Reputation in the aftermath of healthcare reform

The national healthcare reform debate is right where we knew it would eventually be. The boxing gloves are off and we are in the midst...

The national healthcare reform debate is right where we knew it would eventually be. The boxing gloves are off and we are in the midst of complex and often bitter discussions about costs, and more fundamentally, how we will pay for healthcare (or health insurance) reform. And while this debate is a very healthy part of the legislative process, there will be a significant price to pay for all of the mudslinging, name calling and aggressive advertising attacks when all is said and done. When the dust has settled and we have agreed on the compromises needed to reform the system it will be time to begin restoring reputations and trust in our healthcare system—and the companies that make up this system.

As communications professionals, many of us will play a crucial role in restoring trust and confidence in those healthcare companies who will be involved in fulfilling the promise of reform. Rebuilding trust is no easy task, especially for an industry that has been engaged in such a public transformation. Restoring trust will require transparency, integrity, and an open dialogue.

The current practice of national listening tours and town hall meetings are great at the moment for allowing everyone to have a voice in the shaping of this legislation but this national dialogue will be even more important when we move toward the process of healing and transforming the system. The role of communications is central to that effort and will mark a new era in the evolution of our industry. Trust or the lack thereof has plagued the healthcare industry for some time and if our past track record is any indication of future success, then we have a lot of work to do—quickly.

Chris Foster, chairman, US healthcare, Burson-Marsteller

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