The word “community” has been rapidly evolving over the past several years, challenging hospital administrators to rethink their approach to community engagement both online and off. Communities can organize and mobilize at a much quicker pace than even five years ago, largely enabled by online collaborative tools.This type of organizing is often associated with negativity and criticism: it produces malpractice lawsuits, petitions against new construction or research, critical online reviews, or even video rants that go viral and harm the reputation of your healthcare center.
But in order to deliver the best possible healthcare, hospitals must maintain strong relationships with their surrounding community. Activated communities generate a wealth of information that can vastly improve preventative care, shape new legislation or regulation, push forward new research, raise funds for hospitals, and identify critical health issues. There are several ways administrators can start cultivating a mutually beneficial connection with community members and organizations.
Establish Advisory Councils
Engaging the community at the organizational level sends a clear message of inclusivity. Numerous case studies have shown that establishing a patient advisory council boosts a hospital’s ability to implement quality improvement projects, find new executives, redesign service delivery more effectively, and create programs that help educate hospital staff.
Hire Staff From The Surrounding Community
When strategizing about community engagement, one of the first questions an administrator should ask is how they can provide jobs in the community they serve. Hospitals tend to be the largest employer in the healthcare field in their given area; in fact, hospitals employ over 5.4 million people in the US. Not only does this help stabilize a community’s economy, but it creates concrete links between your health care center and the surrounding area. If the community is lacking in qualified applicants, consider developing campaigns that will promote careers in health, particularly at nearby high schools and colleges.
Gather, Utilize And Share Community Input
Three health systems in Ohio all faced community relations issues at the start of their respective construction and expansion projects. Citizens were concerned about noise, traffic, landscaping, and shifts in services. To get ahead of any negative impacts, they responded by significantly improving their communication with the community. Nationwide Children’s Hospital, for example, used its community relations department to form two groups that would respond to concerns and meet with residents.
Establish A Social Media Team
In a world increasingly shaped by technological collaboration, having a dedicated team that manages and engages with online activity is a must. Online communities can form and dissipate quickly, so using tools such as Google alerts, Twitter keyword monitors, and Facebook’s Lexicon will help you stay on top of the buzz. The main goal in any social media strategy is to get people to talk to you so you can build trust and open an avenue for dialogue.
Partner With Neighborhood Organizations and Businesses
Establishing relationships with neighborhood organizations and businesses is critical to addressing community health issues. Nonprofit organizations hold strong links to community members, and can help hospitals implement healthy living and eating programs. Businesses are one of the main entities that pay for healthcare, and can provide insurance for the community as well as advocate for systemic change.
As communities continue to evolve, hospital administrators need to make engagement a number one priority. While hospitals are often the main deliverer of health care in any area, they don’t need to solve problems alone. If you collaborate with your community, you’ll undoubtedly improve your hospital’s ability to provide the best quality healthcare possible.