Is Recruitment the Next Health Care Marketing Crisis?

Is Recruitment the Next Health Care Marketing Crisis?

According to recent studies, between 20% and 30% of front-line U.S. health care workers say they are now considering leaving their profession—for good. Traditionally, health care HR and marketing departments have worked independently. But given the staffing crisis, these departments are teaming up to address the latest pandemic crisis: recruitment. On our September 9, 2021 Campfire Chat, we discussed ways marketing can support HR in recruitment efforts. 

Read below for highlights or watch the replay video. And make sure to sign up below to get notified of our next Campfire Chats webinars

Ah, the good old days of health care marketing. Remember them? We promoted key services like heart care, cancer care and joint replacement. We could predict how many patients would need care at any given time and market accordingly. Our consumer audiences were consistent in their views and attitudes about health care. When our plans were dialed in, we could reasonably anticipate what tomorrow might bring.  

Then the pandemic hit. 

We’ve written and spoken extensively about how health consumer audiences have changed after COVID-19, along with our strategies for helping people return for care in this “next normal”. Today, we wanted to share highlights from a recent Campfire Chat we hosted on how marketing can support health care worker recruitment. 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Create Employer Value Propositions (EVPs) to shore up the reasons why your organization is a magnet for top talent
  • Leverage consumer-facing digital channels such as Instagram and Facebook to reach hard-to-find health care workers
  • Develop personalized recruitment journey experiences to attract more and better-qualified job candidates

THE STATE OF HEALTH CARE WORKER RECRUITMENT: “WE’RE GOING TO NEED A BIGGER BOAT”

Fun fact: remember that classic scene in Jaws when Roy Scheider, playing Chief Martin Brody, sees “Jaws” for the first time and says, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”? Turns out, that line was ad-libbed. It was brilliant for the movie and prescient for this moment in health care. The traditional HR recruitment strategies that filled medical worker roles worked … until now. 

The Washington Post reports that due to pandemic burnout, 3 in 10 health care workers are considering leaving the profession. 

Not quitting to join another hospital.

Just simply quitting. What’s driving this mass exodus? 

The article points to what I call the “Three Horsemen of the Recruitment Apocalypse”:

1. Burnout: the sheer grind of caring for COVID patients and other patients for such a prolonged time period

2. Trauma: witnessing more suffering and death than anyone can bear without emotional scars

3. Disillusionment: in the medical profession, in administrators and in others whom these medical care workers deem as having not done enough to care for them or treat this pandemic seriously 

There’s also another reason for the health care worker shortage: good old-fashioned capitalism. 

As health care organizations race to fill roles and shoes, a recent study reports that 93% of organizations are focused on attracting top talent and retaining them through enhanced benefits packages. 

Signing bonuses of $15,000, $30,000 and more for highly sought-after medical workers are not unique in highly competitive markets these days. 

What if you’re an organization that can’t throw endless stacks of money at the problem?

And what if you’re like many of our marketing clients who have operated independently from their HR counterparts, but who are starting to see a long lineup at their doors from HR colleagues asking for help with recruitment?

Well, you came to the right article.

RECRUITMENT STRATEGY #1: EMPLOYER VALUE PROPOSITIONS (EVPs)

Marketing has traditionally been the department responsible for organizational branding. For good reason. Specialist firms like Hailey Sault and our clients are classically-trained in branding and brand strategy. 

Those brand strategies have traditionally focused on one audience endpoint: consumers. But that’s not quite accurate. Service brands—such as most health care brands—are made up of the people who provide the service: the nurses, the doctors, the techs, and the wonderful people who greet patients and visitors and provide so much of the incredible brand experience. In traditional brand strategy, you focus on the end user while addressing those who deliver the brand experience. Great service brands are the sum of the people who deliver those services. 

Health care marketers get this. Which is why we advocate that marketing plays a pivotal role in shaping Employer Value Propositions (EVPs for short). EVPs are the distillation of the reasons why top talent should flock to the organization. Employer Value Propositions inform key messaging pillars and media channels. And, given the consensus-driven culture of many health care organizations, EVPs also help get internal teams (marketing, HR, administration, for example) on the same page. 

The 3 Core Elements of Employer Value Propositions (EVPs) 

1. Define why your organization’s brand is valuable and unique among medical workers

2. Describe what your ideal job candidate cares about, believes and wants to experience in a job role

3. Envision what an ideal employee can expect to create and do together with your organization

Let’s unpack these three elements. 

Why is Your Brand Valuable?

What makes your organization a “great place to work”? What is the relevant, engaging and meaningful brand story of your organization? For example, why do you exist? Why and how are you improving lives and caring for your community and audiences?

What Does Your Ideal Job Candidate Care About? 

The secret to great branding is a higher understanding of the ideal audience the brand seeks to serve. (More on that in a moment with regard to audience personas.) In this element, we explore what makes the ideal job candidate tick: why do they get up in the morning, what’s in their hearts and minds that your organization wants to help to cultivate with a great career? 

What Does Success Look Like For Both Your Ideal Job Candidate and Your Organization?

What can your organization and your ideal job candidate expect to achieve together? What’s that grand rallying cry that only a dedicated, talented workforce can achieve when the organization does its part to provide for a great job, career, tools and support? 

Steps to Developing Employer Value Propositions for Health Care Organizations

I’ll share next the basic steps for developing EVPs. For brevity purposes, I’ve kept this “topline”. (Reach out to me if you’d like more detail.)

1. Conduct an Employer Brand Diagnostic

  • Interview current high-performing team members
  • Interview prospective job candidates
  • Interview alumni (those who have since moved on to other careers or organizations)
  • Conduct a competitive analysis of what others are promoting, messaging, incentivizing) 

2. Develop a summary of key benefits that employees should experience working at your organization

3. Develop your message pillars: the key messages that are authentic and resonate with your brand and top talent

Putting It All Together

Below is an example of an Employer Value Proposition framework for health care organizations. There’s no one “right” way to deliver an EVP. But this framework should give you a starting point for the employer brand journey. 

Healthcare worker taking blood pressure

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RECRUITMENT STRATEGY #2: EMPLOYEE RECRUITMENT PERSONAS

If you’ve read our articles or seen us speak, you know we’re raving fans of human-centered audience personas. Personas are exceptional tools for developing strategies to inspire purchases, patient acquisition and other traditional marketing outcomes. In this competitive health care recruitment landscape, Recruitment Audience Personas are especially helpful in messaging, channel selection and converting potential job seekers into actively interviewing with your organization.

Here is the basic framework for Audience Recruitment Personas:

1. Demographic information about the ideal candidate type

2. Triggers for seeking new employment: why is he or she passively or actively looking for a new career opportunity?

3. What does the prospect need to hear from us as an organization that resonates and inspires action?

4. What is unique about us? (Among the many reasons why EVPs are so substantial in highly competitive recruitment markets.) 

5. What are the barriers to job application? (Identifying how to reduce the friction from interest to job application submission.)

6. How to reach the job candidate? (Via media channels.)

How Many Audience Personas Do You Need?

Simple answer: it depends. 

More nuanced answer: we like to look with our clients at the job roles of greatest need, then determine the number of audience personas to develop. For example, if any organization has three highly competitive job roles to fill, our starting point for audience persona development is three: one for each job role. Quite often, though, in our research process, we identify two or more subsets of ideal candidates to fill one medical worker role that are uniquely different enough to require their own audience personas. 

So the simple answer of how many audience personas do you need stands: it depends. But the key takeaway here is to do the work. It’s valuable and essential for achieving your recruitment goal of not just getting “warm bodies” but getting the right people to fill the right shoes. 

Putting It All Together

Here’s a snapshot of what a completed Hailey Sault Human-Centered Recruitment Audience Persona looks like. 

Persona text and image

RECRUITMENT STRATEGY #3: CONSUMER-DRIVEN MEDIA CHANNELS

Traditional job posting and recruitment platforms aren’t going away. But they’re simply not enough anymore to fill key roles. 

That’s why we work with our marketing clients and HR contemporaries to broaden the circumference of their media channel spend and reach. We want to be in the places our job seekers spend time—Instagram, TikTok and other social channels, and to reach them in unexpected ways: through programmatic and native advertising. 

Why’s that? Because using nontraditional media channels for recruitment increases the overall pool of qualified and engaged job candidates. If everyone is shouting the same thing (as is the case in traditional recruitment media channels), it’s easy to be ignored. 

But! When you gain intelligence and insight on where your job seekers are spending their time, you find new and creative ways to show up in their lives. Added bonus: we have way more flexibility in message development and overall digital experience using nontraditional recruitment channels. That flexibility and digital experience creates a “stickier” connection with your audience, inviting more qualified candidates to apply. 

