Six observations from Hochman’s statement on Delashaw

The Seattle Times recently released an internal email sent on behalf of Rod Hochman to Swedish employees.  You can read it in full here.

In short, this was an uncommonly good level of communication from an organization that has sometimes missed opportunities to manage its system-level brand.  As a consequence, it was striking on many levels, almost all of them very positive.

Here are six observation that stand out.

  1. The tone of this is very good.  This letter was, I’m sure, reviewed by lawyers, corporate communications execs, and consultants.  There were a lot of folks, I’d bet, that had a chance to review this before it went out.  Nine times out of ten – in fact 99 times out of 100 – those reviews result in a more watered down communication, something often with much less punch than this note.  That Hochman’s statement comes across as so sincere and authentic is likely the result of his personal authorship and commitment to the specific message he wanted to send.  In other words, this would not likely have come across as so authentic had Hochman not been personally committed to this message.
  2. Hochman makes clear he didn’t hire Johnny Delshaw, nor did Delashaw report to him. Creating this distance between Delashaw, a primary subject of the Times’ reporting, probably makes sense.  It also comes across a bit as self-serving, perhaps the weakest element of a strong statement.
  3. Paying respect to Talia, to Talia’s mother, and to the care episode that resulted in Talia’s death was very meaningful, and authentic.  In today’s litigious age, it can be risky to apologize to patients or their families. Hochman’s statement here comes as close as it probably can to saying ‘I see you,’ an honor in itself.
  4. Hochman’s comment about his daughter’s medical experience is humanizing and personalizing. It connects him to the care experience in a way that speaking bureaucratically or at a system-level cannot.  It wasn’t necessary, but it adds tremendous strength and authenticity to his overall statement.
  5. It’s noteworthy that Hochman feels the need to defend the logic of the Swedish-Providence merger. If that merger needs defending to internal stakeholders, particularly physicians, that’s a significant red flag for the organization. I would have to think that dissolution of the affiliation would be an extraordinarily unlikely event. But in a statement that was otherwise focused on the events surrounding Delashaw, the defense of the affiliation was notable.
  6. This represents a significant departure in how Providence Health & Services – meaning the system – has communicated with the public in recent years.  Some of Providence’s various regions, like the Eastern Washington region, have been very engaged with the community conversation.  If the system (PH&S) can continue with the authenticity of Hochman’s communication in a meaningful conversation about how to improve the health care system, I think that will be leadership that its communities will willingly follow. In light of the Congressional debate on reform, state-level leadership by respected, important players like Providence is more important than ever.