Here’s my story:

One night after work my wife told me about a new restaurant she had heard about from a few different people. They all said that it was something we should try. According to my wife, the restaurant’s name was “Pedro’s Grill” and it was located next to one of our favorite restaurants – Mez Contemporary Mexican.

We both love Mexican food so we decided to try Pedro’s Grill. And, from the description, its location was fairly close to our home. So I went online and Googled Pedro’s Grill and paired it with a few different towns that are near us (Durham, Morrisville, Raleigh, Cary, etc.). Nothing. Nada.

Then I Googled “new Mexican restaurants” in the area. Nothing close to a Pedro’s Grill. I checked with Scotti and she had it on good authority that it was located right next to Mez on Page Road.

Finally, we decided to drive out there and just scope out the situation. If we couldn’t find Pedro’s Grill, we could always get dinner at Mez. No big deal. So we drove out there and began looking for this new restaurant. Just past Mez was a new building that seemed to be what we were looking for. As we approached the new building the sign with the restaurant’s name came into view:

Page Road Grill,

not Pedro’s Grill.

Think about how easy it was for that miscommunication to take place. Someone rattled off the name, Page Road Grill, and Scotti heard Pedro’s Grill. She probably had Mexican food on the brain! And that was it. Why would she even need to clarify things? She heard Pedro’s Grill and had no reason to doubt what she heard.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 9.01.17 AMMy point is that I see so much miscommunication take place in business because people don’t slow down and take the time to clarify what is being communicated. “So, let me play back what I heard from you.” “Based on this conversation, here are my action items.” For good communication to occur it takes a concerted effort. One of the great challenges with communication is that we know what it is that we are trying to communicate. The listener does not. this is particularly relevant with email communication. My advice: be clear and direct. And if you think there’s a chance for miscommunication, have a face-to-face conversation or pick up the phone! I’ve seen emails flying back and forth over a simple miscommunication that could have easily been cleared up with a quick two minute phone conversation. No doubt you’ve seen the same thing happen.

With that I will say adiós.

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 4.39.25 PMLast week I led a webinar on the topic of “Healthcare Marketing as Online Community Building.” My message was that healthcare marketing is facing a crisis of relevance. The healthcare environment is “undergoing radical transformation.” Meanwhile, the world of marketing is being transformed by the adoption of new digital platforms and technologies. Yet, most healthcare organizations continue to market as they always have.

Traditional service line marketing cannot meet the challenges we face within the new healthcare ecosystem. And the traditional model of healthcare marketing, where we primarily push content in the direction of the consumer, is not sustainable. The traditional model is short on value and holds little relevance for patients and consumers.

Healthcare marketing could benefit greatly from a “community building” mindset. What a dramatic shift that would be away from our current content production and distribution mindset! Here’s one quick example: A community building frame-of-mind would positively impact the ways in which we use social media to engage patients and prospective patients. Currently, most of us use social media the same way we’ve always used print, radio or TV advertising: It is one way communication. We use these amazing listening and engagement platforms to simply push out content. Moving forward, that will not prove to be a viable practice.

Based on consumer behavior and the success of online patient support communities (for example, inspire.com and PatientLikeMe), we should look to online community development as a foundational element of any engagement strategy. We need to build niche online communities of shared interest, organized around specific topics, conditions or diseases, that our patients can join and where they can interact with others facing similar health challenges. Moving forward, community building needs to be a significant focus for healthcare marketers, understanding that an investment in community should lead to a significant return for the organization.

Check out the presentation video below:

bookshelfWhile participating in a conference call earlier this week, I caught myself staring at the books on my office bookshelf. It occurred to me that I’ve accumulated a number of excellent texts that have impacted my perspective on healthcare marketing. I thought it would be good to share a list of those books in this forum. The list is not meant to be comprehensive. These are a few that I truly enjoyed and found to be of value. I’ve reviewed some of these in earlier posts:

  • In the Kingdom of the Sick, Laurie Edwards
  • Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds, Kelly A. Turner
  • Redefining Health Care, Michael Porter & Elizabeth Teisburg
  • The Emperor of all Maladies, Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • Five Days at Memorial, Sheri Fink
  • Establishing, Managing, and Protecting Your Online Reputation: A Social Media Guide for Medical Practices, Kevin Pho, M.D. and Susan Gay
  • The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care, Eric Topol, M.D.
  • ePatient 2015: 15 Surprising Trends Changing Health Care, Fard Johnmar and Rohit Bhargava
  • My Mother, Your Mother: Embracing Slow Medicine, Dennis M. McCullough, M.D.
  • The Cost of Hope, Amanda Bennett
  • Mortality, Christopher Hitchens
  • The Thought Leaders Project : Hospital Marketing, Brian James Bierbaum
  • The American Health Care Paradox: Why Spending More is Getting Us Less, Elizabeth H. Bradley
  • Morton’s Fork: A Doctor’s Dilemma, Dale Coy M.D.
  • Joe Public Doesn’t Care About Your Hospital, Chris Bevolo
  • The Secret Language of Doctors, Brian Goldman
  • Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being, Esther Sternberg
  • The Baptist Health Care Journey to Excellence, Al Stubblefield

Maybe it is time to start a healthcare marketing book club? Who’s interested?

