Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 2.41.56 PMLooking for an event to attend in late September? Or perhaps your organization, like so many others, is chasing the holy grail of “patient engagement?” On September 30-October 1 in Bethesda, Maryland, the ENGAGE forum will discuss the leading innovations and latest strategies in improving patient care and healthcare delivery. MedCity ENGAGE is an executive-level event featuring the most innovative thinking from payers, providers, policymakers, health IT and beyond to highlight best-in-class approaches to one of the biggest challenges in healthcare: patient engagement. It will feature speakers discussing the current attempts to innovate in care delivery and reimbursement, along with the innovations that will form the backbone of technological infrastructure.

According to MedCityNews, the producer of the Engage forum, attendees can expect to gather a number of take-aways, benefits and insights from the event:

  • A better understanding of the current care environment and the major policy and market drivers behind care innovation
  • Perspectives from federal policy leaders on future government support of patient engagement
  • Perspectives from health leaders on the business case for exceptional patient engagement
  • Insight from engagement experts from a variety of different fields and how to apply those principles to healthcare
  • Access to innovators “in the trenches” and demonstrations of the latest technology platforms to communicate with and encourage patient behavior.

For information about the event, go to: http://events.medcitynews.com/engage/


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Here’s something you don’t often see: An awards competition where the entries are free. This is the second year for the Multicultural Health Marketing Awards. This competition recognizes the best creative advertising of a health product or service targeting African-American, Hispanic, Asian, or LGBT consumers. (These are creative awards, so it is not necessary to present metrics with each submission.) These can be campaigns from pharma, medical devices, hospitals, insurance plans, OTCs, consumer products, NGOs, government, academia, or anything that is marketing health information to a multicultural market segment and has run on any media at any point since July 1, 2013.
Click here to download entry form: http://form.jotform.us/form/41601102792141

Finalists will be notified in late August/early September and award winners will be announced at the Multicultural Health Marketing National Conference on October 16. Nominations close on August 8, 2014

For the last year I’ve been going around the country, presenting at conference, sharing my perspective on the future of physician relations. Below is the draft of an article I wrote recently that captures some of those views. (This is much longer than most blog posts because it was written as an article for an industry publication.)

The Digital Future of Physician Relations

The digital future of physician marketing is upon us. It hasn’t washed over our industry like a tsunami; rather, it has been a gradual evolution that has followed the slow but steady adoption of health information technology and digital communication tools by physicians. The emergence of the social or digital physician has been documented by numerous studies from organizations such as Manhattan Research, QuantiaMD, and ZocDoc, and written about in peer review publications including the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) and the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA).

It is now evident that physicians find value in interacting with other physicians via social platforms. Physician-only online communities like Doximity, QuantiaMD, Sermo and Medscape Physician Connect have become the leading digital gathering places for doctors seeking professional camaraderie, support and guidance. Within these online communities physicians can securely collaborate on diagnoses and patient treatment. Currently, one of these online communities, Doximity, has a membership that is so vast it includes one in three U.S. physicians.

Once it became apparent that physicians are gravitating toward digital platforms, it was only a matter of time before healthcare communicators and strategists recognized the opportunity presented by digital physician marketing.

Step One: Adoption of Digital Communication Tools for Physician Marketing

Many healthcare organizations, hospitals and health systems have taken the first step into the realm of digital physician marketing. This involved the integration of digital tools into the overall physician marketing program. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center was an early adopter when it launched its www.physicianrelations.com portal for referring physicians. This was just the beginning of its initial foray into digital marketing. Next it added a Twitter feed specifically targeting community physicians, a paper.li daily electronic newspaper that aggregated MD Anderson Faculty Tweets, and a Facebook page with oncology resources for health care professionals.

Other organizations like Tufts Medical Center would follow MD Anderson’s lead. Tufts Medical Center has introduced its www.TuftsMedicalCenter.tv website – a video repository and resource center for referring physicians and consumers. On the site, specialists and subspecialists speak to specific health conditions, medical procedures and therapies. For the busy community physician, the videos are easily accessible and a convenient resource when considering a potential patient referral. Tufts Medical Center and Floating Hospital for Children have launched a referring physician microsite designed to simplify the referral process for the physician and allow for a better patient experience. The physician microsite gives referring physicans up-to-date quality information, contact information for the physician liaison team and access to a number of helpful documents that can be downloaded as PDFs. The downloads include a quality brochure, patient brochures, talking points for physicians making a referral, directions to the medical center, and profiles of specialists.

