Full Speed Ahead New VP At Mercy Medical Center Works To Redefine The Message And The Mission

Mark Fulco’s office on the Mercy Medical Center campus isn’t a mess by any means, but there are several stacks of papers on his desk and meeting table, as well as a flurry of ‘to do ‘ lists near his computer.

Indeed, the new vice president for Strategy and Marketing, who recently joined the Sisters of Providence Health System team after leaving a similar position at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Conn., has his work cut out for him.

Fulco’s position is a new one at Mercy, and as such requires him to take on a number of responsibilities aimed at creating, improving, and defining several initiatives at the hospital, as well as the impressions those programs leave with the public. And without a predecessor to leave him a file cabinet full of reports, past marketing campaigns, ideas, or even a full Rolodex, it’s up to Fulco to blueprint new marketing and positioning strategies.

He told The Healthcare News that while his duties focus primarily on marketing and public relations at the hospital, his actual job description is a multi-faceted and differs from many marketing positions.

“My essential role is two-fold, beginning with marketing and public relations,” said Fulco. “If I could distill it, that means telling the wonderful stories of tremendous care and comprehensive services we offer, and working with the entire care continuum to improve our product offerings.”

What’s the Plan?

And that’s where the second major aspect of his job comes in – spearheading strategic planning initiatives within the medical center.

“It comes down to answering questions like ‘How do we ensure that Mercy remains a leading care provider?’” he said. “Our primary goal is to continue to meet the health care needs of Western New England, from newborns to seniors, and to continue to translate that mission to the public.”

Mercy’s mission, and that of its parent organization, the Sisters of Providence Health System, is one Fulco said is well understood across Western Mass., as is the legacy of the Sisters in Providence – dwindling in numbers today, but still a powerful symbol within both the health system and of the region as a whole.

“The traditions established by the sisters go beyond medical care,” he said. “They have created a legacy that includes a strong emphasis on holistic care, addressing both physical and spiritual needs. That’s unique, and I think it has helped to make Mercy’s name and reputation a gold standard.”

But one thing that Fulco is currently concentrating on is adding some nuts and bolts to that existing framework. He said that, while the name Mercy is recognizable region-wide, an added focus on the technological and surgical advances taking place within the medical center, as well as new programs, staff, and business-oriented initiatives, will be a primary goal for 2006.

“Mercy offers compassionate care,” he said, “but it also offers high quality, comprehensive care. Perhaps people aren’t as aware of the technological advances happening here … a principle objective will be getting the word out in regard to our breadth of resources.”

One initiative already in place that Fulco hopes to expand is the Health Coach Program, a public relations and marketing-based promotion of some of Mercy’s leading clinicians. The overall thrust of the program is to help in publicizing new advances in health care happening at Mercy, but Fulco said the emphasis on people and their roles in successful health care delivery is an important part of the message.

“Some of our staff are literally performing miracles,” he said. “It’s important to note that health care is delivered by people, not equipment.”

He added that it’s also one way to translate a specific message about complicated modalities and sophisticated technology, without alienating the public.

“It’s about people, and for people,” he said. “Highlighting our well-trained and competent professionals is in keeping with a consistent message centered around that theme of advanced technology.”

It’s also part of a larger effort to more effectively brand Mercy Medical Center as a health care leader in Western Mass., Fulco explained.

“We already have a strong, prominent brand in this area,” he said, “It’s 130 years old. But we hope to leverage that brand in new ways.”

Part of that process will be to tie together the many health care providers that operate under the auspices of the Sisters of Providence Health System in addition to Mercy Medical Center, through the use of more cohesive logos, fonts, colors, and messaging in advertisements and news items.

Fulco also spearheaded the creation of a new phone number at Mercy for public use, a small change that he hopes will have a significant impact.

“It’s another part of tying everything together and making or services more accessible to people,” he explained. “We used to have four different numbers here – even many of our physicians couldn’t tell you which number was for what department.”

Now, 1(800)MY-MERCY, which was only recently put into use, will allow Western Mass. residents to more easily connect with the hospital, Fulco said.

The phone number is also one example, however, of yet another initiative Fulco has undertaken in recent months – that of greater communication with the Western Mass. community as a whole, both residents and businesses.

It’s a philosophy that is currently part of most of the projects that Fulco has put into place, and those that he hopes to roll out over the course of the next year. In order to publicize the hospital’s services, reinforce its brand, and move forward with technological advances within the community, he said constant cooperation with the people the hospital ultimately serves is necessary.

“It’s a big part of all of our new plans,” he said, noting that one such endeavor, dubbed ‘Business Health Services,’ will bundle several workplace wellness-related services available at Mercy into one package, including an employee assistance program open to any company, geared toward the region’s employers. “It’s one way we can extend our reach and also send the message of our mission outside of Mercy’s walls.”

But it’s also a move toward making health care increasingly convenient, Fulco said. “Many of our programs are wellness and prevention-focused, and we will continue to promote those programs, but with an added focus on bringing those services closer to home for people living in Greater Springfield.”

Tasks at Hand

What’s more, each program and new initiative Fulco finds himself directing has a different set of goals, expectations, and due dates. Some of those papers on his desk are marked with specific dates for completion – others merely carry more nebulous notes, such as ‘sports medicine program – just in time for the Olympics.’

Fulco isn’t looking for pomp and circumstance after each new program is unveiled, however. Rather, he’s looking for a few more specific things: a renewed reputation for excellence in health care in addition to Mercy Medical Center’s existing strength in holistic, compassionate care … and perhaps, a pen or two amidst his ever growing stacks of to do lists.

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