We had a lively conversation with two people who really understand and know how to articulate today’s challenges and opportunities in healthcare marketing and patient engagement, and really love to talk about it. Chris Boyer and Reed Smith, hosts of the Touchpoint Podcast, joined Kenneth Brooks, Binary Fountain’s Senior Director of Marketing, for a conversation on the challenges and trends affecting healthcare marketers. Binary Fountain is proud to sponsor this podcast – read on to learn why.
KB: What are the top trends and concerns you hear these days from healthcare marketers?
Reed: Do more with less – people’s budgets not going up year over year. They’re steady if they’re lucky – if they’re not rolling backwards, so they must make the best use of dollars and staff time.
Chris: Reed is right – budgets are flattened or have gone down. How do we approach that? How do we do more? It’s really important to measure the effectiveness of current spending on advertising and on marketing. Which channels work properly. Are we investing in the right keywords. How do we throttle down expense without sacrificing results? These are good questions that should be asked, so it’s more important now than ever.
Reed: It’s a pretty broad area, to do more with less.
Chris: At my new job at Fairview, we’ve been discussing this. How do you and your team work, and how can you be more efficient. Lean practices – fewer, more productive meetings, looking at ways to prioritize work with a static staff. It’s a discipline that’s challenging for hospitals to do, to function in cross-functional cooperation. My company has daily huddles for choosing what issues to escalate. This can go through teams all the way to the CEO. This breaks down roadblocks and delivers real results.
Reed: Multi-disciplinary teams are common in the clinical environment, but new to marketing and communication. IT&S is an easy one, where you can see some blurring of the line between marketing and quality as more organizations work through the Baldrige process. As Chris mentioned, looking for efficiencies. And reputation management, thematically what is happening online – how your brand is talked about, and what people are needing and wanting online – kind of flows into the quality side of the equation as well, much like grievances would in the hospital environment, or somebody mailing a letter. Digital is becoming a way that consumers expect to interface with your organization. Through that, Marketing communication seems to own that equation a little bit so they’re becoming part of conversations that they have not been historically.
Chris: What we’re really saying here, is that hospitals, which are traditionally seen as kind of these big, siloed organizations, they’re really trying to break that mold down and become more agile, become more effective – to break down those silos. That is a huge trend that’s happening. It’s not really being seen from the outside in, but it’s going on and will probably continue throughout this year and into future years.
Reed: Along those lines, that’s why you’re starting to see things like chief experience officer or someone who’s over that patient experience because they need someone to wrangle this whole scenario. You’re used to seeing something like that in organizations like the Cleveland Clinic, but now you’re starting to see this – I’ve seen it here in Texas in what I’d consider a rural hospital having a chief experience officer. It’s something you would not have seen earlier. They’re very in line and integrated with patient access as well as marketing, as well as quality and IT&S. That’s interesting.
Chris: I want to underscore something about that piece, which Reed alluded to earlier. Digital has caused an acceleration to the end of silos. It has blurred the lines between departments almost before people are ready to have them blurred. Reed and I were talking to hospitals five, six years ago, about the fact that the experience of people going through our web site intersects with the Patient Portal and things like that. Digital has kind of blurred those lines for us, right? But now people are really operationalizing that. Without sounding like we’re patting ourselves on the back, digital has driven that, and that’s a good thing for organizations.
KB: One thing I’ve noticed that goes with your point about digital breaking down silos, is the connection now between marketing and patient experience departments. Patients’ experiences are now captured online – it’s no longer just CAHPs surveys. Now, patient experience professionals and marketing people who never really talked, are now being introduced for the first time. And to your point Reed, what you said before about marketing and the IT department working more closely together: So there’s the convergence that digital is causing. Do you think this is causing some of the push to do more with less?
Reed: That’s a fair point. A lot of the do more with less push is driven by uncertainty in healthcare right now, specifically around reimbursements. What revenue’s going to look like moving forward. So organizations are not as willing to make those big investments from a technology or manpower standpoint, in what has historically been considered a cost center. That’s the hard part. I think digital is a double-edged sword – there’s that many more things we can do, but there’s also now the responsibility because we can do it, to tie that back to the financial metrics.
Chris: It is a double-edged sword. Because it gives you the insight into the measurement of that, but it draws you into that uncomfortable conversation – are we measuring effectively, are we gaining the right insights from these digital tools? People don’t like it, using digital as a way to save costs, but it can also highlight areas where maybe things aren’t working as effectively. Traditionally in healthcare, hospitals are not very good at reporting out bad news. Sometimes your measurement strategies tied to some of these digital things, come back with “Oh, this isn’t working so well.” And then, what do you do?
Reed: It’s kind of that old adage “Don’t ask the question if you’re not going to like the answer.” It’s kind of like we may have patted prematurely ourselves on the back on some of our big ideas and campaigns or other initiatives. Now we’ve got the opportunity to see, is that really the case?
Chris: Now you’ll have to become more sophisticated with measurement and analytics. We were just talking about this in the Touchpoint podcast. Are you measuring things in a way that will actually give you the insights you really need so that you can move forward and optimize. It presents a whole new set of challenges which honestly as an industry we should be talking this way, but for many healthcare marketers it’s a little bit challenging.
Reed: I think the reason it’s challenging is because the people that run hospitals where that be administratively, or in the marketing and communications world, have always run hospitals. So you don’t very often hear “Where’d your new CEO come from?” “Oh, He came from Samsung.” That doesn’t happen. So that’s why when we’re making these dramatic shifts, around like say measurement, those are skill sets that folks just have, and historically have not have had to foster.
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