NICHE has learned that CHS is providing crisis management for Lutheran Health Network (LHN.) A top-flight Nashville firm will send a consultant to Fort Wayne to deal with what has been termed a crisis.
What it Means: To be pedantic, “crisis” comes from the Greek, “krisis,” meaning decision. It has come to mean “a time of intense difficulty” or “a time when a difficult decision must be made.” In reality for LHN, NICHE does not know what is meant–a public relations crisis whereby public and LHN staff (nowadays called “stakeholders”) have come to recognize the accumulation of worrisome deficiencies made worse by Community Health System’s financial woes, or whether the crisis is in repairing aging instrumentation, repairing damaging cuts in employee rosters (FTE freezes and reductions) and repairing quality and patient experience levels. It will be important to distinguish that difference. Will things seem to improve? Or will they really improve?
How might consultants help? A template exists to address crises that confront healthcare organizations. The short list: Identify and reach top opinion makers to evaluate trust; provide thought leadership to control “the message”; shape public opinion; and establish stability within the organization. Generally, a “crisis team” is formed and a spokesperson is selected; media training is often provided. Previous case studies provide guidance for such crises as bad outcomes, poor survey results or dangerous conditions. What is reassuring is that a top-flight consulting firm will ordinarily collect factual information and urge spokespersons to “be honest.”
What to look for: Top-flight healthcare consulting firms have “seen it all before.” A great thing for LHN would be for consultants to confirm what staff, nurses and physicians already know–and what NICHE’s followers have read for many weeks. Honesty would leave little room for any conclusion other than that deficiencies need to be fixed quickly–the money is here and the problems are mostly fixable. Watch for public commitment to a plan that includes a reasonable timeline. Be wary of explanations that are couched in phrases explaining why “certain details cannot be explained now.”
NICHE feels that this effort deserves every chance. If the goal is quality and patient experience improvement, we must wait to see how that can be matched with the conflict of even more FTE cuts and even lower costs. But perhaps that is why the consultant is here.