I am a fan of the Healthcare Advertising Awards (HAA), sponsored by Healthcare Marketing Report magazine each year. In fact, this is the 32nd year for this awards competition. This is certainly one of the premiere contests in healthcare advertising and marketing. I’ve entered work in this awards program for 20 years. So we have a long history together.

HAAUnfortunately, I’ve got a problem with HAA: They require us to prepare submissions the same way we did 20 years ago. It is archaic. Print submissions (newspaper ads, magazine ads, posters, billboards, transit ads) must be mounted on display board with two copies of the submission form attached. That is a lot of paper! It is costly, wasteful, and not sustainable. That applies to the DVDs we burn for the video and audio entries as well. I’m not even going to go into the amount of time it takes to package all these entries. My firm just completed our submissions for this year (covering work for at least 10 healthcare organizations); the box that we shipped off to the HAAs weighed 50 lbs. Just image how much it cost to ship.

Here’s the deal: There is a far more sustainable, efficient and cost-effective way to handle all of this. The New England Society for Healthcare Communications has been using an online system (OmniContests) for years. The user simply enters the online portal, creates an entry, uploads the supporting documents (PDFs, jpegs, etc), enters the appropriate contact information, and that’s it. No paper. No display board. No spray mounting. No shipping. It is environmentally friendly and far more economical for the organization participating in the awards competition.

I’ve also judged advertising competitions for organizations that use the OmniContests system. It is a breeze. Incredibly user-friendly. Note: I don’t know anyone at OmniContests and have no relationship with them; I just like their platform.

So here’s my plea to my friends at HAA: Please make this the last year that we send in “paper” submissions. Next year let’s move to an electronic submission platform. Let’s show the world that in the healthcare industry we care about the environment. Remember, I am a fan. My company and our clients, like many others around the country, spend a great deal of money supporting your awards program. This is an opportunity to make us proud and to improve our customer experience. We’re excited to see what the future brings! Thanks for listening to my plea.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 6.41.06 PM

Looking Back at My 2014

Every year at this time I take a look back at the year that just ended. For me, it is important to stop and reflect upon accomplishments and challenges. (I recommend this practice to every professional.) Failing to do so means I’m at risk of having the months and years blend together. Each year I set out to achieve in a number of areas: Driving innovation in the way we approach healthcare marketing; adding new clients to our roster; bringing new ideas and marketing concepts to our clients; securing speaking engagements (for myself and our clients); writing articles for industry publications; and securing press coverage of the work we do for our clients.

In collaboration with my colleagues at Jennings and our many clients, what was I able to achieve in 2014?

