Lurking Technology and Financial System Crises Spike Demand for Spin Control Experts in 2017, Says Black Book Annual Healthcare PR Survey

Black Book Award 2017

Data breaches, system failures, hacking, ransomware and disrupted flow of financial records have PR mavens on high alert for the New Year

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Black Book’s annual poll of public relations and crisis management firm clients noted the key shift from past years’ workforce issues, physician satisfaction and medico-legal problems, to the reputation-challenging technology and financial problems facing both provider and payers in 2017.

“A hospital’s reputation may be its most important attribute,” said Doug Brown, Managing Partner of Black Book Research. “And, of course, reputation is subjective which can deteriorate quickly from a single negative event.”

The potential catastrophes caused by technology-related events ranked first on the 2017 list compiled from healthcare industry executives, followed by financial issues, patient dissatisfaction events, nursing staff issues, clinical and disease emergencies, hospital performance outcomes and patient safety mishaps, and social media impacts.

While patient, staff and physician related challenges remain top alerts for potential crisis management preparedness and response, polling results manifest a rising anxiety on technology-related events. "System issues effect an entire organization and could seriously threaten or immobilize cash flow, payroll, asset and supply chain management, record security, connectivity, and cost controls,” said Brown.

1,895 executive level officers participated over the seven-month crowdsourced survey which included Chief Executive, Operations, Financial, Information, Marketing, Medical and Nursing Officers from 334 hospitals, 218 physician groups and ambulatory organizations, and 107 payers.

In the survey, Black Book asked respondents to rank 20 issues that present the highest level of unease in order of how pressing they were in 2016 and to identify specific areas of concerns within each issue for 2017.

280 single events, separated into 26 emergency-group situations reflected 2016 engagements with external Crisis Management and Public Relations firms.

These 26 subject areas were: External Emergencies and Disasters, Internal Emergencies and Disasters, Patient/Clinical and Disease Emergencies, Governmental Issues, Man-Made Emergencies and Disasters, Physical Structure Emergencies, Medio-Legal Suits, Environmental Emergencies, Visitor Emergencies, Staff Emergencies, Workforce Issues, Technology and Information Systems Issues, Competitor Problems, Nursing Emergencies, Patient Satisfaction, Physician Satisfaction, Employee Satisfaction, Contractual and Temporary Staffing Issues, Medical Staff Issues, Hospital Outcomes and Patient Safety, Social Media, Marketing and Public Relations Concerns, Financial Issues, Community Issues, Crime, and Other.

“Healthcare organizations can take decades to build a regional reputation but only minutes to destroy it,” said Brown. “Yet we continue to see examples of how a poorly managed crisis can bring down a hospital and its revenue overnight.”

"Brand and reputation are assets that are integrally tied to organizational value, exponentially more than actual facilities and equipment. Shareholder confidence, financial well-being, regulatory standing, and hospital or payer survival are all on the line," said Brown.

100% of the 75 public relations firms surveyed in an ancillary Black Book poll in October 2016 believe that the lack of crisis communication planning poses even greater exposure to a healthcare provider organization than does the lack of liability or malpractice insurance.

Anecdotal evidence gathered by Black Book in 2016 suggests that most providers and payers are still only partially responding to the need for crisis management readiness, if anything at all. “That’s the equivalent of being only partially safe,” said Brown.

81% of hospitals and integrated delivery networks (up from just 16% in 2015) are increasing budget funds by more than ten percent for stand-by external crisis management expertise next year. 62% of payers also confirm they will budget more twenty percent in 2017 over 2016.

Key Survey Findings:

Technology, System & Information/Data Related Issues rank #1, rising up to the top executive worries for potential crisis management. Tech concerns were not even on the PR fiasco radar according to the survey just six years ago.

Nursing issues made the 2017 list for the first time since 2007, ranking #4, possibly indicating an executive shift of more attention to nursing staff concerns than in the decade of prior survey years. Workplace violence, impaired nurses, under staffing, reductions in force, union activity, facility conditions, and compensation and training all drove the increased awareness of potential clinical employee crises from senior executives.

Social Media and Patient Satisfaction also make top 7 list for first time, displacing General workforce issues, Medico-Legal problems, and Physician Satisfaction.

“Social media is a major challenge for hospitals and health plans, as it always becomes exacerbated during times of crisis,” said Brown. “With patient data compliance regulations, healthcare organizations are often misjudged as withholding information and why HIPAA and Twitter, for instance, can be a dangerous combination that require absolutely skillful execution.”

Financial Issues, Patient & Disease Emergencies, and Hospital Outcomes & Safety reappear again on all years’ (2016, 2013 and 2010 comparison) lists, as they remain staples for external crisis management and public relations firms for nearly the past ten years.

