Season 2, Episode 3
It’s not just the pandemic impacting healthcare marketing. Big retail players, staffing challenges, and new patient activation experiences are changing how we deliver and communicate about healthcare.
With all this change, how can healthcare leaders grow consistent, predictable relationships with their patients?
Alan Shoebridge, CCO at Providence, and Chris Hemphill break down strategies to thrive in this year’s rapid change.
04:22 Meet Alan Shoebridge, Providence Oregon’s CCO
07:42 How to Expand Marketing Outreach During the Pandemic
11:30 When Consumers Want to Hear from Their Health Systems
14:13 Step 1- Taking Care of YOURSELF and Your Health
18:40 Step 2- Navigate Operational Challenges in Strategy & Marketing
22:11 Capacity Marketing- When to STOP a Campaign
26:49 Step 3- Know Your Consumers
37:29 Step 4- Plan and Evaluate Results
40:30 Sharing the Vision and Plan with Leadership
45:40 Step 5- Repeat the Cycle (And where to START)
VP, Applied AI & Growth
Chief Communications Officer
Chris Hemphill (00:00):
We’ve been in pandemic mode for years now, but hospital leaders still see new challenges for 2022. Healthcare workers have reached their breaking point causing some of the biggest staffing challenges. Yet, at the same time, the competition for workers is increasing, competition for patient relationships is increasing as well. Do you remember when Microsoft and Google dipped their toe in the water with *Health Fault and Google Health in the early 2010s?
Chris Hemphill (00:27):
Well, the age of tepid tech and retail entries in healthcare is over. Amazon, CVS and many others are showing that they’re committed to stay. Amazon just announced their telehealth services are national and CVS isn’t slowing down in growing its primary care arm. So we’re facing operational challenges on the inside and we’re facing ravenous competition on the outside.
Chris Hemphill (00:53):
How can we keep growing and activating patient relationships? Alan Shoebridge, chief communication officer at Providence, Oregon, has outlined a five step approach to this. It begins with how you take care of yourself and how you take care of your team on a personal level. Then it moves to the strategy needed to respond to the challenges we outlined. We’ll dig in more with Alan after the break.
Chris Hemphill (01:20):
Consumer experiences, major disrupters and AI tech are shaping healthcare for years to come. On Hello Healthcare, we dive deep on these issues with leaders who are driving change. I’m Chris Hemphill, VP of applied AI at Actium Health, and we hope that these stories will help you to create or demand better future in healthcare. Alan, I’ll give you a chance to go ahead and introduce yourself.
Alan Shoebridge (01:46):
Thanks, Chris. I’m Alan Sheobridge, chief communication officer for Providence in Oregon. For those of you might not be familiar with Providence, a multi-state health system here in Oregon. We have eight hospitals, about 20,000 employees, more than 90 clinics. So pretty big footprint across the state. Happy to spend a little time with you today.
Chris Hemphill (02:03):
Alan, could you share just a bit on your background and what you’re hoping people are going to leave today with?
Alan Shoebridge (02:09):
Yeah, so I’ve worked in healthcare really for the last 15 years and during that time, I think I’ve had a variety of roles in both marketing and communication. Over time, I think we’ve moved as an industry where I joined up, it was all about heads and beds. Over the last decade, it’s become more about value based care and trying to work for some larger solutions, be more patient focused and nation centric, which I think is really good. And then all of a sudden over the last five years, things have really kind of amped up.
Alan Shoebridge (02:36):
We’ve had a lot of disruptors come into healthcare, that’s forced many of us to change about how we think, kind of accelerate party plans we might be doing anyways, but we’ve accelerated them. And then in March of 2020, the biggest disruptor I think I’ve ever seen COVID hit, and that really has changed what we’ve been doing and how we respond. And it’s made it very difficult, I think for us to go back and say we’re now in a very consistent patient acquisition mode because for the last two years, it’s been very hard to do that.
Alan Shoebridge (03:02):
There’s been pockets of time where we could go back to, I think how we might have operated prior to 2020 and there’s been times where we just can’t it all. So I think for today, it’s trying to figure out again, what do we need to sort of prioritize? What steps do we need to take to, if we’re in that journey, as people said, for those getting back to normal, how do we get off that rollercoaster a little bit, prioritize things and operate in a normal capacity for as long as we can?
Alan Shoebridge (03:26):
I think there’s ways to do that, but we also know, and I’m not going to make any predictions about, hey, once we get past Omicron and we get into March, everything’s good. I mean, who knows? Right? So we need to maximize our time in those good spaces. And I think today a whole people can leave with a feeling of they’ve got some more guidance to help do that.
Chris Hemphill (03:42):
That’s really actually a good lead in too, because when we talk, there’s something that I always bring up, which is at the time early on when COVID was just getting started. And you had a really unique response to that, I thought, which was while it was a really confusing, traumatizing time for many people. And the decision was made in a lot of cases to pull back on communications, pull back on engagement, activation outreach, and things like that. But your response seemed to be the opposite where you expanded the amount of communication and started a podcast, went into multiple channels in response to that.
