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Monday, December 12, 2011

Chief Marketing Officer Has Moved to a New Blog Site

Dear Readers,

Chief Marketing Officer has moved to a new blog platform.  Please click here to go to the new site and subscribe for updates.  While there, check out the four part series on Marketing Resource Allocation Decisions.  As always, your comments, questions and suggestions for content are always welcome.

Thank you for following Chief Marketing Officer.  I look forward to our conversations on the new site.

Karen Corrigan

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Marketing the Power of Pink

True confession: I dislike pink. And the marketer in me winces every time I see another pink ribbon etched, woven, stamped, hung or printed on everything from yogurt cups to kitchen appliances to clothing and even pet food. Don’t get me wrong – I get it. Breast cancer has taken the lives of people I treasure. And I wholeheartedly believe that physicians, healthcare marketers, organizations like the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and even all of the consumer products and services brandishing pink have saved countless women by raising awareness of the importance of early detection.

So what’s the beef? I wish I could offer up a rational argument for my stance on pink, but admit it has more emotional than rational origins. Perhaps it’s what appears to me to be the over-commercialization of the cause. Or maybe something more deep-seated, like fear.

Six months ago, Susan Lilly (one of our colleagues at Corrigan Partners) learned she had breast cancer. She found a lump under her arm and soon discovered that it was a particularly aggressive form of the disease. The past six months have been an endurance race of chemotherapy, surgery and recovery for Susan, her husband and two young daughters. The good news is good! While she still has a couple more surgeries to go, she is now re-entering normalcy – whatever that is.

I remember the stomach-sinking dread felt when Susan first called to say she had breast cancer. And can only imagine what it must have been like for her and for thousands of other women who hear those words coming out of their physicians’ mouths. But Susan taught us much here at the office. How not to give into fear. How to take control of your illness. How to be a smart healthcare consumer, not just a patient. How to keep going through the chemo treatments. How to embrace the fashion possibilities when she lost her hair. How to keep your humor – and your faith – through it all.

So there it is. I’ve outed Susan with her full permission. She has incredible strength of character and is much loved and admired by her colleagues for 'just being Susan.'

And yes, she and I share similar views on pink. But maybe we just need a little more distance from the tribulations of the past six months to embrace its power to heal.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Chris Boyer's Social Media ROI Ragtime

You might be tempted to suggest that Chris Boyer (Director of Digital Marketing & Communications, Inova Health System) keep his day job until you realize that this is his day job! Thanks Chris for this morning’s chuckles. Wish I’d been there to see it in person. (Thanks also to Dan Dunlop for feeding highlights from the Health Care Social Media Summit through his blog – The Healthcare Marketer).

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A ‘Can’t Miss’ Event – The 15th Annual Greystone.Net Healthcare Internet Conference

The 15th Annual Greystone.Net Healthcare Internet Conference will be held November 7 – 9, 2011 at the J.W. Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes. This year’s theme, The Convergence: Marketing and IT Collaboration – The Time is Now, is one of the reasons this annual Greystone.Net event has become a ‘must attend’ priority for me. With Convergence, Greystone.Net is introducing a new section focusing solely on the collaborative and innovative strategies and technologies transforming healthcare. The keynoters and featured presenters are topnotch experts in the realm of web, social and mobile trends, innovations and practical applications.

I’m also excited for the opportunity to present with with Sentara Healthcare’s digital marketers, Lee Gwaltney and Jessica Carlson on the topic of “Digital Brandscaping: Extending Your Brand Across Web, Social and Mobile Sites.” We’ll be addressing the importance of a proactive, focused and purposeful approach to brand management across web, social and mobile sites as well as with patient and provider portals, and with clinical information systems such as electronic health records. Our session is scheduled for Monday, November 7 at 4:15 p.m.

While there, drop by the Brains on Demand booth in the Exhibit Hall. We’ll be there with our Brains on Demand partners Brand =Experience, Klein & Partners and Eruptr.

Can you believe it’s the 15th year for the Greystone.Net conference? It’s a terrific event that just gets better every year.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Future of Healthcare Marketing

I had a chance to talk with Bill Moschella Co-founder & CEO of eVariant about the future of healthcare marketing at the SHSMD conference this past September. Here’s that interview. What advice do you have for marketers seeking to improve marketing performance and build future ready marketing operations?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Improving CV Volumes, Revenue and Business Performance - A Webinar for Healthcare Executives

Join Art Sturm, president & CEO of SRK, by webinar on Thursday, October 20 as he discusses how top heart programs are benefiting from the "strategic halo effect" in growing volumes and improving business performance for cardiovascular service lines. You'll learn strategies and tools for growing CV service line revenue and improving collaboration across multiple specialties. Key topic points include:
  • Growing new and returning patient revenue.
  • Optimizing resource utilization, including physician alignment.
  • Developing strategies to build collaboration among multiple service lines.
  • Streamlining operations by creating a common view that focuses the enterprise.
  • Tracking revenue and cost performance of individual service lines and individual physicians.
The Strategic Halo Effect also addresses the essential question: how to thrive in this new era of healthcare reform?

