Last Hospital Standing: 5 Tips for Communicating to Support Successful Mergers & Acquisitions



“There isn’t an independent hospital out there that is not thinking about this. At the top of the list is the question, Who should I merge with?” – Gary Ahlquist, Strategy& (from presentation by Susan Alcorn, Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock, at the Forum for Healthcare Strategists’ Marketing and Physician Strategies Summit)

I recently attended the Forum for Healthcare Strategists’ Marketing and Physician Strategies Summit.  The three-day Summit was jam-packed with excellent speakers and content.  A number of the sessions that I attended touched on the topic of affiliations.  It’s no wonder that it remains a hot topic at most healthcare conferences.  Susan Alcorn helped quantify the size of the issue as part of her “Branding & Communication for New Affiliations” session:

  • “Hospitals across the nation are being swept up in the biggest wave of mergers since the 1990s, a development that is creating giant hospital systems.” (New York Times)
  • Number of transactions: 1,430 in 2012; 977 in 2013 (Modern Healthcare)
  • Value of transactions: $123.6 billion in 2012; $135.3 billion in 2013 +9% (Modern Healthcare)

These numbers are not surprising, as independent hospitals struggle with rising costs and lower reimbursement.  What is somewhat more surprising is…

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Using Storytelling to Grow Community Engagement

5060855417_35b1057cef_z (2)One thing you should never underestimate: the power of a good story.

A story can transform how people think about and connect with your brand – and makes your brand personal. For healthcare organizations especially, the topics we discuss are often complicated. By telling stories, you can make your work come to life in an understandable, digestible way.

At PadillaCRT, our clients’ customers frequently tell us that they may have been aware, but only engaged with our client after learning about a real person whose story illustrated why the organization’s work was important.

Focusing on stories that are authentic and emotionally impactful is the key here. One of the best ways to rally a community of people around your organization is to move them on an emotional level. This is where passionate and personal storytelling can be incredibly effective.

Don’t just tell people why they should care. Show them.

In the healthcare world, we have an advantage in finding great stories, because essentially, we are all working toward the same goal: making people healthier. It’s a very relatable goal. If your organization has helped one person in a significant, meaningful way, you have…

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Crisis Management

Fines and Headlines: 5 Tips to Prepare for a Crisis Before It Happens


While retailers have certainly had their fair share of headlines related to information breaches, they are not the only target. In the health industry, more than 29 million patients’ records have been compromised since 2009.

To understand what this means, take a look at this infographic created by the Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) based on its 2012 study of the U.S. health industry. The study reveals nearly 500 breaches between 2009 and 2012, with an average of 43 thousand records being compromised at an average cost of more than 8 million dollars per incident.

And experts say that healthcare information breaches are on the rise, particularly since their financial value to criminals is two to five times greater than basic consumer credit data. That’s because health data can be used for medical and insurance fraud as well. In addition to the significant communication and credit monitoring costs, healthcare providers also are subject to severe financial penalties under federal patient privacy laws. And when I say penalties, I’m talking hefty fines of up to $1.5 million per incident. Ouch, Charlie, now that really hurt!

While the healthcare industry invests millions of dollars to protect patient data –…

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Brand Journalism: Health Providers Embracing New Storytelling Strategy

The movement toward brand journalism offers special benefits to the health industry. Healthcare affects everyone’s life, so audiences naturally relate to timely news and information about topics like medical advances, patient treatments and personal health advice. Equally compelling are the human-interest stories that abound in the healthcare field.

Such high-interest content makes brand journalism sites a no-brainer for many healthcare providers.

In fact, several top healthcare organizations have implemented this storytelling tool and are seeing success. For those considering adopting this approach, we’ve shared a few examples of providers who are setting the standard.

Advocate Health Care health enews

Advocate Health Care, a hospital group in the Chicago suburbs, launched health enews a year ago to increase mindshare among local journalists and consumers.  An in-house newsroom of six core communicators develops content for the site, including videos, feature stories and commentary on breaking health news.

Advocate Health 2 (3)While the site’s intent is to build awareness of Advocate’s services and expertise, some of the most captivating articles are personal stories told by people within the organization.

For example, Tim Nelson, an Advocate public affairs manager, shared his experience helping his…

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Digital Marketing

How Many Facebook Pages Does One Company Need?

Three companies who have it all figured out

Facebook-Like10A single company can have a million services, but they only have one brand. Maybe that means one Facebook page, too. But what happens when consumers want to connect with only some of your services?

Take a medical group, for example, which consists of different practices in different locations. The medical group provides healthcare services from pediatrics to women’s health to physical therapy. These disparate target audiences are thirsty for content just for them. As a brand, you must choose between a consistent master brand presence and a meaningful and targeted connection with customers. How do you win a war against yourself? If the medical group’s women’s health practice wants to start their own Facebook Page, you have to decide if this dilutes the brand’s social media presence or enhances it. Some are inclined to say this splinters the brand, but the proof is in the engagement.