Chris Hemphill (04:17):
Somehow that kind of gives me a hint at your philosophy, your leadership style when it comes to communication. And just curious about what drives that confidence to experiment with these new channels and even launch more communications while they’re really dire situations at hand.
Alan Shoebridge (04:34):
Yeah, well, just for a little bit of context. So I’ve actually gone through a job change. So when I was working at my previous system, was a small all our system, our resources were pretty constrained, but we had thought about doing some of this stuff. We had a roadmap where in six months maybe we’ll start experimenting with a newsletter. And then in 12 months, maybe we’ll add a podcast and then we’ll do more videos and we’ll do more virtual events. We had this sort of roadmap and it was all sectioned out.
Alan Shoebridge (04:57):
And I think in normal times, we probably would’ve done a little more experimenting, see how things work. But with COVID, as I mentioned, it was that huge disrupter where we had a need to get more messaging out in more ways quicker than we ever had before. And so I think it accelerated what for many of us and like me, was people who want to do different things, who want to experiment, who are open to new ideas, but it was this accelerator of like, let’s take all that energy, but let’s do it now. Let’s see how much we can do.
Alan Shoebridge (05:25):
And if something fails fast, great, we’ll set it off to the side and we won’t do it anymore. So I think that was a huge impetus. And I think there’s probably a lot of people on the call today who are listening, who had to do the same thing. All of a sudden, you need to get more information out to broader audience. You need to break through noise. So you look at new channels to do that, you evaluate if they work and you stick with it if they do, that was really a huge part of the driver.
Alan Shoebridge (05:47):
And also, I think one of my biggest lessons from COVID has been the distinction between your internal and external audiences, I think is not necessarily as big as it used to be. I think so much of the content we produce now is applicable to both. So if we’re doing a podcast or a video on our chief medical officer talking about Omicron or whatever, well, that with almost no changes or no changes, could go out to both our internal, external audiences. It just becomes, how do you sequence it? Get out to your employees first, get it out to the public right away after.
Alan Shoebridge (06:19):
I think again, prior to COVID, a lot more focus was on very distinct content and messages, things cannot overlap. And now it’s really like, that distinction between the audiences is less important. And it’s more about getting the information out, making sure your employees know first, but then right on, following with communications to the public. So I think all of that energy and all of that disruption by COVID, really helped drive some positive changes in how I thought about content and I’m sure it does for many other people.
Chris Hemphill (06:48):
Yeah. And that’s a powerful example too, because a lot of time a content strategy can appear intimidating if there’s lots of costly avenues to produce. So what’s being produced for an internal audience can be repurposed for an external or vice versa, that sounds like a really powerful approach to be able to do something that scales.
Alan Shoebridge (07:05):
Yeah. Well, and the nice thing too is once you build it and you get a plan, it becomes easier to do. Some of these things, to your point, when you’re thinking about it in the abstract, it just becomes, well, I don’t have the time or the resource, but when you actually or do it, it becomes more manageable. And I think again, the key is just really evaluating it every once in a while to say, are we really getting the value out of this for the time we’re putting in?
Alan Shoebridge (07:27):
Because I think a lot of situations, it becomes really a time and resource aspect, that’s another thing and I know we’re going to talk about it later. But right now, our teams are burned up, people are retired, people are shifting jobs, there’s a lot going on. And I think it’s really important for everyone here who is a leader managing a team to really say, if I ask the team to do one more thing, is this too much?
Alan Shoebridge (07:52):
Actually evaluating and maybe pulling back a little bit, now that we’ve got everything in place, right now is a good time to evaluate things.
Chris Hemphill (07:59):
And I just want to throw out a couple of metrics out there that we pulled. We did a survey on 1200 healthcare consumers, and we were asking them about what brands they’re most interested in hearing from. And we asked them about like retail and banking, finance, and all that kind of stuff. Especially I think, important at the time that we delivered the survey, which was like last year, despite all the interesting, fun things that Nordstrom and Amazon can talk about, 66% of the audience that we surveyed, what they wanted to hear from the most was their healthcare providers.
Chris Hemphill (08:31):
But at the same time, only 49% of the audience had heard from them. So that’s a powerful point that, is that our consumer in a lot of cases really want to hear from us, but it can be hard to deliver, the content strategy can be extremely difficult.
Alan Shoebridge (08:46):
Well, I think that’s another thing that’s again, maybe I hate to say anytime there’s silver linings from COVID because the damage has been so immense. But one of the powerful things was there have been times where, I agree with you, most people do not want to hear from their healthcare system unless they have a problem, right? They’re managing a health condition, then it’s great to hear from them. You want to hear, you want communication, but if you’re relatively healthy, you don’t really want to hear from your healthcare system ever.
Alan Shoebridge (09:12):
You’ve got other things you want to think about. Well, when COVID hit, all of a sudden, people wanted to hear from healthcare systems. They’re like, what are we doing to address this? What do I need to do safe? Of the people that I would trust to get a message on safety precautions or vaccines? Well, I mean, my local doctor and my local health system, all of a sudden had a lot more relevant front mind for people who for any other reason, wouldn’t be thinking about it.
