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Tag Archives: Care

How health care communicators are handling Flint’s PR crisis

Flint, Michigan probably won’t experience a slow news day for some time.

The many media layers behind the mishandling of lead-contaminated public drinking water continue to evolve.

Here are four recent developments. Take a look at how health care and PR pros are working their respective angles.

1. Hacktivists. A spokesperson at Hurley Medical Center, where the story broke, confirmed Thursday that the publicly owned hospital had been the victim of a cyberattack. Pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha is the whistleblower from Hurley who began looking into dangerous lead levels in Flint’s children some 18 months ago.

Spokeswoman Ilene Cantor released few details but said:

Hurley Medical Center has IT systems in place, which aid in detecting a virus or cyberattack. As such, all policies and protocols were followed in relation to the most-recent cyberattack on our system. Patient care was not compromised and we are closely monitoring all systems to ensure IT security is consistently maintained.

According to, the attack occurred one day after hacktivist group Anonymous released a four-minute video threatening action against those responsible for the crisis. The video calls for Snyder to be arrested on criminal charges. “We must remind the city officials of Flint we do not forget and we do not forgive,” the narrator said.

Dave Murray, Snyder’s press secretary said: “We are focused on helping the residents of Flint get the assistance they need.”

2. Visuals and children. TIME has featured the faces of Flint on its cover this week. News and PR professionals typically like to spotlight children in photos and videos, and TIME’s cover shot reveals the emotional impact of the faces of Flint’s most vulnerable population. The boy shown on TIME’s cover is a toddler whose face is covered in rashes. The child’s mother said the rashes are the result of contaminated bath water. She calls it his Kryptonite.


3. Community outreach. Health care communicators and schools are taking a lighter yet still serious approach to the lead contamination crisis. Several “Family Fun Nights” have been held in Flint, and more are scheduled. The community-type events feature face-painting, balloons and games, as well as blood tests to detect lead levels. Flint Community Schools District Nurse Eileen Tomasi said: “We don’t know what’s going to happen with this [testing] yet. Our goal as a district is to get parents information so that they can make the best decision for their children.”


[RELATED: Are you prepared for a crisis? Build a top-notch incident-response plan with this free download.]

4. Leadership crisis. The fallout continued this week with word Thursday that Susan Hedman, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator overseeing Michigan, had resigned.

A statement from Natural Resources Defense Council’s Midwest director Henry Henderson read in part:

The EPA’s previous response to Flint was, frankly, part of the problem. This new, more urgent approach shows different thinking from the top, reflects an awareness that the situation in Flint is just unacceptable, and it points the Agency in the right direction. However, we remain very concerned that the people of Flint cannot simply rely on agencies that have to date utterly failed them.


Mobile health care marketing: Weighing risks and rewards

Hospitals have engaged fewer than 2 percent of patients with their mobile apps.

Still, new research from Accenture has found that 54 percent of patients would like to use their smartphones more to interact with health care providers.

How can communicators narrow this sizable gap?

Hospitals must address patient frustration with proprietary settings and poor functionality. “Mobile health app usage has grown rapidly over the past three years, but the response from health care providers has been woefully inadequate,” according to the study. It goes on to say that evolving consumer expectations and what’s being delivered are not in sync.

Consumers said they want health care apps to address the following three priorities. However, Accenture says only 11 percent of providers have proprietary apps that meet consumer needs:

  • Access to electronic medical records

  • Ability to book, change or cancel appointments

  • Option to refill prescriptions


As marketers and PR pros strive to improve digital interactions with patients and communities, consider this statistic from Accenture: Seven percent of consumers have switched health care providers due to substandard engagement. Similar to disgruntled customers who leave cable TV and cell phone service providers, this switching could translate to a loss of more than $ 100 million in annual revenue per hospital.

Smoke, mirrors and mobile

A post on said that although several marketers—including Web MD—have made a strong push for health care apps, doctors and providers must roll out a greater presence on mobile and SMS to connect with consumers.

