The hospital and healthcare industry is big business and these sectors impact the lives of every living being on this planet.More than the launch of a soap or car, the PR for these sectors has to be handled with the utmost care because one false step can ruin reputations built over many years by institutions and even doctors.Here are important things that hospitals and institutions in the healthcare industry can do to protect their public relations image. COMMUNICATE SUCCESSESGood hospitals and healthcare institutions should report major breakthroughs in surgery or novel drug discovery systems (NDDS). There is no point in achieving this and not taking credit for it. Media are definitely interested in such matters but if organizations are secretive, public perceptions about them will not improve. BE AVAILABLE WHEN PATIENTS COMPLAINPatients can make or break the reputation of organizations in these sectors. Let us not forget we are not talking of chewing gum companies. Human blood, sweat and tears are involved. So it is natural that patients will have some feedback, some of it negative. Good PR needs to take account of what patients have to say, accept fault if their criticism is true, explain where they have misunderstood issues regarding limits to medicines as not all operations or procedures are hundred per cent failure proof. If the hospital is criminally liable then they should pay the justified amount without seeming to hide under a so called protective shield provided by their shrewd lawyers. ANSWER MEDIA DURING OPERATION FAILURES
Even if hospitals or healthcare companies try to suppress news about deaths of patients during operations or upon consumption of medicines or being injected with non sterile syringes, media get to know about it through the grapevine. In such cases, the write up will be far more damaging than would be the case had the organization honestly communicated with the media. Responsible media do understand that even cars can malfunction after purchase. Stents too can fail after being fitted by the best of doctors in patients’ hearts. Answering media during operation failures transparently will no doubt minimize media’s exaggeration. But if there is negligence or criminal fault on the part of a doctor, then nobody can save anybody. PROTECT PRIVACY OF PATIENTS WHO DESIRE THISNo doubt there will be doctors and healthcare organizations wanting to claim that so and so surgery or so and so latest medicine from their end saved a famous actor. But however great the temptation, if the actor or celebrity wants his privacy protected, then such cheap publicity should not be sought by the organization. It will embarrass the actor and he can even sue the organization. CONVEY THAT THE SERVICE IS NOT ONLY FOR THE RICH BUT ALSO FOR THE POOROrganizations fall into the trap of telling the media and through them telling their readers that the rich and famous are their clientele. Government brings pressure to bear on such institutions as per law to treat the poor also at lower rates. Organizations should follow this rule not just to please the Government or be in their good books but also as a service to mankind. If organizations in these sectors want to become purely money making rackets without a human heart, they should vacate these sectors and focus on racing or gambling. HAVE A HANDY LIST OF DOCTORS/SPECIALITIESThis is a simple but very critical requirement especially for hospitals. Most multi specialty hospitals have hundreds of consultants and hundreds of beds and many ICUs. Every time a media enquiry is received, the PR machinery must quickly swing into action and identify and present the particular specialist handling the particular case for the particular media interested. Otherwise it will be like looking for a needle in a haystack. PROMOTE THE ENTIRE ORGANISATION AND NOT JUST ONE DOCTOR OR HEALTHCARE SCIENTISTJust as there are Romeos in movies, some doctors or Ph D scientists in healthcare institutions are publicity crazy. Other doctors, some of whom may be better in their work, but shy or losing out on publicity because of the over bearing personalities of the Romeo doctors must also be given their due share of publicity. This is the only way an institution can present itself as a worthy one peopled by many medical stalwarts. DEMYSTIFY COMPLICATED MEDICAL TERMSAll of us know that only doctors can read their own prescriptions and even chemists make mistakes leading to deaths of innocent patients. Doctors will no doubt find it easy to talk in medical language that only their community can understand but when they communicate with media they must use simple terms and language. For example if a doctor uses the term pornencephalitis he must simplify this by explaining to the media that it is a medical matter associated with an inflammatory process. How else will the media understand such a complicated term?
PRESENT THE BIG PICTURE NOT MINOR AWARDSAll doctors are winning some award or the other. While winning an award is no doubt a good thing for medical advancement, media today do not choose to write about awards. They do however make exceptions if the award is for an advancement for the first time in India, Asia or the world. You have to give media the big picture. Show them how the award is for a new technology that can save millions of lives in the area of Malaria or prevent Dengue deaths which is the subject of much media enquiry in India these days. STATE-OF-THE-ART TECHNOLOGYGood hospitals and healthcare industry run on state of the art technology. Gone are the days of nursing homes and hole in the wall clinics. Today we are talking about chains of multi specialty hospitals, unimaginable number of beds and ICUs and non invasive keyhole surgeries. Unlike in a small nursing home, a dedicated team of doctors will work round the clock with the best equipment and medicines to put a patient back on his feet. Media only recognize such organizations because they are clear that multi disciplinary hospitals and healthcare organizations and state of the art technology can make the difference between patients’ life and death.