When institutions – whether private or public – fail us because they withhold information, allow immoral personal behavior to go unchecked or act in a way unbecoming to the power and responsibility they have, we feel let down.
Yet, institutions are just groups of people, and ultimately, what, or rather who, causes these violations of trust are people. Individuals who fail to fully appreciate the power and responsibility they have or take advantage of their leadership positions for personal gain.
From Facebook to the Oval Office, because of individuals, institutions are losing their luster.
According to Harvard Business Review’s latest article in its five-part series on broken trust, this loss of luster for private companies yields a major negative impact on the bottom line. Conversely, companies that consumers and employees do trust reap dividends in performance and revenues.
While health care organizations for the most part have been spared the loss of the public trust because of malfeasance, they are not proactively cultivating trust in consumers. The hospital lobby, for example, is spending money to oppose Medicare for All at almost record levels. At the same time, hospitals and health systems have had to be dragged to the table on price transparency discussions.
Health care is complicated. Continuing to hide behind that complexity as a reason not to engage, not to explain, however, only adds to the opaqueness. And, ultimately, to consumer frustration and eventually distrust.
How can consumers trust an institution when information is withheld … information that could help them make better personal health or buying decisions and even better civic and political decisions.
The key to fostering trust is communication. Clear, concise and consistent communications that reflect core value propositions and principles as well as a deep understanding of the health care industry history and trends. The most effective leaders put communication first and foremost among their top priorities. And it shows. Ever wonder about that leader who just has the “it factor”? It’s more likely that most of that comes from his/ her ability to articulate the organization’s mission, each team member’s tie to it, and exactly what it means to a bigger sense of purpose we all carry with us.
Healthcare institutions and the companies that serve them must get in the communications game. And that starts with leadership at the top. Knowledge and sharing of that knowledge beget trust. No longer can communications be siloed within a hospital or company or seen as just a department. It must be integrated as a core function into the highest levels of leadership.
And it must be done well.