The ABCs for Hospitals: Always Be Communicating

If you haven’t seen “Glengarry Glen Ross,” a star-studded, on-screen version of the famous and long-running play, rent it this weekend. You will see one of my all-time favorite characters, played by Alec Baldwin, deliver a pseudo-inspirational talk to a group of real estate salesmen who are down on their luck. His speech is one for the ages, but here’s my favorite quote about an upcoming sales contest, “As you all know first prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Anyone wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is, you’re fired.”

The written word can’t do the quote justice – you have to see it. Yet the sentiment is directly connected to what we’re seeing today in the healthcare delivery system. First choice and second choice health systems and physician groups will be winners in the new world order of narrow networks, consolidation, and provider-owned health plans. Third place (and lower) health systems will face financial distress, lost volume, lower rates, and even sale or closure. Third place? You’re fired, if you’re not careful.


Naturally, nothing is simple anymore. The qualities that make hospitals, health systems, and physician “must have” in the past have changed meaningfully in recent years, and yesterday’s “must haves” adapt to remain first choice or second choice.  Quality is still important, no doubt, but it is increasingly value that is desired.  There may not be a wealth of options to support shopping on the basis of price, but there is a demand for that option. People want to choose providers on the basis of value – price and quality – rather than one or the other. Really, people want to know they can choose that way, whether or not they actually use it.

If you’re a first- or second-choice provider, the right communication strategy can help you stay there – whether your goal is to win the Cadillac or the steak knives. If you’re in third place and you’re looking to take those steak knives from your competitor, consider a strategic communication effort that can help change perceptions about your organization and its value. And if you’re in third, fourth, or fifth place, you may need a partner or a radical change in strategy.

September 3, 2014
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