Whether a hospital system, specialty practice, medical association, or device company, healthcare brands will only thrive with strong internal engagement. This is especially important with the rapid consolidation in the healthcare industry today. For providers, where referrals among medical staff members and sub-specialties make or break the system, engagement is paramount. When we conduct focus groups with internal teams at leading health systems, most employees do not know the “5 W’s and H” within their own organization:
- “who it consists of”
- “what’s expected of them”
- “why should they care”
- “where they should refer”
As a result, organizations experience great leakage of patients, and revenue.
Communications strategies help address many of the unknowns. Internal campaigns including brand overviews, videos, books, and other tactics can explain the size and scope of the organization. Of course, graphic standards manuals are essential. Especially in terms of presenting healthcare brands in a consistent and unified manner, no matter which architecture strategy is being developed. Online tools and staff profiles will also help facilitate referrals from one practice to another or among sub-specialties. Most healthcare professionals understand “when” referrals should be made. However, soft reminders are sometimes needed for family physicians who would rather treat their patient than “lose” them to a referral. Key here is to develop protocols. These ensure the primary care provider gets their patient back after specialty procedures or consultations are performed.
That takes care of most of the W’s and H. Let’s focus on the “why”. Really(!?), employees have to be told why they need to care about keeping patients within the health system? Unfortunately, they do. It’s always eye-opening and mind-boggling when you meet with internal stakeholders and suggest they be accountable to their organization for patient referrals. And being accountable means knowing the who’s who and what’s what within the enterprise. The “why” should be answered with “because it’s your job, and you lose risking it because there won’t be enough money for your paycheck!” In all my years working with healthcare companies, I’ve only heard a couple CEO’s be this overt and direct with employees about keeping referrals in-house. There’s not an “I” in accountability, but there certainly is a “Y”. By the way, both of these CEO’s and their organizations are extremely successful.
Most employees want to support their employer and do what’s necessary to see it be successful and remain gainfully employed. The issue is, most aren’t told the “why” in the most direct fashion. As a result, they don’t pay enough attention to the other “W’s.” Internal engagement strategies are hugely important for brands to be successful, regardless of the industry. They just need to be bolder, more emphatic, and include language that hit both the heart and wallet of their employees.