Follow the link below to learn more about this complementary webinar.

The Strategic Halo Effect: the Science of Improving CV Service Line Volumes, Revenue and Operations; Thursday, October 20, 10 AM Pacific, 12 Noon Central, 1 PM Eastern.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In Remembrance of a Healthcare Colleague and Dear Friend . . .

A memorial service will be held this evening for Nancy L. Eleuterius, a former co-worker and friend who, at age 68, left this earth far too young. I first met Nancy more than 30 years ago at Riverside Hospital in Newport News, Virginia. She worked in patient registration and I had just come on board as assistant director of marketing. What I remember most about that meeting was her warm, wonderful welcome to a strange new city and introduction to the institution. Shortly thereafter, Nancy left to take a job as director of administrative services for Norfolk General Hospital (now part of Sentara Healthcare in Virginia). I was sad to see her move on, but also joined the Norfolk General team later that same year and once again had the pleasure of working with Nancy. Hailing from Mississippi, she was the quintessential Southern lady; a steel magnolia with a big heart, quick wit, lots of smarts and true grit.

In the coming decades at Sentara, Nancy went on to become the director of operations for First Step, the first managed care contract in the nation for the Department of Defense. She was then promoted as the president of Sentara Mental Health Management and brought her very successful career to a close when she retired as president and CEO of Sentara Behavioral Health Services.

I have many wonderful memories of Nancy and hope you will indulge me in sharing a few of those with you today.

First, she was a champion of ‘patient experience’ before it became the trendy thing to do. Make that ‘customer’ experience – Nancy also believed that making it easy for doctors to schedule and admit patients would result in better business outcomes. We’re talking the early 1980s here – long before most hospitals understood or cared about the connection between service culture and financial performance. She alerted me – a very green marketer at the time – about a stream of patients being referred to our specialists by primary care docs in rural North Carolina. Told me about the number of calls coming in from people looking for doctors. Was concerned about patients and families trying to find someone to help them deal with the complexity and confusion of hospital stays.

In the earliest days of healthcare marketing, she was the catalyst for development of physician referral development, consumer call center and guest relations programs at Sentara.

Perhaps my favorite memory will be how the two of us conspired to keep a talented ‘temp’ worker in the health system. I first hired the temporary employee to help with the opening and marketing of a major facility expansion project. She was a fantastic find. When my funding ran out, Nancy and I arranged to have her work as a temporary employee in admissions, supporting a number of initiatives there. When her funding ran out, I had another new project that needed support. It took a couple of years, but we both knew great talent when we saw it and beat the ‘no new FTEs’ gridlock to bring her on in a permanent position. Today that person, Carol Via, is the vice president for corporate marketing at Sentara and remains one of the best marketing practitioners with whom I’ve had the privilege of working.

But Nancy wasn’t just about work. When I went into labor with my third child on the day before Thanksgiving, she showed up at our house to watch our toddler while my husband and I went to the hospital.

Over her lifetime, Nancy received numerous awards and recognitions for her accomplishments and contributions, served on boards and volunteered for community charities. What she was most proud of however, and held most precious, were her two daughters, Cindy and Deborah. She prayed daily for their health, safety and happiness.

A story that best characterizes Nancy goes like this. On a trip to New York City she decided to experience high tea at the Pierre Hotel. If you’ve ever done this, you know that it is a crowded happening (and if not, you must!). Nancy snagged a table with two seats in the Rotunda, ordered her tea and scones, and sat back to people watch. A tall, well-dressed gentleman asked if he could take the seat next to her, to which she agreed and for the next hour or so engaged in a conversation ranging from the weather to favorite restaurants to Broadway hits to world politics. When the gentleman rose to leave, he shook her hand and thanked her for one of the more pleasant afternoons he had experienced in some time. Immediately upon his departure, the wait staff clustered around her with questions. “Wow, do you know him? What was he like? Did you ask for his autograph?” Nancy, being Nancy, said “Know who?”

The answer was Michael Jordan. I still believe she had to look him up once she got home, but somewhere along the line learned he was rather famous. But that was Nancy. Every person was uniquely special – yet just a fellow human being.

Nancy was someone I looked up to and aspired to be like. She was a major influence both personally and professionally – I never stopped learning from her.

She will be missed by many, many people. And though her years were short, she lived each one with great enthusiasm and the world is a better place because of the time she spent on it.

