Just my two cents

Musings on social media and the world as I see it


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More changes in Facebook and “Heartbleed” – what you should know

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Things always change in the world of social media and sometimes it’s hard to keep up. Recently, two things cropped up that deserve more attention than others.

You can read more of this post on Hospital Impact:


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Reignite your passion for your job

city of providenceI love what I do. Now. For many years my job was just that — a job I did for the paycheck. Sure I had a great work ethic, and did as good a job as I possibly could, always. While I did pride myself on being good at what I did,  I really didn’t get a sense of satisfaction or fulfillment from it, nor did I particularly enjoy what I did even though I did it for decades.

Then I discovered the magic of social media. For four years now, I have spent my days, nights and some hours of every weekend focused on learning about, reading up on, interacting with, posting to, and blogging about social networks for marketing. And I’ve said more times than I can count that for the first time in my career I love what I do.

Why I LOVE social media

There’s something about social media that just makes me think that this is what I was meant to do. Unfortunately it wasn’t around when my career all started xx number of years ago (too many to say!). But I am living proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Maybe it’s that there’s something new every day to learn and discover. Maybe it’s that you can meet countless smart, talented, incredibly helpful people all over the world at any given time. Or maybe it’s just I feel like I can connect one-on-one with people, and be helpful rather than represent the people who are caring for people, as I did for almost all of my career.

The ho-hums

While I know this, and appreciate this every day, sometimes it can get monotonous. Oh yes, it’s Memorial Day weekend… time to share some healthy barbecue recipes or some safe grilling tips. Or during a winter storm, time to send out some info on avoiding shoveling and snowblower injuries. Every day may bring something different, but your overall strategy really doesn’t change and your editorial calendar is usually pretty definite. That is when you might feel a bit of ennui setting in… that touch of ho-hum, that “here we go again” feeling. That boredom you can easily forget how much you love your social media job.

Reigniting the passion

And when  you get to that point, that is when you need a good kick in the butt to remind you of what it is you love about your job. That’s exactly what I got last week. It was as simple as participating in a panel discussion for a group of folks, most of whom are not using social media to market their business. I found myself sitting in this amazing board room with one of the best views of the city of Providence to share some collective expertise with a great group of people from the Environmental Business Council of New England (@EBCNE on Twitter) and some panelists who were there to preach what they practice.

And that’s when the magic kicked in and the passion was reignited. My passion. My excitement for social media and its many uses and how strong a tool it can be when it’s used correctly. And hearing what other people are doing and how they’re using it. Then hearing people ask questions like “how do you find people to follow on Twitter?” The realization that not everyone is up to speed in this new world of marketing. That makes you understand that some people still don’t believe that social media is for them. And all of those things remind you of how amazing this technology is and how exciting it is to be a part of it.

Then you hear yourself talking about all the ways it can be used. And you hear the excitement in your voice and you realize how fast you’re talking and you see people nodding their heads and just GETTING it. THAT’S when your passion resurfaces and gets reignited and you remember all the things you love about this crazy, constantly changing but always social world of social media. And while public speaking is never something I like to do, when it’s able to serve as such an important reminder for me, it’s SO worth it.

So how do you reignite YOUR passion when your days become humdrum?


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What’s really important in life

hugs

Thanks to Sterben Edelweiss for this great pic. http://sterbenedelweiss.deviantart.com/art/Hugs-319958604

It’s really easy to get stuck in our daily routines. For many of us, that routine is filled from morning to night with texts, phone calls, emails, and social network posts from laptops and desktops and smartphones and tablets. Usually, it all seems like what we’re doing is the most important thing in the world.

And then, you get a phone call that stops you in your tracks and makes you realize that the things that seemed so important really aren’t in the whole grand scheme of things.

Yesterday morning I got a blast from the past. It was from a dear friend from college, Deanna, who tweeted a picture of me with her mom. In fact, she was my maid of honor in my first wedding. We were very close for years, but then life happens and people change and move on. She moved to California and I stayed here and then, well, life just continued.