Alan Shoebridge (09:34):
So it did actually open the door to I think, engage more people. And I still feel like a lot of us are leveraging those things today. People we pulled in to our social media channels or our content channels that otherwise probably would’ve ignored us, they are giving us more attention. I think the challenge is their attention does wane as COVID recedes, how do you get them back? How do you keep them activated? That’s a big challenge for us, moving ahead.
Chris Hemphill (09:58):
A great point too there, because what we’re establishing is that content strategy on multiple channels is possible often with repurposing content. And right now, while there’s a big challenge, people want to hear from us and perhaps that interest goes up and down. And that really leads me to kind of the next question about 2022, given that we’re at the height of the Omicron variant and the seven day moving average has declined, but there’s all kinds of unpredictable factors.
Chris Hemphill (10:25):
How do you think that we should be thinking about the strategy just in the context of 2022 with these [inaudible 00:10:31] of the week variants, what should be the first focus given the potential nature here?
Alan Shoebridge (10:36):
Well, this might sound a little bit strange, but our real focus should be actually I think on self care and care for our teams if you’re a leader. So I think many of us really have been going full speed ahead for almost two years. Many of us haven’t taken our regular vacation, things like that. As we get into a place, and again, I’m hopeful and I’m not making predictions, but I’m hopeful as we get into the late spring, early summer, that a lot of us will be in a much better place.
Alan Shoebridge (11:04):
And if you’re already there, for some of those people who took the first poll and you’re already kind of working normal, I think now is the time to sort of shore things up, take some time off for yourself, encourage your staff to do the same thing, figure what you want to do as far as personal development, team development, all those things that I think were possible to do during the last few months, but were really difficult.
Alan Shoebridge (11:27):
And actually over the last two years, really difficult to do. I think you need to start there and evaluate that. Now, if you were somehow really good and were able to go above the fray and again, take enough time for yourself to feel recharged and make sure your team’s doing the same, that’s great, maybe you don’t have the same need. But I would look inward to yourself and make sure you have what you need to kind of hit the ground running, get your energy up again.
Alan Shoebridge (11:49):
And really evaluate for your team as well. So I think one, you got to do that first, I think, and then you can kind of move on to some of the other steps we’re going to talk about. But again, look within yourself first, give yourself the grace to kind of recharge, we really need that. And I think the other reason it’s so important is again, we don’t know how long this normal period is going to last. So for those of us who can shift in that normal period now, are we still going to be you there in July or October? We don’t know.
Alan Shoebridge (12:14):
So I think if you get a chance again, to recharge reevaluate, do it now while you have the opportunity, because again, we might not have a chance later on. So I really encourage people to stay there, start there, that’s the first place to start.
Chris Hemphill (12:26):
Excellent. And that’s a powerful place to start too because I think it’s unacknowledged how important health is, personal health, mental well wellbeing into making a vast quantity of good decisions versus bad decisions all day long. There’s a strong impact that gets ignored because the focus is typically on the business rather than the person.
Alan Shoebridge (12:45):
Well, and again, I’m never going to compare anything I go through to what frontline healthcare workers are going through. But the amount of work and stress and scheduling challenges and all that, I don’t think anyone who’s worked in the industry very long would argue that the last two years have been the most stressful, the most challenging, the most demanding. And so that does take a toll. Again, I mean, we’re not facing angry patients and we’re not putting our health at risk, but we’re doing a lot to support our organization and we’re probably working harder than we ever have.
Alan Shoebridge (13:16):
And you’ve added on to that, just the stress that goes on of the community dialogue about things like masking or vaccination that in our roles, we’re playing a role in helping our healthcare systems talk about those things address them, that’s stressful too. So again, I think it just starts with that self care piece, really evaluate how you feel, what you want to accomplish. And if you need to take some time to focus on yourself, I think you need to do that as a first step.
Chris Hemphill (13:42):
So that kind of leads into another question too, where a lot of the conversation that you’ve been focused a lot of things I’ve seen you discuss have been around staffing challenges. The ability to even find appropriate levels of people to deliver the services that you’re communicating about. Sometimes it feels like as a marketer, we don’t have anything to market.
Chris Hemphill (14:02):
So my next question is given these operational challenges and given the potential for exacerbating an already bad experience for patients by sending them to services and things like that, that aren’t available, what should we be doing to focus on these operational challenges?
Alan Shoebridge (14:20):
Yeah, well, I think there’s a couple levels of operational things that we need to look at. One, for again, people like me, basically right now in Oregon, we’re closing down scheduled surgeries, we’ve got national guards in our hospital, the clinics are under staffed. Like we’re not trying to drive any business right now. We’re trying to triage the most important people who need care, make sure people get the appropriate tests they need, where they need it, all that.
Alan Shoebridge (14:43):
So we’re not in the active marketing mode. I do know that when we come out of this, what we’re going to have to look at, going back to those fundamentals that a lot of people on this call probably know well. But it’s really looking at the operations and saying, can they actually take new business? What do we have that actually can take new business?
