Democratizing Healthcare Data for Better Outcomes ft. Chris Pace, Chief Digital Marketing Officer, Banner Health


Having access to healthcare data can be a powerful tool in improving patient outcomes. But it’s all too common for data to remain siloed or unable to access for key departments such as marketing, service-line, medical groups, etc. With the right data, health systems can better personalize outreach to drive patients to the care they need most and improve the quality of care overall.

Listen to Chris Pace, Chief Digital Marketing Officer at Banner Health, and Alan Tam, Chief Marketing Officer at Actium Health, as they discuss a health system’s digital front door, metrics that matter most, and modern patient activation strategies.

This conversation is brought to you by Actium Health in partnership with the Healthcare Internet Conference.

Subscribe to receive emails when new episodes are released.


Chris Pace

Chief Digital Marketing Officer
Banner Health


Alan Tam

Chief Marketing Officer
Actium Health


Available To Stream On

Apple Podcasts
Spotify Podcasts
Google Podcasts
Amazon Music
Health Podcast Network


Chris Pace (00:00):
You have to have the people and you have to have the process mapped out and align it with the technology in order for the magic to happen. We didn’t get everything right the first time, but we aimed for the outcome we sought. And I think that’s the important piece, is to not get frustrated with perfection, just instead focus on what your goal is and know that you’re going to make mistakes and give yourself grace for that.

Alan Tam (00:34):
Hello Healthcare. I’m excited to be joined by Chris Pace today, Chief Digital Marketing Officer at Banner Health. We’re going to be discussing a range of topics focused on healthcare consumer experiences, but one of the key things we’re going to focus in on is really how health systems have been scrambling to transform their patient experience to match the expectations of today’s healthcare consumers. And one of the key initiatives that Chris has been leading in charge with at Banner Health is their digital front door strategy. This has been by far one of the most common initiatives I think for health systems, especially since the onset of the pandemic. Digital front doors have really helped these health systems better communicate and serve their patients as well. So with that, I like to introduce Chris. Chris, welcome to Hello Healthcare.

Chris Pace (01:23):
Thanks for having me.

Alan Tam (01:25):
Why don’t we start with kind of like what was kind of the driving force for you guys to take a look at your digital front door? Why was that the top priority for you guys during this time?

Chris Pace (01:36):
Yeah, it’s a great question. So great ideas are generally spun from the ground up, but then when you have buy-in from the top down is really when the magic happens. So before I joined Banner, the lore is that we made changes to our mission statement. That’s kind of the north star for the strategy of any organization. So making healthcare easier so life can be better is our mission statement. With that comes a lot of responsibility, I think, in delivering to that promise. And so digital front door was really spawned around figuring out ways to identify where the friction points were with consumers and then creating digital solutions that could help reduce that friction. So everything from the call-in experience to the click-in to the walk-in experience needs to be seamless, leverage digital tools, and then also incorporate the data that sort of injects the oxygen in the organization and allows it to thrive.

Alan Tam (02:46):
Right. Okay. How’s your strategy evolved since you guys started this initiative?

Chris Pace (02:53):
Yeah. So the initial phase was in the 2018 to 2020 timeframe and that’s when I joined the organization. Really our focus was building the foundation. So if you think of when you build a house, you can’t just start with the decor. You have to get the plumbing, get the foundational support and start building to where you want to aim. And so that first three year stint was truly focused on delivering to those foundational elements that are connected. Now at the end of that experience, COVID hit so we had to adapt in how the teams work together. The work was still the work. The funding was in place. So thankfully we were able to continue to execute. But what we learned during the pandemic was we didn’t just build a digital front door, but we also built a communications ecosystem that was connected, that was seamless and was able to deliver scale where we didn’t anticipate.
And I think really the experience in COVID was around, hey, we’ve got all sorts of things happening. We’ve got changes to visitation, changes to care, we pivoted from testing to delivering vaccines to then absolutely allowing the community to do that. So if we didn’t have our digital front door strategy and our communications hub in place, it would’ve been so much more fragmented and so much harder to deliver to that scale. So I think that’s really the catalyst for the next phase where we’re at today, which is building upon the foundational elements and really reaching into those different care settings, reaching into those interaction points so that we’re not having to wait for our consumers to find us. We’re actually omnipresent where she is looking for our healthcare.

