Archive for the ‘Public Relations’ category

The Integrative Journey

March 28th, 2022

 

After having returned from the Ornish Coronary Artery Disease Reversal program in Sausalito, California, my life, my mental health, and my view of healthcare had been changed forever. Having previously been selected as the CEO of a traditional hospital that, like all hospitals, was all about sickness, I now realized I had new tools in my toolbox, new arrows in my quiver, and new eggs in my basket. . . you get the idea.

That workshop had taught me that there is no one right way to go through life, to achieve a better quality of life, to deal with health issues, and to survive this journey. I came home armed and informed that sickness could be stopped or reversed, and this concept did not just apply to heart disease. There was significant evidence that Type 2 diabetes, some autoimmune diseases, erectile dysfunction, some prostate cancers and other diseases could be positively impacted by diet, exercise, stress management and group support.

As Americans in one of only two developed countries that permits advertising of pharmaceutical products on our air waves, we had been carefully trained, pruned, mentally shaped and, if you will, brainwashed to believe in the “heal to the pill” method of care. We get sick, go to the doctor or hospital, are prescribed pills, and move on. Or we get a shot, or get the offending body part cut out, and life goes on, or not. Those were the options previously permitted on the proverbial healthcare menu.

It was only a few years later when the chief scientific officer of a major drug company explained his world to me like this, “You don’t understand the pharmaceutical industry. We’re like the movie business. We only want the blockbusters. We want to give you a pill that you’ll have to take from the time you’re five until you die at 75 or 80 that will never make you better. It will just help control the symptoms.”

In 1987, I was working toward another Masters Degree at Carnegie Mellon University, and our epidemiology professor challenged us to find something that would significantly alter the health, lives, or future of at risk people in our hospital’s catchment area. I decided to have our physicians give pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccines to our at-risk senior population.

When I told my CEO of that plan, he suggested I present it to the primary care physicians at their monthly meeting. I boldly stood in front of a room full of internal medicine and family practice physicians and made my pitch. You would have thought I asked them to bring in their first born child to be assassinated. I was very nearly strung up. I heard cries like, “How are we supposed to pay or bills? How can we pay off our loans? What am I supposed to do, pull my kids out of college? Treating those patients is how we make our livings.”

Ironically, in 2017, I found myself in front of the leadership of a major health system with 125 cardiologists, and I informed them we were going to enter into the coronary artery disease reversal program. The spokesperson for the group put up his hand and said, “Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, do we really want these people to get better?”

Bottom line, we have created a medical industrial complex that is dependent upon sickness, and what I had learned in California was, “Yes, we’re all going to eventually die, but why not give your body a chance and live as healthy as you can for as long as you can?”

Interestingly, the Ornish program was not yet being offered in many places in the country, and when I asked if we could bring it to Western Pennsylvania, there was a long pause on the other end of the line, and Dr. Ornish asked,”What do you want?” He explained that he was working on a licensing project with our local Blue Cross, and I was not going to be able to bring it into my hospital, but that didn’t stop me.

We worked out a deal with some local churches to bring elements of the program that were available to the public just to test the water. Within weeks, we had heart disease participants in their 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s doing stretching exercises, meditation in whatever form they selected, nonjudgmental group support, and vegetarian covered dishes to church halls and basements.

The amazing thing about this program was that people who were suffering from angina pectoris (chest discomfort) found relief in sometimes less than a few weeks. They were no longer living in fear of dropping dead, and more importantly, they were taking control of their life without having to be afraid of the outcome. It was giving their bodies a chance to do what those bodies are so great a doing, healing.

Of course no good deed goes unpunished, and those non-believers, or those individuals who were potentially most negatively impacted by a health and wellness program began to identify me as a zealot, a fanatic, a vegetarian warrior. I was openly mocked at board and physician meetings when I ate my specially prepared vegetarian meals, and when I started holding meetings on the indoor track we had created with our new wellness center, those who would not benefit from my new found center for wellbeing went on a mission to discredit these ideas.

At one point the powerful head of a local Baptist Church began to take steps to have various conservative sects actually picket our hospital for teaching yoga and trying to take away the souls of our participants. (Their interpretation of yoga.) One of our powerful physicians sent emails on a regular basis to our staff with the intention of discrediting me and my programs for wellness and prevention. It was not unlike Salem, Massachusetts for a few years. Then something incredibly powerful occurred.

