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Take a look at the mission and vision statements of healthcare systems. One once stood out among them, and I spent a few years as an internal communicator buoyed by the power of it. I’ll roll it back out in a moment.

First, the landscape. Mission and vision statements are meant to motivate both internal and external audiences. You’ll find that the new touch point for healthcare is “community” as in “healthier.”  Of the large hospital-based systems, CHI, Trinity Health, Kaiser Permanente and others have the words “healthier communities” or similar in the mission or vision statements. No surprise. The assumption is that this resonates with everybody – employees, other stakeholders, and customers.

Pragmatically, the “community” aspect in many cases goes beyond making everyone feel good about their neighbors being taken care of – it’s aimed at building internal awareness of performance-based contracts that have incentives to keep given populations healthy (ACOs). Hospital caregivers and staff are focused day-to-day on one patient at a time, however, and the patient is mostly concerned with getting a good outcome for themselves or a family member.

The other words you’ll find often (Dignity Health, Sutter Health, Kaiser Permanente, others) are “high-quality” and “affordable.” This is a reminder to internal audiences and a supposed selling point to potential patients. But saying that our services should be “high quality” is kind of like a restaurant chain claiming that their mission is to “serve food that tastes good.” It’s a given. In the customer’s mind, if the hospital or doctor’s care isn’t high quality it might kill them – the patient is not necessarily equating “quality” to a good patient experience ensured throughout every encounter.

So, the mission and vision statements tend to blend together. Which brings me back to an organization I proudly served for six years, Providence Health & Services, now Providence St. Joseph Health. Their vision statement used to contain words that were unique because they were in the voice of the patient: “know me, care for me, ease my way.” It is what the patient seeks, and it elicits factors ranging from time-saving digital health records, to the healing touch, to a hassle-free and proactive experience all the way.

At industry conferences a few years ago, I witnessed smaller health systems who mimicked this approach in their mission or vision statements – they knew it was powerful and they envied Providence.

Now, these very personal words that we were asked to heed, “know me, care for me, ease my way,” are no longer the vision – they have been moved over to the Providence “Promise,” an added category. My concern is that once anyone absorbs the mission, vision and core values, there isn’t much mindshare left for a Promise.

My opinion: the personal statement will always be more memorable than one that is over-arching. The current Providence vision statement is “Health for a Better World.” Pretty generic and safe. It’s only five words – but I’d challenge communicators there to test it and see if anyone remembers it.

Addendum: A conversation earlier this week with leadership of the Providence Foundations confirmed that “know me, care for me, ease my way,” the Providence promise, is still considered the most potent branding of the organization for external stakeholders. 

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