make sense to your community.

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Use examples for clarity in your newsletter

March 17th, 2012 by worddrive No comments »

So, dear readers, have you come up with a friendlier definition of population health since our last encounter? Remember this one, borrowed from Wikipedia?:

“The technical field of endeavor which utilizes a variety of individual, organizational and cultural interventions to help improve the morbidity patterns (i.e., the illness and injury burden) and the health care use behavior of defined populations.”

I’m sure you know you would never use such a complicated definition in your newsletter–or on your website or your intranet, for that matter.

But, if “population health” is now part of your strategic planning, how will you let your patients, friends, community supporters know what you mean? The fact is that population health has numerous definitions, and you absolutely can’t assume that your general readers know what you mean.

Suppose you’ve decided that population health means teaching all your patients, hospital-wide, how to stay healthy. That’s not a bad way to start talking about it.

But, in the process, consider using an example or two, like this statement by a health economist: “Giving people a new heart is much more glamorous (and expensive, too) than teaching them to take care of the heart they were born with.”

As always, the eloquence of an example can make your case in a powerful way.

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What exactly do you mean, please?

March 9th, 2012 by worddrive No comments »

Every once in a while I just have to make the case for clarity, always with audience in mind, of course. For example, we see the phrase “population health management” more and more often. How important it is to help readers understand these new initiatives!

Here’s a definition of population management from Wikipedia:

“The technical field of endeavor which utilizes a variety of individual, organizational and cultural interventions to help improve the morbidity patterns (i.e., the illness and injury burden) and the health care use behavior of defined populations.”

Of course, Wikipedia is not in the business of marketing, so we can hardly criticize them for this gobbledy-gook, which I suspect is quite accurate, despite the style.

But if you are boasting about your hospital’s new commitment to population health management, are you confident that your readers understand what you are saying?

Next entry, I’ll have some thoughts and rewrites–in the meantime, why not share yours?

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Is your intranet a data dump?

March 5th, 2012 by worddrive No comments »

I’ve just been reading about two hospitals that have revamped and renewed their intranets, from awkward storage for everyone’s documents to truly interactive sites. In one case they had some cash and could bring in a consultant.

In the other case they were able to form a team and get the work done. Usage leapt skyward and so did the numbers of announcements people wanted included at the sites–a sure sign of significant improvement.

And in one case the hospital made its daily employee e-newsletter into an intranet feeder–making the best use of both website and email. After all, what could be better than the full, integrated power of technology for sharing news?

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Writing about finances in your newsletter

March 2nd, 2012 by worddrive No comments »

Suppose you’d like to develop the habit of letting your clients/members/patients know about your financial health, even if it could be better. If you’ve not written before about your balance sheet, debt structure, margins, reserves, etc. etc., take some time to ask yourself  how to talk about these things to people who may have little or no training in them. Not everyone has an MBA, even these days!

For example, suppose you are a retirement community in excellent financial health and that one characteristic of your balance sheet is $4 million in short term debt. How will a potential resident–or the family of such a resident–react to this information? And what can you say in your newsletter that clarifies how this borrowing is a sensible and sound decision?

Probably not by using terms like leverage, bond market, maximize operational efficiencies, and debt to equity ratio.

Instead, you’ll want to use familiar language. And in addition to comfortable words, you’ll want to talk about how the borrowing was planned and approved by the right people.

What’s the most important part about a loan? How you are going to pay it back, closely followed by why you borrowed it. And that needs to be stated, to your interested but general audience, in practical terms.

Try it and let me know how it goes!

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