Alan Tam (05:03):
Right. Absolutely. So that kind of leads the… My follow-up question there is how are you driving patients to your digital front door? I see so many health systems focused on building it and then that’s kind of the endgame. But you have to lead your patients, lead your healthcare consumers to that environment. What are some of the tactics and strategies that you guys are employing there?

Chris Pace (05:24):
Yeah, that’s a great point because that’s one of the things that I hear often is, “Hey, we invested in so-and-so technology and it was supposed to be our solution.” I think strategy without an end game is really just a product. We wanted to really deliver to how we can scale that growth. So where we’re aiming now is really focusing on those three facets of growth, which is the call channel. Call channel is a digital channel. I mean, it’s not analog because it’s more than just the phone conversation, it’s the intelligence that you can glean from it, the capabilities that you can empower your teams with so that they can service the customer better. And honestly, it could be the make or break in the net promoter score because that’s the first and last touch point.
The digital channel is really aimed at, there’s an attention economy as I like to call it, where we’re competing for eyeballs everywhere. And so looking at things like visibility in Google is paramount. 85% of healthcare investigation starts at We have to be seen there. That kind of dovetails into our location listing strategy, making sure that our data is accurate, that it’s syndicated properly across all of these different listings engines because Google gives you credit for everything that’s accurate. The web strategy needs to be in sync with all that, having the technology in place, the process in place, and the right people armed with the correct strategy so that we can all aim together in the same direction and pull people into the experience. Once we pull, we have to convert. So spending less time talking about ourselves and more time aiming to solutions so that the consumer can make their healthcare decisions quicker and more efficiently.
And then the third piece is in the walk-in setting. So ensuring that access is there and readily available, that our teams are equipped with the right information to serve the customer, and that we’re following up and understanding how that experience was, taking action from the feedback tools that we have in place. And then kind of repeating the cycle so that we can arm our agents with the right information, our web content with the correct information and create that scalable cycle.

Alan Tam (08:13):
Right. That’s interesting, these three channels. Of these channels, I think, which one would you say has been most dominant, especially since the onset of the pandemic?

Chris Pace (08:25):
Yeah, it’s interesting because our digital front door strategy was really trying to aim at the bulk of self-service, figure out everything at the bottom of sort of the tree that bears the fruit, the lowest hanging fruit, so to speak, getting that in a self-service channel as quickly as possible. However, with COVID and then the after and trying to figure out how do we leverage empathy at scale, really the phone channel is the best way to do that because a lot of times when people are up against something difficult or scared or nervous that having another person that has an empathetic tone and voice and will listen is so much more powerful than anything you could deliver digitally.

Alan Tam (09:17):
Absolutely. Right. I think that’s a great point especially when you are on the phone. Given that health system has a lot of my information, a lot of my data, how does the role of first party data come into play? You mentioned a little bit in terms of empathy. I’m assuming these agents or the folks who are calling has access to this data. How is that also being shared across these other channels to make your strategies more effective?

Chris Pace (09:47):
Yeah. So it starts with our CRM application and really arming our agents with access to information about that customer, the interactions they’ve had, the interests they have, their family dynamic is helpful in supporting the customer get their needs met quicker. But also, I mean from a cost perspective, it reduces handle time, which means the agents can service more phone calls. We are then able to take that personalized data and take it to an outbound communication strategy. So if we know a little bit about the customer based on the phone call conversation, we can then message them with their preferred channel, be it SMS or email, and deliver the right information at the right time. And then the loop continues back. So they are able to service their needs, get those reminders if they are overdue for a mammogram or a primary care encounter. And then we are able to then inform back to the agent, “Hey, so-and-so fulfilled their primary care and there might be a referral.” So when they call, they’re able to know, “Hey, are you ready to schedule your appointment with Dr. Smith because your notes indicate that you’re due for a orthopedic visit?”

Alan Tam (11:17):

Chris Pace (11:17):
So then you’re able to, again, reduce handle time, improve the quality of the agent and customer interaction, and then continue to deliver that in a scalable way.