Nancy L. Eleuterius
Nancy’s life will be celebrated at St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, 5345 Virginia Beach Blvd., Virginia Beach, VA 23462-1889 on Wednesday, October 5, 2011. The memorial Mass will begin at 4:30 p.m. Flowers may be sent to St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her name to St. Michael Building Fund, P.O. Box 523, Biloxi, MS 39530.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Number of Consumer Health Apps to Reach 13,000 by Next Summer

MobiHealthNews' newly released report Consumer Health Apps for Apple's iPhone reveals that the number of health apps for consumers has grown at a steady rate over that past 18 months and projects that by next summer there will be more than 13,000 health apps intended for use by consumers.  The study is based on an analysis of 18 months of data from Apple’s AppStore and also shows that the average price of a paid health app is trending upward from $2.77 last February $3.21 in July 2011. Of the 9,000 health apps available for consumers today, slightly more than 16% are for cardio fitness and around 14% for diet.  Other categories include women's health, sleep, chronic disease, medication management and mental health.

Click here for more information about the study (full report available for a fee).

Monday, September 12, 2011

Heading Out to SHSMD Connections 2011!

It's that time of year again. Beginning tomorrow, hundreds of healthcare executives, planning and marketing professionals, communications leaders and other experts will be pouring into Phoenix for the annual conference of the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development.  The conference officially kicks off on Wednesday morning, September 14 and continues through Saturday morning, September 17 at the J.W. Marriott Desert Ridge Resort.

Personally, I'm looking forward to reconnecting with long-time colleagues and friends, meeting and getting to know new people, learning new things and having a little fun along the way. 

This year, I'm honored to be speaking with Terri Goren of Goren & Associates and Phyllis Marino, vice president of market development at MetroHealth System in Cleveland.  We'll be presenting on Thursday, September 15 from 1:30 to 2:45.  Our topic - Can't We All Just Get Along?  Marketing and PR Professionals Uniting for Winning Results -- will address the challenges executives sometimes face when trying to get their marketing and PR teams on the same page, and offer insights into driving better and more collaborative performance.

At Corrigan Partners, we're also excited about our new partnership with Brains on Demand, a unique collaborative offering seamless access to leading healthcare research, brand, marketing, communications and social media experts that can help you address a multitude of needs and projects.  We'll be in the Exhibit Hall during exhibition hours at booth #813.  Stop by and see us, and register for a free day of consulting from one of our experts.

I hope you will also join us at the Corrigan Partners Sunrise SIG Breakfast on Friday morning from 8:00 am to 9:00 am.  Join a table discussing a topic of interest and meet some new people over coffee and breakfast. 

For a list of all the great topics, speakers, events, exhibitors, etc., click here to visit SHSMD's website.  And thanks also to the SHSMD staff for the hard and expert work they put into making this a great annual event.

See you there!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Preparing for Hurricane Irene

My colleagues in our Norfolk, Virginia based Corrigan Partners firm have spent today securing homes and property and assuring the safety of our families. Some of our team live in flood-prone areas and have been ordered to evacuate. We expect the weather to deteriorate overnight, with hurricane winds, rain and flooding to escalate on Saturday and continuing through the early hours of Sunday.

If predictions hold true, it is likely that we will lose power and phone service, and have limited access to the Internet, email and voicemail. Emergency officials have warned that it could take several days to a week or more to restore. If you want to contact us, please do leave an email or voicemail and we will make every attempt to respond as quickly as possible.

We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding as we get through the storm clean-up and return to normal operations.

When we have access to the Internet, we’ll post any changes or updates on our Facebook site at

To all of our clients, colleagues, friends and family in Irene’s path, please stay safe. We wish you the best.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Feed Your Brain with these Conferences for Healthcare Marketers

Remember when August meant gearing up for the new school year - shopping for school supplies, refreshing the wardrobe, looking forward to being back in the classroom?  For us grown-up healthcare marketers, Fall still signals a season of continuous learning with some outstanding conferences and webinars.  Here's a few I'd recommend.  Any other suggestions?

SHSMD Connections 2011
American Hospital Association
Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development
September 14 - 17, 2011
JW Marriot Desert Ridge Resort
Phoenix, Arizona

Healthcare Reform: Implications for Marketers
Forum for Healthcare Strategists Webinar
September 28, 2011
1:30–3:00 pm (CDT)

Third Annual Healthcare Social Media Conference
October 17-19, 2011
Mayo Clinic
Rochester, Minnesota

Hospital and Physician Relations Executive Summit
Forum for Healthcare Strategists
October 19 - 21, 2011
Camelback Inn and Spa
Scottsdate, Arizona

15th Annual Greystone.Net Healthcare Internet Conference
November 7 - 9, 2011
JW Marriott Orlanto Grande Lakes
Orlando, Florida

Look forward to seeing you out there.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

10 Advertising Terms You Should Learn Today

In the world of digital marketing, advertising terms like PPC, CPM and CTR are fast becoming so yesterday.  Marketers and advertisers are cooking up an alphabet stew of new acronyms, words and, well,  jargon to describe a new wave on on-line advertising technologies.

If expressions like RTB (real time bidding) and DSP (demand-side platform) leave you scratching your head, and terms like re-targeting, dynamic creative and geofencing aren't dancing on the tongue, then grab the iPad and take some notes from Business Insiders article on "10 Advertising Terms You'll Be Hearing For Years, So Learn Them Now."

