Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 3.59.41 PMFor years I have been writing blog posts and articles, and speaking at conferences, about the need for healthcare marketers to turn their attention to online communities – what I call communities of shared interest. These are niche communities that bring together people with commonalities. The more focused, the better.

Today I am celebrating that SHSMD is launching MySHSMD – an online member community. Within the new platform, members will be able to organize themselves and focus their discussions within specialized forums:

  • Marketing
  • Physician Relations
  • Public Relations & Communications
  • Strategic Planning

Here are the reasons SHSMD provided for starting up this new online community:

  • To leverage the collective knowledge and expertise of SHSMD’s 4,000+ members.
  • To help members quickly and easily share solutions and solve issues with each other.
  • To support meaningful member-to-member connections year round.

This is the perfect use of an online community. SHSMD gets it! They will be sending out an email to members on August 6th with access information. So, if you belong to SHSMD, stay tuned. This is an exciting development.

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 10.00.09 AM(Yes, I’m reviewing another book about death and dying. This is an important issue with which healthcare professionals need to come to terms. Our system of care is not designed to help people die well. This impacts quality of life and the cost of care.)

My mother-in-law passed away several months ago and my wife has been making regular trips to Williamsburg to help get the estate in order. My mother-in-law, Shirley, was an eternal student and a retired educator. She loved to immerse herself in her studies, and had a huge collection of books. When my wife, Scotti, was going through Shirley’s books, she found “The Art of Dying: Living Fully Into The Life To Come.” Shirley knew that she was dying for some time, and approached death as she did all subjects – she read everything she could on the subject! As someone who had spent her life studying religion and spirituality, she had a special interest in Christian views on death and dying.

Scotti knows that I’ve been doing a lot of reading about end of life and the role of healthcare (slow medicine versus rescue medicine, etc). So, once she finished reading the book, she passed it on to me. Last week, while on an airplane flying up and down the east coast, I read The Art of Dying.

The author is intrigued with the Christian tradition of a “good death.” He describes how Christians have grown removed from this notion of a good death, just as they have become unfamiliar with death itself. Death is not integrated into our lives in North America, as it once was. With the development of hospitals and retirement communities, we are in many ways separated from the dying. And, many of us are separated by great distances from our aging family members.

“For most of the last century, death has moved steadily away from view. Over the course of the first half of the twentieth century, the site of death moved from the home to the hospital.In 1908, 14 percent of all deaths occurred in an institutional setting, either a hospital, nursing home or other facility. Just six years later the figure jumped to 25 percent. By the end of the century it was nearly 80 percent.” (p. 16)

One of the interesting point the author makes is that, for the first time in history, many of us can anticipate the approximate date of our demise. This is because of the change from a quick death from infectious disease to more gradual dying. Today, most of us do not die from sudden death. Rather, death is something we see coming. One would think that this advanced notice would give us the time needed to prepare for meeting our maker, but that is not typically what happens. In our culture, we spend that time trying to fend off death, seeking medical interventions (often in response to family members who aren’t ready to let go), and looking for a silver bullet. And the truth is, our medical system is designed to save lives rather than help people have a good death.

The Art of Dying won’t be an uplifting read. You probably gathered that from the title. But the author, Rob Moll, does touch on some interesting and important points about the ways in which we deal with dying in America. Our medical establishment and culture of medicine are certainly part of the story. We’re all going to deal with these issues sooner or later. This book may give you a new perspective.

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 8.29.05 AMUnless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you are aware that U.S. News & World Report has issued its 26th annual hospital rankings: Best Hospitals 2015-2016. Thank goodness. Now all of us in the healthcare world can get a good night’s sleep and U.S. News can rake in the cash from hospitals willing to pay the exorbitant fees to promote these rankings. Ain’t life grand? (I think that’s the first time I’ve used “ain’t” in a blog post.)