Alan Tam (11:29):
That’s interesting. When you talk about the call channel and whatnot, but also leveraging other digital channels like SMS and email, have you found what channel is more dominant? Or what are today’s healthcare consumers gravitating towards in terms of communication channel?

Chris Pace (11:50):
Yeah, that’s a great question. What we’ve seen from our audience segments is that the older demographic tends to lean on email, but that’s not a hard rule. It’s just the quantities kind of dictate that. But more and more we’re seeing the SMS channel becoming a player in the space. And I think, again, the trick with SMS given that you have limited characters is how do you deliver brand voice so that it looks like a communication from Banner versus Facebook or Microsoft or what have you. It’s hard to deliver a voice and tone in 255 characters. So the key is to give enough information to signal who we are and then take them to a web experience that aligns with what they think they’re getting. And so having the balance of that communication strategy is paramount to success.
On the email channel you get a little bit more leeway obviously. But the other challenge I think we have is how do you sift through all of the garbage that comes into your inbox and prioritize it? So that’s where we have to work with A/B testing and making sure that our subject lines are lined up to what is going to resonate in a click, and then giving just enough information with clear calls to action so that the consumer does something with that action.

Alan Tam (13:30):
Right. I think you hit the nail on the head with that brand voice and clear call to communication. I think that’s why text has been so effective in so many different industries and segments. Brand voice definitely is really important I think in healthcare. How have you guys come about overcoming that in this particular channel?

Chris Pace (13:51):
Yeah, so the brand voice element, we’ve kind of made it simple with our brand voice in sort of sifting through the sameness that’s in healthcare. There’s a lot of health systems that sort of do the chest pounding. “We’re the best in X, Y, or Z. Banner’s taken a very different approach. We use the Wise guide as our style, and it’s really being your trusted friend or expert that also knows about healthcare. And so by using that voice and tone, it simplifies the way we talk in every channel and being consistent with it.
The other thing we look at is the pillars of our brand voice is architected around listening, responsiveness, and care and empathy, which are kind of innate in the healthcare setting. But with larger systems and more corporate type communications, it’s hard to sift through the, I guess that sniff test of are you authentic or not.

Alan Tam (14:57):

Chris Pace (14:57):
I think that’s where the younger demographic, it’s going to be tougher to crack the code because millennials and Gen Z can smell BS from a mile away and they also want to be aligned with organizations that match their values. So by having true empathy and true caring, it is able to scale across many generations. Having the depth and breadth of services will satisfy the Gen X and older populations while having that consistency of empathy, and authenticity is going to resonate through the younger demographics.

Alan Tam (15:42):
I love that approach and I love the work that you guys have done to understand the demographic and how the channel’s mapped to that. Which leads me to kind of my next question is, how do you measure the success of your digital front door initiative in your project? And how do you continue to evolve those metrics as you continue to move forward with that project?

Chris Pace (16:10):
Yeah, so having data is key. I mean, if you’re going to launch any initiative, you need to know what you’re aiming for and what those OKRs and KPIs need to be in order to measure success. So starting with brand at the top of the funnel, we do voice or brand tracking every six months. We do focus groups just to make sure that our listening responsiveness and care and empathy metrics are hitting with consumers in our brand messaging. We also, through the phone channel, are able to use our AI tools to listen at scale across the millions of phone calls that occur and again put those listening and responsiveness and care and empathy metrics inside of the AI tool to, “Is this a quick handle because it’s not an empathetic call? Or is the agent spending more time because they are handling more difficult cases?” and get more context around what just true subjective data will tell you.

Alan Tam (17:18):

Chris Pace (17:19):
And then looking at our customer feedback tools, we’re able to gauge, “Is our digital channel effective to what is truly the intent of the purchaser? Are our care settings beyond just like HCAHPS and C-CAPs, but looking at NPS, “Are we able to generate an experience that somebody would talk about and recommend to others?” That likely to recommend factor is so important to many settings in healthcare and it tends to get overlooked. But at Banner, it’s truly a focus and all of the clinics are all in on it. And so having that sort of top down approach to it’s customer first rather than who we are and what we do.