Click here to read the article.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Practicing What They Preach - Smokers won't be Hired by SSM Health Care

Recently, I was driving past a top notch tertiary medical center that has a smoke free campus.  Across the street from the hospital in the median of a major thoroughfare sat a half dozen employees in their scrubs taking a smoke break.  From the car, I could see both the smokers and the smoke-free campus banner.  The contradictory image was quite startling.

Now, SSM Health Care hospitals in St. Louis  will start a tobacco-free hiring policy next month.  Job applicants at the seven SSM hospitals will be asked whether they have used tobacco in the last six months. If the answer is yes, that applicant will be eliminated from the hiring process.  SSM spokesperson, Chris Hutton stressed that the health system wants employees to model healthy behaviors and take better care of themselves.  Lowering healthcare costs related to employees that smoke is also a factor - the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention puts that cost at an additonal $3,400 annually per employee.

SSM is not the first health system to ban the hiring of smokers - and I hope they won't be the last.

Click here to read more.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Engaging Patients with Chronic Illness through Online Technologies

Chronic diseases are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems in the U.S. Incident rates are on the rise and will continue to grow for years to come. Under healthcare reform, new value based payment systems are targeting costs associated with chronic care. This will have an impact on volume as well as revenue for hospitals on a national scale and as a result, hospitals will have to implement new and robust initiatives using online platforms to meaningfully engage patients with chronic illness - and outcomes of that engagement.

So here's an interesting question -- should marketers play a role in patient management? One could and should argue that as new risk payment models take hold, customer relationship management may be key to retention, behavior modification and better self management of chronic illnesses.  Business outcomes will not only be impacted by customer acquisition but also by our ability to better understand what drives profitability under risk contracts.

Active Data Exhange, through its KnowledgeShare 2011, is hosting a webinar on Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm eastern time to explore this topic.  Discussion points will cover:
  • Facts about the dramatic growth in chronic disease that will occur in the coming years and projected impact on healthcare systems
  • How planning, marketing and communications professionals can best be prepared to handle the surge in demand through web technology as a strategic enabler
  • How Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida is leveraging web technology to manage and drive patient education and community outreach programs.
I'll be joining the webinar along with Mathew Haggar, Communications Coordinator at Parrish Medical Center and Christopher Smith of Active Data Exchange.

There is no charge for participation.  Click here to learn more and to register.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Brian Whitman Joins the Corrigan Partners Team

F. Brian Whitman
Today, I'm thrilled to announce that F. Brian Whitman has joined the team at Corrigan Partners, bringing his creative, results-oriented business and brand building expertise to our clients. Over the course of his career, Brian has been responsible for all aspects of brand and marketing management, including brand building, marketing planning, new product launches, partnership development, marketing promotions, corporate communications, crisis management and merger communications.

Previously, Brian served as vice president for Indiana University Health Bloomington, with responsibility for marketing, community relations, business development, physician outreach, CRM/call center, service excellence and community health. There he served as IU Health’s organization’s regional branding officer. He also worked at Clarian Health Partners, Inc., where he led service-line marketing for cardiovascular and cancer. Prior to Clarion, he was employed at Corporate Creations, Inc., where he had account oversight for Cummins Engine, Delta Faucet and Methodist Health System.

Brian holds an MBA in health care management from Western Governors University, and a BA from the University of Indianapolis. He teaches healthcare marketing at Indiana University as adjunct faculty, and is an active member the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD).

I've known Brian since his Clarion days and have always been inspired by his thoughtful, creative and comprehensive approaches to engage consumers, build brands and grow business.  Welcome aboard, Brian.

Brian can be reached at or (317) 572-7024.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Passion, not Promotion, Built this Doctor's Blog Audience

Susan Lilly
During a webinar yesterday, I listened to Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson of “Seattle Mama Doc” fame – She’s a pediatrician mom who writes a widely followed blog for Seattle Children’s Hospital. Dr. Swanson didn’t start blogging to promote herself, but because she wanted to be a reasoned voice in an age of media hype trumping science. Her passion was evident while making the case for physician blogging. In fact, her passion is the key to her success as a blogger, which has the additional benefit of boosting the profile and mission of Seattle Children’s. The hospital gives her free reign on what to post, which gives her blog (and embedded You Tube videos) authenticity and personality.

To enhance a program or raise awareness, you need to go where your patients are. Today, they are online. Do you have a physician or nurse in a service line who has a passion to engage and help patients? Who has the time to commit to posting once a week?

Remember to be patient; blogs take some time to gain traction. But that’s ok as this gives the blogging doctor or nurse time to find her comfort zone in the blogosphere.

