Content Strategy that Drives Results, ft. Chris Boyer, VP of Digital Strategy, Beth Israel Lahey


Content is king. Always has been, always will be. But how can healthcare take content and structure it to deliver a consistent brand and communication to healthcare consumers? Because ultimately if you structure your content in the right way, you create it once and publish across mediums and channels to your target audiences, thereby streamlining your communication workflows.

Join Chris Boyer, VP Digital Strategy at Beth Israel Lahey, and Chris Hemphill, Podcast Host of Hello Healthcare, as they discuss and explore how the right content strategy can help drive a better healthcare consumer experience and the business results you need.

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

Chris Boyer

Chris Boyer

VP Digital Strategy
Beth Israel Lahey

Logo - Beth Lahey Israel

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Chris Boyer (00:00):
How can we take content and structure it, structure it in a way so that we can put it in anything, a website, content management system, social media, an email, our CRM, or even in a backend database? Because ultimately if you structure your content in the right way, what you can do now then is you could take this content and put it in different parts, different technologies, so to speak, and you can syndicate it, basically. You could create it once and publish it everywhere. And all of that is based on how you structure your content.
Chris Hemphill (00:43):
Hello, healthcare. All right, folks. I am, again, once again excited to bring on a guest who I’ve known for a very long time, and you might too. You might not necessarily get to see him a lot, but you might get to hear him a lot because Chris Boyer is the host of the Touch Point Podcast and also the founder of the Touch Point Podcast Network. So you’ve heard Chris or Chris’s content if you’re listening to a lot of podcasts that are specific to our little sector of healthcare, healthcare marketing. So really excited to bring you on in this conversation, but we’re not going to be talking about podcasting today. What we’re going to be focusing on is the technical aspects of content strategy.
So we’re familiar with this concept of getting content out to the right people, matching the right content to the right folks, but there is a deeper aspect in how we do that or what are the types of things that we think about to make sure that it’s not just generating content for content’s sake, farming out a ton of blog posts and videos and things like that, but really what are the technical things that we should be paying attention to with this content strategy to make sure that we’re maximizing the effectiveness of it?
So again, I haven’t given you enough credit, Chris, not just in podcast, but also leading digital and marketing efforts at Beth Israel Lahey. And I’ll let you handle your background.
Chris Boyer (02:20):
Well, thanks Chris. I’m excited to be here and you and I have talked quite often over the years and excited that we can actually see each other in person too. That’s one of the other great benefits of this. Yeah. I’ve been in digital healthcare for, oh gosh, almost 15 years now. And I came into it looking at the digital platforms, websites and social media and all these platforms. And how do they fit into our overall marketing and communication strategies? Over those years, I got involved with a number of organizations, the Mayo Clinic social media network. I’ve been involved in the conferences and other things like that. Was actually honored to be inducted into the Healthcare Internet Hall of Fame because a lot of people, when they look at me and they think about all the things that I talk about, they see me as a digital guy, a technology guy, a marketing technologist in the pure sense of the terms.
But one of the things that I always look at when I think about digital technology, digital technology is only there to help basically amplify what you actually need to do, the content itself. So I always make this metaphor of that the digital marketing technology stack and other technology stacks that you use to amplify your content, that’s like the plumbing of what you’re doing from a marketing communications perspective, and the content is the water. So recently we’ve seen this turn, particularly in healthcare and health systems, around really using content as data. Now I know you’re a big data guy. So when you think about data and you think about structuring data for the different things that you do, that’s the same way I look at content, all these different content elements.
So I actually have been spending a lot of time really investigating and laying out a framework for organizations to start to look at the way they do their content marketing and content strategy in a technical way. So I kind of cross, try to put back together, so the plumber’s approach, not only laying the pipes, but then being able to turn on the hot water, cold water, whatever other fluids you want to float through your pipes.
Chris Hemphill (04:38):
That really gets me thinking on laying out this technical aspect, this sectioned out concept of how to approach content. I do want to get into what that actually entails. But before getting into that, I wonder what’s at stake or what’s the opportunity that’s available by taking an existing content strategy and starting to focus on these things.