I was, for only the second time in my 30+ year career in hospital administration, invited to have dinner at a physician’s home. At that dinner, I was seated beside our local congressman, John P. (Jack) Murtha. The host’s wife did not know what to prepare for my meal so she gave me a large white plate with two egg whites on it. When the Congressman saw it, he asked, “What the heck is wrong with you?” I carefully explained my experiences in California with heart disease reversal, meeting patients who had successfully stopped and or reversed their disease, and how well they were living. He leaned back and said, “We’re spending a billion dollars a year on heart disease in the military. Maybe if you got to Bethesda or Walter Reed and find someone who would work with you, I might be able to help>”

We knew that his 25 plus years in Congress had given him some seniority, but what I didn’t realize was that he was in charge of the subcommittee on appropriations for the department of defense. His committee was responsible for well over $300B dollars of government spending. Well, my board chair was a former Navy airman and he flew me to Bethesda where we met with and were politely turned down by the Navy. A few months later when I was in D.C. for a meeting, I got in a cab and, without any knowledge of military life, command, or structure, I showed up at the front door of Walter Reed Army Military Hospital which became Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda several years later.

When I walked inside, I saw hundreds of soldiers, family members, and medical personnel, but I didn’t have an appointment. Consequently, I walked up to the first white coat I saw, explained who I was, where I was from, and who had suggested I come there. Serendipitously, he was the only physician who had ever received a federal earmark and it was about $75M from Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska to create a center for the study of prostate cancer. He looked at me, smiled, and said, “Follow me.”

After meeting with a Walter Reed cardiologist, I went home, wrote a white paper, and several months later we established two Ornish Centers, one at Walter Reed and one at Windber with a grant that was made possible through Congressman Murtha. The reason you need to understand this back story is that without these grants, there would have been no way a hospital our size could have supported a program featuring integrative medicine.

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Communicating in 2010

January 11th, 2010

This blog post is dedicated to “getting the word out” about your Healing Hospitals. So, let’s start at the beginning.  Actually, let’s start at my beginning.

In 1969, business communication consisted largely of yellow legal tablets, Bic pens, daily reminder calendars, newsletters that were pasted-up by hand, then run off on the mimeograph or ditto machine, and an occasional public meeting for the employees.

I remember one hospital whose philosophy was “We’re the biggest and the best, and if you don’t come here, you’re stupid and will probably die.”  Their CEO was totally against press releases, advertising, or public outreach of any kind. He would say, “If they don’t know us well enough from our work, we need to do better work.”

News coverage was pretty simple at that time, too.  You sent your news release to the local paper(s), local radio, and, if available, local television stations.  Grand slam home runs in communications in that era would consist of a story that hit the wires or made either the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. Not unlike scenes from Ozzie and Harriet or Leave it to Beaver, things were formal and “normal.”

The interesting thing about today’s world, is that just the description of  “how to communicate” from a business perspective would take thousands of words.  Without beating all of those digital horses to death, we now have hundreds of television cable choices, Satellite radio, dozens of specialty publications, 24 hour/real-time web-based everything, and so much spin that even the late S.I. Hiyakawa would be flabbergasted.

So, the question becomes, “What’s the ticket?”  “How do we get the word out about our work, our facility, our philosophy?”  To that end, it is important to understand that the entire vision of healing hospitals is a wholesome, caring, loving, nurturing philosophy that is profoundly newsworthy. How do you capture the hearts and minds of current patients, their families, their neighbors, and their neighbor’s neighbors?   Interestingly enough, the first approach and my initial recommendation is education for your employees.

Many employees have not yet made the connection between this type of unique care and publicity.  Obviously, not unlike the old CEO quoted above, it is the power of “word of mouth” that can carry the day locally, but –not unlike my last CEO experience, if there is not enough population to produce growth, then you need to reach beyond the local geographic boarders. By doing so, we tripled in size over a decade of population decline.

There is an old saying that “anyone who is 50 miles from home can become an expert.” For the most part, most people are not aware of your quality care, your commitment to humankind, your nurturing attitude even 30 miles away.  Consequently, media is the key.  What I have found is that national media can bring a halo of credibility to an organization that years of local media could never bring.  Unfortunately, unless you have done something wrong or a meteor drops onto your grounds, national media is not that easy to attract.

We were fortunate in that we had the Wall Street Journal, USA Today (four times), the New York Times, the Today Show, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Oncology International, Forbes, Fortune, and several stories in Reuters releases and at least three placed with the Associated Press that were picked up internationally.  How did we do it you might ask?  We often times did it by linking local stories to national topics. It takes creativity, persistence, and a strong desire.