Take a look at Dr. Swanson’s blog for inspiration:

Susan Lilly consumes vast amounts of health industry data so you don’t have to. She has worked in the healthcare field for 20 years - in both private and public sectors - and focuses on telling the stories that help health care clients grow and thrive.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Prioritizing Marketing Resources Key to Achieving Return on Investment Goals - Part 1

For most healthcare marketers, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) comes not in the dead of winter but in the dreaded annual cycle of budget planning.  Hunkered down with plans and spreadsheets, most are trying to conjure up ways to achieve more with less.  Unfortunately, too many end up spreading scarce dollars over too many projects.
When stuck between a rock (the health system's need for profitable growth) and a hard place (the drive to cut costs), how do marketers prioritize marketing investments and gain organizational commitment to those investment decisions?

First, clean house.  Use this opportunity as a time to take a stand and stop funding those activities that have no or minimal impact on strategic growth, customer acquisition, customer retention and financial performance.  Specifically look at non-marketing activities that sap resources and work with your colleagues across the health system to eliminate or move those deeds elsewhere.  Make sure your team is performing at its best; while it's always difficult to move people out, when you are being asked to do more with fewer FTEs, each has to be a stellar performer.

Second, use a marketing resource allocation methodology to prioritize limited marketing resources (dollars and FTEs) to those growth and marketing initiatives that have the best potential for improving business performance and positioning the organization for long-term success.

In prioritizing marketing resource investments, there are three basic decision points:
  1. What businesses, clinical programs or market expansion initiatives offer the best opportunity for growth and profitability?
  2. Within priority programs and service lines, what strategies and tactical initiatives will best achieve marketing goals?
  3. What infrastructure investments will be required to support effective growth and marketing management?
In other words, what will you choose to invest in to drive growth and improve profitability, and what activities and support systems will contribute most to those objectives? Both top-down and bottom-up approaches to resource allocation are necessary; top down for strategic planning across a health system’s portfolio of service lines and market initiatives; bottom up to develop individual marketing budgets within each priority program.

I know that some of the toughest issues marketers face during the long, cold winter of the budget season are cutting others' pet projects, sunsetting outdated communications tactics, navigating the politics of competing priorities, and so on and so on.  Just saying 'no' has not been an option for some;  a marketing resource allocation method can better arm the marketer with data-driven rationale for investment decisions.

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll explore the components and key questions to delve into for each of the three decision points listed above.  In the meantime, let me know some of your toughest budget challenges -- together let's find a way to stop doing more and focus on achieving more

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Your Brand's Value is Influenced by the Company it Keeps

Many years ago, an older and wiser colleague gave me this advice: be careful where you put your logo. A point made all too well, when at one of our port city’s many waterfront festivals, I ran smack dab into a biker (the Hell’s Angels, not Lance Armstrong, type) wearing our health system’s 100th anniversary t-shirt. There was our carefully-crafted and beautifully-designed ‘future of medicine’ message and logo stretched across the beer belly of a large, bearded and seemingly-intoxicated man complete with ‘die young’ tattoos, leather studded neck collar, and dangling cigarette. The dichotomy of the message and the media underscored the importance of context for brand building communications.

Professors Brian Sternthal (Kellogg School of Management) and Myungwoo Nam (INSEAD) conducted a series of experiments (Kellogg Insight) to determine how the environment in which a brand appears influences brand perception, and concluded that managing the brand’s environment is just as important as managing the brand. A more favorable context produces a more favorable perception, and a negative context, a less favorable one.

Most marketers know this and work hard at selecting and controlling media that enhance and complement the brand – but the advent of the Internet and increasing popularity of social media sites have made this a more challenging aspect of brand management. Organizations fear and avoid social media channels, citing the need to maintain control. As if by not showing up, they have somehow done so. But they’re really in denial that a cyber-biker might just be sporting their brand in a compromised context around the web.

So the question for chief marketing officers is how do we help health systems replace old concepts of control with those of engagement, conversation, relationship, community, partnership, insights and influence?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Social Media Marketing Now 10% of On Line Promotions Spending

Of the $28.5 billion projected to be spent for on-line advertising in the US this year, 10.8% ($3.08 billion) is earmarked for social media networks - which represents a significant jump from the $1.99 billion spent in 2010. And that number is expected to rise again next year to 12.1%, according to a new report "Worldwide Social Network Ad Spending: 2011 Outlook."

The report's author, Debra Aho Williamson, comments, “The skepticism of a few years ago has faded; large brands are allocating more marketing budget to social media than ever before, and their social network ad spending is also rising. Two categories of advertisers are emerging: major brand marketers that increase budgets gradually, and performance advertisers that spend heavily and bring extensive search marketing expertise.”

How are you planning to allocate your promotions dollars in 2011?

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Visit to One of Your Employed Physicians May be the First Exposure Patients will have with Your Hospital. What Kind of “Patient Experience” will They have?

Steve Wilkins
Guest Post by Steve Wilkins
Now that over 50% of physicians are employed by hospitals, this is question that is on the minds of progressive hospital executive teams. With good reason. Patient-reported outcomes, including satisfaction and loyalty, are going to play an increasing role in determining how much hospitals and physicians are paid. This means that astute hospital marketers will be able to build a strong business case for investing in programs aimed at creating superlative ambulatory and inpatient experiences for patients.

