Congress has pumped billions of dollars into the U.S. economy and our nation’s hospitals in response to COVID-19. As the dollars continue to flow, scrutiny from media, lawmakers, watchdog groups and others is beginning to follow.
News outlets, which reported widely on the financial impacts of COVID-19, are now beginning to examine how Provider Relief Fund dollars are being allocated and used. As policymakers weigh future health care funding requests, they will want to know how funds were used and how they benefitted patient care and frontline workers. Labor unions will want to know how the infusion of cash affects furloughed workers or demands for hazard pay and paid sick leave.
The questions will come. Is your organization ready to “have the talk” and demonstrate sound stewardship of taxpayer funds? Consider these strategies to help prepare and lead this important conversation with your stakeholders.
- Know your numbers. Work with your finance and treasury teams to determine what funds or benefits your organization has received, including grants, loans, advanced Medicare payments, deferred tax payments and more. Make sure you understand – and can succinctly share in plain language – the various funding streams and the terms and conditions your organization agreed to in accepting specific payments. Work with your government relations or regulatory affairs teams to track compliance disclosures and new developments as the programs continue to evolve.
- Avoid surprises. Be aware the CARES Act requires public disclosure of provider grant payments and other financial information. The terms and conditions for accepting payments require hospitals and providers to agree that information can be made public – and in some cases, advocacy and transparency groups have already put the information on the internet (without your context or input). Find out what information your organization has reported and when/where it might be accessible to the public.
- Build a narrative. As you prepare for possible conversations on stimulus funds with news media, labor unions, policymakers or the business community, think about how to tell the larger story on your overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you report the numbers without any context, stakeholders will likely not have a full understanding of the investments and sacrifices your organization made in responding to the public health crisis. Develop messaging, reports, infographics and other tools to help you tell the story. Work to build a compelling narrative that highlights the strengths of your response, the steps you have taken to keep your patients and employees safe and the challenges you will continue to face in the months to come.
- Close the loop. Also be mindful of information you’ve shared to this point over the course of the crisis. If you previously reported on staffing changes and furloughs, make sure you update your stakeholders on the percentage of team members that have returned to work. If you previously reported on shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), update stakeholders on your efforts to secure alternate sources of PPE or invest in other innovations. Continually refine your messaging to reflect your progress and your commitment to your mission over time.
- Take the long view. When discussing both the clinical response and the financial impact of COVID-19, maintain a long-term perspective in your messaging. Emphasize that the virus will be in our communities for a long time and remind stakeholders of the steps the organization has taken to prepare for surge and other scenarios. Stress the importance of remaining vigilant. Highlight the ongoing demands for cash and your efforts to mitigate risks and stabilize your operations. When your stakeholders understand the pandemic will persist well into next year, they can better appreciate the need for stimulus funds and their own role in reducing the spread of the deadly virus.
We’re helping hospitals across the country tell these stories and build good will in their communicates. Contact us to learn how we can help you lead the conversation with your stakeholders.