Chris Boyer (05:02):
I think it becomes incredibly important because what we’re seeing a lot in our industry is that organizations are coming together through mergers, acquisitions, or whatever ways. And what always happens is if an organization takes on a new practice or maybe they hire on a new doctor or they acquire a new hospital, a lot of times you spend on integrating that new entity into your operations. And so we’re in a world now where we’re really faced with the challenge of amplifying the things we do in a very rapid manner, and not only amplifying it to your own digital channels, your websites, your social media, whatever you’re publishing your content on, but it’s like the world of digital has become even more complex too in that now, we have things like Google and Google My Business and all these other places that can also subsume your content.
And so now, what we have to do is we have to stop for a second and say, “Okay. We created this great blog post and we’re writing great content about the way we impact our communities. How do we use that content and structure it in a way so that it can amplify in a significant way?” And it basically removes the content from being contained to just one entity, to now it becomes manageable and fungible by a lot of different places. And that is imperative to organizations because, I don’t know, every day I hear doctors say, “I Google my name and I can’t find myself.” And what they’re finding is other websites that talk about the doctor. Or the CEO of a hospital says, “I look for it and I have this Wikipedia page and I have this Google My Business page, and that content’s not real and we have to get that updated. How can I do that?” And whenever I hear that, what I’m hearing is really ultimately, that’s a problem with the technical aspect of the way we’re using content.
So we’re solving the business problem of growing, scaling, and amplifying our content in so many ways in this new world of all these digital technologies.
Chris Hemphill (07:11):
And I’m curious about the typical case that you see or have seen with the content development strategy. What’s typically missing from, “Hey. We’re developing and putting content out there,” but what’s typically missing from an organization? What are the gaps that you typically need to address with the content strategy?
Chris Boyer (07:30):
Sure. Let me give you an example, Chris. So every hospital website has a Find a Doctor. I was talking to some people earlier and they were saying, “That’s been the bane of my existence because I can’t get the content aligned. And I have a Find a Doctor for this one hospital, but then I have a Find a Doctor for another hospital, and they’re not the same.” And I’m trying to figure out how I could create one entity of that because Find a Doctor by the way happens to be one of the top things people come to websites for. They’re looking for doctors, looking for ways to get care. And particularly now in this world where we’re trying to even add on to the doctor profile, online appointment scheduling and other things to connect them to care. Suddenly they’re faced with this world of like, “All my data is unstructured and I don’t know how to make it all fit together.”
So one of the first things that I actually talk to organizations about, and we’re doing it in my organization right now, is how can we take content and structure it? Structure it in a way so that we can put it in anything, a website, content management system, social media, an email, our CRM, or even in a backend database. Because ultimately, if you structure your content in the right way, what you can do now then is you could take this content and put it in different parts, different technologies, so to speak, and you can syndicate it, basically. You could create it once and publish it everywhere. And all of that is based on how you structure your content.
And when I talk about structured content, it’s not about, we have titles that are the same length of words. That is a structured piece of content. What I’m talking about things are like, this is if you’re going to share it on social media. This is the little tag that pops up. Or if you share it on Google or if it shows on a Google search result, here’s the SERP, the little sentence underneath of it. And moreover, it’s also a lot of the structure around content is stuff that you don’t even see because you can give that content context. So you could say, “This blog post by a diabetic or endocrinologist, a person who treats diabetes is about type 1 diabetes for juvenile patients.” You can actually add metadata. Now this is the term when you think about SEO and other things. You can add metadata to that content that you don’t ever see it wherever it’s published, but it actually gives it context. It tells you how it relates.
When you’re thinking about a big website or a Find a Doctor or whatever, having that context allows you to start to align that content in a way that makes sense. We always talk about the right content to the right person at the right time. This is one way we can get there through adding some structure to our content. Does it make sense?