Alan Shoebridge (15:01):
And that is a special challenge I think coming into 2022 with all the staffing turnover and burnout is that again, we’ve got a lot of open positions, people across the country, every healthcare system’s got a lot of open positions generally. And that makes it very difficult to ensure that if we’re marketing something or we’re communicating about something, that we’re going to have enough staff to service it, people can make an appointment in a timely fashion.
Alan Shoebridge (15:26):
So I think what people need to do now as they get into this part of building their plan and having their conversations with their operational partners, that’s really important too. I think again, as we’re returning to what I guess I would call normal business, part of that means you’re sitting down with your business partners, you’re sitting down with your executives and you’re talking about where’s the opportunity? And the cross section there is looking at where those opportunities are and where there’s capacity.
Alan Shoebridge (15:52):
So again, if there’s issues with, you can’t make an appointment for six months or right now, the patient experience is very poor because we don’t have enough staff or we can’t answer the phones, those are all like real concerns. And again, I would look for the areas where maybe there is a cross section of we’ve got capacity, there’s you to our healthcare system to market this. And there’s something I can influence with patient demand for marketing, that’s I think where it would start now.
Alan Shoebridge (16:19):
And again, that’s going to change over the course of the year. So you would think that again, as we get into more normal operations, maybe the staffing and things improve over the course of the year. I think there’ll be more and more things to promote, but right now we just need to be really careful. Because I have always been extremely cautious about driving any patient to a bad situation. So if either they’re going to have a poor experience or they can’t get an appointment, I really don’t want to market that or communicate about that until we’re ready to accept them.
Alan Shoebridge (16:49):
So that’s a fundamental principle that I, I don’t think has changed. But again, I think COVID as a disruptor has meant that staffing challenges are just really strong right now. And they’re going to be something that we’re dealing with for a couple years, frankly. I think all of 2022 is going to be dealing with that and beyond, and we really just need to make sure we’re looking at it, is that impacting operations in a way that makes it impractical to market or promote our services?
Chris Hemphill (17:16):
That’s definitely a powerful way to think about it. And I know that you’re not in a marketing mode, not in a promotion new services mode right now. But just with your experience in looking across at operations and making sure that there would be sufficient lead acceptance based on capacity available, could you talk just a little about a time that you were going to run a campaign, but found out that based on operational capacity, that shouldn’t happen?
Alan Shoebridge (17:42):
I’m trying to change the names to protect the innocent, but it happens a lot. And I think a common thing that would come up quite a bit, is you would hear from a physician about, well, I really need some more business at my clinic. And my next question goes to the actual clinic manager or the actual operations people and say, hey, I heard from Dr. Smith and he really wants to do some promotion.
Alan Shoebridge (18:02):
And they’ll tell me, well, wait, he doesn’t have access for six months. And so then, you can kind of have a conversation where you go back and you really try to find out what’s the true need here? What do we really want to do? Maybe Dr. Smith really wants to focus on getting his reputation out with referring providers. Well, that’s maybe something we could do because he might not have capacity for a big public facing marketing campaign, but maybe a physician outreach strategy is the right way to go.
Alan Shoebridge (18:26):
So that comes up a lot, I think it’s just really important to ask anyone who’s promoting new service, the path for how people get to it. So that’s the other thing as marketers and communicators, we’re asked all the time, we’re like, well, let’s just throw something up on the website. Let’s put some copy up there. And my question is that, well, how are we going to get people there? And how do they get there?
Alan Shoebridge (18:45):
Because many of the services we get asked to promote are driven through referral processes. So if you’re just hoping someone stumbles on your website to make a self-referral, it’s not really going to work if actually they call a phone number and they get told, well, your primary care doctor actually has to refer you here, or you need to see this specialist first or whatever. So there’s always that challenge. And I just like to map out the path, so for anything that you are going to be asked to promote, what is that path to get there?
Alan Shoebridge (19:11):
And if there’s barriers to get there that you can’t control, then that’s where you need to step back and try to remove those barriers, get those barriers out of the way, and then kind of proceed with your market or communications. That’s the best way to attack it. It may sound funny to you, Chris, but most marketers get questions like this a couple times a year, we really need to market something.
Alan Shoebridge (19:28):
And then you dig in and you say, what’s the access, what’s the path? And then you realize that there’s some barriers that have to be taken out there. One of the complexities of marketing and healthcare is again, it’s not just like we can offer a product and anyone can buy it. I always think about things like, if you want to sell TV or a car, whatever, you just throw an ad out there and it’s up to the person. They can go buy it, whether they can afford it [inaudible 00:19:47] question, if they can prove it on the credit card, they can go take it.
Alan Shoebridge (19:49):
I mean, healthcare again, a lot of our services are heavy in the process mode of you’ve got to have the right insurance. You got to have the right referral pattern. We’ve got to have access for you. There’s a lot of factors that make it very difficult to market our products.
