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It's Time to Re-envision your Vision Statement

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, February 4, 2009

How do you grow—or at least protect—market share when money for new buildings, more docs, the latest equipment, and aggressive marketing campaigns is scarce?

To get through the current economic climate and, even more importantly, be positioned for success when the recovery comes, St. Vincent Carmel (IN) Hospital is going back to basics, examining the very core of who they are and what they can offer to their patients, community, referring physicians, employees and potential employees, and other stakeholders.

I was invited to visit St. Vincent Carmel and, during my visit, sat in on a vision statement and market strategy brainstorming session with the hospital's executive team. It was an eye-opener to watch as this group—representing a wide swath of departments and interests, including finance, operations, HR, nurses, physicians, and, yes, marketing and communications—scrutinized the hospital's strengths and weaknesses to determine what it is about their organization that differentiates them from their (many) competitors.

What are we doing right?
St. Vincent respects its employees, for starters (they're called "associates"). And they recognize that their internal audience is just as important to success as their external audience.

They put their resources into successful service lines, including Bariatric surgery and orthopedics.

They work hard to keep patients satisfied, responding to complaints and concerns quickly, using service recovery techniques, and offering luxuries (which are arguably the new necessity) such as private rooms that they describe not as "hotel-like" but as "home-like."

Volunteers in pink blazers greet everyone who enters the atrium lobby, where a player piano fills the air with soothing tunes, making visitors' first impression a true experience.

And they are in tune with physicians, examining their referral patterns and working to turn "splitters" into "loyals."

What could we do better?
Right off the bat, though, they agreed that one thing had to change: The old vision statement was outdated, unclear, and so wordy that it was rendered almost meaningless. It didn't really capture all the great things they do, their culture, how well they treat their patients in body and spirit, or the talent of their associates.

They questioned everything. What do our customers want and need that other healthcare organizations do not or cannot deliver? What is special and unique about our organization that differentiates us from our competitors? How can we communicate those differences in a crowded market? Are we focusing on the right service lines? How do we position our organization as the first-choice provider and employer? What is our brand image now and what more could it be? Why do physicians refer to us and how can we increase those referrals?

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