We sporadically kept in touch through the years (more years than I’d like to count!), first by letters and then through email, back in the days before social networks. Yes, I am that old. Of course more recently, we’ve shared more through the magic and ease of Facebook and Twitter. She’s been back from California for about 10 years, and although we had tried to make plans to get together, it just didn’t happen for one reason or another.

When I saw that picture yesterday, I was flooded with many happy memories, some that I had totally forgotten about. I spent a lot of time with Deanna and her family, and those were some of the happiest times of my life. But sometimes the past becomes the past and we don’t think about it. Maybe because we get wrapped up in everything that life brings as we get older.

Deanna’s mom, Mary Ann, was an absolutely wonderful and wise woman. She was quick with a smile and a laugh and truly enjoyed her children and their friends. She always had wonderful, calm advice to give if you needed it or asked for it. She also lost her husband way too early to an incurable brain tumor, and she did it with poise and grace that still amazes me to this day.

Having been in touch with Deanna, I knew Mary Ann had been very ill, and I knew it was just a matter of time. And so a few hours after I got the picture, I sent a message to Deanna through Facebook for an update. And less than a half hour later, my phone rang. It was Deanna, choking back tears, telling me her mom had passed about 20 minutes before, surrounded by her family. She was no longer suffering and was finally at peace and reunited with her husband and love of her life, Neil.

We did not talk long, just long enough for her to know I cared and I sent my heartfelt condolences and tried to comfort her during such a difficult time. And even though we have not seen each other for years, she said there would be a small memorial service for “Meeps” and she’d love it if I could come. And our conversation ended with an “I love you” on both ends.

And it’s when you get a phone call like that, when you hear another person’s pain, and when you feel the kind of empathy I did, that everything just falls into place. You see things with greater clarity. You understand that the important things in life are not the deadlines or the content or the branding or how many hours we spend working.

What really matters are our connections to each other, our shared experiences and emotions and our constantly changing relationships. It’s about being a good friend, a supportive daughter, a loving and caring spouse or partner. And it’s about being there for others when they need you, especially during the difficult times.

And so now I will reunite with a friend, and it’s such a shame that it took something so sad to bring us together again, in person. Because really, there is nothing like a warm embrace to show someone you love and care for them – and that’s not something any social network can ever provide.

So take the time to be with the people you care about. Pick up a phone and make plans to see them. Hug them, kiss them, share your feelings with them. That’s what life is really all about.


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Change of seasons… time to catch up

I admit it. I was a slacker over the summer. I chose to enjoy my favorite season of the year by spending lots of time outside, reading books, walking the dogs, and generally enjoying life. And (I hear a collective gasp here) I unplugged for 2 weeks. I had a great summer!

So what happened during that lovely summer? I fell way behind in my blog reading, I lost touch with Twitter friends, and I posted nothing on my blog. Yet this 365-day a year, 24/7 world of ours doesn’t stop for someone taking some time off from long days. So, how do you catch up? Here are three tips I’m using.

Start tweeting with Twitter friends again. The same rules apply — be personal, be kind, and admit you were a slacker! Your true tweeps will forgive you.

Catch up on your reading. Go to your Google Reader, or reader of choice, and filter out some of the ones that everyone else has already tweeted. Like those 1000+ posts from Mashable. By now it’s old news. Go to some of your favorites and read the posts with headlines that catch your eye.

Make a plan. Recommit to a schedule so you don’t “fall” behind again now that the season has changed. Set aside time to read your blogs, post to your own blog, catch up on Twitter, and schedule set times for your social media activity. It really is like riding a bike.

Did you stray from your schedule over the summer? How did you catch up?


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Should we really post it just because we can?

I recently read a post by Ryan Hanley (@RyanHanley_Com) about the use of the word guru and how everyone is now able to get on the web, call themselves a guru and repeat everything the real “gurus” have been saying for years and call it their own. It got me to thinking that with all the blog posts, Facebook status updates and tweets posted in a day, it’s very difficult to weed through and find the real gems. And there are no web police to monitor for plagiarism (or is there and that’s something I’ve been missing?).

