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With few exceptions, most professionals have never faced the challenges we’re currently up against as we communicate to our audiences regarding updates on the COVID-19 crisis. In this article, VP of Healthcare Strategy Kathleen Ahern shares four keys of crisis communications, designed to help healthcare payers and providers maintain transparency, compassion, and confidence during this uncertain time.

The response of caregivers on the front lines of the current pandemic is truly heroic. Their dedication and selflessness cannot be overstated. When it comes to this crisis, effective communication also plays a vital role in protecting the public and curbing the spread of COVID-19.

Healthcare providers and payers are working around-the-clock to collect, distill and disseminate not only vital information on infection control but also guidance on how, when and where to get care. This is no small feat as the situation is changing so rapidly.

Over nearly two decades as a marketing and communications professional in hospitals and health systems, I always found it helpful when faced with a crisis to be reminded of the basics. Here are four simple but effective keys to communications in a crisis.

Be Quick

As the situation is changing rapidly, updates must be shared regularly to minimize the chances of incorrect assumptions or statements. Leverage social media now more than ever for instant updates.

Be Candid

Information should not only be accurate, but also straightforward. In addition to delivering facts, be transparent about the challenges and how your audience can be part of the solution. Educate the public about how individuals can minimize undue burden on your resources at this crucial time. If your organization is working to set up drive-thru testing but the effort is not ready to launch yet, share the progress and encourage readers to return for updates. If elective procedures are likely to be canceled in the coming days, be open about this eventuality and signal that additional changes in services may lie as the situation unfolds.

Give Context

The big picture is important. Communicating not only what’s occurring in your hospital or system, but how local/regional health officials are responding can help the public better understand the reality of the situation.

Be Consistent

Consider sharing information at the same time (or times) of day throughout the crisis. This will not only allow your community and the media the opportunity to receive regular updates. It will also help guide the conversation.

This crisis is extraordinary in so many ways, including in its reach. Unlike a natural disaster or mass casualty incident, the impact is not limited to a city or region. Your colleagues across the country and around the world are facing the same challenges. Now is the time to seek counsel and solace in your professional network and partners. We’re all in this together, and encourage you to contact us with any questions, or if we can support you as you navigate these new challenges.

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Author: Kathleen Ahern

Kathleen leads Primacy’s healthcare strategy group. Her passion is helping entities harness the power of compelling messaging to connect with the people who are important to them – from consumers and customers, patients and doctors, to employees, executive team members, donors and board members.


Published March 2020

Category Healthcare

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