We live in a society dominated by mixed messages and hypersensitivity, amid ongoing volleys of "fake news" accusations. Accurate, honest communication has never been more important to maintain credibility.

Unfortunately, our political climate has created a reluctance to speak out against policies and politicians in some organizations, particularly those in healthcare that rely heavily on Medicare, Medicaid and other government funding. There are legitimate fears of financial repercussions, government investigations or even being on the target of nasty tweets.

Furthermore, political divisiveness over the future of the healthcare industry has left a wake of curiosity and concern, especially pertaining to loss of coverage and the financial implications of federal reimbursement cuts.

Here's how healthcare organizations can communicate amid this chaos:

Be careful

Remember that any communication is accessible to elected officials and all levels of government. Trumpeting criticism makes organizations vulnerable to scrutiny by political leaders and public interest groups, and blowback from elected officials, their supporters and other constituencies is a real risk.

The recent hand-wringing over the replacement of the Affordable Care Act is a prime example. Despite some of Obamacare's underlying flaws, providing health coverage and access to 22 million previously uninsured Americans was the right thing to do.

The challenge has been to communicate support for the ACA in a way that doesn't become the target of social media attacks or criticism from politicians who are integral to a health organization's mission.

Be clear

Regardless of the topic, clear messages are essential. The general public consumes information in small bites and from questionable sources, yet fake news — propaganda does exist.

Be as articulate and brief as possible when discussing local, state or federal healthcare proposals.

Do your homework

Communication is an opportunity to educate consumers, but it can be challenging to help consumers truly understand the impact of government policies.

Readers and viewers generally don't investigate legislative initiatives. It's important to discuss the impact of federal or state proposals intelligently.

Home comes first

It's crucial to communicate good and bad news with employees and internal audiences first. You want to control the message so your most important audiences hear it without a media filter.

Internal audiences are your organization's best ambassadors, and they can help communicate your message with clarity and authority provided they are informed first.

Understand media

Genuine relationships are critical with media professionals. The tone of news coverage typically reflects how well a reporter knows a spokesperson — reporters tend to be more positive working with people they know versus a stranger.

Taking the time to speak with reporters is an opportunity to educate and promote your organization's goals. This helps develop credibility and trust.

Many reporters are educating themselves on the fly about the topics they covering, all while facing deadline pressure. Assume they know nothing and provide as much information as you can.