Nudge Patient Behavior Using Data ft. Tom Hileman


Season 2, Episode 6

Many healthcare organizations have the data and technology that they need to get people engaged in their own care. The hard part is operationalizing both the “art” of the message, and the “science” of the data behind it. 

Tom Hileman and Chris Hemphill break down the opportunities and challenges of using data to nudge patient behavior, personalize health actions, and address preventable illnesses.

Video Chapters
03:00 The Keys For Data-Driven Patient Nudges 
05:16 Addressing Shrinking Consumer Attention Spans 
08:04 The EMR as a Patient Relationship Tool 
12:05 Four Pillars of Data-Driven Marketing 
18:36 How to Know when Data Strategy is Effective 

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

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Chris Hemphill

VP, Applied AI & Growth
Actium Health


Tom Hileman

Hileman Group


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Tom Hileman (00:00):
When we think about the data orientation you talked about, incredibly important with that, but we also have to marry it with some empathy and understanding of the human condition and how do we nudge people to do the right things, right? How do we bend behaviors using that data and the insights that we’ve gathered?

Tom Hileman (00:14):
I think those… The art and science of that is really the critical part that we’re going to have to put together. The art of the messaging and the communications and the empathy and the science, the data is really where we need to go. Now, that’s a tall order to fill.

Chris Hemphill (00:27):
Hello Healthcare. How often do we hear about data coexisting with empathy? Well, you just heard it from Tom Hileman who leads a marketing and technology firm, the Hileman Group. They’ve led outreach and MarTech strategy at the Cleveland Clinic, Baylor Scott & White, and Vanderbilt, just to name a few.

Chris Hemphill (00:46):
The reason we’re focusing on how data coexists with empathy is to dig into a deeper question on consumer behavior. What role can data play in nudging healthy behaviors? Thousands of technologies and companies out there promised to get people to schedule appointments or come in for care, we couldn’t possibly trust them all, right? Well, Tom will dig deeper into effective marketing tech strategy after the break.

Chris Hemphill (01:15):
Consumer experiences, major disruptors 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, a better future in healthcare.

Chris Hemphill (01:38):
Hello Healthcare, we are excited to bring in Tom Hileman of the Hileman Group. The Hileman Group is over a lot of patient engagement and patient outreach operations for organizations like the Cleveland Clinic, Vanderbilt, Baylor Scott & White. So Tom, quick hello from you.

Tom Hileman (01:54):
Oh, great. Thanks for having me, Chris. Look forward to the conversation today.

Chris Hemphill (01:57):
So Tom, in our intro, I was just talking about the various organizations which you’re managing patient and engagement and outreach operations and things like that. Could you just give a little bit background on yourself and why the focus on patient engagement? Why the focus on healthcare marketing and how you got here?

Tom Hileman (02:14):
Sure, Chris. Thanks. Tom Hileman. I founded our firm 15 years ago, actually. We focus in healthcare, patient engagement, also physician communications. My background actually is I’m a physicist and mathematician by training. So, if you had a physicist design an ad agency, Hileman Group is what you get. So, we’re definitely focused on the data, the process, and applying the technologies to the marketing communications stack in healthcare.

Chris Hemphill (02:37):
Great. Well, I’m really happy to hear that, especially the part about the physicist part. On the data science side, where I come from, we love our folks from the physics field. Where I wanted to start though with this conversation was on this marketing technology landscape. With all this tech, how can healthcare leaders know what matters, what kind of tech stack to focus on?

Tom Hileman (02:55):
No, that’s a great question, and maybe the hardest question that we have, right? I’m a big Stephen Covey guy, so you need to begin with the end in mind. So if you’re thinking about how to best serve your patients, then you need to think about what systems will help you do that best.

Tom Hileman (03:08):
Typically, it breaks down into a few areas. One, you have to know the patient, right? So, that’s a customer data platform. Whether that be a CRM platform or a CDP, there’s different ways to go after that, but you need some central system to manage that data information around the patient.

Tom Hileman (03:22):
The second thing that you always need is some way to engage with the patient, so that typically is going to be some kind of marketing automation of our tech stack that’s focused on the outreach. Whether it’s social, whether it’s email, whether it’s the variety of channels, whether acquisition through that. And then finally, I shouldn’t say finally, two pieces. One, data, and you need some way to look at all that data and then analyze it.

Tom Hileman (03:43):
I think perhaps the most important thing we’ll see in the next five years is going to be what do we do with all that data and those analytics? How do we take action from that? And so, the artificial intelligence machine learning that goes over that data to make it effective and then to have personalized and tailored communications that are important to the patient. I think that’s what will see the next five years to be.

Chris Hemphill (04:00):
I love it. So couching it in terms of we have to know our patient, we have to be able to act, and then from all the data that’s generated in those processes, the outreach we do, the campaigns that they engage with. And then the services that people eventually engage too, there needs to be a way to look at it, prospective, ballistic and scale.

