A: In what ways is healthcare marketing different compared to other industries?
SH: Many say healthcare marketing is often the most complex, because the user (the person obtaining the healthcare service) and the purchaser (the managed care payer, which can be a private insurer and/or the government) are different. The provider of those services can be employed by the health system, or be an independent physician providing service under a hospital or medical office building roof. It’s a very complex business and many times, as a patient or family member, it can be very confusing. One person could get three bills for a single appointment—a facility bill, an imaging bill, and a private specialist bill.
My team and I see our role and responsibility as translators and interpreters of the healthcare world. We work to reduce the anxiety and confusion of care experiences, ensuring that the customer journey is clear and understandable, whether that is online or in-person.
A: Are there marketing lessons that healthcare should learn from other industries?
SH: Oh yes! I’m a constant learner. I go through my day and week looking at the world in a way that tries to decipher experiences. How are businesses resolving those gaps in service that we all encounter every day? It’s exciting to travel to other countries to see how their healthcare is provided. To constantly “talent scout” new ideas from other fields and then translate them back in to action at Renown Health. I am a fan of those organizations and people who provide a consistently excellent experience, and understand and respond to service recovery issues—24/7 online and in person.
A: Have you had a marketing experience that really stood out in your mind?
SH: Absolutely. I was recently stranded at JFK airport at midnight. There was a line of 120 people whose flights were canceled due to weather. So, while I waited, I went on Twitter to see if I could get service. Three women from Jet Blue responded to my tweets. They used their first names and gave me whatever information they had. They ultimately helped me rebook. It was a fantastic experience being at my wit’s end and having someone reach out with a lifeline. I came back to work and said, “How are we monitoring people sitting in the emergency department at midnight? If they need information, can we respond 24/7? Are we using first names?” We’re studying what others are doing, whether in call centers, IT help desks or on social media to learn the best practices we should be applying.
A: What are some of the biggest challenges you face in delivering a differentiated customer experience?
SH: As our world gets busier and more complex, the biggest challenge is to stop and listen. To take the time to listen to what each person needs and wants, to be able to gather that information and share it with others in a way that generates a shift in understanding. We need to come together on an improved vision of what the future could be. For instance, we might implement an idea from a customer. Then we work together to make that improvement happen.
A: Are you striving to tailor the customer experience for various segments, such as seniors?
SH: Yes. In fact, last year we engaged Accenture and a local ad agency to narrow in on the best customers we can bring into the Medicare Advantage program. There is a defined period to market to this audience—8 weeks. So, we tested ad concepts and messages to target seniors. We found they were not on target at all with what seniors wanted. The images were of athletic people, virile and engaged in their health. When we tested it the seniors said things like, “I’m not doing sit-ups every day. I see healthful activities as strolling the farmers market with my grandson.” So, we retooled the ad concepts and tested new ones that were more on target. We featured real local members. We also worked with Accenture to identify those most likely to join our health plan, and then reach out regularly in person, through email and their mailbox. We increased membership by 7 percent in our Senior Care Plus program and saw an overall bump in membership—a 14 percent increase because others saw those marketing messages.
A: How can marketing and clinicians work more seamlessly together?
SH: That’s my favorite part of being in healthcare. Working with doctors, nurses, social workers and other clinicians who provide patient care every day. These are the miracle workers who care for people every day. Things that happen at the bedside are the things soap operas are made of—from babies being born to people giving the world their last breath. These caregivers give it their all, and it’s inspiring to be accepted as part of their world.
I try to listen to and understand their challenges. They are humble. Many times, they are so humble that they don’t understand the influence, credibility and power for positive change that they have. I am glad to remind them! Take for instance an ICU nurse. They’re responsible for so many factors that can improve a patient’s well-being. I translate to my team why caregivers are so passionate for what they do. And I remind clinicians that what we do is to support what they do. I try to take off my business hat and put on my patient care hat. Even on a bad day in marketing, nobody dies—so sometimes we just need to shift our perspective.
A: How can healthcare marketers take better advantage of their industry ecosystems?
SH: I’m based in Reno, Nevada, and what’s happening here is really interesting. All of these amazing technology companies are establishing themselves in Reno. Amazon is here. Google is here. Drone companies are here. Apple is building a factory here.
All of these are technologies consumers are embracing. So we need to figure out how to incorporate them in healthcare. For instance, how can we deliver lifesaving meds if a car couldn’t get through?
A: What do you like to do outside of work? Do you have any special hobbies or interests?
SH: I love to travel well and inexpensively. I love to get everything in one bag, have a clear plan, experience great cultures, wonderful food and families, and learn more about their ways of approaching and seeing the world.
My favorite destination would have to be national parks. We talk about the benefits of technology, but there is something about hiking through Lake Tahoe with no cell phone, just being in nature.