Good companies spend a fortune on their brand—building it, telling their story in the marketplace, training their staff to embody it, etc. But it doesn’t take much to bring a goliath brand to its knees. In fact, all brands are fragile to a degree, and in the world of social media in which we live today, stories that contradict or undermine the brand story can quickly erode the foundation of a good brand.
A case in point: A good friend of mine went into a faith-based hospital this past week in another market for emergency surgery on his hip—it seems that he developed an infection in the joint a year following hip replacement surgery. It was a major deal—they had to remove the original implant and replace it with a temporary one that emits an antibacterial agent. And he’s going to have to receive antibiotic infusions twice a day for three months, then go in and remove this implant and get a permanent one.
The surgery went well by all accounts. And he was recovering as expected. The second night in the hospital after his wife had gone home to sleep (there was no pull out bed for her to stay with him, just a reclining chair) he developed hiccups. The kind that don’t respond to all the known tricks for stopping them. So someone—presumably the physician, but that part of the story is still not known—ordered Thorazine. Some of you may recognize that drug—it’s an anti-psychotic. Just so happens that one of its off-label applications is to stop hiccups. Makes you wonder doesn’t it. Who had that bright idea and who was the first person to try it? Well, it worked and he went to sleep.
The only problem was that when his wife showed up the next morning he was a blithering mess—unable to communicate, slurring his speech, drooling. Not a pretty picture. The first response of the medical staff was to suspect a stroke and a cat scan was ordered. He also had developed a fever—a possible warning sign of an infection that set off a whole barrage of other tests. After a little probing his wife discovered that he had received 200mg of the drug, probably 4 to 5 times the dosage he should have received. By the way, one of the side effects of Thorazine is a fever, but the medical staff didn’t seem to know enough to Google the drug where that kind of information is available to all us lay people.
Suddenly this institution that is filled with soothing, healing images of Jesus at every turn in the lobby and when you exit the elevators became a place beset with demons in her mind. It was not safe and anything but healing. The experience went downhill from there. When he was finally discharged someone forgot to contact the home health company that was supposed to come the next morning to start his antibiotic infusions. It took half a day for her to navigate that mistake and get his the care he needed.
Two errors have now added up to a new narrative that she is telling everyone she knows. And the narrative that the organization propagates at great expense in the marketplace—well, it seems hollow by comparison. While hospitals spend millions telling their story, it’s a shame that they don’t spend a comparable amount of money to make their institutions a safer place. No wonder we’re having a healthcare crisis and the cost of care is skyrocketing.