I subscribe to a variety of blogs, mostly about social media, because I still consider myself in a learning phase. Frankly, with the exception of a few people who are clearly thought leaders and true experts in this field (some folks come to mind like Brian Solis, Danny Brown, Jay Baer, Gini Dietrich and others), I think we’re ALL still in the midst of the proverbial learning curve when it comes to social media. There’s something new, something different, something changing. Every. Single. Day. But I digress. My point is that there ARE true thought leaders out there, but it’s hard to hear what they’re saying because of all the other chatter from the self-titled “gurus.”

As I was going through my RSS feeds tonight, I did what I normally do — I scroll through and read things that have headlines that are appealing, catchy, new or different. (Another reminder that headlines are KEY!) Then I saw this: “Women on Social Media Ideal Targets for Ads, Experts Say.” REALLY? Did we honestly need experts to tell us that women are targets for ads? Who are these “experts” who have decided that this is news? Because to me, it’s just clutter in an overwhelming RSS feed list that was sorely neglected during a long weekend.

What this headline did was prove to me that people are so pressured to get information out there and post content, they’re not thinking about what’s real, what’s important, and, to put on my PR hat here, what is really “news.”

So just because we have the ability to post something because of the great big online world we are now afforded, it doesn’t mean it really should be posted. (Kind of like this rant right now, but I sure feel better posting it!) What do you think — are too many people sharing too much “stuff” just because they can? Would love to hear from you!


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Physicians are not your (Facebook) friends

Doctors on Facebook -- is it a good idea? (photo by j.reed)

When you’re sick, hopefully the first person you call is your physician. In that sense, he or she IS your friend. But unless you’ve got a standing relationship with your physician outside the exam room, that’s where the “friendship” should end.

But in today’s socially connected world, physicians who are on Facebook with personal accounts may find themselves receiving “friend” requests from patients. While there are policies in the works from several agencies like the American Medical Association, nothing has yet to be formalized. While there are several sources for guiding physicians, like this article from FiercePracticeManagement, many physicians are still left in a quandary. As a result, several of our physicians have asked us what they should do. We worked with our legal department to develop some guidelines for our doctors to consider if and when they receive these request

Although this goes against the social media “be social!” mantra, first and foremost, we have recommended that they not accept the friend request, based on a few simple facts. The first is obvious: physicians must maintain patient privacy and confidentiality at all times, and while that’s easy to do in a hospital or office setting, the lines can become a bit blurred when it comes to the world of Facebook. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for a patient to initiate a conversation on a Facebook wall that could cross the line, thereby eroding the boundaries of the physician-patient relationship, and possibly even threatening ethical standards because of the casual nature of communication on the social network.

We also have asked physicians to keep in mind that accepting friend requests from patients will allow those patients to see personal information and have a glimpse into the private lives of the physicians. Unless the privacy settings are tweaked carefully, patients who are now Facebook friends would be privy to the doctor’s conversations with friends, or see the photos of dinner and cocktails last weekend. It could change the professional image and reputation of a physician if a patient can see into the private and/or social life of a physician.

I recognize that this may go against the grain, but we felt it was in our physicians’ best interests to keep their personal and professional lives separate. On the other hand, if they were to establish a Facebook account for their practice, I believe that would involve a totally different set of guidelines.

I’m very interested to hear how other hospital marketers and social media managers are advising their physicians. Share your thoughts!

This post was written for an originally appeared on www.hospitalimpact.org.


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Managing a hospital crisis in the new media world

A crisis. Most hospitals have one at some point. If your organization hasn’t faced one yet, it will. Whether a local disaster fills your ED to overflowing or a sentinel event occurs and makes the headlines, your staff and your board will need to know what happened, and the media will probably be camped outside your front door. For the communications team, it’s all hands on deck.

While every situation is unique, when it comes to communication surrounding a crisis, there are general rules that apply to all. I believe that being visible, honest and timely are the most important.

In a crisis, the last thing you should do is assume it will all blow over, or that word will not get out. Definitely not true, particularly in the age of Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media. Playing possum will not make the situation go away. To use an old advertising tagline, “inquiring minds want to know.”

