4 opportunities for state hospital associations to support its members in 2024
State hospital associations have been around for well over 100 years. While the exact role and purpose of state associations have significantly changed over the years, one truth remains: collaboration among healthcare organizations is vital for survival. In 2023, state hospital associations are known for helping hospitals and health systems with key legislative priorities, state-wide healthcare initiatives, new rules and regulations from the federal government, and staffing and safety protocols.
As the healthcare industry faces unprecedented challenges – and hospitals continued to be the target of attacks on cost of care in American healthcare –the role of a state association and the expectations on how they can best support their members, hospitals and health systems, is evolving. The Revive team recently conducted a survey of hospital and health system leaders to better understand the specific needs and expectations they have for their respective state associations.
Based on the research, along with day-to-day conversations the team at Revive has with health system and hospital association clients, we have identified four key areas that hospitals are crying out for support on.
1. Shield your hospitals
Hospitals are put in precarious situations daily. Whether it is explaining to both staff and patients about the new rules regarding CMS Price Transparency or ongoing legislative changes that impact states individually, such as, staffing ratios, and continued pressure and negativity from the media and others in the broader healthcare landscape like pharma and payors, health systems have to constantly consider how they message various issues to their stakeholders. With these rising challenges, hospitals need someone to step up and speak on their behalf. Too often, hospitals feel they are left to take on the burden, unable to comment how they really feel at the risk of losing market share, damaging key relationships with policymakers, or even failing to retain and recruit staff. This presents an opportunity for associations to be the face of external campaigns, reframing the narrative set by media or pharma and payors. For example, Revive recently worked with the North Carolina Healthcare Association to develop a campaign called “It Takes a Hospital” to combat negativity surrounding hospitals and instead show the value they bring to the community every day. We have also supported efforts by individual health systems to better articulate the value health systems bring to communities, while conducing direct and indirect efforts to shift the blame to other parts of the ecosystem.
2. Convener of opportunities with other health leaders across the state
Hospital communicators want to discuss key learnings and best practices with industry peers to better understand what is and isn’t working for organizations similar to theirs. In addition to providing educational content, associations should set-up ongoing knowledge sharing sessions – quarterly in-person and/or virtual events or an online forum where leaders can connect and share toolkits that include case studies of what is working across the state. These communicators are also interested in finding ways to work together to create a larger value story of how hospitals can jointly push back on pharma and payors. Associations can lead this work for their members and build a broader state-wide narrative that can help inoculate hospitals against future negativity, and identify opportunities to remind communities of the value hospitals bring every day. Hospitals know there is strength in numbers.
3. Healthcare recruiting and state-wide workforce management
Each day it is becoming more difficult for hospitals to recruit and retain existing staff. Hospitals have started to look for new ways to attract staff through ongoing marketing and communication campaigns that focus on broader messaging than your typical organizational benefits — speaking to why the city or state is an appealing destination to live. Associations should consider broader marketing efforts in partnership with their members to better position healthcare in the state. By understanding the biggest workforce gaps for your members, associations can create focused plans to reach different categories of employees. For example, if there is a shortage of RNs in the state, you can advocate for your members by partnering with regional universities with nursing programs to share the benefits of working within the state or advocating for legislation that better supports nursing education. Along with local partnerships, this work can be done on a larger scale through ongoing creative and paid media to reach current and potential staff, as well as support members around union communications. Simply put, hospitals need help recruiting new staff to the state, and keeping them there once they arrive.
4. Crisis response and management support
Across the country, hospitals in each state are dealing with both regional and nationwide issues that impact their business, staff, and patients differently. Whether it be a national pandemic, a natural disaster, cybersecurity attack or active shooter, hospitals are doing their best to manage a situation in which they have little experience or knowledge in how to properly communicate. Hospitals are facing a lot of questions that don’t have clear answers, so they are looking for support and best practices from their state associations. Associations need to offer members tools and resources to help members understand how to best address the issues that keep them up at night. For example, offer your support in developing crisis communication playbooks, host trainings on best practices for rules and regulations that hospitals should follow, you can even conduct live-action simulations to help coach teams and proactively prepare them for future crises.
Overall, our research showed that healthcare organizations are appreciative of their state associations and truly value what they have to offer. To continue to support the ever-changing challenges their members face, state associations must keep an open line of communication to ensure they understand the ongoing needs of their members.