Let me be clear: Hospital and physician rankings are big business. This is about money. And the inevitably conflicting data that arises from varying surveys with varying methodologies only serves to create confusion for consumers while giving hospitals ammunition they can use to avoid talking about what really matters: How to improve the health of the communities they serve. It all sounds very noble when U.S. News, Consumer Reports, and Healthgrades talk about informing and empowering consumers. But in the end, it’s all about money. And the information they spew does very little to truly empower consumers.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m tired of driving through cities across America where each hospital is running billboards claiming to be a top ranked hospital in some survey. What are consumers supposed to do with that information? Let’s start spending our marketing budgets on sharing information that begins to address some of the health issues in our communities. Let’s communicate true points of differentiation and distinction.

For more, check out this article from Kaiser Health News: Hospital Rankings Are In The Eye Of The Beholder. Here’s an excerpt from that story:

“As ratings multiply, more and more hospitals have something they can boast about. A third of U.S. hospitals—more than 1,600 — last year won at least one distinction from a major rating group or company, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis. In the greater Fort Lauderdale hospital market, 21 of 24 hospitals were singled out as exemplary by at least one rating source. In the Baltimore region, 19 out of 22 hospitals won an award.” (Kaiser Health News, March 18, 2013)

Originally posted on Health Care Social Media:

Infographic breakdown of how consumers are using social media for health care education, and engage with consumers and providers about their concerns.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: news.aetna.com

See on Scoop.itHealth Care Social Media And Digital Health

View original

Here’s another collection of hospital and healthcare print ads that I clipped last week from the on-board magazine of Southwest Airlines. These advertisers have decided to target the adult traveler – most likely the business traveler. This is an attractive target market because they are willing to get on an airplane to do business and may, therefore, be willing to travel for exceptional care. They are also likely to have disposable income and commercial insurance. Take special note of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America ad that uses an informational approach. It is very different from the other ads in this batch.

One caveat: Please note that I scanned each of these ads and their quality has been diminished in the process. Enjoy.

Omaha ChildrensCleveland ClinicCancer Treatment CentersCook ChildrensChildrens Miracle NetworkSarah CannonMazor RoboticsHotze Health and Wellness Center

This week I am kicking off a marketing engagement with a client who is new to my agency. It is always exciting to start a new assignment and get to know a new client. I am onsite all week and I am here to listen and learn. My week is all about asking good questions and listening to responses. Here’s what that looks like:

Monday Afternoon

  • Interview with the Marketing Director
  • Interview with the VP of HR
  • Interview with the COO
  • Interview with the CNO
  • Interview with the CEO


  • Interview with a service line director
  • Interview with Director of Physician Relations
  • Two interviews with community leaders at local non-profits
  • Employee focus group (rank and file hospital employees)


  • Employee focus group (a wide variety of employees)
  • Two interviews with service line leaders
  • Patient & Family Advisory Council focus group
  • Department Heads focus group
  • Employee focus group (a wide variety)
  • Board of Trustees focus group


  • Employee focus group (a wide variety of employees)
  • Marketing team group interview
  • Interview with the CFO
  • Focus group with community members
  • Focus group with hospital directors
  • Focus group with outpatient facility employees

Friday Morning

  • Debrief and wrap-up


This represents 25 to 30 hours of listening – taking lots of notes. It is part of an immersion process that I believe is foundational to any marketing assignment. Not only do I get to gather insights from various audiences, but I give these brand constituents an opportunity to be heard. Their leadership, by bringing me in and by approving the research plan, has declared that it is important to them to hear from these individuals. That is huge! And the people who are involved in these interviews and focus groups now know that they have been heard and that their feedback will impact the deliverables that grow out of this process. I always tell my clients that the immersion process is also a consensus building process.

Meanwhile, I have the best job on earth. I meet so many incredible people while going through this process. And I get to unearth opportunities that weren’t previously under consideration. Sure, I go back to my hotel exhausted each night, but it is the good kind of exhaustion. This is absolutely one of the best parts of my job. It is also the best investment a healthcare organization could make in its marketing.