Research from Kentico, an e-commerce and health care marketing company, found that 40 percent of respondents have experienced difficulty in navigating health care sites on their smartphones.

Jim Panagas, director of public relations at Kentico, said websites that aren’t optimized for mobile will deter repeat visitors.

“Establishing mobile-first options on health care sites should be a top priority for marketers. Possible features could include a chat box to speak to a live representative, filtering tools to sort through based on ailments and a user-friendly interface,” according to the post. 

[RELATED: Get advanced video training from Red Bull, one of the leading content creators on YouTube.]

One recommendation from Accenture is for providers to partner with tech companies such as ZocDoc for appointment scheduling or InstaMedGo for bill payments. Isn’t is easier—and more enjoyable—to market the overall patient experience strategy when it’s a positive one?

A disconnect between monitoring and marketing?

Fitbit has enjoyed an impressive marketing ride, but there are some bumps in the road. In California, a class-action lawsuit has been filed against the company over its heart rate monitoring.

Plaintiffs and other consumers claim that the “PurePulse trackers consistently misrecord heart rates by a very significant margin, particularly during exercise” and is inaccurate to a dangerous degree.

In a statement, the company said it will vigorously defend the suit, adding:

“Fitbit trackers are designed to provide meaningful data to our users to help them reach their health and fitness goals, and are not intended to be scientific or medical devices.”


The price of overpromising in health care

Though some organizations and providers may appear to be faltering on results delivered, the Federal Trade Commission is focused on potentially misleading language from marketers and advertisers.

Last week, the FTC slapped Lumosity, an online digital health company, with a $ 2 million fine toward consumer redress. Commissioner Julie Brill issued a statement that Lumosity had made false and unsubstantiated marketing claims that its “brain training” program would:

  • Delay age-related decline in memory

  • Protect other age-related cognitive conditions

  • Reduce cognitive impairments associated with various health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and stroke


Brill had a stern warning for marketing professionals in health care: Don’t overstate the benefits of products or misleadingly imply that improvements in a game or app can transfer to real-world benefits. Brill said creating health and wellness apps that don’t have scientific evidence to back up marketing claims won’t be tolerated.

Infographic: Health care consumers balking at wearables

There’s only a “moderate appetite” for wearables that can improve health and wellness.

Does the public’s hesitation reflect lackluster messaging? How might medical marketers team with doctors and clinicians to help consumers embrace wearable technology?

Recent data show that chronic conditions are managed better when patients participate in their monitoring and treatment. Communicators can look at this infographic and cite the benefits in their own marketing. 

[RELATED: Webcast: Advanced writing and editing for corporate communicators.]

Still, a survey from iTriage reveals costs are an issue, too:

  • More than 75 percent of people would use a wearable device if their doctor recommended or provided it.

  • Nearly 70 percent of consumers would use a wearable if their insurer recommended or provided it.

Other respondents said they are hesitant because the technology is overly complicated.

Can you fine-tune your marketing efforts to help sway reluctant patients?

(View a larger image) 


(Image via)

Infographic: How to market to 6 health care consumer segments

When it comes to health care, consumer engagement is transforming in three key areas. A recent study from Deloitte finds that patients:

  • Want improved partnerships with providers

  • Use and trust online resources and information

  • Rely on technology to measure fitness and monitor health online

RELATED: Get live tours of industry-leading intranets that put the right information at employees’ fingertips

This infographic offers insights about the six kinds of health care consumers, and how communicators can best reach each group. For example:

  • Nearly 35 percent are casual and cautious consumers, are not very engaged and have little interest in health technology.

  • More than 20 percent are content with their providers, comply with instructions and ask questions during office visits.

  • About 20 percent are happy with their care and prefer to interact with their physicians electronically.

Look at the full infographic to get a better picture of today’s engaged consumers:

(View a larger image here)


(Image via )

Virtual rounds let families offer input on care from afar

Using off-the-shelf teleconferencing software, physicians on rounds are connecting with patients’ family members across the country.
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