Chris Hemphill (20:02):
It kind of involves asking a question then, okay, well, hey, somebody says to you, we really need to market something. But on the flip side, okay, well, if we do successfully market it and we drive somebody’s interest, they’re looking at the paper, we’re clicking the link and all that. What’s the experience that they’re going to receive after that?
Alan Shoebridge (20:19):
Yeah. Well, obviously you’re going to have questions like, is this a service that makes sense for us to market in terms of either it being something that drives revenue, which is important? And I know a lot of us are not for profit, but there’s the phrase, no margin, no mission, right? So if we’re going to market something we’re going to spend dollars to market something, does it actually bring money in? Does it cost us money?
Alan Shoebridge (20:38):
I mean, there are procedures and things that we lose money on. So again, you have to be careful, what we’re going to do, have a revenue factor or is it strategically important for community health or something else? But there’s that functional piece of asking those questions too, on the business side, what does it mean if we drive a bunch of people in here? Because we drive a bunch of people into a service again that is not strategically important or maybe cost us money, that’s bad marketing.
Chris Hemphill (21:06):
Hello Healthcare is brought to you by Actium Health. Healthcare leaders use Actium CRM Intelligence to activate patients and drive meaningful engagement. You can make it simple to identify and predict patient needs by using AI driven next best actions. Learn more at actuimhealth.com. And now, back to the show. It does sound like we’re talking about revenues and the business and everything like that. But when we’re overall considering the capacity and the type of experience somebody’s going to have, then that’s definitely putting the patient in the center.
Chris Hemphill (21:44):
But we’re on the capacity side, the internal hospital operations but there was another point that I thought was really interesting. Especially, you brought it up a little bit earlier, which was around the innovators coming into healthcare, such as the Amazons of the world, the Walmart in its way, CBS.
Alan Shoebridge (22:00):
Mark Cuban, right? Mark Cuban’s pharmacy benefit piece, I don’t know if you saw that, that’s the flavor dessert this week, is mark Cuban’s effort. So sorry to interrupt you. And yeah, I know these things happen fast, like changes coming faster around here.
Chris Hemphill (22:14):
One thing that a lot of these players have in common is their use of data to understand who their audiences are and to understand sometimes the right ways to navigate people through things or just the right things to suggest. And I’m curious about what can hospitals learn from what these organizations are doing, maybe even mark Cuban too, but what can health systems learn about knowing their audiences and tailoring their experiences?
Alan Shoebridge (22:39):
Yeah, I think just knowing the audience is the number one thing, it’s really important. And I always get a little bit frustrated because I think there’s a lot of people who feel like most traditional healthcare systems are not focused on this and that’s not true. Actually, I don’t think I’ve met a marketing communication professional in the last five to 10 years who doesn’t have some level of really focusing on this, who’s organization is not starting to think about ways to better connect and focus on the patient.
Alan Shoebridge (23:06):
I really think that’s been happening for a number of years. A challenge is just again, breaking through all the other things that are going on in the traditional healthcare space. So I think the nice thing is we’ve really learned that, that patient focus is important, convenience, choice, that really matters the most. And I think every traditional healthcare provider is pivoting to offering more of that. And I think that’s being driven from two fronts. One is seeing some of these new disruptors come in, do different things, basically kind of protecting the business.
Alan Shoebridge (23:37):
But on the other hand, it’s very aligned with our mission of just serving people better and offering more choices. And many of our healthcare organizations are partnering with some of these disrupters. And in many cases, we’re partnering with these disrupters to do things or we’re partnering with other vendors and people who are entering the space to do it as well. So I think there’s a lot of innovation going on, probably more innovation and more innovative thinking going on than most people would suspect. But I do have to say, and again, not to use this as an excuse, but COVID has slowed it down a little bit.
Alan Shoebridge (24:06):
It becomes difficult to think about again rolling out some new piece of connection to a patient or whatever when we’re just trying to figure out how to service people showing up in our emergency department without overflowing. Right? So, I mean, it does slow things down, but again, I think when we get out of this situation again, I think you’ll see a lot of healthcare systems pivot back to that, continue to focus on it. And many have had resources to do this. Walco has been going on. But again, that can be kind of challenging.
Chris Hemphill (24:32):
I like the way that you phrased that. And I kind of see it as a pendulum where on the one side, there’s this capacity question that we’re trying to answer. But then with that given capacity, it’s a question of, well, who’s the most in need and who’s going to be the most receptive to what type of communication and things around that.
Alan Shoebridge (24:51):
Yeah. And again, if I would sum up anything that’s happened in the industry over the last 10 years, I do think all these entrants in have found healthcare to be very difficult. I’m not expert on this, but there was some other news last week about IBM Watson being sold off. Right? So that was going to be a huge [inaudible 00:25:08]. Okay, again, it’s a game changer and kind of, maybe not. And so I think what we found again is you have a lot of entrants coming to healthcare, they’re finding it’s difficult to navigate.
Alan Shoebridge (25:19):
But what they’re trying to do in terms of making care more personalized, getting more options to people, in some instances, reducing cost, some instances not reducing costs, but those things are positive and they’re helping us, I think, focus in more and also drive ourselves more to deliver those things. So I think on the whole, it’s very positive. And again, I feel like most people who are in their careers in healthcare right now are very aligned to this. They want a more patient focus approach. They want more value being delivered, those are things we all support.