But Our Physicians Already Have High Patient Satisfaction And Loyalty Scores

Health care executives should take little comfort in the high patient satisfaction and loyalty ratings found uniformly with just about every physician. Generally speaking, “one can assume that the quality of care is, actually, worse than surveys of patient satisfaction (suggest)”according to Avedis Donabedian, MD, the father of today’s quality movement. Donabedian goes on to say that “patients are, in fact, overly patient; they put up with unnecessary discomforts and grant their doctors the benefit of every doubt, until deficiencies in care are too manifest to be overlooked. “

Just look at the quality of physician-patient communication, a key ingredient of the “patient experience” in the physician’s office.
  • In only 26% of the visits are patients allowed to complete their opening statement (agenda) without interruption (by the doctor); in 37% the physicians interrupted; and in 37% physician never asked about the patient’s visit agenda.
  • Studies suggest that patients do not express their health concerns, expectations or opinions in up to 75 percent of physician visits principally because their doctor never asked.
  • Primary care physicians typically spend less than 60 seconds informing patients how to take new medications…or why.
  • Primary care physicians and patient disagree about the diagnosis, treatment, and cause/severity of their condition over 50% of the time.
  • Over 50% of patients walk out of their doctor’s office not understanding what they were told, including why or how to take their medications.
For their part, patients today are hard pressed to rate the effectiveness of their relationship with their doctor. The evidence conclusively shows that poor physician-patient communications is the norm rather than the exception. As such, most patients do not appreciate all the ways in which their doctor could in fact do a better job communicating with them.

Why Is Any Of This Important?

Simple. In the near future, your hospital and physicians will be paid according to things like how well they communicate with patients. More importantly, high quality physician-patient communications is highly correlated to improved outcomes, fewer hospital re-admits, fewer medical errors, improved patient compliance and increased patient satisfaction and loyalty.

So if you marketing team is looking for a simple and effective position strategy, consider improving the way your physicians and patients talk to each other. This strategy is so simple no one else in your market will be able to figure out what you are doing. But that’s OK…because your patients will sure see the know!

Steve Wilkins, MPH is the author of Mind the Gap.  His posts appear regularly on Better Health Network,  and the Wall Street Journal Online Edition.   Mr. Wilkins, and his company Smart Health Messaging, focus on developing evidence-based solutions for improving the quality of communications between physicians and patients...and in so doing, improve safety and outcomes, increase adherence and satisfaction and reduce costs.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I do solemnly (and publicly) declare . . .

Allison Sherwat
by Allison Sherwat, social media marketer

A recent New York Times article describes a well-tried technique that is being applied in a new venue: thousands of individuals are posting New Year’s resolution videos to social media sites, and in some cases engaging in online programs that will monetarily reward (or punish) the declarer for reaching (or not) her goals. Importantly, most social networking sites make it easy to tell your friends about your ambitions. According to the article, economists say people who make resolutions public are far more likely to fulfill them.

I wonder how health systems could leverage this public declaration of intent to achieve strategic goals. Not only would this provide incentive for the provider to achieve the goal, but it would serve as a tool of engagement with consumers who would want to track your progress. For those organizations struggling to get meaningful engagement from their consumers through social media efforts, this might be just the ticket.

What goal or target could your organization share with the market? The potential for consumers to reward your achievement is great.

Click here to read the New York Times' article.

Allison Sherwat has a passion for innovative marketing, business and new media strategies that help organizations grow and better serve customers. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Social Media: Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?

Kari Foster
by Kari Foster, social media marketer

When I tell people that I help healthcare organizations establish their Facebook and social media presence, the responses vary from “Cool!” to “I don’t have a Facebook account and don’t intend to get one.” You can likely imagine the age of those commenting, but not all of them fall within the likely stereotypes. In fact, we recently posted an article on this blog about the shrinking gap between older adults and millennials when it comes to online activity.

The commonality I find among naysayers, however, is that almost all are considering only the “Mr. Hyde” Facebook fan page. They’ve experienced the sites of the helplessly-narcissistic or recklessly-eager-to-share. Call me Ms. Glass Half Full, but what about the Dr. Jekyll’s out there?

Can we dismiss out of hand the successes of Mayo Clinic or Children’s Hospital Boston in the social media sphere? What about open source Web apps like Google Person Finder , developed by thousands of volunteers in search of a way to help after Katrina and then again after the Haiti earthquake? These apps combined missing persons’ data from sites all around the Web into a single, free place for that information to be gathered and shared.

Gathered and shared – isn’t that what we’re trying to do? When we create a place where patients, families and providers, alike, come together to find information, connect with services, share experiences and offer support to one another, we also create a community that identifies with and grows more loyal to our brand.

Today’s marketers must go where their customers congregate. Avoiding social technologies because we fear what someone ‘might’ say puts us further out of touch. Any tool works best when used correctly. After all, we didn’t stop using telephones because we grew tired of kids calling the house and asking if we had Prince Edward in a can, did we?

