Building the Future of Healthcare Marketing Today ft. Paul Matsen, CMO, Cleveland Clinic


There’s no turning back on the acceleration of consumerism. Healthcare leaders are evolving their strategy to think holistically about the customer journey, including everything from patient care to the metaverse.

Paul Matsen, Chief Marketing Officer at Cleveland Clinic, brings an optimistic perspective and experience on how leaders can modernize the future of healthcare marketing. Learn from Matsen and Chris Hemphill, Podcast Host of Hello Healthcare, about the strategies for innovating today, demonstrating results, and remaining interconnected with additional teams across Cleveland Clinic.

This conversation is brought to you by Actium Health in partnership with the Forum for Healthcare Strategists.

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Chris Hemphill

Podcast Host
Hello Healthcare


Paul Matsen

Chief Marketing and Communications Officer
Cleveland Clinic


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Paul Matsen (00:00):
Continuing to look for the new trends, continuing to look for the new opportunities, even before you can fully realize them is important and then get in the game and start to iterate your way forward.

Chris Hemphill (00:18):
Hello Healthcare. I’m excited to be joined by Paul Matsen of the Cleveland Clinic. Paul serves as chief marketing officer of the Cleveland Clinic and has been with them since 2006. We’ve evolved a lot from an era where we were having debates about whether or not hospitals should have websites or invest heavily in the online experience to where we are now, where it’s consumerism, consumerism, consumerism. So what we want to discuss today is seeing that gap close over time, and ultimately where some opportunities are to focus on what we in healthcare fundamentally do better than a lot of the disruptors coming in and just focus on keeping that progress, moving forward, not being too disillusioned when we run into problems where you want that innovative project, you want that scheduling system, but you’re encountering internal resistance. We’re seeing this change over time. We’re seeing that gap narrow. Let’s talk about maybe a little bit of leapfrog and what do you think Paul, is that possible?

Paul Matsen (01:32):
Yeah, I am fundamentally an optimist. That’s why I’m in marketing. So yeah, I think healthcare marketers do face challenges for sure, but all marketers in all industries face challenges. And I think this healthcare marketing has made tremendous progress and you have to work past those frustrations. You have to find a way forward. You have to find a way to keep innovating and demonstrating those results and making progress, that’s totally achievable. And I think if you do that, that’ll keep you motivated. That will keep you engaged and your teams engaged.

Chris Hemphill (02:09):
Yeah. It’s a matter of… I want to hear about this kind of piece by piece over time, but creating these wins that like the growth is always going to be step by step and incremental, right?

Paul Matsen (02:22):
Yeah. I mean, you have to lay out a vision. You have to have a long term plan of what you’re trying to achieve, but you know, you can’t always realize that full vision as quickly as you would like. I think back to, let’s go back in time, 2008, it’s one of my favorite anecdotes, but our former CEO, Toby Cosgrove went to the World Economic Forum in Davos. And while he was there, he heard quite a lot about social media and how it was used in the campaign to elect president Obama. So go back, think back to 2008. And he came back and he came into my office and said, “So Paul, what’s our social media plan.” And we were working on rebuilding our website from this very fragmented incoherent website. We were heads down doing that. We were not focused on social media at all.

Paul Matsen (03:14):
And it was very early for social. And I said, “Well, why don’t you… If you give us six months, we’ll come back with a full plan.” And he said, “You have 90 days.” And we came back in 90 days, we did our benchmarking research outside of healthcare, inside of healthcare. We quickly realized standing up a social media page is not complicated. So when we went back to him in 90 days, we showed him our strategy. And we said, “Look, if, if you approve of what we’re presenting today, all these sites will be live when we walk out of this conference room.” Which we did, then the real work started, because then we had to figure out what do you do with a Twitter feed? What do you do with a Facebook account? What’s the content strategy. Nobody knew what our content strategy was back at that time.

Paul Matsen (04:01):
You know, people were posting pictures of their caregivers. They were taking things from offline and putting them online. So over time we built a content strategy and out of that we built a platform called Health Essentials, which is all… The focus of Health Essentials is to provide consumers everyday information to help them lead healthy lives. And I like to describe it as it’s bite size content. And originally it was deeply connected to our social media strategy, today, 80% of that traffic comes from organic search. So we didn’t see that coming either. And it generates, I don’t know, five, 6 million plus visits a month, but we evolved our content strategy gradually. Then we built a physician content strategy, which we now call console QD. So we iterated our way through those things. And now we have a very, very strong social and content presence on those platforms.