Similarly, Signature Healthcare in southeastern Massachusetts, about 20 miles south of Boston, has launched its own digital platform designed to reach referring physicians. The microsite (SignatureMDExcellence.com), part of a broader physician marketing program, has proven to be a valuable tool for physician retention and recruitment – two important considerations in the highly competitive eastern Massachusetts healthcare environment. Online videos of Signature Healthcare’s employed physicians are showcased on the microsite and leveraged across a number of digital platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Google+ (often ignored by marketers), and Pinterest.

Finally, Cooper University Health Care successfully integrated digital tools into its physician relations program when it created the South Jersey Medical Report. The Report is a full physician marketing program targeting employed and community physicians. Elements of the program include a physician microsite rich with video content featuring Cooper specialists, a dedicated physician Twitter feed, a traditional physician newsletter available as a paper document and electronically, and a mobile application.

Healthcare organizations like Cooper University Health Care, Signature Healthcare, Tufts Medical Center and MD Anderson dipped their toes in the digital communication pool when they integrated these digital tools into their overall physician marketing programs. However, for these organizations and others, there looms an important question regarding how the digital age will impact the structure and function of the physician relations department.

Step Two: Defining Digital Roles within Physician Relations

The physician relations department has always been an aggregator of content relevant to the referring physician. Typically that content, once gathered, was distributed to medical professionals and practice administrators by way of newsletters and collateral material handed out during practice visits. Today, how does the availability of, and the need to distribute, large quantities of digital content impact the function of the physician relations team and, specifically, the physician liaison? One of the challenges facing physician relations departments in the current health care environment is how to handle this abundance of content and the addition of these new digital communication channels, often with fewer financial resources and a reduction in FTEs.

The Digital Content Marketer

In response to these challenges and opportunities, the roles within the physician relations department may need to evolve or change. One new position that seems likely to develop is that of the digital physician relations content marketer. This individual would be the point person within the department responsible for aggregating digital content and for disseminating it across numerous digital channels. Content would be aggregated on a primary platform developed specifically to meet the needs of community physicians. That could be a microsite, the “for medical professionals” section of the organization’s website, a LinkedIn Group or a blog. By continually updating the content, the information would be attractive to search engines and improve rankings.

The digital content marketer could also manage the department’s daily digital outreach to physicians and practices. This would involve using electronic marketing and social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others) to post links to specific pieces of content that referring physicians may value. Of course, the digital content marketer will also have to monitor social channels and respond to Retweets and questions from followers. Active listening would an important part of this job, noting and then responding to requests from physicians and practice managers.

The Digital Physician Relations Specialist

It is likely that the physician liaison’s role will need to evolve as well. Although many physicians are now comfortable with digital communication tools, many are not. We are now only part of the way through this transformative process. This means there exists a significant opportunity to educate community physicians, clinicians and employees of the practice about ways to access information about the medical center via digital channels. An important part of the liaison’s role moving forward will likely involve using practice visits to familiarize these individuals with the digital platforms being used by the healthcare organization and acquainting them with the range of information available.

Another potential future role for the physician liaison involves them becoming digital physician relations specialists. This would significantly expand the reach of the liaison by adding digital communication to their role. Today, liaisons are limited in the number of practices they can visit in a day. However, with the help of social media, they can freely disseminate information about their organizations and reach out to practices far and wide, no longer encumbered by the obstacles of geography and time.

For the digital physician specialist, in addition to the traditional functions of a liaison, a portion of each day would be spent using social media to post content linking back to the organization’s digital hub (website, blog, microsite, etc). They would Retweet information shared by “faculty tweeters” and direct community physicians to the organization’s online resources for referring physicians.

Is It Time for Digital Physician Relations?

