PR Alliance Offers Preventative Health Care for Doctors’ Reputations

PR Alliance Offers Preventive Health Care for Doctors’ Reputations

by Kyle Massey on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017

When people want reviews on the internet, the most-searched topics are restaurants and physicians, David Martin says. In that, he sees both a problem and an opportunity.

Martin, president and CEO of Martin-Wilbourn Partners in Little Rock, knows PR and reputation management.

Ancil Lea III, a consultant based in Conway, knows health care and information technology.

Together, they’re pioneering a unique corner of reputation-management consulting, offering corporate communications services to health care providers.

The timing is critical, they say, because providers face growing challenges in safeguarding patients’ data and responding to other potential crises that — in the Facebook and Twitter era — can quickly overwhelm the hard-won reputations of clinics and medical practices.

Over a lunch of wraps and burgers at Copper Grill recently, Martin and Lea explained their new joint focus. Lea, of Ancil Lea Consulting, is a three-decade specialist in health care software and former executive director of HITArkansas, the state’s Regional Extension Center for health information technology. In that job, he got physicians to shift their patient records from paper to digital files.

Martin is a former CEO of Little Rock’s largest traditional advertising and PR agency, CJRW, and the man who figured out how to market cellphones to the masses for Alltel back when they were seen as clunky, expensive novelties.

They’re both political science graduates of Ouachita Baptist University who prospered in the tech age, and they make a compelling case that health care professionals need their advice.

“Last year I wrote a small ebook on cybersecurity for health care,” Lea said. “It was meant for doctors, and it was endorsed by the Arkansas Medical Society. Doctors have to pay close attention to their information systems. Now that everything is electronic, and HIPAA [the federal Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act] has made security so crucial, health care professionals have to expect breaches. Breaches have to be reported and could result in fines, so I’ve told them, you guys better have a plan.”

Their systems need to be locked down tight, of course, but doctors, clinics and hospitals also need protocols for when breaches occur, Lea said. “What are you going to do when there’s a breach? David and I realized we could help health professionals get prepared, especially on the PR side of things. You can’t be caught flat-footed and scrambling.”

Martin said his company’s services along with Lea’s will go beyond data breaches to other crises that could wreck reputations. “Health care is very ready for an external crisis — for a tornado, a Las Vegas shooting, a massive car accident or other situations creating a medical emergency,” Martin said. “They can save lives and heal the sick, but aren’t poised to protect or restore their own reputations in the event that something goes wrong. And today’s environment makes it far, far easier for patients who have a grievance to tell the world.”

Lea said reputation management starts with getting to know an organization and its leadership. Executives often know their vulnerabilities, but close examination can identify threats “that aren’t on the company’s radar.” Addressing those could save a company millions of dollars.

“Virtually every crisis is avoidable,” Lea said. Companies should address potential crisis “triggers” so that when an event happens, it is manageable, “not a crisis that puts the organization in peril.”

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