Chris Hemphill (10:20):
Chris Boyer (10:21):
Now, structure is the first part of it. And structure, when we talk to people that write content, they kind of get it. They grasp that. They understand that. “Oh, yeah. Okay. I can add topics that are related to this. I can give it that context.” Now they’ll never see that on the website. They’ll never see it on the Find a Doctor or whatever, or even on social media, but at least they have it, that it can give it some of that context. Then if you federate it into a content management system or website, you can use taxonomy and web services to start to create dynamic content. I’m navigating to diabetes section, and now here’s this doctor and here’s the content related to this doctor. And we can start to create personalized experiences around the content. Again, getting to that right content to the right person at the right time.
Now the second element of content strategy though, technical content strategy, goes past structure because there’s a big player in the market right now. We hear it all the time. SEO, search engines, Google, Bing. Well, Google.
Chris Hemphill (11:21):
They’re there.
Chris Boyer (11:23):
I know. But how do we tell the search engines? Because quite frankly, people don’t come to our web presences or our social media all the time. A lot of times, they start their search on a search engine and they start typing in words. So now you have to think about the second S of technical content strategy, which is SEO. All the metadata, all the H1 tags, all of the search engine results pages, all of the technical aspects of your content is its structure, but it’s a very narrow use case of structure to be amplified on search engines.
And not just search engines like flat Google search engines, but even voice-enabled search. So if you have a Google home device, you could use SEO and structure to actually make your content appear on those things when you search with your voice, which is incredibly useful, by the way, another use case here, for people that have accessibility issues. If they have to navigate your website with voice enabled because they’re vision-impaired or they have mobility issues and they using other devices to help them navigate through your content, these two things, structure and SEO, are incredibly useful for people in that regard. So those two things together are sort of the powerhouse of structured technical content, so to speak.
Now again, here I am trying to bring my left brain sensibilities about technology to something like content. How do you tell the water in the pipes where to go? And which water is water and what’s wine or whatever? You could extend that metaphor in a really bad way. But there is something else, Chris, that is just incredibly powerful that not many organizations are leveraging right now, at least in healthcare. And that’s something called schema, the third S of technical content structure. And schema, have you heard that term before, schema markup? Have you heard about this?
Chris Hemphill (13:24):
Heard of, but I could not tell you anything technical about it.
Chris Boyer (13:26):
Well, schema markup actually comes from Google, Bing, Yext… Was it Yext? Google and Bing, I should say, and then some other companies came together a number of years ago and they said, “Look. We’re going to create a dictionary, a data dictionary for different types of content. And we’re going to make it standard across all of our search engines. And not only is it going to give us… we use SEO and things like that, we can actually assign intent to that content. We could say this piece of content is about a doctor’s insurance. This piece of content is about a hospital’s location.” And they use this. They created this library of schema markup, they call it, and there’s about 220 terms right now that are being used explicitly for healthcare. That allows you to assign intent to those different elements.
Now, how do we see that play out? Well, first of all, we all know the benefit of understanding intent. I know you know that from the work that you do. But in this particular case, you’re allowing the search engines to know the intent. But if you do it even more so, remember those Google knowledge panels that show up on the [inaudible 00:14:40]? You can actually start to use schema markup to start to have your content appear there over other content. And moreover, in your search result, have you ever seen the little bullets underneath where it says, “Here’s Dr. Chris Hemphill,” and then underneath it says, “These are the insurances that Chris accepts. These are the office hours.” A variety of different things that you could do. You could use schema markup to do that.
And what you’re doing in effect is you’re buying into this whole concept that Google and other search engine engines are trying to do, which is give people the right content at the right time so they can go right to it right underneath the search result. So not only do you have the search result, now you have the schema markup to say, “I can not only give you information about Dr. Chris Hemphill, but I can give you other information about insurance, office hours, online appointment scheduling, et cetera.” Those three things together, structure, SEO, and schema, if you look at your content, all of your content that you’re creating under your marketing communication suite, suddenly you have now unlocked the potential of federating your content to wherever because now, you created basically a standard data dictionary for your content that can be federated to whatever platform you want it to.
And here’s the other trick, Chris. In healthcare, a lot of that content marketing it creates, it’s great. It’s unstructured before we structure it and do all of this. That’s very important. But there are sources of truth information that are coming from other databases within your organization, physician credentialing databases and other things like that. By taking that data and also doing structure, SEO, and schema to it, suddenly now you can tap into multiple data sources across your organization and you’re well on your way to starting to create things like digital front door strategies and other things like that. Does that make sense?