Chris Hemphill (25:49):
I’m going to be honest with you on this with regards to Watson, for years, when I heard about Watson answering jeopardy questions and then making it supposed [inaudible 00:25:57] into healthcare, one of the things that was discussed was that it could read large numbers of research papers, and then better inform clinical decisions. But never, never understood how they were actually going to operationalize that, that sounded great.
Chris Hemphill (26:10):
Like we’ll read the entirety of PubNet or whatever, but there’s so much conflicting information, how would it actually arrive at what’s right? Just letting everybody know, if you don’t understand something in this aspect, like a Watson, it might be too complicated to actually be real.
Alan Shoebridge (26:24):
It’s interesting too, because any announcement of anyone entering the healthcare space is always the biggest thing. And I know you had heard about it, but it was funny because Mark Cuban’s announcement a couple days ago, I saw someone describe it as this is the biggest disruption we’ve had in the last 10 years. I’m like, no, it’s not. I mean, it’s interesting and it might be really impactful, but there’s so many questions about how it really works. And again, how deeper the discounts, there’s a lot of questions.
Alan Shoebridge (26:48):
So when you start reading about it, you’re like, this might be interesting, but to label it a giant success when it’s only about two days, I mean, that happens all the time. I mean, we saw it with the Amazon Berkshire Hathaway chasing. When that came, oh my gosh, that sent ripples to the industry. Stock prices went tumbling down for all these companies and they’ve produced just about nothing and actually broke up. I mean, I think again, we’re going to see Amazon be innovative, I don’t count them out.
Alan Shoebridge (27:12):
But that whole partnership that really had people worry, amounted to just about absolutely nothing. So what I do is sort of take the long view and say, I think some of these disruptors, absolutely they’re going to have positive change, we’re going to work with some of them. So it’s all positive, but we get very excited, we run around a lot anytime an announcement’s made and it translates to lot of buzz, and you got to look at what it’s actually delivering.
Chris Hemphill (27:33):
And when you take it all the way back to the basic concept of delivering great care, of sending people towards where they’re going to have a good experience, when that becomes the key focus of the question, you’re answering what a lot of their promise is that they’re trying to bring to the table.
Alan Shoebridge (27:49):
Yeah. Well, and I think from our perspective, traditional healthcare, we want things that improve access, improve quality and reduce costs, right? So I mean, if there’s things that deliver that, and we can either partner with someone to make it happen in or do it ourselves, I mean, that’s what’s appealing to us. And I think that’s another lens to look at every disruptor is how are they going to do this? So maybe they’re going to increase access, but is it going to do anything for cost?
Alan Shoebridge (28:15):
Or maybe they’re going to increase quality, but it’s only going to be accessible to a really slight narrow slice of patients. Right? So I think that same level of scrutiny that often gets supplied to what I we do in traditional healthcare, doesn’t get applied to disruptors. Well, they don’t ask the hard questions. So like how’s this really going to work?
Alan Shoebridge (28:31):
And it always strikes me, is that we get very excited and these things are good and they will help drive our industry, there’s no question about that, but we have to use some context and keep it in perspective.
Chris Hemphill (28:40):
I did avoid saying disruptor at the beginning, I said, innovator, but whatever we want going to call it, what they’re doing is building out examples. If somebody does something that works and we can see that work on a repeat basis, we don’t just take it from the press release. We don’t just take it like a week from when Mark Cuban makes the announcement. But if in healthcare we see somebody doing something that does actually work, then it becomes a model that can be replicated in some kind of way.
Alan Shoebridge (29:04):
Yeah. Not every idea is a good idea. I mean, it is funny and we won’t dwell on this too long, but every kind of retail player that gets in healthcare is also the next success. So we have Walmart, we got Dollar General, we got CrossFit, I don’t know how CrossFit’s going to have this, but maybe it will. I don’t know. But some of these ideas are bad ideas and probably most of them are, some will be great and some will take off, but even you look at what Walmart’s been doing.
Alan Shoebridge (29:29):
So they’ve had a lot of organizational turnover, their expansion plans have been slower than they expected. Now, again, I wouldn’t count them out or anything, but you do look and say, not all these are good ideas and not all of them are going to be successful. So again, you need to stay focused on what you can control and your fundamentals. And I think challenge your organization to meet some of the goals to be better focused on the patients and the experience and offering what people want and not getting too caught up in like you said, what’s going on with the press release.
Chris Hemphill (29:59):
Exactly. The press release is interesting, but then maybe three years on down the road or a year and a half, you can test those assumptions. We’ve talked about a lot of things. If we go through step by step in the discussion points, I think it started with the focus on the self, like creating a healthy mind and a healthy environment for yourself to be able to make better decisions. Then once that focus has happened, let’s focus on operations. But when we say operations and the way that you phrase it, it was really about the experience that patients receive when they get the services that you might be discussing or given some level of capacity.