Man-made emergencies and employee satisfaction issues have fallen off top 7 issues list as other looming PR crises are seemingly giving healthcare executives more angst.

Notably, 88% of hospital public relations nightmares were caused by insiders in 2016 (employees, managers, executives, corporate staff, contractors, partners).

82% of hospital marketing leaders responding and 89% of payer marketing leaders asserted their opinion that their organizations’ senior leadership continued to underestimate the power of social media in 2016, as evidenced by the lack of resources given the communications mode.

“In today’s hyper-connected world, what a situation occurs, whether it is a natural disaster, a severely bad clinical outcome, closure of a service line, or financial executive improprieties, healthcare leaders do not have the luxury of time to prepare a response plan and to communicate on their terms,” said Brown. “Executives need to ensure there is a process in place that allows the organization to immediately connect with and influence key audiences through social media channels, as well as the traditional routes.”

In 2017, outsiders (hackers, criminals, suppliers, vendors, and consultants) are expected to shift crisis management attention to handle the aftermath of data breaches, infectious diseases, malicious and criminal activity, thefts and workplace violent events. 92% of responding providers and 90% of responding payers state they do not have assessments and/ or contingency plans in place to handle such a crisis caused by external parties.

75% of crises in hospitals and 88% of crises in payer companies were the results of lurking, festering or smoldering issues (those going on for more than one month and were left not to be addressed until a negative public relation event occurred).

Only 6% of hospitals under 250 beds confirm their internal marketing staff has significant crisis management training or experience. 20% of hospital over 250 beds worry their internal marketing leaders world be/are over their heads as PR fiascoes escalate and would not activate crisis management responses until they are unmanageable internally.

98% of all hospitals responding and 71% of payer organizations recognize they have not but need to integrate the power of mobile into their crisis planning, particularly with events involving technology and information systems.

Key Polling Results:

In the public relations aftershocks of the past years’ hospital managerial mishandling of Ebola patients and infectious disease readiness, even in Q4 2016, only 7% of hospitals over 150 beds state they have the internal resources to confront such a medical crisis if it unfolds.

“Public alarm of hospital unpreparedness temporarily waned as the press coverage tapered after Ebola patients presented in US facilities, and crisis control has focused on appearance, less distressing hospital closures, workplace violence, impaired clinicians, and the decrease of insurance covered services,” said Brown. “The recent survey shows that organizations have not remained on high alert and let their crisis management planning slack, despite events that could quickly rock providers', vendors', payers' and agencies' reputations."

Currently, 17% of both provider and payer leaders state their organizations could not successfully handle viral social media problems. In contrast, 91%of hospital leaders that felt confident in their facilities’ ability to both avoid and recover from a past crisis without external agency expertise.

In 2016, only 6% of hospital boards discuss and are actively involved in crisis contingency planning. “Unless the crisis management team strategists are dealing with board members and integrated activities at the board level, the internal employees responsible for creating most of the problems will the same ones managing the mayhem without any internal expertise,” said Brown.

Key Findings of Healthcare client satisfaction with external crisis management firms:

A total of 105 agencies, 78 public relations and 27 crisis management practices, received ballots on their clients’ satisfaction in four areas of performance before, during and after 2016 event engagements. These include (1) crisis preparedness, training and planning, (2) crisis management, media and public response, (3) litigation, press, community, labor and restructuring communications, and (4) reputation recovery, impact, assessment and restoration.

12 firms' clients awarded their PR agencies and consultants with scores indicating overwhelming satisfaction, exceeding expectations, and highly recommended to peers. In order of top scores are:

ReviveHealth

Lovell Communications

Dodge Communications

Levick

Landis Communications

Public Communications Inc (PCI), Worldcom

Amendola Communications

Crosby Marketing

Bliss Integrated Communications

Tucker Hall

Weber Shandwick

Burson Marsteller

About Black Book

Black Book™, its founders, management and staff do not own or hold any financial interest in any of the vendors or public relations firms covered and encompassed in the surveys it conducts. Black Book reports the results of the collected satisfaction and client experience rankings in publication and to media prior to vendor/firm notification of rating results and does not solicit vendor participation fees, review fees, inclusion or briefing charges, consultation requirements, and/or vendor collaboration as Black Book polls vendors’ clients.

Since 2000, Black Book™ has polled the vendor and service firm satisfaction across over thirty industries in the software/technology and managed services sectors around the globe. In 2009, Black Book began polling the client experience of now over 540,000 healthcare software and services users including public relations agencies and crisis management consultants. Black Book expanded its survey prowess and reputation of independent, unbiased crowd-sourced surveying to IT and health records professionals, physician practice administrators, nurses, financial leaders, executives and hospital information technology managers.

For methodology, auditing, resources, comprehensive research see: http://www.blackbookmarketresearch.com

Source: Black Book Research LLC