Hospital forms task force to improve its public image
Enloe Medical Center is trying to keep it quiet, but the hospital has big plans to improve its image in the public’s eyes.
According to hospital documents obtained by the News & Review, Enloe recently formed a task force whose purpose is to enhance the hospital’s image. The task force is headed up by Marsha Martin, the city of Chico’s finance director and a recently elected member of Enloe’s Board of Trustees.
Apparently, a June 2004 strategic planning document prepared for the hospital by TK Associates indicates a survey suggests that Enloe’s image in the community had suffered at the hands of “local media and the community rumor mill.” It notes, too, that “the design and condition of the medical facility and its impact on public image is a concern,” although those who were aware of the hospital’s major expansion plan “were supportive of it with only a few exceptions.”
The document even points to a clash between Chico’s easy-going lifestyle culture and the perception of the hospital as “a ‘hard-driving’ and more ‘aggressive’ work culture—'work to live vs. live to work.'”
The goal of the new task force is to develop public-relations strategies that support “Enloe’s vision of being the ‘North State’s Premier Healthcare Provider and Employer,'” according to a letter Martin sent to task force volunteers announcing the group’s first meeting, held on Sept. 29.
Enloe’s overall image in the community is positive and most respondents think it offers quality medical care, according to the Enloe documents. Respondents who have utilized EMC’s services are especially likely to have favorable impressions of the hospital.
However, there was widespread awareness of the hospital’s recent labor problems—Enloe is fighting efforts by some of its departments to unionize—as well as an indication of “a lack of pride among staff and physicians and in the community for the quality of healthcare that EMC provides.”
In addition, “internal morale was depicted as low, particularly among nursing staff.” And some respondents were confused about the hospital’s nonprofit status.
Martin and the task force are working to create a strategy to deal with these issues and negative perceptions.
The task force’s goal, says Ann Prater, Enloe’s director of public relations, is to foster community awareness of the many positive things the hospital is doing.
Martin agrees. “We need to find a way to make sure that the good side of the story is being told,” she said. The hospital is not doing an adequate job of portraying itself: “There’s a void of information which is allowing people to develop their own opinions that maybe aren’t based on facts or accurate information.”
For example, Martin said, many people don’t realize that Enloe is nonprofit and governed by a community board. Local community members are making the decisions related to Enloe’s daily operations and planning for Enloe’s future. “Our goal is to find a way to communicate that to the public.”
Prater said that fixing the public image problem is only part of the strategic planning process. Enloe has formed a number of task forces, similar to the one headed by Martin, to address areas needing updating or improving. These include workforce engagement, business development, physician-hospital relationships and the Century Project—Enloe’s big expansion effort.
Prater said the hospital is in the process of looking at strengths and weaknesses in these areas and making sure the organization is moving to address its weaknesses and take advantage of its strengths.
Certain to help with the image makeover is the patient safety award that the organization Health Grades gave Enloe earlier this month. The hospital was one of six in the state to receive the award, which is based on 13 patient safety indicators.
Health Grades (www.healthgrades.com) uses a star rating system in which five stars means “best,” three stars “as expected” and one means “poor.”
Besides the patient safety award Enloe was graded on another 28 categories and scored mostly “as expected.”
But in nine of the categories, it received only one star, or a poor rating. Those nine are: bowel obstruction, community-acquired pneumonia, coronary-bypass surgery, coronary-interventional procedures, heart attack, heart failure, resection/replacement of abdominal aorta, sepsis and women’s health.
While accepting the patient safety award with open arms, Prater downplayed the poor grades, saying they are based on data that are no longer relevant even though Health Grades used the same Medicare information from 2001-2003 for the patient safety award.
Prater also said she doesn’t think the star ratings can tell the whole picture.
“We spend a lot of time trying to educate the community and the media about health care," she said. "Heath care today is the most challenging environment of any industry in the entire country. We are doing the best that we can to serve our community."