  • Innovations:
    • Digital physician relations pilot program for MD Anderson. Physician liaisons actively used social media, primarily Twitter, to reach out to referring physicians, physician extenders and office staff.
    • Online “pediatric health” community for Lowell General Hospital and Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.
    • Launched an online patient support community for Signature Healthcare. This has amazing potential as a storytelling platform. We also developed a marketing program to promote the community to employees, patients and family members.
    • Developed a groundbreaking primary care campaign for Signature Healthcare that included the use of street teams. Elements of the campaign included signage and collateral in salons, coasters in local restaurants and bars, floor clings in pharmacies and drug stores, imprinted coffee sleeves distributed in local coffee shops, and direct mail using variable printing technology.
    • Live Twittercast from a radial cardiac procedure that reached roughly 145,000 Twitter accounts with a total of 712,000 impressions. The Twittercast led to extensive press coverage for the client’s cardiovascular program. It was also accompanied by a direct mail series targeting referring physicians.
    • The development of an amazing video series featuring hospice physicians.
  • The marketing programs we produced for our clients were recognized with a number of industry awards:
    • 32 Lamplighter Awards from the New England Society for Healthcare Communications, recognizing work for six different hospitals. This included 10 Gold Awards.
    • 22 Healthcare Advertising Awards (Healthcare Marketing Report) representing work for 7 different hospital clients. The awards included a Best in Show!
    • 36 National Aster Awards, including Best in Show for the Pediatric Hospitalist Campaign we produced for Signature Healthcare and Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.
    • 5 Wallie Awards from the Carolinas Healthcare Public Relations & Marketing Society; 7 Service Industry Advertising Awards (healthcare categories); 2 Web Health Awards; 1 Cardiovascular Advertising Award.
  • Milestones and Highlights:
    • My firm, Jennings, launched a partnership with Hive Strategies and CareHubs to build and maintain online patient support communities for healthcare organizations.
    • We launched a new agency website: http://jenningshealthcaremarketing.com.
    • My “Healthcare Marketer” blog was recognized with a Gold Aster Award and and Bronze Web Health Award.
    • I was honored once again to serve on the judging panels of the National Health Information Awards, the Web Health Awards, and the Pelican Awards (Louisiana Society for Healthcare Public Relations & Marketing).
    • We developed a new Moms, Dads & Docs blog for Lawrence General Hospital and Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.
  • In my spare time, I wrote a number of articles for healthcare industry publications:
    • “Understanding ‘Return on Community': Why this new buzzword could catch on in health care marketing,” Ragan’s Health Care Communication News, October 2014
    • “The Connected Patient: Information as Currency in Online Communities,” eHealthcare Strategy & Trends, August 2014
    • “Digital Physician Relations: A New Model for Marketing to Referring Physicians,” EndoEconomics, August 2014
    • “Nine Opportunities to Enrich Most Healthcare Marketing Programs,” Healthcare Marketing Report, March 2014
    • “The Best Way to Be an Effective Storyteller in This Digital Age,” Strategic Healthcare Marketing, February 2014
  • Through my relationship with industry publishers and editors, the work we do for our clients was featured in a number of industry articles. My firm was also sought out by reporters for expert insights on healthcare marketing stories:
    • “The Hospitalist and the Healthcare Marketer,” Healthcare Marketing Report, October 2014.
    • “Engaging HCPs: Inhospitable,” Larry Dobrow, Medical Marketing & Media, October 31, 2014
    • “Best of Show: Pediatric Hospitalist Campaign,” Marketing Healthcare Today, Volume 12, Issue 3, June 2014
    • “Powerful Cancer Ad Omits Some Key Details,”Marianne Aiello, HealthLeaders Media , May 28, 2014
    • “Can University of Illinois Hospital Save Its Brand?” HealthLeaders Media, March 19, 2014
    • “Pediatric Hospitalist Marketing Campaign,” Campaign Spotlight, HealthLeadersMedia, February 2014
  • One area I plan to cut down on in 2015 is speaking at conferences. In 2014, I was once again very active speaking at national and regional conferences, and leading webinars:
    • Presenter, Webinar, “Using Social Media to Engage Patients & Grow Your Practice,” Progressive Healthcare Conferences, Wednesday, December 10, 2014 1:00 p.m.
    • Moderator, Jennings/Hive Strategies Webinar – “Look Before You Leap: 5 Things You Must Know Before You Launch an Online Patient Community,” November 12, 2014 (Dan Hinmon presenter)
    • Presenter, Annual Pelvic Health Conference, Chicago, Spirit of Women, October 29, 2014
    • Presenter, “Healthcare Marketing as Community Building,” American Marketing Association Meeting, Tampa Florida, September 25, 2104
    • Presenter, CMO Group Webinar, “The Digital Future of Physician Relations,” September 11, 2014
    • Presenter, “Blogging Basics for Physicians and other Healthcare Professionals,” Society of Hospital Medicine, July 31, 2014
    • Presenter, “Integrating Social and Digital Media into Physician Relations,” American Association of Physician Liaisons (AAPL), Wednesday, June 18, from 4:15 pm – 5:00 pm, 2014, Seattle, WA, Westin Hotel
    • Presenter, Pelvic Health Conference, Spirit of Women, June 11-13, 2014, Orlando, Florida
    • Presenter, “Connecting With Referring Physicians: Best Practices for Reaching Your Most Important Audience,” Ohio Hospital Association Annual Meeting, Columbus, Ohio, June 10, 2014
    • Presenter, “Healthcare Marketing as Community Building,” Jennings/Medicom Webinar, May 22, 2014.
    • Presenter, “Engaging patients and consumers through the use of digital technologies,” DigiHealth Pulse Virtual 2014 (Digital Health Conference), May 19-21, 2014.
    • Presenter/Moderator, “Connected Patient Panel: Exploring the Role of Online Patient Support Communities, Twitter Chats and Patient Advocacy,” New England Society for Healthcare Communications Spring Conference, May 15, 2014
    • “Once Upon a Niche: Using Storytelling to Build Online Healthcare Communities” PRSA Health Academy, Washington, DC, May 9, 2014, 10:30am
    • Presenter, “A New Vision of Healthcare Marketing as Community Building,” 2014 New England MGMA Conference, Hyatt Goat Island, Newport, RI, May 8, 2014, 11:30am
    • Presenter, “Make Room for Video in Physician Strategies,” with an all-star line-up of co-presenters: Marie Gross, Gabrielle DeTora and Mark Shelley, Healthcare Marketing and Physician Strategies Summit, Friday, May 2, 2014, 11am – 12:15pm
    • Presenter, “The Digital Future of Physician Relations,” Healthcare Marketing and Physician Strategies Summit, Orlando, FL, April 30 – May 2, 2014
    • Presenter, “Tuning In: Why Online Video is a Must for the Modern Academic Medical Center,” AAMC GIA Professional Development Conference, Salt Lake City, March 26-29, 2014
    • Webinar, “Healthcare Marketing as Community Building,” New England Society for Healthcare Communications, February 27, 2014, 9am eastern time
    • Webcast, “Content Creation,” with Cynthia Manley of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, HealthLeaders Media, January 23, 2014
    • Presenter, “Social Media for the Medical Practice,” New Hampshire Medical Group Management Association (NHMGMA), January 8, 2014