The question is no longer about the relevance of digital physician relations. Rather, the question today is whether your organization is going to embrace it now and get ahead of the curve, or play catch-up on the back end. Digital adoption among physicians will continue to grow. They will increasingly turn to digital communication to reach out to other physicians and to help them do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. They will actively look for trusted online resources that meet their professional needs. For medical centers and health systems looking to engage community physicians, these digital platforms are the next frontier. It is within the digital space, as a new feature of the physician relations program, that the hearts and minds of the new “digital doctors” may be won or lost. Effective communication requires that the information be delivered in a manner that fits within the context of the end-user’s professional life. As physicians’ appetite for digital information grows, so too must our digital mark

Time for a Break

The year 2014 has been memorable and there’s still a lot more to come. For me, the year has been full of successes and challenges, ups and downs. I started the year with a horrible case of vertigo. It lasted for about two months and made air travel very challenging. As the vertigo subsided I came down with the shingles. This occurred at the time of year when I am busy speaking at conferences around the country. The good news was it seems to have been a mild case. Then in March, my dad went into hospice care, finally passing away on June 2. After a long delay, the memorial service is finally taking place this weekend. It will be good to have some closure.

Anyway, you get a sense of the year I’ve had, so far. But there have been highlights to go with the inevitable challenges. I was invited to speak at more than a dozen national and regional conferences over a three month period. The highlight of my speaking tour was moderating a “Connected Patient” panel at the annual conference of the New England Society for Healthcare Communications. It was an honor to champion that idea and to see it brought to life at the conference.

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This was my first time speaking at the annual conference of the American Association of Physician Liaisons, and it was a blast. The attendees were energized, engaging and ready to learn. Another highlight of the conference season was speaking with Lyle Green at the Healthcare Marketing & Physician Strategies Summit. Our talk on the “Digital Future of Physician Relations” vastly exceeded our expectations. We managed to have a conversation with the audience in a way that seldom happens during conference presentations. We both left that experience feeling recharged.

Other good things happened during the first half of this year. My firm’s clients were recognized with a ton of healthcare marketing awards. I can honestly say that awards have limited value, but they sure are fun to win. This year it was nearly an embarrassment of riches. In the annual Healthcare Advertising Awards (Healthcare Marketing Report) our clients won a total of 21 awards including a Best in Show for a radio spot we created for Signature Healthcare and Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center. Seven of our clients received awards. In the national Aster Awards (Marketing Healthcare Today), Jennings clients won a total of 36 awards (15 Gold), including the Best in Show Award for the pediatric hospitalist campaign Jennings developed for Signature Healthcare and Floating Hospital for Children. In the Lamplighter Awards, sponsored by the New England Society for Healthcare Communications, six of our clients received a combined 32 awards, including 10 Gold. Finally, our clients also won seven awards in the Annual Service Industry Advertising Awards (SIAA) competition.

In early July, my company, Jennings, launched its new website! All of you who have been through the process of building a new website certainly understand what a labor it can be. In some ways it is like a rebirth. Feel free to check it out – www.jenningshealthcaremarketing.com. The new site has a resource section with access to videos, articles, white papers and more.

I’m already thinking about next year

Over the last two weeks I’ve taken a break from blogging. The first six months of this year have worn me out. I’m heading to Florida later this week with my family to attend my dad’s memorial service, and then I’m taking a week of vacation to re-energize. There’s so much good happening right now in my career and in healthcare marketing. Intellectually, I am ready to take on the challenges inherent in crafting a new future; my body, on the other hand, needs a break. I could also use some time for emotional recovery. After a couple weeks of vacation this summer, I plan to renew my efforts as a catalyst for healthcare marketing reform. Opportunity is all around us!

Meanwhile, this year has taught me a few lessons. I’ve already vowed to lighten up on the speaking engagements next year. This will come as good news to my wife (Scotti) and to my business partner (Paige). It will mean less travel and less time away from home. It is a hard choice for me because I love teaching and sharing – and that’s what I try to do when I speak at conferences. But I am spread too thin. Everything in moderation.

In 2015 I need to spend more time hiking in the mountains and reading paperbacks (fiction) on the beach, sitting next to my wife. I need to be home more and I need to be present – not vacant or distracted. Those are some of my goals for next year, but I’ll start working on them today.

