Patient engagement is the primary metric for hospitals that position themselves as leaders within their communities.Now more than ever, there is a growing need for hospitals to have genuine communication and relationships with their communities—not to help their financial status, but to help the patients’ health and to inform them of how healthcare has changed and is changing each day.
Of course, engaging toward improved health will boost the hospital’s bank account, as engagement with your community helps build rapport and trust that lasts years and can extend to multiple generations. But in this new day and age of healthcare, what does community engagement look like? You’re about to find out.
It Looks Like an Open Ear
People who work in hospitals should know what is best for people’s health and well-being. But no one wants a stranger forcing ideas down their throat. With that in mind, hospitals can’t advise from afar any longer. Today’s hospital has to know the pulse of the local community they’re serving. That means talking directly with them—not to them—to find out what health issues they see as present and how they would like them resolved.
It Looks Like Action
Once you learn what issues people see as pressing, you must act on these issues. That may mean doing a variety of things. If people feel lonely, hospitals may start a social club for them. For communities that need improved access to healthy foods, a community garden may be the solution. Hospital engagement will look different in every community, so be prepared to shift your responses with your area and the times.
It Looks Like a Long-Term Relationship
Engaging a community is not a one-off effort. It takes time and patience. This is particularly true if you serve a community that has been burned by well-meaning individuals or corporations in the past. So be prepared to fight the good fight day in and day out. And when your efforts aren’t paying off as your community hoped, talk with them about ways to tweak things to move toward their goals. You may need to work with local government bodies to install sidewalks to improve transportation options or maybe you’ll partner with a local church to better understand and reach those in the local community. But regardless of the steps to building this relationship, it will always look like an enduring relationship that puts the needs of others first.
It Looks Like Social Media
There are only so many hours in a day to get out and engage your community. Thankfully, you live in an age in which you can engage large numbers of people with the push of a button. Use social media and your hospital website as an avenue for creating, growing, and maintaining engagement with your community. Someone leave an unfavorable review of your services online? Don’t get discouraged. Use that same forum to discuss the issue with transparency and without excuses. When people see you care enough to engage individuals online, they will be more prepared to listen to your advice.
It Looks Like Leadership
Establishing engagement puts you in a unique position. Because you are asking the community what they want and acting on their wishes in a wise, thought-out manner, community members will begin to view you as trustworthy leaders in their cause. This goes a long way toward community buy-in on your efforts. And since you genuinely do know what is best for their good health, this is a win-win for everyone.
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