RECRUITMENT STRATEGY #4: CUSTOMIZE THE JOB-SEEKING JOURNEY

Another one of our soapboxes is the need to personalize marketing messages and journeys to create higher engagement and conversions. This is true of both the advertising itself and the landing page experience. The same logic should be applied to your job seeker. If you’re recruiting for highly competitive roles, why would you give each candidate the same-old, same-old message and experience?

We recommend modeling the entire job-seeking journey so you identify the key inflection points to intersect with job candidates. The more personalized the experience, the better. That way, you’re delivering messaging, offers and opportunities that resonate with your audience. As we frequently hear from patients and job seekers via our marketing clients, “It’s like you know exactly what I’m thinking, feeling, and wanting”.

Exactly! That’s the ideal marketing experience: to deliver extreme value to your audiences. 

We advocate creating customized landing pages for key job roles that are aligned with your audience personas. For example, we helped a client recruit urban medical workers to relocate to rural areas two hours from the city, along with recruiting within the rural area where our client’s sites of care are located. Those two audiences—urban and rural—had different messaging and landing page experiences. 

Which makes sense, of course. And that’s why we helped our client to fill those critical job roles far quicker than our client’s HR counterparts could have hoped or dreamed.

But too often, especially in a highly competitive, crisis-like scenario, which we are facing with the medical worker shortage, we do what’s easy, fast or what has been done before. New times, such as these, call for new ideas, new strategies. 

Which is why marketing is getting so many knocks on the office door from HR asking for help. We need new thinking to solve these new challenges. 

Last Thing: Lending Support Without Inheriting Headaches

Recently, I spoke to the digital division lead for a large, national health care organization about this topic. I shared we’d been getting requested by more and more marketing teams to help them support their HR counterparts in recruitment. The digital division lead looked at me and said, “Yeah, we’ve been getting the same request for help from HR, too. So far, we’ve declined to help.”

It wasn’t because the digital lead or the marketing department didn’t want to support or help HR. It was because, let’s face it, marketing has a lot on its plate these days. As Roy Scheider said in Jaws, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” How much support are you willing and able to give?

Our counsel is to leverage the strategies presented in this article as a way to give your HR colleagues support via strategic branding, a higher-grade approach to modeling key audiences, and developing personalized journey experiences. 

These tools are foundational to leading marketing departments—and, though I’m biased, I think a firm like Hailey Sault and many leading Chief Marketing Officers are well-qualified to guide this strategy. 

But that doesn’t mean you need to become responsible for the whole kit and kaboodle. It doesn’t mean inheriting a whole new scope of work to manage. It just means working collaboratively. Flexing each other’s strengths. So you can tackle this next “all-hands” initiative. 

Do you like learning new things and connecting with fun, smart people? Then you should sign up to be notified of our next Hailey Sault Campfire webinars: they’re lively video conversations without the boring bullet point slides. Sign up below to be notified of the next Campfire and get early access to our latest thinking and strategies on how to create human connections with health care marketing.

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The Road to Digital Health Transformation: Are We There Yet?

The Road to Digital Health Transformation: Are We There Yet?

Digital front doors … Data visualization … Patient pathways … and Chimeras. These were just a few of the topics we discussed during our 8/13/21 Campfire Chat with Christina Campo from Scripps Health, Therese Lockemy from Johns Hopkins Medicine, and our very own Brittney Hanson, Director of Digital for Hailey Sault.   

Read below for highlights or watch the replay video. And sign up below to get notified of our next Campfire Chats webinars.

Ah, the road to digital transformation. Cruising down the information superhighway with the top down, wind whipping through your hair, and nothing but open roads and music blaring as you make your way to that coveted destination. 

I’m sure that’s your exact experience leading and implementing digital transformation projects at your health care organization, right? 

If your experience has felt more like a journey of endless winding roads rather than getting to a destination, you’re not alone. Whether you’re part of a large team or a department of one, digital transformation is an ongoing process. During our Campfire Chat, we checked in with our colleagues at Scripps Health and Johns Hopkins Medicine to find out what’s on their To Do List, and what data puzzles they’re solving these days as they advance their transformation initiatives. 

TOP PRIORITIES FACING DIGITAL HEALTH TRANSFORMATION TEAMS

The fundamental business of health care hasn’t changed since its inception: caring for people who are sick or need medical care. How we deliver that care has, of course, evolved. Same goes for our digital transformation efforts. Most of us are still addressing the same issues and opportunities we’ve been addressing throughout our careers:

  • Driving patients to seek care solutions
  • Filling lines of business and service lines that have capacity and can support new patient acquisition
  • Growing brand affinity

How we’re addressing these perennial challenges is evolving, though. Digital transformation projects are increasingly addressing opportunities such as:

  • Improving and enhancing patient experience
  • Identifying the nuances and needs of diverse patient populations
  • Connecting data points
  • Structuring and streamlining patient pathways to care solutions

During our webinar, Therese addressed that it’s not just the technology that is part of the transformational change—cultural transformation within our organizations is trending, too.  