Over the next 12 months I’m also going to focus on attracting amazing new clients to my company and on recruiting the best talent to supplement my incredible team. Life is short; and most of us work pretty hard. I want to spend my time working with clients who want to achieve something special. But I also want clients who challenge us intellectually and whom we enjoy spending time with. In my experience, my best clients have made me a better marketer and enriched my life. Again, life is short.

In any event, I’ll be on vacation next week. Can’t wait. My daughter will be in summer camp, so this will be an adults-only week of vacation. Who could ask for more?




Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 12.13.20 PMHere’s a new batch of healthcare print ads that I gathered this week as I was traveling to and from a client’s facility. It was a busy and fulfilling week conducting employee and consumer focus groups as part of a brand assessment for this particular health system. These ads came out of Delta’s Sky Magazine, so they represent medical centers that are working to build national reputations and attract patients from a broad geography. Enjoy the ads. One caveat: Please know that I scanned each of these ads so the quality of the images has been diminished.

Emory Clinic

UF Health

Childrens Hospital Omaha

Baystate Heart and Vascular

Seattle Childrens

Argentina Medical Tourism

Restorative Breast Surgery



Mount Sanai small ad

Whether it’s a Facebook Group, LinkedIn Group, Twitter Chat, blog or a patient support community on a private platform, building and maintaining a vibrant online community requires vigilance and dedicated management. This has become so clear to me as I’ve looked at the data from two online communities we developed for clients – one which we actively manage and one which the client has chosen to operate on its own without the involvement of a community manager.

These communities were built seven months apart from one another. They were built in exactly the same manner. They feature the same type of content. Interesting, the community that is floundering was the first to be launched and experienced early success while my firm managed its growth in the first 12 months. Once there was no longer a dedicated community manager, the group’s growth leveled off and eventually began to decline.

Community #1 – Only Intermittent Management

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You’ll notice that in Community #1 traffic leveled off between 2011 and 2012 despite a very strong start in 2010/2011 (while being actively managed). Then traffic dropped precipitously in 2013 and continues to drop in 2014.

Community #2 – Ongoing Community Management

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In Community #2 traffic has increased steadily every year and the overall numbers are significantly higher than the traffic for Community #1. Now in its fourth year, it has achieved 176,698 visits, while Community #1 has achieved only 62,904 visits over four and half years.

Although, there is a huge discrepancy in the number of visits between the two communities, there is a more significant difference in the number of subscribers for each. Community #1 has only 68 subscribers while Community #2 has attracted 2,660 subscribers. This is so important because these are people who have registered and opted-in to receive updates whenever new content is posted on the community. In the example of Community #2, subscribers are the life-blood of the community.

You’re Hosting a Dinner Party

The example I’ve given above is very simple – but also very real. The point is that communities, to be successful, require nurturing and support. These groups require daily attention and moderation. In a recent presentation I compared it to hosting a dinner party. As the sponsor of the community (Facebook Group, Linkedin Group, Twitter Chat, blog, etc.) you are the host. As the host, it is your job to create and maintain a hospitable and safe environment. Your job includes welcoming people, making introductions, introducing people who may have common interests, prompting conversation, suggesting topics, and filling those awkward silences. If you think about it in this way, it will help you to understand your role as the community manager. You should make yourself available to answer questions and to uncover resources. And you need to be a good conversationalist. You should show an interest in your guests; ask questions and get people to talk about themselves. As the host, you should always be gracious and generous – always being attentive to the top contributors and new members.

In short, if people make an effort to visit your community, you need to reward them by being attentive and supportive. It is not enough to provide the platform or just throw the dinner party. You have to actively play the role of host. If you’ve ever had a dinner party of your own, you know that the host is busy all night long making sure that everyone else is having a good time. That’s what it takes to be successful in the world of online communities.

A couple of weeks ago I had the honor of presenting at the annual conference of the American Association of Physician Liaisons (AAPL) in Seattle. I shared with them my well-reasoned rant about the digital future of physician relations. Below is a 20-minute excerpt from that presentation. There are about 15 minutes of me presenting and then about 5 minutes of me responding to questions from the audience. Given the fact that I was the last presenter before the cocktail reception, I was pleased to see that the audience hung around to the very end, and even took the time to ask a number of thoughtful questions. This was a good group. Enjoy.


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