Here are tips from 3 health focused brands that have it figured out:

1.       Aetna
I had the opportunity to meet Lauren Vargas, Head of Social Media and Community at Aetna, a few weeks ago at xPotomac. Lauren…

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2 Steps to Save A Life

Last Thanksgiving Jeff Joseph was running in the 5K Turkey Trot in St. Paul, when he suddenly collapsed. His heart had stopped; he was dead. Quite fortunately, Bruce Kiecker, a nurse with St. Paul’s United Hospital, was also participating in the Turkey Trot. Bruce didn’t hesitate to intervene and started CPR on Jeff. Bruce continued hands-only CPR until the ambulance arrived 10 minutes later.

The willingness of random bystanders to perform CPR is crucial in saving a life. In fact, only 7 percent of people who have a sudden cardiac arrest survive. In Minnesota, the survival rate is more than double that, at 16 percent. Because of the quick action of Bruce, Jeff is alive and anxiously awaiting the birth of his first child, due later this month.

The executive director of the Twin Cities chapter of the American Heart Association made a special presentation to Bruce and Jeff at a recent AHA board meeting held at the PadillaCRT Minneapolis headquarters. AHA’s Barb Ducharme gave Jeff a CPR Anytime Kit, and Bruce received the CPR Save Award for his courage, composure and compassion.

But you don’t have to be a medical professional to help someone in cardiac arrest. How can…

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4 Tips to Get Your Health Care Company LinkedIn

If you’re a health care company, you probably need to do a lot of work on your LinkedIn presence. The professional networking site is too often relegated to an online jobs board, despite the multiple content-sharing tools the site has introduced over the last year. In fact, just this week LinkedIn opened up its previously invitation-only “influencers” program to everyone, giving users the opportunity to publish full-length content.

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Corporate Responsibility

Are Retail Clinics Just What the Doctor Ordered?


Last week, CVS Caremark announced that it was pulling cigarettes and other tobacco products from its stores because it wanted to focus on becoming more of a health care provider, with CEO Larry J. Merlo stating, “We came to the decision that cigarettes and providing health care just don’t go together in the same setting.”  And, while the retailer will lose about $2 billion per year as a result of the move, it stands to gain much more.  Merlo said the decision to stop selling tobacco products “was really more of a discussion about how to position the company for future growth.”

CVS has the largest chain of pharmacy-based health clinics in the United States, offering care for common illnesses, like strep throat and pink eye (Bob Costas could benefit from a visit).  By 2017, it anticipates growing clinic locations to 1,500.  Retail health care is becoming big business with approximately 20 million patient visits to date and Accenture indicates that the industry could see 25% to 30% growth in the next few years. What about CVS’ move positions the retailer to take advantage of the opportunity?

  • A perfect storm – there is a shortage of primary care doctors…
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5 Must-Read Health Communication Posts

Piedmont Healthcare InstagramWith so much good content on the internet, it’s easy to miss a good post. This week as I was looking through past posts on the Buzz Bin, I stumbled upon so many great past posts that I enjoyed reading and learning from all over again. So this Thursday, I’m sharing five  must-read oldie but goodie health communication posts from the Buzz Bin.

1. When Does an Awareness Campaign Go Too Far?

Why: As a seasoned health communicator and mother, Kim Blake never ceases to amaze us with insightful posts on often controversial topics. In this post Kim reminds communicators to focus on the purpose of awareness campaigns – to motivate behavior change.

2. The One Percent in Healthcare – Can Hospitals Make It Personal?

Why: With healthcare on a mission to reduce costs and improve outcomes,  April Sciacchitano’s post looks at the possibility of personalized care. With affordable and personal concierge medical practices and start-ups popping up across the country, personal care is proving to be a viable solution.

3. If Social Media Can Create Organ Donors, It Can Work for You Too

Why:  With February 14th right around the corner,…

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Brand Journalism: The New Model for Healthcare Public Relations – Part 1

1347725_72659105If you are a journalist looking for new opportunities, check out the healthcare industry. And, if you are managing a healthcare marketing and public relations department, you should think about having a journalist on board, if you don’t already. Why? Because healthcare public relations needs to evolve to a brand journalism model in order to maximize the opportunity to connect with an audience searching for  information that’s local, fresh and relevant to them.

Twenty years ago we could count on the local media to carry our story for us. Not today. The makeup of local news has changed. To begin with, there are fewer local news reporters in television and print to cover the news. According to the Pew Research Center’s State of the News Media 2013 report, the newspaper industry has seen a 30 percent decline in newsroom staff over the past decade. Local television viewership continues to decline, although online usage is up which bodes well for TV’s ability to capture younger audiences. Still, local TV devotes more time to breaking news, weather, traffic and sports than enterprise or feature stories, where most health stories reside.

At the same time,…

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