Doing more with less while continuing to make sure performance improvements are top notch is the number one strategic issue for hospitals, according to the
American Hospital Association’s “Strategic Issues Forecast 2015” report.
The need for efficiency is not a new idea, especially in health care. Hospital leaders are viewing every aspect of their organizations more critically, and
often make difficult, even unpopular, decisions to improve efficiency.
Franciscan St. Francis Health found itself in this situation a few years ago. Its 100-year-old hospital, located in Beech Grove, Ind., was just seven miles
down the road from the much newer, state-of-the-art Franciscan St. Francis—Indianapolis hospital. No longer a high-performing hospital, with no land for
expansion or improvements and an outdated infrastructure, the hospital was not in keeping with the not-for-profit Catholic health system’s fiscally
conservative operations. So, hospital administrators made the difficult, but strategic decision to close the facility.
With so many new hospitals, outpatient and urgent care centers opening, it’s somewhat unusual for a professional communicator to have the opportunity to be
involved in the closing of a hospital—especially a beloved, historic hospital. The experience presented some unique challenges and “lessons
learned,” as well as many fond memories.
At the May PRSA Health Academy Conference, we will share some of those challenges with you, as well as offer advice and tips for professionals leading the
communications charge for a hospital or health facility closing. Just a few of these tips are:
Tip No. 1:
Integration is key across all operational platforms. In a complex communications environment, such as a hospital closing or move, be certain to
include not only marketing communications professionals, but also staff from educational services, performance improvement, nursing leadership,
facilities management – and your external public relations partner(s) – on an integrated marketing team.
Tip No. 2:
Identify priorities: Even though in recent years most people in the community used the Beech Grove hospital strictly for outpatient services,
communication surrounding the closing of the Emergency Department took priority, to ensure the health needs of the most critical patients were
Tip No. 3:
Recognize strong emotional ties: Don’t discount the emotional impact the closing of any hospital (especially a long-standing, community-based one) has
on both employees and the community. Create opportunities for those audiences to connect with one another, and conduct activities that allow
people to have closure and say “goodbye.”
One of the best things the Franciscan St. Francis marketing team did at the beginning of the hospital closing process was to take the time to conduct
research. We talked with other health systems and consultants about their experiences, and learned best practices. I firmly believe that allowed us to
conduct a seamless hospital closing and patient transfer, while maintaining positive relationships with the community and directing people to our new,
larger Indianapolis facility.
Kelli Searles and Amy Hanna will be presenting at the PRSA Health Academy Conference in Indianapolis on May 1-3.
Register today and join us at the PRSA conference.