Archive for March, 2012

Communicating “population health management” in your newsletter

March 22nd, 2012

In my last entry I suggested the use of striking examples to help explain a new, health care idea. Since then I’ve learned more about the concept of “population health management” thanks to a white paper by Aegis Health Group, and I’m even more convinced about the value of examples.

PHM, as it’s referred to, is a rapidly emerging approach to health care reform. So it’s critical for hospitals, especially, to manage related communications. And since the concept is going to be new to most people, this is where examples can play a key role.

So, for example (!), let’s assume that your hospital is reaching out to community groups–churches, a YMCA, a senior center–to arrange for preventive care–the kind of care that happens even before you visit your doctor. An excellent example, in your communications, might be someone named Patricia, age 66, who, with the help of the hospital’s PHM group, has joined a fitness club of like-minded women her age and feels better than she has in years.

In other words, stay away from the sociological-fiduciary-managerial language, and speak in words that make sense to your community.

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Use examples for clarity in your newsletter

March 17th, 2012

So, dear readers, have you come up with a friendlier definition of population health since our last encounter? Remember this one, borrowed from Wikipedia?:

“The technical field of endeavor which utilizes a variety of individual, organizational and cultural interventions to help improve the morbidity patterns (i.e., the illness and injury burden) and the health care use behavior of defined populations.”

I’m sure you know you would never use such a complicated definition in your newsletter–or on your website or your intranet, for that matter.

But, if “population health” is now part of your strategic planning, how will you let your patients, friends, community supporters know what you mean? The fact is that population health has numerous definitions, and you absolutely can’t assume that your general readers know what you mean.

Suppose you’ve decided that population health means teaching all your patients, hospital-wide, how to stay healthy. That’s not a bad way to start talking about it.

But, in the process, consider using an example or two, like this statement by a health economist: “Giving people a new heart is much more glamorous (and expensive, too) than teaching them to take care of the heart they were born with.”

As always, the eloquence of an example can make your case in a powerful way.

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What exactly do you mean, please?

March 9th, 2012

Every once in a while I just have to make the case for clarity, always with audience in mind, of course. For example, we see the phrase “population health management” more and more often. How important it is to help readers understand these new initiatives!

Here’s a definition of population management from Wikipedia:

“The technical field of endeavor which utilizes a variety of individual, organizational and cultural interventions to help improve the morbidity patterns (i.e., the illness and injury burden) and the health care use behavior of defined populations.”

Of course, Wikipedia is not in the business of marketing, so we can hardly criticize them for this gobbledy-gook, which I suspect is quite accurate, despite the style.

But if you are boasting about your hospital’s new commitment to population health management, are you confident that your readers understand what you are saying?

Next entry, I’ll have some thoughts and rewrites–in the meantime, why not share yours?

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Is your intranet a data dump?

March 5th, 2012

I’ve just been reading about two hospitals that have revamped and renewed their intranets, from awkward storage for everyone’s documents to truly interactive sites. In one case they had some cash and could bring in a consultant.

In the other case they were able to form a team and get the work done. Usage leapt skyward and so did the numbers of announcements people wanted included at the sites–a sure sign of significant improvement.

And in one case the hospital made its daily employee e-newsletter into an intranet feeder–making the best use of both website and email. After all, what could be better than the full, integrated power of technology for sharing news?

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Writing about finances in your newsletter

March 2nd, 2012

Suppose you’d like to develop the habit of letting your clients/members/patients know about your financial health, even if it could be better. If you’ve not written before about your balance sheet, debt structure, margins, reserves, etc. etc., take some time to ask yourself  how to talk about these things to people who may have little or no training in them. Not everyone has an MBA, even these days!

For example, suppose you are a retirement community in excellent financial health and that one characteristic of your balance sheet is $4 million in short term debt. How will a potential resident–or the family of such a resident–react to this information? And what can you say in your newsletter that clarifies how this borrowing is a sensible and sound decision?

Probably not by using terms like leverage, bond market, maximize operational efficiencies, and debt to equity ratio.

Instead, you’ll want to use familiar language. And in addition to comfortable words, you’ll want to talk about how the borrowing was planned and approved by the right people.

What’s the most important part about a loan? How you are going to pay it back, closely followed by why you borrowed it. And that needs to be stated, to your interested but general audience, in practical terms.

Try it and let me know how it goes!

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