Embrace social technologies. Develop your strategy. Put in place solid policies and take the time to educate staff and physicians on appropriate use. Your customers will thank you.

Kari Foster helps healthcare organizations and providers create and manage social media marketing activities. Follow her on Twitter @kskipperfoster.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Make Marketing Performance Measurement a Priority in 2011

No doubt about it - strategic growth and improved financial performance are top priorities for health systems and hospitals in 2011, putting increased pressure on marketing leaders to deliver effective returns on marketing investment.

Where to start? Begin by establishing and gaining agreement on performance targets and metrics, and putting in place the mechanisms to track and report on progress against goals.

Marketing performance measurement and management (MPM) is the process of analysis and improvement of the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of marketing investments and activities. This is accomplished through alignment of marketing activities, strategies, and metrics with business objectives.

A marketing performance measurement framework can be a useful tool for developing those measures and metrics most relevant to an organization’s strategic growth goals.  Three categories of measures are often considered:
  • Enterprise growth: measurement of overall performance against business outcomes, growth goals and competitive sustainability; e.g., revenue growth, profitability, market position, brand leverage, etc.
  • Marketing strategy: measurement of return on marketing investment (ROMI) from core marketing strategies and processes; e.g., high-impact segmentation strategies, service line development, market expansion, portfolio diversification, retail innovations, clinical partnerships, etc.
  • Marketing activities: comparative measurement of effectiveness, efficiency and outcomes of specific marketing and sales tactics or programs; e.g., direct mail campaigns, web traffic, risk screening events, physician sales,
Some marketers use a marketing performance dashboard to monitor, manage and report results.  Marketing measurement systems can also be designed to report at health system, regional, facility and service line levels.

So what are the critical success factors for marketing performance management?
  • Making marketing performance measures, monitoring and reporting systems a priority
  • Targets and metrics aligned to strategic planning, business development and operations priorities
  • Decision support systems with timely access to performance data
  • Cross functional collaboration to set and agree on targets and metrics
  • Cross functional accountability for outcomes
  • Regular reporting intervals to review progress against goals
  • Timely adjustments to strategy and/or course corrections
A high-performance marketing operation requires outcomes accountability for marketing activities and expenditures.  A marketing management measurement and reporting system can be a powerful tool for building support and helping health leaders better understand the inter-dependency of strategy, operations and marketing in achieving growth and marketing goals.

What have been your successes and challenges in marketing performance measurement?

Monday, January 10, 2011

"Social" Medicine

Susan Lilly
Facebook is everywhere. It was the top-visited website of the year for the first time in 2010; Google came in second. Technology companies are integrating Facebook into their gadgets, pre-installing FB as a core function in such items as mobile phones, iPads, e-readers, TVs, cameras, and video game consoles. This dramatically expands the reach of the social networking site beyond the computer to all portable electronic devices making Facebook nearly ubiquitous. 

So what does this mean for marketers? We know that Facebook has more than 600 million monthly active users, of whom more than 230 million access the site on mobile devices. We also know that consumer technology manufacturers are trying to build a social experience around their products. Meanwhile, 40% of online consumers use social media for health information!

However, hospitals and other health care delivery settings are not in the consumer product business. But they do provide services to help people get and stay well. So, the challenge is to take the natural human inclination to share information and experiences, and make it easier to build that around the health community. It can be as simple as posting job openings on Facebook, to inviting fans to watch together a broadcast on weight loss surgery.

So, while some health professionals are reluctant to join the conversation, Facebook will continue to proliferate as a means of communication, with health care consumers searching for emotional and informational support. What could be better than providing that support for your local online community?

Susan Lilly consumes vast amounts of health industry data so you don’t have to. She has worked in the healthcare field for 20 years - in both private and public sectors - and focuses on telling the story inspired by research findings to help health care clients grow and thrive.

PR One of Fastest Growing Professions; Especially for the Social Media Savvy

Good news for PR professionals. Employment is expected to increase 24 percent by 2018, making P.R. one of the fastest-growing professions. Those with knowledge of business, strategic communications, research, finance and, most important, how to use technology — especially social media — will have an edge.

Read more at the New York Times.

High Performing Hospitals Don't Leave Patient Experience to Chance

Last week, I posted a story about a hospital where parking attendants from an outsourced management company were less than sympathetic to a visitor who had spent the night by the bedside of her best friend’s dying child. The incident underscored for me the importance of alignment and accountability across an organization – including independent contractors and vendors – to deliver on brand experience and customer service expectations.

Brand experience is not created by accident. Well, at least great brand experience is not. Establishing and communicating brand service standards clarifies for employees – and contractors – the specific actions and behaviors that are expected of them in delivering great customer service and generating customer loyalty. High performing organizations define and frequently communicate the standards of excellence required to create experiences that are meaningful and valued by patients and their families – and lead to achievement of the health system's business objectives.

Kristi Peterson is a consultant (and long-time colleague) that has helped hundreds of organizations address organizational alignment to service standards. She left this comment on last week’s post – I wanted to share her advice for building accountability into your contracts with outsourced service providers. Writes Kristi:

“A poignant story that makes a very important point. It also hinges on a major concern of mine, thus an editorial comment first. We get so caught up in collecting patient satisfaction data (and feeding on percentile results) that the voice of the customer isn't heard. The numbers do the talking. The relative impact of contracted service providers on the experience is overlooked. It is challenging to capture meaningful feedback on some of these services (such as the one featured). The last thing that's needed is another survey to monitor the performance. Who experiences the customer's frustration, disgust and dismay? Employees. It's important to collect their ideas.

In terms of holding contract service providers accountable for contributing to the patient/customer experience - build into your contracts/reviews the expectations that they will:
  1. Regularly capture feedback from front-line employees (e.g., "What procedures/policies create confusion, inconvenience, dissatisfaction for customers?") and internal departments/stakeholders (as appropriate);
  2. Reinforce employee communication/service skills through training/coaching;
  3. Adopt and hold their employees accountable for your service standards;
  4. Report at least quarterly one service improvement they have instituted; and that 
  5. Executive/manager representatives of contract service firm will regularly visit to watch, listen to, touch and smell your customers. That's the only way they can get a taste...correction, if they mystery-shopped their own services, they would get a better taste of what the service experience is really like, for customers and employees alike!
We should all spend time being underground bosses.”

Amen, Kristi.

Kristi Peterson consults on customer experience, patient satisfaction and leadership effectiveness. She was a pioneer in the movement to raise customer service standards in hospitals and establish the link between patient satisfaction and employee engagement.  You can contact Kristi at

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hospitals Must Hold Private Contractors Accountable for Delivering on Patient Experience

Just before the holidays, a colleague received word that her best friend’s two-year old daughter had been found unresponsive in her crib. She was revived and rushed to the hospital with life-saving measures underway. But the news was not good. The child had gone without oxygen for too long.

My friend, Chris, dropped everything to get to her best friend’s side. She sat in the hospital with the anguished parents for the next 24 hours, watching an endless parade of doctors and nurses running tests, conducting evaluations, trying to comfort the hopeful mother and father. Sadly, the little girl died.

I can’t begin to imagine the depth of grief that the parents and four-year old brother of this young girl are experiencing; just seeing the raw pain etched in Chris’ face brought me to tears as well.

The doctors and nurses in our hospitals are cast in these real life dramas every day. And, occasionally, despite their most heroic efforts, some patients don’t survive. But the intensity of their clinical efforts combined with caring and compassion, are essential to healing the wounded hearts of the families and friends left behind.

A child’s death is not the ‘patient experience’ we want to address in our brand and patient satisfaction discussions, but it was nonetheless the ‘experience’ that this family endured. They will remember the kindness of the staff.

When Chris reluctantly left her friends’ side to return home to her own family, she walked to the hospital parking garage (which is run by an outsourced contractor) to retrieve her car only to learn from the attendant that “this lot closed at 6 pm.”

“Can I just get my keys?” asked Chris. “I need to go home.”

Learning that the keys were sent elsewhere at 6 pm, she treks in the frigid evening air to another building on an unfamiliar campus to retrieve keys from another attendant that began to lecture her about the rules and regulations of the parking garage.

“Can you cut me a break?” she pleaded, “I’ve been with a dying child.” Then she got her keys, walked back to the garage, and drove home to hug her own kids.

The moral of the story? Everyone, from the highly specialized doctor to the parking attendant, creates experiences that live in our customers’ memories. When a parking attendant is inconvenienced rather than sensitive to the harried, worried, hurried, sad or pained needs that characterize families and visitors of the hospitalized, he or she tarnishes your brand. Outsourced operators that touch patients and visitors need to be held to the same expectations of customer care, concern and service.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Trying to Remember Your Child's Medical History Specifics? There's an App for That!

by Kari Foster - social marketer

East Tennessee Children’s Hospital has launched East TN Kids, a new app that allows you to save vital health information about your child in one, easy to find place: your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad. This free app allows parents to save data on everything from insurance and emergency contact numbers to immunizations and surgeries. It also provides hospital directions, doctor contact info, and general medical information for easy reference.

The app can be password protected, and once the information is loaded, it can be shared with other devices via Bluetooth connection. It stands to reason that as more physicians begin to carry iPads, sharing all this data can be done even more quickly.

With today’s on-the-go families, it’s more important than ever to have easy access to your child’s medical history data, especially in an emergency. The East Tennessee Children’s Hospital website,, includes a step-by-step tutorial to make set-up a snap. Even if you don’t live in the region, the East TN Kids app could be a useful tool, and perhaps you can let your child’s doctor know “There’s an app for that!”

Kari Foster helps healthcare organizations and providers create and manage social media marketing activities. Follow her on Twitter @kskipperfoster.