Those of us who have worked in health care—especially larger organizations—know the challenges of working in silos: departments working independently to problem-solve. Yet, if there’s a silver lining in this time of COVID-19, it’s that health care organizations have removed those unnecessary barriers, allowing different departments to work more collaboratively on shared goals and desired outcomes.

Christina shared how beneficial it’s been for her and her marketing colleagues to work directly with clinical leaders and IT counterparts on shared goals such as improved patient experience: from online appointment scheduling to patient care communications.

Which brings us to Chimeras.

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IS IT TIME TO HIRE CHIMERAS?

Chimaera

What is a “Chimera,” you ask?

It’s a mythological creature that has a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail … and according to Christina, it’s what we need more of in digital marketing. 

The thinking is, our digital transformation efforts today blur the lines between traditional marketing, IT, and clinical practice. Take patient experience, for example. On one hand, digital marketing can help drive prospective patient engagement and demand for a service line or product line. But what happens next? Well, that’s often the role of IT to develop the infrastructure necessary to support online appointment functionality. But what happens after that prospective patient books an appointment? Then it’s up to the clinical leader to ensure that the patient has a great experience. The old model had each of these three departments functioning almost independently: marketing did its thing, IT did its thing, and clinical teams did their thing. 

But working independently can quickly lead to gaps in the patient experience. 

Digital transformation in health care is rooted in the intersectionality of all these disciplines, and finding better ways to engage and create better experiences for patients and customers alike. 

That’s why you need Chimeras: people who understand the needs, perspectives, and even the language of different departments and functions. As Christina said, “We used to dismiss people who were ‘Jacks of all trades, but master of none,’ but now we’re realizing there is great value in generalists … and people who can communicate, project-manage and collaborate with colleagues with different backgrounds.”

Health care consumers have high expectations of their experiences with brands. They’re used to Amazon, Apple and other tech giants creating great online experiences. Digital transformation is quite often the process of seeking to enable technology to deliver outstanding experiences for patients. 

But technology, while lovely, doesn’t always work “as advertised.” 

If you’ve struggled to leverage new digital technology to achieve your business and strategic goals, then know this: you’re not alone.

Speaking of mythological creatures, Brittney, our digital practice lead, asked Christina and Therese if there is such a thing as a “perfect dashboard”—AKA, a unicorn. 

Short answer: no. 

There’s no one size fits all approach to dashboards. But our panelists all agreed that setting the right goals up front in a digital marketing effort furthers the ability to develop tracking for the right data, which can lead to the right results. 

One of the keys to effective digital transformation journeys is to leverage the data you currently have to drive business decisions. 

Tools like Data Studio, Datorama and Snowflake are closing data gaps and enabling better insights that lead to improved campaign performance and user/patient experience. In our experience, most digital transformation projects begin with a clear identification of how data will be sourced, the trustworthiness of that data, and what insights we seek to glean from the data. In other words, we seek to avoid GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out. There will always be data gaps in health care, with “more noise than signal” than any of us prefer. After all, health care is a complex system. 

That can be overwhelming, if not downright frustrating. But Therese, Christina and Brittney offered insights on how they manage their digital transformation efforts, which can be of service to you.

THE ROAD TO DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION BEGINS WITH A ROAD MAP

“Try, learn, and go on a roadshow,” Christina advised. She advocates creating pilot projects: initiatives that may have promise, but are not mission-critical and do not have high visibility within the organization. Conduct a trial effort and glean learnings. From there, conduct a “roadshow” with your colleagues: share what you learned and how those learnings could be applied at a larger scale within the organization. This approach builds advocacy with colleagues and positive momentum to scale future initiatives with support and enthusiasm. 

Therese shared the philosophy of her marketing leader, Suzanne Sawyer, who encourages the team to create road maps for digital transformation efforts, and other marketing initiatives. Simplicity is the solution to complex problems. By diagramming the desired future state, and documenting clearly the steps to take, we make progress on those large-scale initiatives like digital transformations. 

Brittney repeated our mantra at Hailey Sault: “Test and learn.” We advocate testing our hypotheses in the marketplace in small, controlled settings, to learn what messages, platforms, and conversion-based experiences work best to drive the desired outcome. In turn, use the findings to optimize the campaign and design experience to achieve better outcomes.  