Paul Matsen (05:05):
And now we’re taking on a new challenge, which is to do something very similar with health information. Our goal as an enterprise, which our leadership team has pushed for and funded is to be the overall leader among healthcare providers and providing health content and information, because we think it’s so important to patients and consumers to get content from a trusted source. So, here we go again, we’re iterating our way through, we’re building the content. We’re already seeing the progress incredibly fast now, which you can do on digital platforms. So I think, continuing to look for the new trends, continuing to look for the new opportunities, even before you can fully realize them is important and then get in the game and start to iterate your way forward. We’re actually now having some very preliminary looks at work that people are doing on the metaverse. There’s probably not a short term application in the metaverse for us, but we want to understand it. And if it becomes relevant, we then will want to get into meta and figuring out what we could contribute there.

Chris Hemphill (06:22):
I have to just commend the organization for… I’m listening to life impacting events, such as going to Davos and hearing about the impact that social media had on the entire social structure by the election of a new president. So we’re seeing your leadership go and be exposed to these types of things and exposed to these, these new types of questions, and really put the fire on how to think through these newer approaches. I’m just go off on a little bit of a tangent here. I wanted to go a little bit more into your history, but metaverse, what’s the toe in the water right now?

Paul Matsen (07:12):
So we’ve met with some companies that are doing some early work in the metaverse. Some people who are studying the metaverse and writing about the metaverse. Obviously right now, a lot of it’s in gaming and it skews very young, but there are brands that are relevant and are building presence in the metaverse so that gamers can interact with their brands in that environment for the… I’m not a big gamer, I’m not actively in that environment. So it seems a bit odd at first, but the reality is it’s coming and as we move forward to the point where virtual reality doesn’t require big bulky goggles, and we get to something that’s as simple as the original vision of Google Glass, where you could have something like that built into your glasses, could help you with navigation, way finding, other types of information.

Paul Matsen (08:15):
So we’re, we’re just listening. We’re watching. Sometimes you shake your head in amazement, how far some people are down the path, because it fits with their industry. Entertainment and music are doing big things in the metaverse and you can hold an event in the metaverse. Now that may not be relevant for healthcare, but it’s going to happen in music and entertainment. And at some point there may be relevant applications for healthcare, maybe education, maybe holding some types of virtual education events or research events through the metaverse.

Chris Hemphill (08:55):
If we zoom in on this topic of massively remote meetings, there’s a lot that happens… There’s a kind of a parallel that, if we want to do some education, very often it is a Zoom webinar or something of that nature where perhaps if it’s a matter of using a gaming platform, rather than a webinar to engage, have space for people to… I’ve actually done it.

Paul Matsen (09:26):
Yeah. And people are talking about things like holograms are part of the metaverse it’s… So holograms can be used at events, augmented reality. So there’s all, all kinds of different things. I didn’t walk away from some of the recent discussions I had with some companies in this space and say, “Wow, that’s it. We’re going to go do that tomorrow.” But I as a marketer, you have to keep yourself looking forward. Coming to this conference over the years, it’s been interesting over the year to watch trends, right. And there was a time when web design was, was front and center, social media was front and center, physician ratings was a hot trend. It’s now become a norm. Chat bots, right and voice were big, hot topics here a couple of years ago.

Paul Matsen (10:15):
I think now people are stepping back a bit, marketers and organizations and saying, “Okay, how do we, how do we think holistically about what we’re doing digitally and how do we create a well planned patient experience and consider all the pieces that people have been working on.” Finance has been working on a billing piece. IT has been working on Epic and MyChart apps. The marketing teams have been working on social and digital and content. How do we begin to bring all that together? And how do we look at all the platforms and technologies we’re using and build an effective data structure, IT structure that supports the experience we want to provide? And I think different organizations are in different stages of that journey, but at Cleveland Clinic, in our typical team approach, we’re now taking a much more holistic approach to looking at the digital experience.

Paul Matsen (11:15):
There’s a lot of complexity. As we talked during the conference in processes in healthcare that need to be addressed to make the digital experience work, billing, in a lot of health systems, there’s multiple billing systems. You have to have your EMR alignment across all your facilities. You have to make sure you’re scheduling system aligns with what you’re trying to do, and maybe look at simplifying elements of that. So it works for the physicians, but it works for patients. So I think, I think marketers have an opportunity to make sure they’re fully engaging with IT, listening carefully what’s IT’s plan. What are the other shared services groups like finance bringing to the table? Does the organization have a digital IT vision and is marketing a part of it?

Chris Hemphill (12:11):
And so there’s a couple of paths that I want to go down, but one thing I wanted to kind of dig a little bit deeper on was the types of conversations you have. When we say metaverse, it sounds really left fields, Web3, quantum computing which you guys have made investments into computing?