Chris Hemphill (30:32):
And then we went on the flip side of that coin and talked about kind of the types of experiences that other industry players are delivering. And where data and things like that might be necessary and might be pivotal in crafting those types of experiences and communication channels. That’s a few moving parts there. And as we’re thinking through this 2022 playbook, how can our patient activation practitioners make sure that this is going according to plan? What’s the strategy that you would say to make sure that the clock is ticking correctly here?
Alan Shoebridge (31:02):
Yeah. I mean, I think there’s a couple things, I mean, one, it’s fundamental, but it’s setting your goals for what you want to do. And that could be basically on the business generation side, but it also could be on this topic we were discussing about knowing your patients, knowing your market real fundamental. But again, I think you need to leverage whatever data you have to understand who you’re serving. So even things like brand preference, awareness, those things, those are key. Those are like building blocks, right?
Alan Shoebridge (31:27):
And again, that might be something that the focus shifted away the last couple years, or didn’t have as much time to deal in, dig into research. I really encourage people to start with those fundamentals. Like, where is your brand stand? How do people perceive you versus your competitors? Like getting all that knowledge shorter, so again, if you haven’t touched that for a while, or you haven’t had a chance to focus on it, do it. If you don’t have those tools today, I would say, make a strong case to try to add them. They’re really important. It’s a really a sound foundational thing.
Alan Shoebridge (31:54):
And then I think you kind of go into a little bit deeper and where some organizations can leverage data to do surveys, are there areas to kind of engage their patients? And I think also potentially engaging prospects, but there’s that level too. And then I think all that sort of comes together again with the information you need from your organization about what are the business priorities? Again, what do we know? How can we build some plans? So I do feel like once as we start with that one step, assess yourself, assess your operations, then I think you build a plan.
Alan Shoebridge (32:27):
Another area where it becomes easy to get distracted or lose focus is looking at our measurement too. So how do we measure what we built out in that plan? Are we seeing progress? Do we have all the data pieces we need? Just getting those fundamentals together and kind of engaging your business partners to report out, but just putting that all together, I think is really important.
Alan Shoebridge (32:46):
And can be something that if we get too busy, get distracted, we forget about, so to me, that’s an important step of the whole process. I know would be true any year but I think what might be different this year again, is we might need to do more building. We might need to go back and see again, how we’ve been keeping up with things to really give us the right information to have the plan and build it and work it throughout the year.
Chris Hemphill (33:06):
Yeah, that makes sense and I like the way that you outlined that. I think it’ll match with the recap that we’re going to send based on this conversation. Curious, when it comes to communicating that plan, one thing that I see a lot being challenge is there’s an effort to develop the plan there. There’s all these resources into putting into play and oftentimes, is not understood, not well received by other critical parts of the organization. Could you talk a little bit about, we’ve developed this playbook for 2022 but we need support from other leaders. How would you say we can hop some of those hurdles?
Alan Shoebridge (33:43):
Well, I think the most important thing is to share what you’ve got. Everyone needs to actually have a plan that’s written down in a format that you can go present or give to people. And so what I encourage is I think everyone should pull together. You call it little council, whatever you want, but is there an opportunity where you can get in front of the rightly in your organization?
Alan Shoebridge (34:01):
If you’re a chief marketing officer or something, you should be sitting down with your C-suite contemporaries and sharing the plan. And saying, this is what we have going on and we’ve aligned it to the business priorities. Is there anything you see here that you would have questions about or you need to know more about, or you would disagree with? Any of that stuff. Doing that process to really familiarize and socialize the plan, I think at the highest level of the organization is really important.
Alan Shoebridge (34:24):
What I’ve done in past years too, is I’ll take that plan and create like an executive summary, like a two page document. And I’ll take that to any meeting I have with a new business partner, I might meet with a doctor, whatever, like have this plan, say, here’s the prior, here’s what we’re working on. I want to give you that kind text, because we’re going to talk about your program today and maybe it fits in there. Maybe it’s in the top five priorities, but maybe it’s not.
Alan Shoebridge (34:46):
And so we need to set some expectations about what leadership has decided is important. So I do feel like it’s critical. And again, I have seen people do this and I’ve encountered situations where there is no written plan for the year, and there is no depth to take it around and socialize it, that there is no executive summary to drop off in a meeting. You need those elements to explain what you’re doing. And then I think the other piece is it holds you accountable to actually report out what happens, right?
Alan Shoebridge (35:11):
So if you lay out the priorities, if you’re having quarterly discussions to say where you’re at, what you’re doing, whether anything’s changed, it actually holds you accountable to report back, talk about what you’ve found. And again, in a given year, a lot of priorities will change, but you have to start with that piece of it’s written down, it’s trackable, it’s reportable, and then you’re updating it at least quarterly with new information and reporting out.
Alan Shoebridge (35:34):
And then that builds you into the cycle of getting ready to repeat things over and over again. But I do know how challenging it’s been for the last two years. So follow the traditional cycle of you do your planning in the summer, you write your plan in the fall, and then you’re ready to go Jan, one. Well, that might not be reality this year. So again, if you haven’t done it, I think now’s the time to really shore all that up and get your process back on track as soon as you can.