CREATE A SHARED LANGUAGE

If there’s a “silver lining” to COVID-19, it’s that health care organizations have never worked more collaboratively. It was a requirement in the early days of the pandemic. Turns out, people really enjoy working with colleagues in different departments on common goals.

But working in a cross-functional team scenario isn’t without challenges: primarily, ensuring that the words we use, and their meanings, are shared universally. Christina advocates creating “Data Dictionaries,” so that when marketing, IT, finance, clinical and others are collaborating, they all agree on what “engagement” means, or a “conversion.” 

If you’re just beginning your digital transformation project and want to get everyone on the same page, or are feeling stuck on your efforts, then perhaps it’s worth checking in with your team: are you all in alignment with your success definitions? 

That sounds simple, I know. But remember what Therese said: “Digital transformation isn’t just what we’re doing, it’s how we’re doing it.” 

Working smarter, more collaboratively, and more inclusively, is a hallmark to digital transformations that actually get to the promised land. 

Do you like learning new things and connecting with fun, smart people? Then you should sign up to be notified of our next Hailey Sault Campfire webinars: they’re lively video conversations without the boring bullet point slides. Sign up below to be notified of the next Campfire and get early access to our latest thinking and strategies on how to create human connections with health care marketing. 

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Health Care Marketing’s Role in the Post-Pandemic Cleanup

Health Care Marketing’s Role in the Post-Pandemic Cleanup

Dear Health Care Marketer: we have our work cut out for us. 

As we’ve been documenting, our health care consumers have changed since the pandemic. Some of that change is good: 36% of baby boomers report they feel confident using new technology—a 10% increase since 2020. As more health consumers use and leverage Smartphones, Smart TVs and TV streaming devices, we have better and more precise ability to connect with audiences. 

STAT reports that more of our health audiences are engaged with their health like never before: including a better understanding of medical science and more ownership of their health. For example, during the pandemic, health app downloads increased 25%. 

But not all that change is good. 

Scientific American reports that a growing number of vaccinated people are experiencing “Cave Syndrome”: living in chronic social isolation and feeling afraid to return to their former lives. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 23% of women skipped a recommended medical test or treatment, and 38% of women missed preventive health services in 2020. 

Many of us in health care are concerned about the heart disease, cancer and other disease conditions that went undiagnosed during the pandemic, and what that may mean for our hospitals and health care organizations in the years to come. 

And let’s not forget: Americans weren’t healthy before the pandemic. Two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. Approximately 45% of all Americans suffer from at least one chronic disease—and the number is growing. 

Given the state of American health, we invited executive leaders representing a prominent, Connecticut-based health system and a California-based company providing post-acute care, primary care and care coordination for over 1 million people in the Los Angeles area to discuss how they’re approaching patient engagement on our 7/16/21 Campfire Chat. 

Following are takeaways from our conversation.

“A TRUE DISASTER RESPONSE”

Dianne Auger, Regional Vice President, Strategy and Regional Development for Hartford HealthCare, put into words what all of us in health care have felt since the start of the pandemic: we’ve worked and lived through a disaster response effort. Thankfully, the largest part of the crisis is over. But that doesn’t mean our health care workers aren’t experiencing burnout and PTSD. How we address the needs of our health care workers next will have a direct impact on our ability to provide care for our patients and communities. 

“TELEHEALTH IS HELPFUL, BUT NOT A SILVER BULLET”

Tor Miller, Chief Marketing Officer for Titanium Healthcare, shared that her company provides services for patients who have five or more chronic disease conditions. Titanium, like other health care organizations, spun up telehealth services in the early days of the pandemic so it could see patients safely. But helping post-acute patients with chronic disease conditions through telehealth isn’t ideal. Telehealth has proven to be a helpful tool in caring for patients, but it can’t be the only tool moving forward.

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“CARING FOR THE PATIENTS WHO SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS”

Both Dianne and Tor noted that COVID-19 turned a spotlight on the health inequities among patient populations. Hartford HealthCare amplified its work to coordinate resources in the community, reaching those patients who may lack transportation for medical care. Titanium Healthcare’s model of care provides care coordinators who help patients with everything from access to food and even how to refrigerate medications for patients who have housing insecurities. As we get back to “normal,” I think we all can agree: let’s not turn our backs on those inequities and patients who slip through the cracks of our health care system. 