Paul Matsen (12:33):
We’ve entered into an agreement with IBM to deploy their first quantum computer outside of IBM.

Chris Hemphill (12:39):
So when it comes to these kinds of conversations, some of them that seem moonshot, others that are much closer, I’d just like to get an idea or a blueprint on your strategy to just connect and talk with people in other organizations. It’s one thing to see articles fly by on Twitter. But it’s another thing, it sounds like you’ve really focused on engaging companies and doing outreach though.

Paul Matsen (13:08):
Yeah. So there was a philosophy at the Cleveland Clinic, it’s an organization that believes deeply in innovation to ultimately primarily for patient care for organizational innovation. We created the first ever chief patient experience officer role. We are-

Chris Hemphill (13:28):
When was that by the way, or ish, around?

Paul Matsen (13:29):
Oh, geez. That was around 2007, 2008.

Chris Hemphill (13:33):
Okay. Good to know, because that’s been evolving. Keep going about that.

Paul Matsen (13:35):
No, that there’s a whole story around the patient experience, the patient experience office and how we train and engage all of our caregivers to think of themselves as caregivers. But for us, innovation… Cleveland Clinic encourages its leaders to go out, look outside. So I always enjoy talking to colleagues around the healthcare industry. If I can learn something from a colleague, from another system that we can integrate into what we’re doing, that’s great. But that’s usually not enough. So we try to get a bit more upstream. And over the years I’ve gone and met with Google out in Mountain View, with Facebook, spend lots of time in meetings with them. We’ve met with some startup companies in different spaces that were trying to bring AI or machine learning into marketing. Not all of the conversations, yield something productive, but they don’t all have to.

Paul Matsen (14:40):
And so, for example, when we were put, putting in place our social media strategy, having conversations with those companies kind of learning what they were working on, what they were thinking to the extent they would share was incredibly helpful to us. I think you always have to be looking… To be a successful chief marketing officer, you have to deal with the here and now, you have to deliver the organizational priorities that are required, but you also have to be looking forward and you have to be prepared to go back to the organization yourself and say, “Here’s some opportunities we have.” So we’ve done some innovative things. We were very early in patient acquisition work. So using paid search campaigns, using paid social campaigns, and then we observed another healthcare organization using response television, and we adapted response television, and we’ve put that into our patient acquisition strategy.

Paul Matsen (15:45):
And it’s been highly successful. And we learned a bit of that by looking at a competitor, talking to several agencies that specialize in direct response and direct response media, which is a very particular discipline. And then we iterated our way through. We didn’t start with one massive investment, but we started and we built it market by market. Because we have a strong data analytics capability, we built a data science team quite some time ago. We’ve integrated it with the enterprise business intelligence function.

Paul Matsen (16:21):
So it’s strongly validated and supported by our finance and business intelligence team. So we’ve really been able to demonstrate the value of these programs and then go back for incremental funding repeatedly, which supports the organization’s growth. So that’s where getting out outside of the traditional walls of healthcare, learning what you can from your healthcare peers, but then getting outside, looking at what other industries are doing is incredibly helpful. Obviously I came with some outside experiences working on some major national brands when I worked in the advertising world, working at Delta when Delta started its digital transformation journey. So all of those experiences have been incredibly helpful.

Chris Hemphill (17:10):
I want to actually reflect on a presentation that you gave… For those not aware, Paul gave the keynote presentation at HNPS regarding tightening the relationship between marketing and IT, between marketing and your technology players. After that conversation, someone came up to me and said that she does her work day in and day out. She delivers on all the presentations. She’s in marketing and she’s delivering on all the things that they’re asking for. But when it comes to having her ideas heard and having the innovations that she wants to push through or engaging those conversations, she’s just not being heard. But the conversation got her to start thinking about what’s going on, on the other side about what technologies they have and you gave an example around CRM and things like that. And I thought it would just be good to bring into the conversation. Like, what should people do… There’s so many people out there that feel like they’re not being heard, they want to innovate and do the right.

Paul Matsen (18:21):
Yeah. I think, as marketers, we’re full of ideas, but we also have to respect that our peers in other parts of the organization have ideas and have plans and have a perspective. And we need to be excellent listeners. We can’t always be in sell mode. We have to listen and understand their perspective and understand what they’re being tasked to accomplish for the organization. And from that can come opportunity. And I think that was one of the points I was trying to make yesterday is the clinic is investing quite a lot in renewing its IT and digital infrastructure. Most of that is not directly marketing related. So it’s human resources systems, it’s finance systems, supply chain systems, updating Epic to all the latest versions across our system.

