The beauty of bad publicity
When I saw the New York Times article illuminating the clever ways devious operators could inflate their Medicare star ratings, I had mixed emotions ranging from fury to rage.
Now that I've calmed down a little and slipped into my “big-boy pants,” as a McKnight's editorial prescribed, I'm thinking more clearly, and my color-coded anger scale has dimmed from Alizarin crimson to a more manageable Tuscan red.
In times like these, it's important to remember that there is no such thing as bad publicity. That's a foundational precept of remedial Marketing 101, and could serve as at least a small degree of comfort for the unfortunate California sub-acute rehab facility singled out in the article.
They haven't asked me for support and guidance, but when they do, I know what I'll talk about — alchemy, turning base metal into gold, disaster into enlightenment and opportunity. For example, hordes of ambulance-chasing journalists will now be calling the facility for a reaction, and many of them will need long-term care services eventually. Perhaps when that time arrives, the negative associations will have faded while the name recognition subconsciously remains. So eventually this could turn into an admissions blessing in disguise!
For other providers, the beauty of this moment is that it offers a talking point to buoy the spirits of every crisis management meeting. No matter what horrible thing happens to take a bit of the shine off your finely crafted public image, you can always say, “Well, at least we weren't demonized on the front page of the New York Times.”
For the rest of the profession, it's important to keep things in perspective. Sure, it's annoying and unfair to be painted this way on the national stage. Even if the basic premise of the article was valid, the headline was unnecessarily incendiary, implying the whole profession was out to “game the system.” But let's have our little moment of righteous indignation, take a deep breath and remember that nothing has really changed.
As a result of the rating system and a myriad of other initiatives, care has improved. Quality is higher. From my experience, people do view long-term care operators more positively than they used to, some surveys notwithstanding. So let's keep our heads down and our chins up. And as someone with many chins, I don't say that lightly.
The bottom line for most operators is, you do what you do, you do it well and you always try to do it better. So in the Citizen Kane story of the long-term care profession, our dying word doesn't need to be “Rosewood.”
Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in Humor Writing in the 2014 Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former SNALF.com at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.