Chris Hemphill (35:55):
Fantastic. Yeah. Sounds like a powerful fort that you’re focusing on building to protect that plan. Like when you have those coalitions, when you have these things written down and when you’re reporting on it consistently, some of the new things that you’re planning on trying, that they have the opportunity to better solidify in the minds of your constituents.
Alan Shoebridge (36:13):
I think in our profession, especially on the marketing communications side, people not understanding what you’re doing is our worst enemy, right? Because then they’ll just ask you to do everything. And it’s always a challenge to prioritize and have a lens to filter request in through, always hard. Even when you had a great plan, even when you’ve done your tremendous job in writing and research and getting socialization, it’s always hard.
Alan Shoebridge (36:35):
But if you don’t have any structure, you’re just going to be spending off, one into little requests here and there, or things are coming out of nowhere, how do you run it through a filter at all? So I do feel like it’s just a fundamental piece. It takes maintenance though, too, because you have to update it. You have to change it if priorities change. But it gives you a starting point to have a conversation with people about, again, this is how we started the year. This is what we’ve been doing.
Alan Shoebridge (36:58):
If we’re going to make a change, we got to reopen the plan and go from there, but it’s such an important filter and a lever for you to use to prioritize your work. And also, I think getting your team aligned around a common vision too. So if you’re leading a team, having that plan gives firm groundwork that everyone can feel like they’re aligned to.
Chris Hemphill (37:15):
Your final thoughts, please, there’s a whole bevy of things that we discussed. There’s all kinds of different things, my head might be spinning if I was looking at all the different things that we’re talking about having to do. So what should people be leaving this conversation with ready to start doing in order to tackle 2022 without getting frustrated, the 2018 playbook won’t come back?
Alan Shoebridge (37:37):
Well. Yeah, and it’s a great point there. I don’t think 2018 is going to come back for quite a while. And that’s okay, I think we’ve learned how to work differently. So I would say to think to the rest of the year ahead, I mean, I’ve put it in steps. And I think step one, again, focus on yourself, focus on your team. What do you need to do to get yourself in the right mindset, to refresh your energy level to really be able to tackle the whole year?
Alan Shoebridge (38:02):
So again, if you’re there in step one, great, you’ve done that, that’s awesome. If you haven’t done that, I think you need to do that. The second step is really looking at your operation pieces, we talked about that, understanding what you have to market or communicate about, what’s really ready for prime time when you come out of the COVID surge and you’re ready to pick things up again?
Alan Shoebridge (38:20):
So understanding that operational piece, fixing anything that’s a problem, removing those barriers to patient experience. Step three, knowing your audiences, making sure that you’ve got the right data, you’ve got the right partnerships to get what you need. I think that’s really important and critical. And if you’re in a situation again, where you can make sure you’re in the right conversations about how we approach patient acquisition, really important. So again, I think that’s probably step three.
Alan Shoebridge (38:46):
Step four is really evaluating your results on a regular basis, making sure you’re stepping back again, at least quarterly to look at your progress, to connect with business partners, report out, do that fundamental work and adjust. Again, if you see something’s not working, I think we’ve all agreed that, this is a fail fast time. If you do something, doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to get away from it, but you need to make sure it’s not a drain in your resource. You need to make sure it’s actually working.
Alan Shoebridge (39:10):
And then it’s funny because I think step five is we’re going to repeat the cycle, right? So if things go according to plan, we do these things, hopefully this fall, we’ll be all getting our plans ready for next year. We’ll do all these things, but we need to set ourselves up now to take the steps over the next 10 months, 11 months to really dial everything in. So again, start with yourself and then build out from there, I think that’s the best approach for the rest of the year.
Chris Hemphill (39:34):
Excellent. And I’ll just recap these similar points, the steps that Alan outlined are to focus on yourself, your health and your team, to look at your operations, to know and understand your audiences and evaluate those results and adjust before repeating the cycle. Lot of great resources out there to help with that. Alan, wanted to thank you for taking some time with us. You’ve been a great friend of us and a great friend to Hello Healthcare and the stuff that we’re doing. So looking forward to checking in with you later this year around 2023 to see how these things are going.
Alan Shoebridge (40:08):
Yeah, definitely. And we will get to a place I think, where we can feel like we’re more normal again at some time, and just encourage you to try to keep your energy level up. I think that’s a great profession to be in. And so the more we can support each other, the better. And I hope our conversation today helped do that a little bit.
Chris Hemphill (40:24):
Thank you, Alan. And yeah, don’t forget, people, to focus on keeping that energy level up. I requested it at the beginning, I’m gonna request it again that you follow Alan on LinkedIn, good daily dose of positivity and insight, follow him on Twitter. So again, appreciate you and we’ll see you later. Thanks again for tuning into Hello Healthcare. If you like, what you heard, we appreciate a review on Apple, Spotify or wherever you’re listening.
Chris Hemphill (40:50):
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