When something happens in a hospital, you need to quickly assess the situation, develop your course of action and key messages, identify the best spokesperson and address the situation head on.

If you’re not visible and discussing the matter publicly, you’re leaving the facts open to interpretation. So many recent scandals provide the support for this argument. Consider Tiger Woods, who still hasn’t spoken publicly, and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who disappeared for days and was less than candid about his whereabouts. This isn’t exactly the best approach when responding to a crisis.

Being honest
While there may be details that should not or cannot be made publicly known about the situation at hand, recognizing the situation, taking responsibility for the event and providing the overall facts are absolutely for any crisis response, regardless of your audience.

A crisis can damage a reputation quickly, but not recognizing the crisis or not responding can be even more damaging. An appropriate response can go a long way to maintaining or rebuilding trust.

Of course while some things are more easily forgiven than others, an “I’m sorry” can go a long way toward rebuilding trust with your community (consider the legislation now being proposed to make the “I’m sorry” clause for doctors a law). Public recognition of the situation and the apology must come from a trusted source, and determining the appropriate spokesperson can greatly impact the success of your crisis communication response.

Being timely
The concept of “timely” has changed quite a bit in recent years. Five years ago, your crisis response would be timed to a news cycle, with your internal audiences of staff and the hospital board notified in advance of the general public. But that news cycle no longer exists with the rise of social media. Information flows 24/7 and it is not from typical news sources. The emergency plan landing on New York’s Hudson River and news of Michael Jackson’s death, for example, were both reported first on Twitter.

When a crisis happens in your hospital, there are lots of people examining the situation from many angles – senior leaders, risk management, legal, medial directors, communications/media relations, etc. This will have an impact on just how timely you can be, but it is the communications professional’s responsibility to produce the right communications at the right time.

Given today’s myriad of communication tools, you should make use of all of them to get your response out there. If you provide a statement to the media, post it on your web site. If you have a recorded message from your president, post that on your web site and link to it through Twitter. If you have a Facebook account, post your video there and post your official statement on your Facebook fan page.

Remember — it’s about being visible, honest and timely. And because of the way news is now communicated, you must assume that your audience is not just local anymore. Sending a statement to your local television station or doing an interview with your hometown paper is not an adequate response. In a true crisis, you can expect e-mails and web postings from people internationally who may have never heard your brand name before, but they will now. That is the world we live in today.

So those are the basic rules. Are they always followed in every situation? Unfortunately, no, but they should be!

This post was originally written for and appeared on www.hospitalimpact.org.


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Recent headlines provide a lesson for hospitals

I’m a big proponent of taking responsibility for your actions. It is a practice I try to live by, and I expect the same from friends and colleagues, as well as companies. I think this is especially important in a crisis, and I truly believe it can make or break a company’s brand management.

Social media provides us with incredibly useful tools for doing just that. While some hospitals are still reluctant to break into this medium for a host of reasons, recent headlines are providing lessons in how these tools can help you through a crisis, and are providing some important lessons for us all.

For example, right now there’s a brand in big trouble–BP.

We all know about the oil spill in the Gulf. The news is everywhere. This week, Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP, was talking up the media circuit, appearing on national shows like “Today” and “The Early Show”. Not only did he not take responsibility for the spill, he even went so far as to say that it wasn’t his company’s fault.

Even though the company is doing the right thing by addressing the crisis, from a public relations perspective, Hayward ruined any message that might have come after that. Although BP’s social media team is attempting to do their part by tweeting stories about the company’s efforts under the sea and about the hotline it has set up, it all falls short in trying to save the brand because there’s no responsibility assumed or stated.

An apology and accepting responsibility for an error goes a long way, whether it be because of an oil spill or a medical error. By starting there, you have much more of a chance to redeem your reputation.

In a previous post, I noted that recognizing a lingering issue publicly is the right thing to do in a crisis situation; doing so through public channels like social media can go a long way toward repairing a brand. However, while BP’s faux pas is pretty clear here, there’s another situation that is not so clear cut. It’s that of blogger and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CEO Paul Levy, who has built quite a reputation around being transparent.