You need to do news releases to just about everyone. Pick topics that are timely, informative, and have a unique angle, and then work at it constantly.  The other way that we promoted our organizations was through social media and Web 2.0.   My original blog, Nick’s Blog at the time – started in 2005, now HealingHospitals.com (i.e., this blog), was the first hospital CEO blog in the world, and that brought a tremendous amount of new traffic to our organization.  We also became active on You Tube, Twitter, and Facebook long before many others in (and outside) the healthcare community accepted these phenomena.

Bottom line?  It can be done cost-effectively with great success, and we’re here to help.

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NickJacobs.org???

April 2nd, 2009

Let me open this blog with a little housekeeping chore. Because I’ve retired from being a hospital president (Yes, they replaced me with two great people, count ‘em, two.) , I’d like to change the name of this thing. It’s not that I’ve established a P-Diddy-type Twitter following where 100,000 human beings are waiting with baited breath to see what my next move will be, it just doesn’t seem right to keep calling myself a hospital president. We know who reads this thing, and we are grateful to our loyal, talented, and brilliant followers. We also know that we can link the old blog names to get you here. So, regardless of what you typed, or what gets Googled, our genius social media maven & webmaster, Michael Russell, can help to bring you home to this site.

Okay, so as a transformational advisor, a broker of sorts, most people with whom we have consulted have described me as a person who can fix things that are broken before they actually break. Maybe we should call it the “Break it if it’s not already fixed” blog. I’d love it if it was a name that would generate millions of hits and companies would fight to advertise on it.

My first thought was to use nickjacobs in the title because there is a Nick Jacobs on Facebook who teaches Aboriginal people in Australia, and he seems popular. There is another Nick Jacobs who is a professional organist, and one who is an athlete. There’s a Nick Jacobs who is a consultant and another a paramedic in London, one who had a blog who is a yachtsman, there’s my son, the commercial real estate broker, and finally, there’s a Nick Jacobs who does pornographic movies who is not my son. Actually, that Nick Jacobs’ followers would probably be the most disappointed by this blog.

Since the .com version of nick jacobs was already taken by some guy in England, we captured nickjacobs.org, and that will work for right now.

If you have any ideas, however, that you think would really rock the blogspere, let us know and we’ll check with our domain registrar to see if it is available. In fact, if you are the winner of a Name Nick’s Blog Contest, I’d be happy to consult for free BY PHONE for at least one hour of brainstorming with you about the topic of your choice: music, healthcare, proteomics, teaching, PR/Marketing, the travel business, or even physician recruitment.

Remember, Hospital Impact is already taken, and, because my last three consulting jobs have been with a newspaper, a nonprofit arts oragnization, and a chain of hotels, we don’t want to think too restrictively. Gotta earn a little money, too.

When we ran the breast center, we found that the website got more hits than anyone could imagine. The problem was that the readers were mostly thirteen-year-old boys who probably weren’t too interested in running a hospital. After Miss America had visited us, the hits went up exponentially when those two searches were combined. Somehow, I don’t think that Nick Jacobs’ Breast Center for Miss America would probably get me the type of following I’m currently hoping to attract. On the other hand?

A very good friend recently asked me to write a brief bio about what my new life is like, and it struck me that it is very much like my old life but without any restrictions. This is what I wrote:

While teaching junior high school instrumental music in the early 1970’s, Nick Jacobs made an extraordinary discovery. He learned that, by empowering his students and surrounding them with positive influences, he no longer was providing a service or even an experience for them.

What this entirely unique teaching style resulted in was a method for helping to transform students. By providing with both passion and commitment the tools needed by them to undertake their journey, his involvement with the students became a means of dramatically helping them to make whatever positive life changes they were seeking.

It was during that early period in his career that he also discovered that this formula could work to positively change lives in almost any aspect of living as he ran an arts organization, a convention bureau, and finally a hospital and research institute.

Since that time he has dedicated his personal work to helping others make their lives better, and that is exactly what he is doing in his position as an international executive consultant with SunStone Consulting, LLC.

Maybe that will give you something to chew on? Okay, something on which to chew.

SunStone Consulting. With more than 20 years experience in executive hospital leadership, Nick has an acknowledged reputation for innovation and patient-centered care approaches to health and healing.

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