Paul Matsen (19:14):
One thing that came out of that is a broad project around access. And it’s being led by a physician who has a strong background in continuous improvement. And that opened the door for us to get to the table, it’s herself, our CIO and myself. As we were putting the project together, there was a strong desire to improve access by bringing in a CRM to assist the contact center. We have a centralized contact center for most of our outpatient care. And it’s well run, but there’s lots of room for improvement. Everybody would agree. And so the IT organization has committed to a major partnership with Microsoft. And with that comes a CRM, Microsoft Dynamics, good product, not necessarily the product we in marketing, would’ve chosen, if we were choosing a CRM strictly for our needs. But we could sit there, fold our arms and say, “Well, we’re not going to deal with that.”

Paul Matsen (20:15):
But we sat down with them and said, “Okay, well, how can we work with that?” So we have been using a marketing automation platform for many years, Marketo, it’s very successful. We’re going to retain that, but we’re going to adopt elements from Microsoft Dynamics, like email, for example, is something that we think we can use Microsoft Dynamics because it’s being integrated into our enterprise databases. And there’s other aspects of the Microsoft agreement that are going to enable us, we believe, to build a new caregiver intranet, which we’re calling the Caregiver Engagement Platform and there we’re bringing HR, IT and marketing communications together. And there’s all the functionality of Microsoft’s SharePoint and Teams products that can build a highly engaging intranet, Caregiver Engagement Platform that we couldn’t get to on our own. We would’ve had a very difficult time making a case for that kind of an investment.

Paul Matsen (21:14):
But if we come to the table with HR and with IT, and we’re all willing to perhaps retire some of the existing systems that we have to go to a common system, then we can find a path forward together. And it’s not easy at all, it takes time. But we help one another. For example, we’re skilled at developing use cases with CRM, they’re skilled at the technology. So we’re having that dialogue to help each other, move it forward for the enterprise.

Paul Matsen (21:45):
And it’s part of our culture. I think it’s part of healthcare culture at most organizations to work in a team approach. But it’s great to think about your own marketing data stack. It’s really cool, right? But if it doesn’t integrate with the west of the enterprise, then long term, it’s probably not going to be successful. If you get outside of healthcare and you look at organizations like Delta Airlines, one of the reasons they’re so good at providing real time information to you at the airport, on your app, rebooking your flight, because everything is in a central data warehouse and all the groups use the central data warehouse and they don’t work in functional silos. They work in customer facing portfolios, totally different way to think about things.

Chris Hemphill (22:38):
And I love to actually kind of leave it off on that thought because you brought up the point of, “Hey, there’s this particular technology. It might not be the thing that we would’ve chosen in an ideal world, but if that’s the enterprise choice, the show can still go on. If we fold our arms and hold out for whatever fragmented solution we want.”

Paul Matsen (23:03):
And technology’s not static, they’re going to continue to invest in that product. If we’re their partner, we can have a lot of influence. I think a lot of marketers fail because they develop their own agenda and they want to push that agenda forward at all costs. That’s not going to be successful in modern organizations. We’re so interdependent, technology’s made us so interconnected and we can’t duplicate things that others are building on behalf of the enterprise. I’ve said this before, we’ve been a huge beneficiary of the enterprise business intelligence function, which we don’t manage, but we use all the resources they’ve created and it’s advanced our marketing programs significantly, but we couldn’t have gotten there if we had operated it in isolation.

Chris Hemphill (23:56):
Well, thank you again, Paul, for just coming and sharing that optimistic spirit. It needs to wave off on a lot of people. I think that you were really transparent in covering ground. Not only on the successes Cleveland Clinic was able to accomplish, but talking about where marketers often pitfall in their careers. So, extremely helpful and thankful for that talk.

Paul Matsen (24:22):
Yeah. Well, it’s been a pleasure spending time with you throughout the conference and in this conversation, really appreciate it.

Chris Hemphill (24:28):
All right. Well, thank you very much, Paul, and for the folks that just want to follow and engage in these kinds of conversations, see the thoughts and things that you’re sharing, are you open for social media?

Paul Matsen (24:38):
Sure, sure.

Chris Hemphill (24:39):
What’s the best way people can find you?

Paul Matsen (24:41):
Probably, if somebody really wants to reach out to me, LinkedIn may be the best way, just send me an InMail and I’ll get back to you.

Chris Hemphill (24:48):
All right. Well, thank you very much. And for the folks that have enjoyed following along with this conversation, appreciate you. And until next time, hello.

Chris Hemphill (25:01):
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