Thursday, August 8, 2013

Does The Open Letter have a place in Health Care?


Wrong !                                              Correct !


Hospital mergers, acquisitions and the development of integrated hospitals systems is one of the results of the Affordable Care Act’s model for Accountable Care Organizations.  It will become a fundamental business practice.

An ongoing themes of  mergers, acquisitions and cooperative agreements will create different organizational culture clash.

These clashes apply to group practices and hospitals.  Executives of these entities are faced with a myriad of tasks, not the least of which is human interaction with can be unpredictable if not guided with introductory process as well as implementation guidelines.

Perhaps medicine can take a lesson from mergers such as Amazon and the Washington Post, as well as Tony Hseih of  Zappos.  The common theme was their guiding hand.

Likewise the pen of Jeff Bezos on the Post purchase outlined openly the acquisition  and his goals.

Mergers or acquisitions often take place in the setting of economic changes, anxiety and fear. The number one concern for employees is whether they will have a job.  Fear and anxiety can lead to a loss of productivity, loss of faith, trust and loyalty. The Open Letter should address all of these factually and honestly.

Frequently health care organizations merge or acquire to accomplish one of the following;

1. Increase market share

2. Consolidate many administrative functions, with a possible reduction in work force.

3. Provide complimentary services, or add a center of excellence

4. Improve asset/liability ratio, to acquire financing or to expand physically.

5. Close a competing facility or expand physical locations.



An Effective Open Letter

So what does a great open letter take? If you are looking to use this form of communication as a leader to offer your point of view in a more powerful and emotional way, there are three elements that should to be at the top of the list:

  1. Humanity – Great open letters have a human tone of voice. They don’t use corporate speak and actually sound like something that a leader might say in a conversation as opposed to an investor presentation. They express emotion and feelings, and share a personal point of view.
  2. Timeliness – An open letter is usually delivered in response to a piece of news or announcement. As a result, the timing of getting that letter out is often vital. Having it completed and published early ensures that conversation and media attention will incorporate the views shared in the letter. Also, having it done early is essential to demonstrate that the viewpoint is a proactive one, and not in response to some sort of crisis or criticism.
  3. Visibility – The final element is making sure the letter is published in a place where it is highly likely to be seen and shared. Bezos publishing on the homepage of Amazon or on are obvious choices … but sharing your open letter through an op-ed piece on another website, or on a highly visible corporate blog that is easily found from your company homepage can both be good choices.

As more companies use the Internet and social media to communicate a corporate point of view directly to their audiences, using the open letter will become a more and more important element of corporate communications. There may be a time soon when any communicators developing a media engagement and public relations strategy for corporate announcements or product launches will need to consider an “open letter strategy” as a part of their efforts.

Social media strategy will be an important vehicle for these ‘open letters’.


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