Initially, he seemed to be practicing anything but transparency with regards to an incident involving a personal relationship with a fellow employee. I’m a big fan of Levy’s, and could understand his reluctance to air his dirty laundry in the social media realm, but it seemed to be out-of-character for him to avoid talking about a problem, regardless of how personal it was. That, in itself, was a bit jarring.

Earlier this week, however, Levy issued two apologies: one through a statement distributed to the media, and another, a more personal apology to the readers of his blog. While Levy, no doubt, will still face much scrutiny for his actions (and especially for waiting so long to comment on them), his personal apology to blog readers already has produced a fair amount of support via comments to the post.

Personally, I’ve been part of quite a number of crisis situations in the hospital setting, as well. I understand how hard it is to publicly admit a mistake. That usually comes in the form of a well-written, carefully planned media statement. The world of social media is part of the follow-up, and in most cases, the social media component includes what is being done as a result, like a video message from the president, or correcting blatantly inaccurate comments in social channels. I think there are several reasons for this. Social media is still fairly new and represents a bit of the unknown. For most, there’s no comfort level with social media. And of course, “We’re sorry,” isn’t often part of a brand’s standard media statement language!

What we have to remember, howeer, is that through social media, word now spreads like wildfire, and you must be prepared to respond if you’re brand is threatened. Rumors abounded last month after a faulty virus update from McAfee disabled our entire system’s computers. The following tweets show not only how rumors can easily–and quickly–distort the truth, but also how they can be quickly addressed if you’re monitoring for this information.

* @GetWired retweeted this from @vmyths: McAfee rules out cyber-terror re: yesterday’s antivirus attack. Death @ RI hospital a coincidence until proven otherwise.

* We responded with: @vmyths Good morning. I can assure u that no deaths occurred as result of yesterday’s McAfee issue. Patients were safe throughout.

* He then posted the following: @RIHospital asserts “patients were safe throughout” the McAfee antivirus attack last week. Don’t get duped by urban legends!

With what we know about brand management and the power of social media, when an opportunity arises to take responsibility for a situation, I’d suggest the best practice might be to whittle down those media statements to a simple message: an apology that will fit into 140 characters. That tweet might be the one that’s heard around the world.

This post was originally writtten for and appeared on www.hospitalimpact.org.


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Social media and fundraising are a two-way street

In any given webinar or lecture on social media, you’ll hear that if used correctly, it can be an incredible tool for hospitals that want to build a conversation with our patients and the community, hearing what people want and how we can improve our services, offering health information for the general public, communicating timely information in a crisis, building loyalty for our brand and even supporting fundraising efforts.

For the past year, the hospitals of the Lifespan health system have maintained Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as a YouTube channel for the system as a whole. Along the way, we’ve found things that are successful and some things that don’t work so well.

On Twitter, we’ve learned to be less self-promotional, almost to the point of really not promoting ourselves. Instead, we are doing things that will engage more people, like asking questions to start a conversation, responding to conversations, finding people to follow who share common interests, retweeting good health information, and recommending people to follow the Twitter #FollowFriday tradition in which Twitter users on Fridays recommend people to follow for good information.

On Facebook, we are engaging our fans by being much more personal, asking questions, wishing them good weekends, and asking for personal stories. We have found that this really is working to increase engagement with our fans and followers because THAT is the social side of social media. And engagement is the true measure of success, not the number of fans or followers you might have.

As non-profit hospitals, we’ve had some fundraising events that we were promoting through these avenues. Of course it was slow going for a while, but a recent event for Hasbro Children’s Hospital taught us a lesson: not only can you gain more awareness of an event through social media, but in return you are more actively engaged with the community and you gain more fans/followers with whom you can engage. That’s a nice outcome that we didn’t see coming!

Each year, Hasbro Children’s Hospital holds a radiothon in partnership with the Children’s Miracle Network and a fantastic local radio group, Citadel Broadcasting. We of course tweeted the event in advance and posted updates and teasers on our Facebook page. During the event, we were live tweeting, posting photos, and doing regular updates with photos on our Facebook page. Of course we were also linking to the streaming broadcasts of the radiothon on the three radio station websites that were involved in the radiothon and sending those out via Twitter and Facebook.

