Optimize Your Website and the World May Beat a Path to Your Door — Plus Other PR Wisdom from a Not-So-Little Hospital System on the Prairie

September 24, 2020

// By Peter Hochstein //

Peter HochsteinWhether it’s a national news network on the phone, or a triple-header of a tornado, some of the biggest PR opportunities are unplanned.

Even Lindsey Meyers, vice president of public relations and communications for Avera Health, sounds just a tad surprised that there’s such sophisticated medical research going on in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Lindsey Meyers, vice president of public relations and communications for Avera Health

Lindsey Meyers, vice president of public relations and communications, Avera Health

“It’s really an amazing thing on the prairie,” she said of the Avera Institute for Genetics Testing. Working with the Avera Behavioral Health Center, the Institute created a national stir a few years ago. It all had to do with using genetic testing as a tool for prescribing antidepressant medications. But before all that, a bit of background is in order.

Avera Health is a Catholic health care system with 300 facilities in a five-state region: South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, “and a little bit of North Dakota.” Those facilities, Meyers says, include 35 hospitals, 20 of them critical access hospitals that treat “a very rural population.” But when you get to Sioux Falls, population about 182,000, medical research — and the public relations effort that explains research — can generate remarkable attention.

Such was the case in 2017 when Avera, in the course of a rebranding exercise, upgraded and optimized its website and posted information there about its GeneFolio®, a test that uses patients’ DNA to “help analyze which medications match your body’s unique make-up.” The test had been developed at the Avera Institute for Human Genetics in Sioux Falls.

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