It’s important for every organization, especially those navigating the current disruption being felt in healthcare, to find their purpose, Meents said.
“Know your target, as you can’t talk to everyone,” said Lindsey Meyers, vice president of public relations and communications for Avera Health, a regional system based in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Jumping on the popularity of genetic testing, Reno Nev.-based Renown Health launched the largest direct-to-consumer population health study. In a statewide project, local residents enrolled in a genetic screening test study for free. They are now returning to discuss any of the conditions or concerns revealed by the testing.
Not only did it get 50,000 potential new patients in the door, it also will help with strategic planning, said Suzanne Hendery, chief marketing officer and vice president of marketing and communications at Renown.
“We will use those findings to strategically plan the provider workforce of the future—we learned we will need more pulmonologists—and combine genetic data with social determinants of health and weather/atmospheric/environmental data to help inform our community health-improvement plan,” she said. For example, Renown will plan ahead for more emergency department visits during wildfires to address upper respiratory issues.
At Tidelands Health in Georgetown, S.C., marketers took advantage of being in the path of totality for the 2018 solar eclipse to establish themselves as experts in eye-care health and wellness. In less than one month, they gave away 85,000 pairs of branded eclipse-viewing glasses, the equivalent of 25% of its market population, and generated dozens of pieces of eclipse health-related content for the web, social and traditional media.
Traffic to the website spiked, and they collected 18,000 email addresses (two-thirds from prospects, not current patients, and more than 80% commercially insured or Medicare), according to Amy Stevens, Tidelands’ vice president of marketing and communications.
“We propelled our social media channels to record levels of engagement. We attracted tremendous traditional media coverage. All because we figured out what our consumers wanted and gave it to them,” she said.
Tidelands did that mostly with in-house staff, which follows a trend.
Optum’s Meents said he’d seen marketing budgets increasingly spent on creative services versus technology like marketing automation and even artificial intelligence, such as chatbots to improve the consumer experience.
Spending any money requires buy-in from leadership, both from the C-suite and the physicians who lead care-delivery teams. “Our biggest ambassadors have been doctors who have personally experienced the rewards of being a featured expert (upticks in profile views, calls, appointments and media coverage) and then tell their fellow physicians. Doctors now call us wanting to be featured. It certainly didn’t start out that way,” Stevens recalls.
The synergy between the two CMOs, the chief marketing officer and chief medical officer, can reap great rewards for consumer engagement, said Dr. Baligh Yehia of Ascension Medical Group of his relationship with Nick Ragone, the chief marketing and communications officer for Ascension.
“A brand is nothing more than a promise, and a great brand is simply a promise kept,” Ragone said. “Our physicians and caregivers across all our sites of care keep that promise every day, so it’s important that marketing and clinical be aligned on what a truly exceptional experience looks like.”
Panelists predict that marketers’ future role will have greater influence on the patient experience and patient intake, getting closer to the person like many consumer-facing companies entering healthcare have.
But this group is not worried about competition.
“Disrupters? I don’t see any disrupters,” Simon said. “At Atlantic Health, our vision is health, hope and healing and I have yet to see an organization that does not support that goal. From Amazon and Walmart to the most nimble of startups, the new entrants to the healthcare space that I see, just may offer that catalyst or accelerator to help get us one step closer. Embracing new partnerships, new ways of thinking and caring for consumers, must be a part of our DNA.”
And there’s another factor inherent in healthcare.
“While out-of-industry competitors will try to leverage their lead in digital to peel away market share in certain services (virtual care, telehealth, video triage), the need for face-to-face care will never go away,” Geisinger’s Stanziano said. “There will still be a need for hands-on care and that happens locally, where trust and confidence is just as important as convenience and access. If we evolve, this is where traditional provider organizations have an edge.”