Transparency and information sharing is key in developing crisis communication plans, whether it is for a PHI breach or a natural disaster, such as a flood two years ago that affected Geisinger, which caused the evacuation of a facility and forced hospice patients to be transferred.
"Between our hospitals and our other sites, we have probably over 80 locations," says Jolley. "So we'd be getting information out about our emergency room being available, and the state would be closing roads in certain areas, so we had to update our messages continually about which sites were open," says Jolley.
Geisinger's experience with a natural disaster also shows that crisis plans need to be firm, but flexible enough to respond to a changing situation.
Establishing a reputation for being upfront and transparent is also helpful when organizations have to rely on local and national media to keep patients and the public informed. Individual relationships with reporters in your local market are key to making sure that your organization's message is being portrayed clearly and accurately.
Building a relationship with the media is easier than you may think. A simple introductory phone call to the editor of a media outlet that has access to the same audience you need to inform will help when the news you have to disseminate isn't so good. Jolley says keeping the media up to date on what your organization is doing year-round establishes an ongoing relationship, which is key when you need to get in front of a story.