Alan Tam (18:09):
Right. That’s awesome. I love that. I think as a marketer, totally understand. But I know that one of the challenges with many health systems as they invest in projects is really around ROI. Your finance partner may not agree with, “Well, I’m not sure about the NPS score. You put $5 million into this,” et cetera. How do you measure and communicate and convince your finance partner that, “Hey, this is a positive return. This is effective and it’s working. We need more dollars to continue to grow and expand this initiative”?

Chris Pace (18:42):
Yeah, this is truly the money talks, BS walks equation. So I would say one of the things that we’ve really doubled down on is looking at our advertising and the effectiveness of it. And so we employed back in 2018, 2019, business mix modeling. Every other industry uses this to make their decisions at a channel basis, at a product basis, geo basis. CPG is like a leader in doing this, and healthcare is way behind. And so I can think of a handful of organizations that are really looking at this approach.
The way we use it is twofold. One is trying to get our budgets sort of rationalized. We spent X, this is what we see the return on it was. And then justify that we continue to get that investment because advertising is truly… It’s almost like portfolio management with stocks and bonds and other investments. You want to have that foundational investment that generates the known, the table stakes, a paid search display. Those things need to be part of your strategy. But then also without the data, you wouldn’t know where you can maybe make room for new bets that might generate a bigger outcome. So we’re looking at things like, I mean God forbid, TikTok might come into the equation. But if it’s effective, this is where feelings need to just go away and the facts need to speak the volumes and guide the strategy.
So that’s where, again, if you don’t have the data to talk about it, then it’s only an opinion forum and we don’t need to be there. But leveraging a tool like business mix modeling allows us to take to finance who tends to not believe the things we say. But if we have enough data and enough proof points, then it’s at least a guided discussion rather than a no first mentality.

Alan Tam (21:04):
Right. Are you guys mapping back to revenue generated then?

Chris Pace (21:08):
Yeah, so we triangulate to it using some regression analysis. Our partner does all the heavy lifting. We basically just dump a whole bunch of impressions data at them coupled with sentinel events and environmental macroeconomic, things that occur, and they’re able to distill the impact marketing has at a visit or volume level as well as a revenue level. And what we’ve seen is our investments pay off. And we also know based on this data where our investments are hitting a saturation or maturity curve and we can either dial back or dial up depending on where we sit and get even more payout for the next dollar invested.

Alan Tam (21:55):
Right, makes sense. Makes sense. So seems like there’s been a ton that you guys have learned through this project. What’s kind of been the biggest lesson for you guys have embarked upon this?

Chris Pace (22:09):
Well, I think for me, the biggest lesson has been that you have to not just have the technology in place. You have to have the people and you have to have the process mapped out and align it with the technology in order for the magic to happen. And so again, we didn’t get everything right the first time, but we aimed for the outcome we sought. I think that’s the important piece is to not get frustrated with perfection and just instead focus on what your goal is and just continue to aim for it and know that you’re going to make mistakes and give yourself grace for that, because I mean even flying planes hundred years ago, I’m sure the Wright brothers had a few mistakes along the way before they nailed it. So I think it’s just a matter of from the leadership perspective, having enough leeway to try things new and make those mistakes and learn from them and then continue forward on the plan.

Alan Tam (23:21):
Right. Well hindsight is 2020. What would you do different if you had to redo this again?

Chris Pace (23:31):
Well, from my area, what I would’ve done is I would’ve started SEO investments earlier. We doubled down during COVID because advertising was sort of off and we figured, “Okay, this is a good time to focus on content strategy.” So I think that would’ve been thing one. Thing two would’ve been really get focused on those metrics that are going to matter versus sort of the boiler plate approach to marketing metrics. We had an install of Google Analytics that was sort of set up in a vacuum, didn’t invite a whole lot of collaboration. I think if we were able to start over, it would’ve been a cost savings measure to really get honed in on, “Okay, these are the outcomes we want to achieve at these different micro levels” and then map to that with an analytics strategy.
We’ve kind of been catching up on a lot of our web analytics. And now with GA4, it gives us the opportunity to do it right and learn from what we may have missed and GA360. So yeah, I think it’s really just getting focused on that end game and then working backwards rather than trying to do everything at once.

