Healthcare Digital Strategies: The Rebranding Journey for UT Health San Antonio

kevin howell UT Health San Antonio
Healthcare Digital Strategies: The Rebranding Journey for UT Health San Antonio

Q&A with Kevin Howell
Senior Director, Web and Digital Strategy
UT Health San Antonio

For healthcare consumers today, a seamless experience –  from the digital front door to the follow-up appointment – has become the expectation. For health systems providing a wide range of services in an array of locations, unifying the patient journey and providing a effective healthcare digital strategies requires collaboration, communication, and a sophisticated technology strategy. 

In the following Q&A, Kevin Howell, Senior Director of Web and Digital Strategy at UT Health San Antonio, will share about his team’s efforts to unify the patient journey. From a major rebranding effort to a cross-functional CRM implementation, Kevin will cover some of the necessary strategies for providing a positive patient experience across all segments of his multifaceted health system.

Tell me about the recent rebranding efforts at UT Health San Antonio.

rebranding and strategies UT Health San Antonio
Rendering of the $100 million Center for Brain Health to be constructed.

Kevin: UT Health San Antonio is over 60 years old. We're an academic medical center that’s very well known in our market as a school but not as well known as a health system. We're opening a new hospital in 2024 – it will be the first one affiliated with UT Health San Antonio – and we wanted to relaunch and get consumers to recognize us as a health system. We started a new brand campaign with the tagline “Everything It Takes” to reintroduce our system as the consumer's preference and as more than a medical school.

What are your healthcare digital strategies for this rebranding?

Kevin: I wear two hats at our organization – I report into both IT and marketing. My role is to make sure that we are presented online in the most positive light possible using innovative healthcare digital strategies. We kicked off this rebrand effort about 18 months ago, so, for that time, we have been putting together all of the parts and pieces to make sure we’re presented positively online.

healthcare digital strategies - online reviews

When we first started the rebrand, we were going to launch a big reintroduction campaign, but our websites didn't put our best foot forward. First, we had to create new landing pages. But landing pages are not the only places that consumers will look. They're doing Google searches, looking at ratings and reviews, using Google Maps and Apple Maps, and more. We noticed that depending on where you looked us up, you could get a different phone number, address, hours of operation, etc. 

We wanted to clean all that up, so we worked with a partner vendor on syndication. Where previously we had to go to Google Maps, for example, and update our phone number manually, now we can feed the data into one database that syndicates it across many different places. We did the same thing with our ratings and reviews, syndicating out positive reviews across various platforms.  

What key healthcare digital strategies do you employ to attract and retain consumers?

Kevin: We're in a part of town called Medical Center; within four blocks of our main campus are four other health systems. It's a great place for consumers, because if you are sick, you know where to go. But it's highly competitive. To track how we’re doing in the market, we do quarterly surveys. 

south texas medical center healthcare strategy
Aerial of the South Texas Medical Center in Northwest San Antonio.
By Derekmarc at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

We also look at website hits and unique visitors to see where they're coming from and track who we're engaging with. Our KPIs include unique visitors to the site, engagement times on some of our pages, social media impressions, social media engagements, click-through rates, and more. 

Right now we have more demand than we have capacity, which is a good problem to have. But it comes with its own set of patient experience challenges. For example, when we launched the rebrand, we sent a lot of volume to the call center, but we weren’t always able to handle that volume. We learned to make sure the call center was in the loop when launching a campaign. Really everyone – the front desk clerk, the custodial staff, the doctors and administrators – has to take responsibility for the brand and make sure we’re putting our best foot forward.

Fortunately, we are moving the needle. It’s a hard needle to move with so much competition, but we've done a lot of awareness and improvements to our healthcare digital presence that help, such as putting our providers on the five o’clock news to talk about COVID. 

What's next on the horizon as part of UT Health San Antonio's rebranding efforts?

Kevin: We’re coming out with an updated provider directory in the next few months. That’s part of our website's healthcare digital strategy with a tremendous amount of engagement, and we want to make sure it’s a good experience. 

UT Health San Antonio - find a provider

We're also looking at an integrated CRM strategy that serves our different roles as a healthcare provider, academic medical center, research center, fundraiser, and more. Traditionally, all those groups have worked in silos. An integrated CRM will help us engage the consumer –  whether they are a student, a patient, a family member, or an employee – with personalized messaging that’s relevant and timely.

Tell me more about your integrated CRM strategy.

Kevin: We just completed a seven-month RFP process where we looked at pretty much every CRM on the market. We had a really detailed requirements document to guide what we were looking for. When we had demos with vendors, we went through all of those requirements individually. Some vendors had to bring in third party partners to meet some of those requirements. As we met with more vendors, we were able to get more specific with our questions. We had folks from the healthcare side of our system as well as folks from education, fundraising, and research all at the table with their unique lenses. 

We’re looking to start a CRM team that will own this product, and that team would be part of marketing as well as IT. That’s really important, because we have to consider different security models as well as use the marketing hat to make sure we’re presenting the right message and staying on brand.

healthcare digital strategies

How will you measure the ROI of your CRM strategy?

Kevin: Driving people to our website is going to be the key call-to-action for a lot of the marketing we send out through the CRM. On the landing pages, we've created a lot of online web forms to request services so as not to overwhelm the call center at one particular time.

healthcare digital strategies - measuring roi

At a previous organization, we set up a CRM for our call center and looked at how that affected call stats like average time to answer, average handle time, and how many calls each agent handled per day. With the CRM, we actually were able to shave about four minutes off every call. I saw a presentation recently where someone mentioned, "When you save 10 seconds on a call, that's the equivalent of adding nine FTEs to your headcount." Saving four minutes was a huge advantage for us. 

Ultimately, we want to improve the patient experience, and it’s hard to measure the ROI of a better patient experience. However, you can look at things like your HCAHPS scores, your end of visit surveys, and other methods of soliciting feedback. There are also a lot of healthcare digital strategies and tools for analyzing marketing campaigns to determine how well an email performed, how well a direct marketing campaign performed, how people are engaging, and how they are getting to your website. 

What other healthcare digital strategies would like to do to unify the patient journey?

healthcare digital strategy - chatbot

Kevin: We've recently implemented a chatbot on our website that can guide people to the right places. We'd love to make it a live chat with an agent, with some additional staffing and planning. We're always looking at user experience research to get feedback directly from our users on how they’re using the chatbot, what information they are looking for, and whether it is helpful.

Additionally, right now, if you're a new patient and you want to request an appointment, there is a webform on the site as well as a phone number you can call. But if you're an existing patient, we drive you to MyChart to book an appointment with a provider you've seen previously. Eventually I'd love to streamline it into one experience, whether you're an existing patient or a new patient.

How do you effectively collaborate with other parts of UT Health San Antonio on all of these efforts?

We've got a great relationship with our providers and our provider group. We're all on the same journey to create a better patient experience. Even though we don't always agree on what the best route is, we can come together and make a decision as a group as far as what's best for the patient.

Listen to the full Hello Healthcare podcast interview with Kevin Howell on your preferred streaming platform or watch the interview below.

About Kevin Howell

Kevin Howell is the Senior Director, Web and Digital Strategy at UT Health San Antonio. He is an IT and marketing professional with experience working in healthcare, finance, telecommunications, e-commerce, and publishing. Kevin has worked at UT San Antonio for over two years and has over a decade of experience at health systems. Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn.