Modernizing Consumer Engagement in Healthcare


Q&A with Chris Pace
Chief Digital Marketing Officer
Banner Health

Healthcare is undergoing rapid changes where consumer engagement and access is a priority. By leveraging a health system’s digital front door, providers can create interactive experiences that put the consumer at the center of the healthcare experience. These new consumer engagement strategies help to reduce costs, improve patient outcomes, and increase consumer satisfaction. This presents an exciting opportunity for healthcare providers to leverage the latest technologies and strategies to create a more interactive and engaging healthcare experience that puts the consumer’s needs first.

This Q&A article with Chris Pace, Chief Digital Marketing Officer at Banner Health, is driven from a Hello Healthcare podcast interview. The discussion includes strategies related to digital front door, key metrics, and consumer engagement. By modernizing consumer engagement in healthcare, healthcare providers can create smarter, more effective, and more efficient systems that benefit both the consumer and the provider.

Tell me about your digital front door strategy?

Great ideas are generally spun from the ground up, but when you have buy-in from the top down that is when the magic really happens. Before I joined Banner, we made changes to our mission statement. “Making healthcare easier, so life can be better” is our mission statement. There is a lot of responsibility to deliver that promise. The digital front door was really spawned around figuring out ways to identify where the friction points were with consumers and then creating digital solutions that could help reduce that friction. Everything from the call-in experience to the walk-in experience needs to be seamless.

modernizing consumer engagement in healthcare - banner health website

How has your strategy evolved since you started this initiative?

The initial phase was in 2018 to 2020, when I joined the organization. Our focus was building the foundation. That first three-year stint was focused on delivering foundational elements that are interconnected. Now at the end of that experience, COVID hit so we had to adapt to how the teams work together. The work was still the work. The funding was in place. So thankfully we were able to continue to execute. But what we learned during the pandemic was we didn't just build a digital front door, we also built a communications ecosystem that was connected, that was seamless, and was able to deliver at scale where we didn't anticipate.

The experience in COVID included many changes. We had changes to visitation, changes to care, we pivoted from testing to delivering vaccines. If we didn't have our digital front door strategy and our communications hub in place, it would've been much more fragmented and harder to deliver at scale. That's the catalyst for the next phase, which is building upon the foundation and reaching into different interaction points so that we're not waiting for consumers to find us.

modernizing consumer engagement in healthcare

How are you driving patients to your digital front door?

One of the things that I hear often from other marketing leaders is, "We invested in so-and-so technology and it was supposed to be our solution." Strategy without an end game is just a product. We focused on three facets to scale growth. One is the call channel which is more than just a phone conversation. Calling allows for intelligence and capabilities to empower your teams so they can better serve the customer. And honestly, it could make or break the net promoter score because that's often the first and last touch point.

Another is the digital channel which is aimed at competing in the ‘attention economy’. Visibility in Google is paramount because 85% of healthcare investigation starts with a search. That plays into our location listing strategy. We want to make sure our data is accurate and that it's syndicated properly across all the different listing engines because Google gives you credit for consistency and accuracy. The web strategy needs to be in sync with the technology, process, and ensuring the right people are armed. Generally, we spend less time talking about ourselves and more time aiming for solutions so that the consumer can make their healthcare decisions quicker and more efficiently.

Then the third piece is in the walk-in setting. Ensuring that access is there and readily available, that our teams are equipped with the right information to serve the customer, and that we're following up and understanding how that experience was. We must then continue to repeat the cycle and make sure we can scale.

1. Call Channel

modernizing patient engagement

2. Digital Channel

modernizing patient engagement

3. Walk-In Channel

Of these channels, which one would you say has been most dominant, especially since the onset of the pandemic?

During the pandemic, we had to rapidly learn out how to leverage empathy and caring at scale. For this, the phone channel is the best channel. Often when people are dealing with a difficult health situation, talking with someone that is empathetic and willing to listen is more powerful than anything you could deliver digitally.

How is patient data shared across different channels to make your strategies more effective?

It starts with our CRM and ensuring agents have access to customer information such as interactions, interests, and family history. This reduces handle time which means the agents can service more phone calls and operate more efficiently. Most imporantly, equipping the agent with facts means that they can provide a level of empathy. We can leverage data for outbound communication strategies using their preferred channel, be it SMS or email, to deliver the right information at the right time. Some examples include reminders for overdue services or primary care visits.

crm adoption healthcare

What are today's healthcare consumers gravitating towards in terms of a preferred communication channel?

We're seeing the SMS channel becoming a player in the space. The challenge with SMS is delivering brand voice so it looks like a communication from Banner versus another company. It's hard to deliver a voice and tone in 255 characters. The key is to give enough information to signal who we are and then take them to a web experience that aligns with our voice.

With email you have more availability for images and text. But you compete with all the other emails consumers are receiving. So, we use A/B testing for subject lines, call to actions, and other ways to result in more clicks. 

You mentioned brand voice which is important in healthcare. How have you maintained that in SMS/text?

There are a lot of health systems that say "We're the best in X, Y, or Z,” but Banner's taken a very different approach. Our style is to be your trusted friend or expert that also knows about healthcare. Using that voice and tone helps simplify our strategy and consistency with each channel.

The other pillars of our brand voice include listening, responsiveness, care, and empathy, which are innate in the healthcare setting. With the younger demographic, it's tough to crack the code because millennials and Gen Z want to be aligned with organizations that match their values and they can sense ingenuity. Therefore, by having true empathy and true caring, our brand voice can scale across many generations. Having the depth and breadth of services will satisfy the Gen X and older populations while having that consistency of empathy and authenticity resonates with the younger demographics.

How do you measure the success of your digital front door? How do you continue to evolve those metrics?

Having data is key. Launching any initiative requires OKRs and KPIs to measure success. Starting with brand, we do voice or brand tracking every six months. We do focus groups to make sure that our metrics are hitting with consumers. Through the phone channel, we use AI to listen at scale across millions of calls to measure our listening, responsiveness, care, and empathy metrics. For example, "Is this a quick handle because it's not an empathetic call? Or is the agent spending more time because they are handling more difficult cases?"

Looking at our customer feedback tools, we're able to gauge, "Is our digital channel effective to what is truly the intent of the purchaser? Are our care settings beyond HCAHPS and C-CAPs, and looking at NPS, are we able to generate an experience that somebody would talk about and recommend to others?" That likely to recommend factor is important and a big focus at Banner.

How do you communicate with your finance partner about campaign effectiveness and budget needs?

One example is looking at our advertising and the effectiveness of it. We employed business mix modeling a while back. We spent X and this is what we see the return on it was. We continue to get that investment because advertising is like portfolio management with multiple investments. We also use regression analysis to help map revenue. Using impression data coupled with sentinel events and environmental macroeconomic things that occur, we’re able to distill the impact marketing has on visits, volume, and revenue. Using this data, we know when our investments are hitting a saturation or maturity curve and we can either dial back or dial up spending. In short, make sure you have the data and proof points to show ROI, to then have a guided discussion with your finance partner.

modern engagement with consumers in healthcare

What's been the biggest lesson for you?

The biggest lesson to me has been that it’s about more than technology. You need to have the people, process, and technology aligned for the project to be successful. It’s important to not get frustrated with perfection and instead focus on what your goal is. Try new things and if you make mistakes, learn from them, and then continue forward.

What would you do differently if you had to redo this again?

I would've started SEO investments earlier. We doubled down during COVID because we figured, "Okay, this is a good time to focus on content strategy." Additionally, I would’ve focused on metrics that are going to matter versus the traditional approach to marketing metrics. We had an install of Google Analytics that didn't invite a whole lot of collaboration. It would've made a difference to identify outcomes we wanted to achieve and then map it to an analytics strategy.

Is there a difference in your strategy for new patient acquisition versus activating your existing patient base?

The biggest focus for the next 18 to 24 months is better understanding our audiences, segmenting our data, and doubling down on loyalty channels. The cost to acquire the next best action for existing patients is far cheaper than trying to find a net new acquisition. If you have enough critical mass in your market share, getting constant engagement with your consumers is going to be important, particularly with financial pressures growing.

modern consumer engagement strategies

Understand Audiences

modern consumer engagement strategies

Data Segmentation

modern consumer engagement strategies

Patient Loyalty

What recommendations do you have for other health systems that are working on their digital front door?

Honestly, it's getting your data in a situation where you can democratize it. Building out a CRM approach with a strong customer database is going to pay dividends for a long time, particularly with the loyalty channel. Because if you have permission to communicate with your customers, then you can constantly drive the next best actions.

In addition, get your local strategy and local listings nailed down. That alone can drive enough critical mass to get revenue stimulated while you're building other assets.

The third recommendation is getting your web strategy ironed out. You don't want to create frustration and confusion with customers that are spending time trying to find you and 85% of those investigators are going to Google. If you can't be found in Google, then you're irrelevant.

Listen to the full Hello Healthcare podcast interview with Chris Pace on your preferred streaming platform or watch the full video interview below.

About Chris Pace

Chris Pace is an experienced marketer with 20 years devoted to the health care industry. He is currently the Chief Digital Marketing Officer at Banner Health, the largest hospital system and employer in the state of Arizona. His responsibilities include driving the content strategy, service line marketing strategy, and website development strategy. Since joining Banner Health in 2018, Chris’ leadership has pushed Banner Health to expand its digital footprint through a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. Chris has an MBA and a Bachelor of Science in Management from Arizona State University. Connect with Chris Pace on LinkedIn.