Alan Tam (24:55):
Right. That makes a lot of sense. One of the things that I’m curious about is as you’re focused on your digital front door, as you’re focused on improving these healthcare consumer experiences, is there a difference in your strategy and your approach to new patient acquisition versus activating your existing patient base?

Chris Pace (25:17):
Yeah, I think over the last, certainly like nine, 10 months, what we’ve seen is that there’s a little bit of an erosion on demand coming out of COVID. We had the initial flood and then now it’s a little bit of a famine. There’s a lot of factors that go into that that marketing and digital tools can’t necessarily solve. So I would say the biggest focus for the next 18 to 24 months is really leaning in on understanding your audiences, segmenting your data, and then really doubling down on the loyalty channels because your cost to acquire the next best action and loyalty is far cheaper than trying to find a net new acquisition that may be sidelining. And that investment to try and find them is just, it could be fruitless. So if you have enough critical mass in your market share, really getting constant engagement with your consumers and your customers is going to be important. With financial pressures everywhere and the challenges to staff to access points, it’s really going to be paramount to lean in there.

Alan Tam (26:44):
Right. Absolutely. All right. IF I’m another health system, I look up to Banner, I love what you guys have done, we don’t have a digital front door yet, what would be your recommendation in terms of helping me get started? Where should I start? What are some of the tools and tricks that you’ve learned that you can share with me to help me get started?

Chris Pace (27:07):
Yeah. So I guess aside from a time machine because those are not readily available, I would say honestly it’s just getting your data in a situation where you can democratize it. So building out a true CRM approach with a strong customer database is going to pay dividends for a long time, particularly with the loyalty channel. Because if you have permission to communicate with your customers, then you can constantly drive next best actions.
I think also your local strategy, local listings. Just partner with one of the best in the business. We use Yext, they’re fantastic. Just get your local listings game nailed down. That alone can drive enough critical mass to get revenue stimulated while you’re building all the other assets. I think the third piece is getting your web strategy just completely ironed out. Fragmentation is a big thing in the smaller health system space. Every hospital’s its own brand. I think if you can’t solve the brand consistency equation, at least get a web consistency approach figured out because again, you don’t want to create frustration and confusion with customers that are spending time trying to find you and 85% of those investigators are going to Google. If you can’t be found there, then you’re irrelevant.

Alan Tam (28:45):
Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, Chris, thank you so much. I think you’ve shared some valuable insights with us today. Really appreciate it. I wish you best of luck with your next stage in your digital front door.

Chris Pace (28:59):
Awesome, thank you so much.

Alan Tam (29:01):
Right. So Chris, if people want to get ahold of you or get in touch with you, what would be the best way for them to do so?

Chris Pace (29:07):
Yeah, best way is on LinkedIn. I’m a LinkedIn junkie, so Chrispaceaz is my handle on LinkedIn. You’ll find me posting all sorts of stuff about digital front door. I’m the president of the American Marketing Association Phoenix Chapter, so we’ve got a lot of great content that we spin up there. And then another area I have a really keen focus on is development of new leaders, and one topic in particular, imposter syndrome. It’s like the hottest thing on TikTok. It is on my TikTok. But also on LinkedIn. I get a lot of questions about it. I wrote an article about six or seven years ago and it still gets clicks to this day. So it’s something people think about and don’t know what it is. And if you ever have questions about it, just come find me on LinkedIn. Send me a message, we’ll talk about it.

Alan Tam (30:05):
Awesome. Wonderful. Thanks again Chris for coming today. Really appreciate you sharing your insights on digital front door. We had a great conversation talking about digital front door today, and I hope you guys found this session useful. Until next time, hello.

Speaker 3 (30:20):
If you want more of the latest from Healthcare’s thought leaders, subscribe using the button below. Or you can visit to get updates directly in your email.

Find the Clarity You’ve Been Missing

Learn how Actium Health is driving improved quality, outcomes, and revenue for innovative health systems nationwide.

Request Demo
Meet Some of Our Customers