“MOM: IT’S TIME YOU MADE YOURSELF A PRIORITY”

Women, and mothers in particular, are hardwired to make their family’s health a priority over their own. The pandemic may have amplified this behavior, as data suggests a record number of women have put off their own health care to focus on keeping their family safe and healthy. While noble, we know that the adage of “putting on your oxygen mask before putting on somebody else’s” rings true. Women and men are showing up to the ER and doctor’s office with higher acuity needs—due to delaying their own care. 

“WHY DOES HEALTH CARE HAVE TO BE SO COMPLICATED?”

Tor, a native of England, shared her personal story of coming to the United States and having to learn about health insurance and what a “deductible” is. Many of us who have worked in the American health care system are so used to the complexity that we can forget how challenging it must be for our patients who are not health care “experts” to navigate the cumbersome system. As Chief Marketing Officer, Tor shared how she is redesigning the patient experience from the ground up—for example, how her care team answers the phone to redesigning and reimagining patient letters and communications materials to be simple, friendly, and accessible. 

“LET’S DO OUR PART SO OUR PATIENTS CAN DO THEIR PART”

Dianne shared what should be the playbook for health care marketing and communications strategies for patient audiences: keep it simple, keep it friendly, and help our patients to navigate their needs. She also reminded us that health care is a two-way street: providers can deliver outstanding care. But we need our patients to do their part: to come in for care, to follow medical orders, and to take care of their bodies. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

In the early days of COVID-19, Chris Boyer, digital health strategist and co-host of the touch point podcast, told me that the way he’s thinking about pre-COVID was as “Before Times,” and after COVID-19, “After Times.” I’d like to think (and hope) we’re in the “Post-Pandemic Cleanup” time. Though this disease is still in the air, my hope is that fewer and fewer people will be impacted by it. What we’re left with is the mess that follows any disaster: like the rubble after a hurricane has torn through a city. There are broken lives to mend and health maladies have gone untreated while people were hunkered down and weathering the pandemic storm. 

As communicators, we can’t treat diseases and heal people. But we can connect with our health audiences, share with them ways that they can live healthier, and reduce the amount of barriers to access care.  

The challenges before us are daunting. There’s important work to be done. But just look at what we accomplished and overcame during the pandemic. That should give all of us a sense of strength and confidence. 

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COVID Brain: What to Know When Marketing to Patient Consumers

COVID Brain: What to Know When Marketing to Patient Consumers

“COVID Brain.” Do the recent digital privacy updates mean the end of digital marketing as we know it? Should hospitals see Walmart as their next—and perhaps greatest—fiscal threat?

These were just a few topics I asked our panel of health care marketing industry experts on our June 18th, 2021 Campfire. Special thanks to Rob Klein of Klein + Partners, James Gardner, and Colin Hung for joining the “hot seat” for our Ask the Experts Campfire!

Read below for highlights or watch the replay video. And sign up below to get notified of our next webinars: conversational, insightful and sometimes just plain light-hearted—because health care communicators need to laugh sometimes.

COVID BRAIN: WHAT TO REMEMBER WHEN MARKETING TO PATIENT CONSUMERS

“When it comes to consumer health care marketing, we have to remember we’re talking to people with ‘COVID Brain.’” That was how Rob Klein, health care branding researcher, began his remarks at our Campfire roundtable with industry experts.

COVID Brain, as Rob explained it, is what happens when our cognitive skills are impaired due to fear and chronic stress. (Umm, this might have something to do with living in a pandemic.) 

Marketing and communicating health care to consumer audiences has always been a worthy challenge. After all, marketers are often tasked with communicating services that our audiences might not need for years (like cardiology care) or want to think about (like cancer care). 

Fear is a motivator for action. (Like smelling smoke in your house and exiting pronto.) But too much fear? Or worse yet: chronic, ongoing fear, (like what we’ve experienced for over a year since COVID-19), can stunt people from taking healthy actions like:

  • Rescheduling the mammogram that was delayed due to COVID-19. 
  • Talking with a doctor about strange aches and shortness of breath.
  • Admitting their health challenges are greater than they can manage on their own. 

Rob recommends encouraging your physicians to exhibit “Empathetic Access”: active listening and engagement with patients. Prior to the pandemic, consumers complained about “doorjamb doctors”: physicians who practically stood in the doorway of the exam room as the patient tried to remember all the things to ask during the appointment. 

Now, that need for human connection among consumers with physicians is only greater: especially as many of us still have knock-on effects due to “COVID brain.” 

Maybe you’re not in a position to counsel physicians on how to care for patients. Maybe you can’t immediately change the industry average 18-minute patient exam.

But how can you enlighten your doctors, nurses and other care team members about what patients are thinking, feeling and craving right now? 

As health care marketing communications professionals, our jobs are most often in service of representing the voice of the patient. How might you illuminate how your health system’s patients are doing these days to inspire better engagement and shared understanding?

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APPLE AND GOOGLE TO MARKETERS: WE HOPE YOU LIKE RADICAL CHANGE

During the Campfire, Colin Hung referenced a recent article he wrote on HITMC about Apple’s recent changes to their email privacy features. 

And it’s kind of a big deal.

The gist? Apple’s new email privacy features will effectively end tracking of opens, forwards, location and IP addresses. This means no more A/B testing of subject lines, knowing if your email was forwarded to someone else or which organization the recipient works for. 

Doesn’t sound like a big deal to you?

Consider this: 51.8% of all emails are opened using an Apple device. If half of our potential audience is leveraging Apple’s new privacy settings, then marketing’s traditional “bread and butter” metrics—like email open rates—are a thing of the past. 

Colin—a glass half full kind of person—is hopeful that Apple’s changes, along with Google’s recent news that it will end third-party cookies in Chrome (and potentially drive to extinction 3rd party cookie-based retargeting)—will encourage health care marketers to imagine better, more meaningful metrics and KPIs. 

What are the potential “upsides” of Apple’s and Google’s news for health care marketers?

Well, to start with the obvious first principle: increase your emphasis on creating great content: the stuff that benefits your audience, which they want to consume, share and take action on.

Next up: iterate and innovate. As of this writing, we are 193 days from going “cookieless.” Pull the team together and figure out how to reimagine your KPIs in a cookie-less world. How robust are your first-party data practices? What new data points and insights can you leverage to help shape your future digital marketing campaigns?

This might seem like a big assignment. But then again, remember you survived a pandemic. It’s all downhill from here. 

HEALTH CARE MARKETERS: WE SHOULD TALK ABOUT THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

James Gardner has become the media’s thought leader on all things Retail Health. During the Hailey Sault Campfire, James talked about Walmart’s launch of Walmart Health, a doctor-run clinic offering services like X-rays, annual checkups and dental exams. 

CVS, Walgreens and Amazon have all staked inroads into health care. And why not? Health care is a $3.6 trillion industry and consumers have long complained understandably about rising health care costs.

Don’t think your local hospital or health system doesn’t have to put the big box retailers in its competitive set? 

I would caution against that. 

As Rob Klein pointed out during the Campfire: “Retail figured out health care faster than health care figured out retail.”

And, as James Gardner reminded us: “Walmart never loses.”

So what does this mean for you and your organization? (Provided you’re not currently working for Walmart, Amazon, CVS or Walgreens?)

  • Increased focus on consumer loyalty: in any given year, approximately 30% of your patients are thinking about switching providers. The retail health movement will peel off those patients. How can you re-engage your patients to remain loyal and connected with your brand?
  • And don’t think it’s just primary care visits and medication refills you risk losing to the retail health giants. Walmart has a long history of guiding its employed workforce to receive specialty care that it identifies as high quality and at the best possible cost. Why wouldn’t Walmart encourage its primary care patients to seek joint replacement services at the hospitals and orthopedic clinics that it deems best for its patients for both quality and price? (After all, those cost savings back to the consumer are likely to be spent at their local Walmart.)
  • Increased focus on physician loyalty: According to a survey at the end of 2020, nearly half of doctors are rethinking their careers, in large part due to COVID-19 and its impact on the health care system. How can you re-engage your physicians? (Remember: Walmart needs good doctors to staff its clinics.)

BONUS RESOURCE

Here’s a short video from CNBC featuring James on the Retail Health movement.

FINAL THOUGHTS

We’ve all come through this pandemic a bit tired, sleep-deprived, and having our fair share of “COVID Brain.” It’s a good time to check in with our marketing strategies and plans to ask if we’re running a 2019 strategy or a 2021 strategy. Because everything changed in 2020. Some good change, a lot of not so good change. But nonetheless: change. And to win the hearts and minds of our consumers, we need to keep changing as an industry. 

Do you like learning new things and connecting with fun, smart people? Then you should sign up to be notified of our next Hailey Sault Campfire webinars: they’re lively video conversations without the boring bullet point slides. Sign up below to be notified of the next Campfire and get early access to our latest thinking and strategies on how to create human connections with health care marketing. 

