The USC University Hospital in Los Angeles received a crash course in crisis communication last week as news broke that a patient accidentally received the wrong kidney.
TJ Walker, a Forbes.com columnist and crisis communication expert, offered his take on what measures hospitals should take if they encounter this unfortunate situation: Walker advised:
1. Call an immediate press conference with both the surgeon in question and the CEO of the hospital present.
2. Apologize to the patient and the family of the patient. (Your lawyers may scream bloody murder about this, but you need to do it anyway.)
3. Explain in 30 seconds or less how the mistake occurred. (If you really don’t know what happened, then announce you have begun a thorough investigation.)
4. Announce that you have instituted a new policy or safeguard to dramaticallyincrease the odds of this never ever happening again.
5. Then take questions.
6. Webcast the whole press conference and take questions from citizens and patients as well as the media.
7. Post the whole thing as an archive on your hospital’s website.
The GFM Crisis/Issues Management team would add a few more items to this list, including:
• Create a separate webpage containing information specifically about the incident, along with updates and a forum to answer questions
• Execute an internal communications plan to explain the incident and address the issue
• Monitor all related conversations online and respond/clarify as appropriate
Unfortunately, crisis happen. How your organization responds to the crisis speaks volumes and impacts your reputation long term.