Archive for the ‘Healthcare’ Category

Stepping in the wrong direction

Thursday, July 28th, 2011 by Hannah Newbould

Following the news that broke last week regarding Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, and the deaths of five poor people, it likely there will be a long-winded process for getting the hospital’s reputation back to what it was.

In this instance, the hospital’s reputation will be damaged on many levels. From credibility to competitive position to the fact that a hospital – not everyone’s idea of a attractive place to spend their time – has now become more unattractive.

PR agency, Bell Pottinger North, has the mammoth task of handling the hospital’s crisis communication.  Associate Director, Richard Clein said: “The reality is that in this situation the police will take the lead on comms – our job is to ensure our messaging is consistent and to ensure we are reiterating the statement that the hospital is a safe place. It’s about reassuring patients and staff as well.”

Exploring the classic procedures of crisis management, there will be a process of being readily accessible to the media, showing empathy for all involved, delivering an appropriate level of communications that reinforces what the hospital does well, and laying down clear preventative processes for the future. In this instance, sending out a chain of press releases about the hospital’s goals and achievements is not the answer. People will not forget this easily, therefore a broad ranging, strategic plan is necessary to rebuild reputation.

But in the situation of a hospital crisis, how will a damaged reputation affect the “customer”?  If a person is picked up by a paramedic, there is no choice about the hospital destination. Are patients at the hospital now feeling nervous about being there? Reassuring these people is a key task for every hospital employee in the wake of what has happened.

How do staff feel about working there at the moment? A medical student or nurse who has studied hard to get a job at a previously good hospital must could well be feeling tainted right now by association with Stepping Hill.

It will be interesting to see how they recover from this. The work of dedicated and trustworthy staff at the hospital needs to be highlighted so the public doesn’t judge a whole hospital by the actions of one person.

*Quote as from PRWeek, July 2011

Social media – an unhealthy medical mix?

Thursday, July 14th, 2011 by Hannah Newbould

Medics have been warned that adding patients to their social media network is a big mistake and could jeopardise their career. The British Medical Association has pointed out that doctors may face  problems if they decide to befriend their patients on Facebook and Twitter.

The main problem is the fine line between personal and professional lives becoming blurred and has the potential to threaten any student nurse or doctor’s career.

The new guidance, titled ‘Using Social Media – Practical and ethical guidance for doctors and medical students’ addresses topics such as the ethical need to keep patient confidentiality which is as  important online as it is in any other media. It expresses that it’s inappropriate to post comments relating to patients that are personal or derogatory, that doctors and medical students have an obligation to declare any conflicts of interest and defamation law can apply to any comments posted on the web in either a personal or professional capacity.

This follows a series of cases in which a number of NHS staff were suspended from work due to content posted on social media sites, including one member being suspended for being photographed on a hospital helipad.

Although many medical students and doctors use social media sites without having any problems, there is the chance that they are damaging their professionalism, but isn’t this true of any career?

There is a growing concern that posts by doctors could offend their patients and colleagues without even realising.  Something posted innocently or as a joke could come across in a totally offensive manner. Vice versa, patients could be commenting on things that haven’t been analysed in a normal consultation.



Can social media help diagnose illness?

Thursday, June 16th, 2011 by Hannah Newbould

With social media used for so many different things, should it really be used  by people to self-diagnose  health problems because they are too scared or embarrassed to visit a GP?

We are all guilty of visiting Google and typing in the symptoms and praying we don’t see something more serious than a common cold. However, more and more people are going online to diagnose their symptoms and even sometimes taking it one step further by ordering drugs using an online pharmacy. However, is this really a safe method of finding a quick fix to our problems health problems?

GPs are now campaigning that people, specifically males, should be targeted through social networking and phone applications They believe that giving any males the chance to use a new app will encourage them to search for their symptoms and then to visit their GP. The beauty of this is the anonymity but is it really safe and accurate?

Over 42% of men die before the age of 75 compared to 26% of women, however, men visit their GP 20% less frequently. Surely encouraging men to visit the doctor and giving them access to booking appointments online and via phone apps is only a positive approach. Access to information about health problems should be made readily available to men, as long as the information is accurate and it does then go on to encourage guys to make that dreaded appointment.

The Department of Health says that a new health campaign aimed at young people using Facebook and smart phone apps will start this year, though these are not specifically targeted at men.

Google Health Service

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008 by Rob Brown

Google’s relentless march to world domination has taken another step with the realisation that the Google Trends search may play a powerful role in the prevention of the spread of viruses and infectious disease.

‘Google Flu trends’ uses a selection of search terms to predict how many people in a particular area are searching for relevant information about flu.   Not only have they found that there is an incredible correlation between these searches and numbers of actual cases of flu but they can show incidence of flu far faster than the current official channels in the United States. 

Google compared its data with that from a surveillance system managed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).   Because of the time lag in collating and checking data Google believes it can accurately estimate flu levels one to two weeks faster than published CDC reports.  On January 28th 2008 Google flu trends showed a marked increase in ‘flu related searches in the Mid-Atlantic region of the US, the available published CDC data showed no detectable increase for another week. 

Google has compared their search data with that of ‘influenza like illnesses’ tracked by the CDC over four years and there is a very close match between the two data sets.   The speed at which the Google data is available could prove to be of major importance in the case of a pandemic.  It would allow epidemiologists crucial extra time to respond to an outbreak, perhaps saving tens or even hundreds of thousands of lives. 

With the sheer volume of searches conducted on Google this real time trend tracking could be used to spot outbreaks of a range of illnesses or identify hot spots for disease giving public health services more time and more information, vital commodities in the battle against ill health.    


About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).

In fibre we trust

Monday, September 22nd, 2008 by Jon Clements

A simple but relevant idea; an appropriate celebrity sporting a few tins of body paint and you’ve got a winning PR campaign.

This is exactly what we did today for the launch of the Fibre Foundation, an organisation founded to educate people on the health benefits of eating fibre. By getting cricketer and more lately Strictly Come Dancing contestant, Mark Ramprakash, to strip off and have the vital organs helped by eating fibre illustrated on his skin, we had a great photo that fitted with the overall campaign theme.

The result? More than 130 pieces of media coverage today alone. Now, please pass the wholemeal spaghetti.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''