As healthcare executives, we must communicate clearly and effectively. This can be difficult at times. One-on-one communication is fairly straightforward. But how do we communicate regularly with dozens of physicians, hundreds of constituents, or thousands of patients? And how can it be done in a way that encourages a two-way dialogue? Perhaps healthcare executive blogging is the answer.
As chief medical officer, one of my primary challenges was connecting with the members of the medical staff. I regularly needed to inform them about initiatives undertaken by the organization, new mandates by accrediting agencies, upcoming staffing changes and dozens of other issues.
I needed to solicit input from our physicians about big issues like how to implement a hospitalist program, how to address coverage for high risk newborns and what new drugs to add to the formulary.
There were also less pressing issues that I wanted input about, such as continuing medical education needs or remodeling the physician lounge.
The list was endless. I was frequently brought into new initiatives because of my “expertise” and understanding of communicating with physicians (after all, I was one!). I remember being asked a question like this:
“Doctor Jurica, how do we communicate with all of these physicians? Can we do it through the medical staff structure? Through department meetings? Should we send out a memo? Meet with the doctors in small groups?
Should we publish a newsletter? Or meet with informal leaders to get the word out? Or send staff out to the doctors’ offices?
Invariably, I would just pause for effect and respond, “Yes”.
Versatility Is Needed
My point was this: There is no single best way to communicate with physicians. They all have preferred styles of communication. They have different schedules. Some prefer to meet; others hate meetings. Some prefer written communication. Others would like a video, if possible.
Some cling to the medical staff structure and formal communication. Still others disdain the medical staff structure, but love gossip and the informal grapevine.
As a result, it is not possible to select one means of communication with members of a medical staff. It is a bit easier to get engagement with medical group members, because they may be partners or shareholders. But to achieve our communication goals as healthcare executives, we’re going to need to use multiple methods of communication.
Unless we wish to spend countless hours in individual meetings, phone calls, group meetings, forums, writing white papers, sending out memos and publishing newsletters, we need to develop more effective tools for communicating with our constituents. While there is no single best answer, there is a relatively new, but well-tested means of communication that may meet of these needs.
Why Healthcare Executive Blogging May Be The Answer
By now, almost everyone understands what a blog is. Derived from a contraction of the words “web log” it is generally a type of website that consists of regular posts or articles. The most recent post is at the top of the home page, and the earlier posts follow below it in reverse chronological order.
The content of a blog can be anything from a personal journal shared with a very select few, to news stories shared with millions of readers. Its content can be subjective and personal or well-researched with footnotes and linked sources.
Some very successful CEOs have adopted blogging as a way to communicate with constituents. The most famous of these is probably Richard Branson of the Virgin Group (Virgin Airlines, Virgins Records, etc.).
What does he write about on his blog?
He shares his vision and strategy, observations about business and travel and about healthy lifestyles. His posts are read by millions, and shared on social media by thousands of readers.
For our purposes, consider what a blog written by a healthcare CEO or CMO might look like. It might consist of regular articles addressing timely, high priority topics designed to advance the mission, vision and strategic goals of our organization. It is a tool that can replace other forms of communication, achieving greater results, better connectivity and improved efficiency.
The Benefits of Blogging
Let me list the benefits of blogging, and describe some of the features of a well designed blog that produce those benefits. As I do so, I will contrast the benefits for the CEO and the CMO.
1. Promoting the Mission, Vision, Values and Culture
For the CEO, this is an opportunity to present an image of the organization to the community; to express the vision, values and mission of the organization; to communicate directly with the community of patients, clients and customers of the organization. Some might call this building the brand.
For the CMO, this means reminding constituents of the need for quality, safety, stewardship and excellent care. It means writing about new safety and quality initiatives, medical staff bylaws issues, and proposed new services. The CMO can use this venue to announce staff changes or promulgate new evidence-based guidelines.
And both can use this “soap box” to express their personal passions, interests and opinions and promote the organizational culture.
2. Enhance Leadership Skills
Those who write and publish are seen as experts. The act of writing and publishing regular content forces the CEO and CMO to study, read, reflect and cogently express their opinions and plans for the organization.
This serves the dual purpose of enhancing the learning of the writer, while improving his or her credibility with the reader. Those who regularly share their opinions and plans with their audience are seen as more transparent. Credibility and transparency are two vital characteristics of an effective leader.
Writing and publishing forces us to be more creative, to think strategically, and to communicate with clarity.
3. Building Relationships
Blogging has the ability to be bidirectional. Through the use of comments, this forum-like environment can create an ongoing dialogue between the author and the audience and even within the audience. In large blogs it is not unusual for one of the audience members to become an informal curator of the comments.
The author can jump in and respond to questions and participate in the dialogue to achieve the goals of the blog. Both the CEO and CMO can address questions and concerns in this way, and move the conversation forward.
4. Expand Participation
A blog can address the preferred styles of communication to some extent. It is generally a written medium. But a blog can contain audio and video content too.
The CEO might include a video of a short presentation to the board for the medical staff to watch.
The CMO can post a video of a presentation given at a recent medical staff meeting for those that were unable to attend. Physicians might like to hear a clip of the discussion about a formulary addition considered at the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee. The options are endless.
5. Other Features That Make Blogging Useful
- The articles are in posted in reverse chronological order and are available forever, or until the author chooses to remove them.
- The posts are searchable by keywords or category, so the audience can review topics most important to them.
- Additional resources can be linked to. Unlike a written memo or letter, references can be readily accessed. Links to evidence-based protocols and supporting documentation can be easily embedded.
The Newsletter Vs. the Blog
It should be very obvious by now that if you have been using a newsletter to achieve some of these goals, you should consider switching to a blog. A blog has all of the benefits of a newsletter, with the advantages of being searchable and bidirectional.
- A blog is a bit more complicated to set up than an email newsletter. But a reasonably attractive and functional blog can be created in a few hours with minimal technical knowledge.
- A good blog will be well planned and consistent. It is worthwhile to set up a schedule of planned content, with flexibility built in for breaking issues to be addressed.
- If you’re not already writing a regular newsletter, it will take time to become proficient at crafting and editing your writing. But you will improve with practice.
- You will need to set time aside for responding to comments and engaging in dialogues with your readers.
As to privacy and confidentiality, blogging platforms have the ability to be limit the audience. The CEO may wish to write a public blog, and will need to adjust content accordingly. But the CMO’s blog may be limited to members of the medical staff and/or division directors and other employees through the use of standard password protection techniques.
Summary of Benefits
With a little bit of preparation and time to create a blog, you will achieve all of the desired benefits noted above:
- Promoting your mission, values and goals, and a desired culture.
- Enhancing your expertise, credibility, transparency and clarity.
- Meeting the needs of your constituents for regular, two-way communication so they can remain informed and be heard.
- Expanding your reach by using a method that is more flexible and adaptable to your audience's communication styles and needs.
- Creating a searchable, annotated and referenced archive of content for your audience.
- Reducing the need for less efficient and less effective modes of communication.
I suggest that you check out these free tutorials on creating a blog using WordPress:
- Setting Up a WordPress Blog in 20 Minutes Using Bluehost by Michael Hyatt.
- How to Start a WordPress Blog from wpbeginner.com.
- Set Up a WordPress Blog in 4 Minutes by Pat Flynn in which he creates a blog and his first post in under 4 minutes. Since it was created in 2009, it is dated and may not be accurate, but it shows how easy it can be.
- Set Up a WordPress Blog step by step by the minimalists.com created in August 2016.
That should do it for today. Thanks for visiting today.
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