medical-563427_1920In a crisis the stakes are always high. No matter the practice area, reputations are on the line and making a bad situation worse is the last thing a company wants to do. But each industry has their own unique risks that require a tailored crisis plan. I sat down with the PadillaCRT Crisis Team to discuss crisis and critical issues in the health care industry and how they support the agency’s Health Care Team and its clients.

What are the most common types of crises that you see in the health care sector?

Right now the most common events you see are bad patient outcomes, data breaches, active shooter situations, and concerns regarding the Affordable Care Act. Data breach has become a particular concern because of the amount of personal and financial information health organizations have access to.

How are the Health Team’s crisis needs different than other practice areas?

The health care industry is extremely regulated, which limits what we can and cannot say in response to a crisis. For example, in the event of a bad patient outcome, we can’t fully disclose the situation due to HIPAA restrictions without patient approval.

How do you prepare for potential crises for health care clients differently than other industries?

We advise our clients to walk toward the crisis and take responsibility as soon as possible. Experience has shown that hospitals that acknowledge an error tend to see less backlash from patients. Health care is an industry where people understand mistakes are going to be made, but organizations can’t afford to wait to disclose incidents.

What crisis challenges/advantages are unique to health care?

Health care clients are in the business of healing and helping, so the advantage is that they tend to be in the position of wanting to do the right thing. Health care is extremely emotional and personal – it involves life-changing events and when they go wrong, the mistakes are magnified. It goes beyond business, at least to a level that most businesses don’t.

How do you use case studies and previous crises to inform your current approach for crisis planning?

There is a quote by Mark Twain, “history doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme.” Health care is collaborative, so shared experiences across the industry are used as best practices for the future. We also bring ongoing situations, like the potential active shooter we saw this week, to the attention of clients so they can ask, how prepared are we? We recommend our clients utilize the Crisis IQ tool to fully evaluate their crisis readiness.

How do you collaborate with health care sector team members to execute crisis plans?

For our health care clients, we recommend having a crisis plan in place that includes practicing table-top exercises and training spokespeople. In the event of a crisis, we assess the situation, gather facts, and immediately develop messaging for both internal and external audiences. Working in tandem with health care sector leads can provide valuable perspective to this planning.

The health care team members are the industry experts, they know the language and culture, and can offer detailed expertise versus our high overarching crisis mindset. Working together offers better service to our clients. Bob McNaney, PadillaCRT SVP, Crisis & Media Relations, sums up the partnership by saying,

The Health Care Team knows the players, and the Crisis Team knows the plays.

Do you have any other questions for our crisis experts? Share with us in the comments below!