Chris Hemphill (16:33):
Yeah. And it’s a tremendous way to think about it because… I wish this was a visual because there’s the content that you create and all these different angles, different areas that it can apply to. And centralizing the thought around this structure, the structured approach, I think, opens the door for that to be used in so many different places. A question that I do have on that though, is when we’re talking about this overall as the concept of what we’re doing, but what does execution on that look like? Are there ways to centralize where that content’s produced and ensure standard checks for the appropriate schema usage and things like that?
Chris Boyer (17:19):
Right. Absolutely. So first of all, how can you use that in multiple different ways? So first of all, all of the new marketing communication technologies can read all of this data now. So any content management system worth its salt can read that data and use it. So right now, you’re writing in the language of the technology. You’re taking unstructured content, you’re structuring it, and putting it into a technology that can amplify it. You could do it with social media management systems. You could do it with a variety of different things, listing management and those sorts of things. So all of that content, it natively fits into these tools because this is a standard data dictionary across all your content. But moreover, you can create rules for your organization. So Find a Doctor. We started with that example. I’m going to continue on with it because I’ll tell you this. I’ve recently been working with our organization about pulling all these different Find a Doctor, I should say, physician and location information into a centralized database.
One thing that we did is we did a lot of user research to say, when people are looking in these tools, this is the type of content that they’re looking for to make a better decision. Half of that content was stuff that you can pull from the credentialing database. We added schema, structure, SEO around it. Okay. Now it’s fuel for the engine. It just powers it through. But the other thing that we did is we found things that are not captured by data sources. So for example, a lot of people are now selecting doctors based on their age, which is not… It is captured in databases, but what have you, or their gender identity, or their clinical interest, or these are things that they self-proclaim. So when we work with physicians and onboarding them, we can give them a list and say, “These are the data elements that we want. Here’s the formula that we want them in.”
We’re creating that as basically a digital form that they can create and ask them to contribute a content that then gets subsumed into our directory, which then federates out to a data manager, which then federates out to our Find a Doctor, federates out to the Google My Business listings. It goes out to our website. It goes out to all of these different places. What we’re doing is we’re empowering distributed content publishing in your organization because we basically create structure. We basically create all those things. And I know you think about data and structure in a different way. It’s exactly the same way, but just with unstructured data, it’s giving them that meaning. And we’re going so far as to doing things where people can do interesting ways to look up information.
I was just listening to a podcast about when COVID came out and they were saying that in the national databases, they were capturing people’s ethnicity. And they said, “Okay. So if you’re Hispanic, if you’re black, if you’re Filipino, whatever it might be, whatever you have.” And if people selected more than one, they bunched it together and called it multiracial. Okay. Now you and I both know that’s meaningless. If we could structure our content the right way, we don’t have to combine things to make it easier. We can actually now use logic and data and all of the other things like a good CRM system, a marketing on it. We could now start to say, “Oh. I am a patient that wants to find a person that is Latino and also Filipino.” And those are my search characteristics, whereas before it was just like, multinational. Could be anybody. Now in this case, now they can get that personal. They can get to the Nth level of data that you have.
Chris Hemphill (21:04):
Excellent. And approaches that allow us to capture nuance are the things that are most exciting to me when we think about, well, what is the purpose of collecting data, it’s so that we can reach out to people based on nuance, details. So de-nuancing it, turning the selection of multiple races into just multiracial and ignoring the nuance under it runs counterintuitive.
Chris Boyer (21:28):
And then your analytics behind it too. Don’t forget about that because now, your analytics platforms are supercharged too, because now you can come back and say, “Oh. When we look at Find a Doctor searches, these are the types of physicians that people are looking for.” And if we can map that with the patient record, we could start to make some inferences about people like to choose physicians that are like them or what have you, more than those broad swath marketing stuff that we do now.