The research/immersion plan will vary depending on the objectives of the assignment. Sometimes it involves a mix of quantitative and qualitative research. It just depends. Sometimes it involves a heavier mix of consumer research versus interviews and focus groups with employees of the health system. But in the end, we always tap into insights that help us identify opportunities and lead to relevant marketing solutions (strategies and tactics).

I would add that you should never underestimate the importance of the internal audience. These people should be your best marketers. I always want to know what stories they tell about the organization. I guarantee you that they are telling stories. You need to make sure that they are equipped to tell the right stories. Can they quickly list a few areas where your hospital excels (most cannot)? Do they have a sense for where the organization is going? It is so important to tap into their perceptions and to let them know that their input is valued.

Dan as BatmanI love superheroes. Some of you may know that I am a Batman fanatic. The bonus room in our home is affectionately called the Bat Cave. That quick personal background is provided to give context for the theme of this blog post: Healthcare’s Dynamic Duo.

If ever there was a dynamic duo in healthcare, it would have to be Mike Biediger (CEO) and Tod Augsburger (COO) of Lexington Medical Center (LMC) in West Columbia, South Carolina. The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that this is an apt analogy. Together, over the last 16 years, they have built a remarkable healthcare enterprise – and they’re not done.

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 8.22.34 PMI have long admired Mr. Biediger (that’s what many of us call him out of respect). He is the prototypical quiet leader. He leads through his actions and people are quick to follow him. Mike is the Batman in this relationship; not as stoic as the real Batman, but definitely someone with quiet strength. And with Mike, there’s always more going on inside than meets the eye. He is pensive and thoughtful. And he respects the opinions of his team – including the consultants.

In 2008 I wrote an article about Mike and his version of management by walking around: Living the Brand at Lexington Medical Center.  (Healthcare Advertising Review, September/October 2008) Here’s an excerpt from that article (shared on my blog):

“The employees of Lexington Medical Center (LMC) live the brand – a brand defined by a culture of service and caring – where employees are engaged and perform at the highest levels. This positive workplace culture doesn’t come cheap. Beyond empowering and inspiring employees, LMC’s leadership has made a serious investment in employee satisfaction, developing a compensation structure that is among the best in the region. But the return on investment, measured in staff retention and the ensuing patient satisfaction, makes it all worthwhile.

If you ever doubted that there is a direct link between employee satisfaction and patient satisfaction, Lexington Medical Center’s Press Ganey patient satisfaction scores consistently place it among the best in the country. In 2007, Lexington Medical Center receive Press Ganey’s Summit Award, given to organizations that have achieved and sustained the highest level of excellence in patient satisfaction. This caring culture that leads to employee and patient satisfaction begins with the egalitarian leadership style of LMC’s president and CEO Mike Biediger. Within his organization, Mike is the standard bearer for patient and family-centered care. At least once a day, Mike walks the halls of the hospital with a friendly demeanor and an eye for detail.”

Under Mike’s leadership, LMC has developed clinical affiliations with Duke University Medical Center (heart and cancer) and has successfully launched a thriving heart program – an initiative that faced incredible opposition from neighboring hospitals, and looked like it might never get off the ground. Read more about Mike and his legacy in this recent article from The State Newspaper: “Lexington hospital’s ‘quiet giant’ leaving impact beyond his tenure.”

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 7.58.58 PMThe Boy Wonder: Tod has served at Mike’s side for sixteen years. Like the boy wonder (Robin/Dick Grayson), Tod is a can-do kind of guy and, compared to outwardly mild-mannered Mike, can be more outspoken. That’s a good thing. Healthcare organizations need more Tod Augsburgers. We could benefit from being a little more brash – even audacious. When Mike and Tod (and their Board of Directors) took on the entire healthcare establishment in South Carolina to advocate for a heart program at Lexington Medical Center they faced incredible odds. But it is worth noting that they got it done! Last year they performed more than 300 heart surgeries at LMC.

In October 1, Mike Biediger will retire and Tod will take the reins at LMC. It is a natural succession and one I celebrate. Tod has benefited from 16 years with one of the best role models that I can imagine. We should all be fortunate enough to have mentors like Mike Biediger.


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