Media Relations

May 25, 2018 | Health System Risk Management


According to the old journalism cliché, "If it bleeds, it leads." The more shocking or frightening a story is, the more the public will clamor for it—and the more likely the media will report on it. Particularly in today's 24-hour news cycle, healthcare organizations present settings rife with opportunities for this type of coverage.

As a result, what happens within a hospital's walls is always going to be of interest to media organizations, and the media are looking for "front page news." If something goes wrong in a healthcare facility, it is a good bet that the public will learn of it. Consider the following sampling of news stories, which were featured in the "In the News" section of ECRI Institute's weekly HRC Alerts, during the second half of 2017:

Headlines such as these originated from diverse media organizations across the globe and represent the gamut of risks a hospital may face on a daily basis. They also show the wide variety of topics that a media organization may choose to cover. Negative media attention could focus on dirty endoscopes, disruptive practitioner behavior, opaque billing procedures, or failure to protect employees from workplace violence. Each of these news stories brought the potential for reputational harm, if not litigation.

Moreover, local stories no longer stay local. Thanks to the rise of social media, a story, especially one that is offbeat, unusual, or shocking, that a local publication publishes or a local news station airs can soon be shared by people across the country or the globe. In September 2017, for example, a local television station in Denver published a story about nurses who opened a body bag in order to view a deceased patient's genitals. Social media as well as national outlets and blogs soon picked up the story, and news of the incident spread much farther than the local nightly news.

But the media do not need to be enemies of a healthcare organization. Both parties have jobs to do. A good working relationship between media and healthcare organizations is a mutualistic one. Newspapers need stories to tell, websites need clicks, and TV news must fill air time. Positive news, such as when a local sports team volunteers to visit children in the cancer ward or a nearby healthcare facility opens a new wing, can help the media do their job while spreading goodwill for a healthcare organization.

The media may wish to interview members of a healthcare organization for many reasons. When a tragedy occurs, for example, media will often look to cover a story from every angle. In many cases reporters will want to access the hospital to speak to or write about victims or interview the doctors who treated them. See, for example, the HRC Alert["It Looked Like a Disaster Zone": How Las Vegas Hospitals Handled the Deadliest Mass Shooting in Modern...

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