So what were the results?

This year, the total raised increased by about $50,000 over last year’s total before we launched our Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Can we attribute the growth directly to social media? Well, no, but we can guess that it certainly helped. The more interesting results came with the impact to our social media accounts. While we suspected our social media efforts might help to increase awareness of the radiothon, we didn’t expect that the radiothon would impact our engagement within social media. During the month of the radiothon, the hospital’s Twitter account saw 60 new followers (an 8 percent increase) and had one of its highest months of engagement to date.

More surprising was the Facebook account for the hospital. That month, we increased our fans by 1,077, a 70 percent increase, with 80 percent of those new fans joining us during the radiothon or in the days immediately following it. The personal stories, “thank you’s” and other comments began flooding our fan page, and from that, we have already lined up media stories and potential patient stories for next year’s radiothon.

The biggest gain is the connection we are making with real people. People who have experienced what it is like to have a child who needs the care of a pediatric hospital are telling their own stories honestly and openly. It is no longer about a brand, it’s about people. And that, in a nutshell is what social media is all about–connecting with people.

It’s not always easy to dive into social media, especially for a relatively conservative industry like health care. More hospitals are joining the ranks, and there are some clear leaders out there, but we’re all learning together. And while we can use social media outlets to promote our fundraising events, the return on investment is exponential when you consider that you’re actually meeting the people you care for, and getting a better understanding of why you’re really here–to help people.

So now I’m curious. If you’re using social media, what has your experience connecting with your fans and followers been like? And, if you’re not using social media, what’s holding you back?

This post was originally written for and appeared on www.hospitalimpact.org.


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Why is it so hard for hospital staff to follow HIPAA rules in social media?

HIPAA is a common term in hospitals. If your hospital or health system is like ours, you spend a lot of time training, reminding and testing all employees on what is covered by HIPAA laws. For the most part, I believe employees understand the law and what they need to do to protect our patients and their privacy. Hospital employees sign agreements and promise to uphold their end of the deal, realizing there will be consequences if there are violations.

But for some strange reason, when it comes to social networks, employees seem to forget they are bound by those same regulations.

There have been numerous reports of breaches of patient privacy through social media outlets lately. Just this week, the LA Times storyreported that staff members were fired from St. Mary Medical Center in California, and another three were disciplined after posting photos of a dying man on Facebook rather than treating him.

In June, Tri-City Medical Center, also in California, terminated five employees and disciplined another after discovering they used “social media to post their personal discussions concerning hospital patients.” The hospital issued a statement on their website apologizing for the breach and how they were addressing it. (Applause for the transparency!)

As disturbing as they are, stories like these and others are popping up in the national news and it’s unsettling for everyone. There is something to learn from this though, and it is not that we need to ban social media from our hospitals. Social media is a powerful, evolving medium that allows us to communicate vital information and to hear from, and engage with, members of our communities. It should not be ignored. In fact, I strongly believe it should be embraced by hospitals as another way to reach out to their communities.

The stories of these breaches simply underscore the vital need for having strong policies in place that address the use of social media within and outside of the hospital. Employees need to know and understand that they are accountable for upholding the HIPAA laws even when they leave the hospital. That includes when they enter chat rooms, social networking sites or even their own blogs. In addition, human resources departments must be on board in recognizing that HIPAA laws extend to the use of social networks and any breaches of patient confidentiality through these means will result in disciplinary action.

Ed Bennett is the director of Web strategy for the University of Maryland Medical System. He also manages a blog which provides a wealth of information on hospitals and social media. The site provides a nice list of publicly published policies. It’s a great resource for hospitals, and can help in developing a new policy or tweaking an existing one to address social media specifically.

I am still confused as to why hospital staff members would ever think it was okay to reveal privileged patient information through any means, especially one as public as social media. Perhaps these changes in the way we communicate call for not only new and revised policies but also for additional training and signed agreements for staff to further understand the ramifications of violating HIPAA through social networks. What are your thoughts?

This post was originally writtten for and appeared on www.hospitalimpact.org.