Chris Hemphill (21:56):
So speaking of analytics, do you have a concept on… One thing that I talk about a lot is measuring success. And one question that analytics would want to answer is what’s the effectiveness of this piece of content? So we’re talking about the things that are going into effective content, but how do we measure that from an output perspective?
Chris Boyer (22:20):
That’s a really good question because it really is about the business results. So if you’re federating content into let’s say Google My Business, which is a very simple use case. You’re putting content into Google My Business listing. I have done some measurement, and I’ve heard in the industry that on the number of people that hit your website and the number of people that hit that same location or physician on Google My Business is dramatically different. And guess where it favors? Google. Google gets about 10 to 20 times more traffic. So just by a numbers game, you’re opening up more lead ways into your organization. Now imagine you can federate not only the physician information, but that they do online appointment scheduling. Suddenly you’re connecting them to care really quicker. And now you’re being much more effective than trying to use SEO to bring them back to your site.
So in terms of clicks and in terms of actual conversions based on whatever that conversion may be, whatever your strategy is and how you want to map it out, you’re actually increasing the likelihood of people having access to it. So just by a numbers game, that’s growing. What we have also started to find when we start talking about schema, not only are we increasing the clicks and the conversions, what we’re doing now is we’re actually providing a very nuanced approach to presenting a physician or a location. And remember those doctors that say, “I’m not showing up on Google,” not only are they saying, “Now I am showing up on Google, but all my relevant information is on Google.” So it actually becomes like you’re demonstrating to everybody the effectiveness of what you do. That’s more of a softer measure, but I will say a very important political measure at times in organizations if you can make them happy with what you’re doing.
Overall, though, it’s ultimately about the end business result and whatever you’re trying to accomplish. So I always counsel people when they’re working going down this path, determine what your primary KPI is first and structure around that first. If you can do anything, do that first because that’s what you want them to do if it’s making an appointment, if it’s having them pay a bill, if it’s whatever it might be. And then you can do all that other nuance and add more layers in, and you can start to get a little bit more experimental at that point.
Chris Hemphill (24:31):
Yeah. And when you’ve laid down a foundational KPI such as appointments, then I mean, that’s going to be the one that’s most relatable to others in your organization to people on other teams. But then when it comes down to the more nuanced and gritty details about various aspects of that content, then those are the ways that you can optimize that overall ideal number.
Chris Boyer (24:53):
I’ve heard a use case of a hospital, and I’m not going to mention them by name, but by implementing a structured SEO schema approach with their physicians, they realize within 30 days 2.6 times more appointments being made, within 30 days. So that to me is… Okay. Now, it’s anecdotal. Mileage may vary. All of those things. But that to me indicates that, “Hey. This is doing something, so we should be doing this,” because the benefits are tremendous. You suddenly have content that can be used anywhere. You have suddenly have content that’s nuanced. You have content that you can measure better. And heck, if you’re getting better business conversions, I’m all about it.
Chris Hemphill (25:32):
Well, I think that not only are you all about it, but a lot of other people are all about hearing about it. And they’re going to need to know where to find you online. Chris, how can people find you?
Chris Boyer (25:43):
Well, the good news is I structure my name in a way so people can find me. So if you Google Chris Boyer, you will find me. I have done all the things so people can find, but I’m on LinkedIn. I’m on Twitter with that same name, Chris Boyer, sometimes without a space, sometimes with the space. So you can find me. You can also find… We talk about the podcast, which we’ve actually talked about all of these different things over the years. You can find that at So I encourage everybody to go out there and not only find me, but engage. Let me know. Tell me any kind of questions you have because I will do that research because the other thing that you know about me, Chris, I am notoriously curious about trying to solve problems. And so reach out to me and let me know. I would love to talk to you and try to help you.
Chris Hemphill (26:28):
Well, greetings for folks who haven’t met the SEO-optimized Chris Boyer, talking the talk, walking the walk. We really appreciate it. So thank you for hanging out with me for a few minutes. And for the folks who have been watching this conversation, really appreciate your interest here. Again, we talked to a ton of different healthcare leaders across many different want walks, but all focused on finding that line between data and healthcare strategy. So until we see you next time, hello.
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