That’s it! As I publish this post 2015 is already racing along.

I’m excited to be leading a webinar on January 28th (1pm Eastern Time) where I will introduce my vision of healthcare marketing as community building. The webinar is free and available to anyone interested in attending.

I plan to share insights into how online communities are ideal tools for engaging today’s connected healthcare consumer and for addressing the challenges of population health management.

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 8.26.04 AMHealthcare marketing has historically been short on value. To capture attention, communication needs to have real value, whether that involves entertainment, information or community. (By community, I refer specifically to the desire to interact with others who share interests and/or experiences.) Within this webinar, my hope is that attendees will learn how successfully managed online communities and a “community building” mindset can lead to the development of more impactful healthcare marketing that offers value to your key audiences.

The Vision: Instead of deluging consumers with advertising, let’s involve them in conversations that are relevant to their life and their health. Let’s create online environments where they can share information with others facing similar health challenges. This can be done through in-person interaction and through the use of digital platforms including Facebook, blogs and online patient support communities. Even hospital websites can improve by adopting a community building mindset. (Look at your hospital website and ask how you can do to facilitate community building.) The effort spent building “communities of shared interest” has the potential to pay big dividends for healthcare organizations and provide opportunities for consumer engagement and education.

  • I invite you to register now for this hour-long webinar for insights into:
    Engaging consumers in their own heath and well being.
  • Principles of online community building that can be applied to any platform.
  • Developing online communities to empower brand advocates and generate positive word-of-mouth advertising.
  • Impacting the positive health and lifestyle behaviors of community members
  • Looking beyond traditional advertising to create value.

My friend and partner in online community development, Dan Hinmon, will be moderating the webinar.

Date and Time: Wed, Jan 28, 2015 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EST

Registration URL: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3334573939436455426

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 5.12.25 PMThe BUILD Health Challenge is a national award program designed to foster improved health through community, health system, and public health collaboration. http://www.buildhealthchallenge.org. The awards are designed to strengthen collaborations among hospitals, nonprofits, local health departments, and other community organizations to improve the health of low-income neighborhoods within cities with populations greater than 150,000. This award program brings together a prestigious group of funding partners in The Advisory Board Company, the de Beaumont Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Colorado Health Foundation. Other partners include the California Health Foundation, Duke University, Housing Partnership Network, Prevention Institute and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Here’s the big news for all of us working in healthcare: BUILD Health plans to award up to $8.5 million in grants, low-interest loans, and program-related investments over two years. Awards will support up to 17 community-driven initiatives addressing health-shaping factors that individuals can’t control – such as neighborhood safety or the availability of fresh foods. As they state on the BUILD Health website,

“Recognizing that health starts long before illness, in our neighborhoods, homes, schools, and jobs, the BUILD Health Challenge will award grants to collaborative partnerships that are making community conditions more conducive to health for everyone within a particular neighborhood, not just certain individuals.”

Awards: The BUILD Health Challenge is offering two types of awards: Planning Awards and Implementation Awards. Planning Awards will offer up to $75,000 to awardees for one year with the potential for an additional year of funding if certain criteria can be met. Implementation Awards are available for up to $250,000 and will have two-year duration. For more detail, visit the BUILD Health Website.

Deadline: Round 1 applications are due January 16, 2015. To access the application and learn more, click here. Although, as I noted above, a collaboration will be funded (local nonprofits, health departments, and hospital systems), it is important to note that the nonprofit community organization will be the recipient of the monetary award and will therefore likely serve as the lead applicant.

Below is the BUILD Health Challenge infographic. If you click on the image you can view it at full size. To download the infographic, click here.



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