How Does a Hospital Regain Trust in the Community?

For hospitals and health systems, community perception is vital. What can take years to build any number of incidents could quickly erode a community’s trust in a hospital, from a nasty disease outbreak to a slow corrosion of the hospital-community relationship over time.

But how does a hospital regain trust once it has lost it?

Hospital consultant Martie Moore, R.N., former chief nursing officer of Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, Oregon, and current CNO of consulting firm Medline, makes several suggestions for rebuilding community trust, in a Bakers Hospital Review article.

  1. Be transparent and over-communicate to show hospital leaders take the situation seriously when incidents such as infectious-disease outbreaks occur
  2. Acknowledge mistakes and show strong support for staff while correcting those errors
  3. Share stories of the good work the hospital is doing. Remember The Pink Glove Dance video that went viral? “I never expected to receive such a positive reaction from the Portland community. People familiar with the video came to visit what they called the ‘Pink Glove’ hospital. Stories from breast cancer patients and survivors within the community and even our own staff members started pouring in,” Moore said. “In that moment, we were truly interconnected. The Pink Glove Dance gave us a better understanding of who our patients and employees are, which helped us form a trust with the community around us.”
  4. Engage and partner with community groups like the chamber of commerce and hosting events such as safety fairs and community walks/runs
  5. Encourage hospital leaders to blog to engage the community with health-oriented information
  6. Listen to what community members say in informal settings and be willing to respond, “It may be hard to hear, but you’ve got to be willing to hear it for them to respond,” Moore said. “You want to do it in a way that’s not as structured as focus groups are.”
  7. Research community needs, by doing a community perception study, such as access to dental care, and work to serve those needs

“Hospitals are kind of crazy bee hives, but if you can help your community view the hospital as a place of hope and love and care, instead of an institution and corporation, you’ll start to gain that elevation of trust,” Moore said in the article.

Trust has a dollar sign on it and can affect a hospitals bottom line. Up to 25% of a public company’s value is based on reputation, which derives from how the organization interacts with employees, customers, suppliers and competitors. Less than 40% of the public has confidence in the health system, trailing public confidence in the military, police, small businesses and organized religion according to a recent commentary by Paul Keckley, Ph.D., a managing director of the consulting firm Navigant’s healthcare practice.

“Loss of public trust and confidence is not about brands: they’re controlled inside our organizations by our vastly capable PR and marketing engines. By contrast, our reputations are controlled by what people inside and outside our organizations think as they observe how these organizations operate,” Keckley said. “Reputations are what people believe to be true, whether accurate or not. More than brands, reputation matters.”

If reputation and trust are tarnished, it’s the worth the climb to rebuild it.

For more information read the Becker’s article.