East Bay Business Times, Kaiser's hometown journal has two articles. One about Kaiser's early encounters with blogs and social media and one on how hospital administrators and executives should use blogs.
The first article sets the stage with breaking some news about the next Healthcare Blogging Summit coming up in Las Vegas on April 30. I will be moderating a panel discussing the challenges and opportunties of openness faced by healthcare organizations. Here is the summary:
Open Healthcare – Learning to Live in the Brave New World
Openness, Controversy and Crisis Management in Blogs and Social Media
We are going to talk about Kaiser, which last year became the "Ground Zero" test case of how the rules of communication changed, when Justen Deal sent out a company-wide email sharing his concerns about HealthConnect. Justen has since been voted "Man of the Year" on the influential HISTalk blog.
Now what was the news scoop and why is it important?
Let's start with the news facts in chronological order:
- Kaiser's HealthConnect becomes the biggest story demonstrating the influence of open media on healthcare
- Questions are raised why this major story is ignored at our last Summit in DC and I acknowledge the need to cover it.
- After consulting with bloggers, I decide to program a panel on openness and invite both Kaiser and their critics to share the stage.
- The invite was communicated to the office of Kaiser's Senior VP of Marketing and after some discussion Kaiser declines to participate.
- We are going to proceed with our panel in Vegas, to talk about what this means for the rest of the healthcare industry
To boil it down, Kaiser flunked the early test of communicating through the new media. The Rule #1 is that if you do not like a story, it is not going away if you ignore it. Blogs and social media have a way of making news percolate indefinitely. Instead of taking up a golden opportunity to seize the high ground and clear the air, Kaiser is turning their decline to talk into the story itself.
The kind of story that gets picked up by their hometown paper, with headlines like this: Kaiser sizing up blogs, 'social media'
The bottom line is simple. Trying to control your message? Fuggetaboutit!
People will talk about your organization online whether you like it or not. Google will happily serve up their opinions, often as the very first thing searchers find. If you are not engaging your critics in a dialog, your motives are immediately called in the question and rightly so. The only way you can win is by showing a human face with all warts, inviting input and following through.
Hiding behind "patient privacy", quoted by Alix Sabin, Kaiser's media relations manager to East Bay Business Times, just does not cut it. Yes, privacy concerns are real but they are a lame excuse, when the real issue is something else. Read HealthTrain Manifesto on how to reconcile the cognitive dissonance.
Even George Bush could bring himself up to talk to North Korea. There is no valid reason why healthcare leaders and organizations should not engage in blogs and social media, of course taking some common-sense precautions.
Control of the message is so 20th century. The name of the 21th century game is trust. The only way to earn it is through openness.
In the coming weeks I will be covering the Kaiser story and its various meanings and angles in greater depth. Stay tuned!