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COVID-19: The 5 Connection Points Health Care Must Nurture

COVID-19: The 5 Connection Points Health Care Must Nurture

One year ago (give or take a few weeks), our focus as health care communicators and leaders shifted from brand-driven communication to purpose-driven communication—and making connections with our audiences in order to provide vital health information. 

On this anniversary of the COVID-19 crisis (and our first Campfire session), we discuss five connection points driving patient satisfaction, staff morale and community relations. 

  1. Human-to-human connections
  2. Patient connections
  3. Staff connections
  4. Community connections
  5. Community partner connections

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Campfire Panelist:

Kevin is highly regarded and recognized for his work as a speaker, strategist, trainer and facilitator. In addition to his position at Memorial Medical Center, he is President of Stranberg & Associates and Senior Consultant with The Baird Group.

Campfire Moderators: 

  • Stephen Moegling, SVP of Growth, Hailey Sault 
  • Marsha Hystead, Partner, CCO, Hailey Sault

Connection: COVID-19’s Call to Action 

Chapters in this Campfire

00:00 Introduction—introducing Kevin and a topic overview

03:21 Connecting Human-to-Human—the basis of our work as health care communicators and leaders

08:26 Connecting with Patients—concrete strategies for realizing patient satisfaction scores that include reaching the 94th percentile for rate and the 95th percentile for recommend 

18:49 Connecting with Staff—ramping up connection and communication with staff, watching for burnout into the next year

26:15 Connecting with Community—monitoring what the community is saying, strategies for connecting online

33:55 Connecting with Community Partners—coming together for the greater good and continuing those connections

40:53 S’Mores Break—predictions: what will the office “next normal” look and feel like

Join Us for Our Next Campfire Session

Hailey Sault is a health care marketing agency that creates human connection for brands. For more patients and appointments. More engagement and advocacy. More memorability and market share.

We host these Campfire Sessions to discuss the issues and opportunities facing health care marketers. These are webinars without boring slides, bullet points, and sales pitches—just great insights shared by and for our marketing colleagues. We hope you’ll join us around the virtual Campfire.

[PAST CAMPFIRES]

Download the 2021 Trends Report

The Health Care Marketer’s Post-Pandemic World

The Health Care Marketer’s Post-Pandemic World

Who remembers Stretch Armstrong? He was the muscular, gel-filled action figure toy who could stretch from his original size of 15 inches to 4 or 5 feet and then bounce back again. That’s how one of our three guest panelists, Kelly Meigs from Tanner Health in Georgia, described how her health care marketing team has been operating since last March. The metaphor quite possibly describes how most of us feel about now. 

So, take a minute to relax back to your original shape and watch this Campfire all about what’s next for health care marketers. Hear how guests from three distinct markets—Illinois, Nevada and Georgia—are stretching their way into 2021. 

Explore health care marketing topics that include:

  • Engaging patient-consumers—what strategies are working?
  • Revenue recovery—how to get patients back in for care.
  • Planning vs. doing—how to manage daily to-dos and long-range planning.
  • Community vigilance as COVID numbers drop—encouraging medical workers to get vaccinated.
  • Being the trusted health news source.

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Campfire Panelists:

  • Kelly Meigs, Vice President of Marketing Strategy & Planning, Tanner Hospital System, Georgia
  • Laura Shea, Director of Marketing & Community Relations, Humboldt General Hospital, Nevada
  • Carl Maronich, Marketing Director, Riverside Healthcare, Illinois

Campfire Moderators: 

  • Stephen Moegling, SVP of Growth, Hailey Sault 
  • Mike Seyfer, Partner, CEO, Hailey Sault

What’s Next: Chapters in this Campfire

00:00 Introduction—guest and topic background.

09:17 Engaging patient-consumers—what strategies are working?

19:01 Revenue recovery—how to get patients back in for care.

27:51 Planning vs. doing—how to manage daily to-dos and long-range planning.

41:07 Community vigilance as COVID numbers drop—encouraging medical workers to get vaccinated.

44:24 S’Mores Break—being the trusted health news source.

Join Us for Our Next Campfire Session

Hailey Sault is a health care marketing agency that creates human connection for brands. For more patients and appointments. More engagement and advocacy. More memorability and market share.

We host these Campfire Sessions to discuss the issues and opportunities facing health care marketers. These are webinars without boring slides, bullet points, and sales pitches—just great insights shared by and for our marketing colleagues. We hope you’ll join us around the virtual Campfire.

[PAST CAMPFIRES]

Download the 2021 Trends Report