Tom Hileman (04:17):
Right? So we can’t… If we have a health system that’s serving millions of patients, we can’t do this one campaign or one program at a time. So one of my clients, Paul Mattson, always challenged me, “Tom how do we do this at scale? There are lots of great campaigns and ways to engage patients, but how do we do it at scale? And how do we make it personal, right? And how do we make it measurable and how do we reach them, where they are?”

Tom Hileman (04:35):
So you really have to think about how do we make a scalable platform for this? Because in the future everyone expects… Consumers today expect massive personalization, right? When they deal with Amazon, they deal with Netflix. Those folks know and anticipate their needs often. People expect that in healthcare, why can’t my healthcare system know and anticipate what my healthcare needs are going to be? And then pay that off through personal and actual communications.

Chris Hemphill (04:58):
So that kind of leads to a question, we’re seeing these consumer expectations being focused around, “Well, I don’t want to receive a communication that has nothing to do with me. I don’t have the attention span for anything that is not immediately relevant to me. That’s not going to work for me.”

Chris Hemphill (05:11):
So with these growing expectations, what are some near term trends?

Tom Hileman (05:15):
Yes, no. So the consumerism is there, right? And we either, as in healthcare, embrace it or people are going to come in and compete in our space. So the Walmarts and the CVSs and the Walgreens, right? So we have to… The demand is there. So some of the trends that we see, one is really strength in data management. People understand that they have a very fragmented world of data and a lot of stovepipes of systems that are not integrated at all. Maybe not even a common description of what a patient is in terms of those data attributes. I think the other piece that is really starting to evolve is a lot of the AI and machine learning on that to uncover the trends in how we should be interacting with the patient.

Tom Hileman (05:54):
So for instance, we have healthcare, no one has more data about a customer than healthcare does. No one does. But yet we don’t use it all that well. We sometimes hide behind HIPAA or these things, not that compliance isn’t important, but we have to be able to tailor our communications to those folks. So I think the data management platforms are big and with the compliance platforms, making sure that we’re handling the data well as we should in a trusted manner.

Tom Hileman (06:18):
And then two, the ability to analyze that and take action. So that AI machine learning space is really what’s going to be pushing that forward.

Chris Hemphill (06:25):
So when we’re talking about data management, we’re talking about not just doing outreach, but then understanding how we should be crafting communications, how we should be crafting our engagement based on behaviors and things like that we’ve observed, right?

Tom Hileman (06:36):

Chris Hemphill (06:36):
So zooming in, are there any kind of examples or any stories that you might have around maybe some insights that otherwise wouldn’t have been uncovered without that data perspective?

Tom Hileman (06:46):
What we aren’t really doing well as health organizations today is providing our patients with personalized communications that they can take action on. So for instance, both of my grandmothers died from colon cancer. So I’m at a very high risk for colon cancer and as part of my engagement with the healthcare system, the colonoscopies and that preventative care should be a primary messaging driver, because it’s so important given my background and history, right?

Tom Hileman (07:09):
For folks who are diabetic, for folks who have histories of specific diseases, either in their genetics or caused by the behaviors, those things. So tailoring that, making the communications actionable. So for instance, we are missing a great opportunity right now when it comes to electronic medical record systems, EMRs such as Epic, Cerner and whatnot, to look at the patients to make sure they’re coming back for their care.

Tom Hileman (07:32):
So you’ve had a knee replacement, are you doing your one year post visit, follow up? Are you going through the rehabilitation on that? Are you getting your annual physical and wellness… Women’s health reminders for the right folks. To get folks to come back.

Tom Hileman (07:45):
Mammography, colonoscopy, all these things in preventive care that are largely and, especially with COVID, being impacted heavily. 40 to 50% less, depending on who statistics you look at, cancer diagnoses for last year and 2020. There wasn’t 40 50% less cancer, right? So we’re catching it later, but the tools exist out there, and the data exist that we could actually look at the patients and make some pretty good predictions on who might need those types of screenings. And I think that’s an area that all healthcare systems should be embracing because it’s part of the mission.

Tom Hileman (08:19):
We want to keep people healthy, right? And keeping them engaged in an active participant in their healthcare is important. And that’s what the healthcare system should be, a partner with their patient.

Chris Hemphill (08:29):
Wow. And I’m really thankful that you shared the story both of your grandmothers with, with regards to colonoscopy, because it just seems like having that experience and understanding that a lot of preventable illness out there could be addressed by these kinds of predictive outreach approaches.

Tom Hileman (08:45):
Right. And I don’t even consider it marketing. I consider it communications with… So, often people in healthcare, when you look at it, what we’re really trying to do as a healthcare organization is part of our… Every one of the healthcare organizations I work with mission is to take care of the sick, to take care of the well and keep people healthy, right? The things that we can do from a marketing perspective, communicate folks to get them engaged in their care, to come in and to take the activities that they need to get the best possible chance they have for health.

Tom Hileman (09:09):
We can all do that. All the tech exists today. It requires the will and the discipline to execute it. I think that’ll be a big challenge for us in the next several years is how do we operationalize that?

Chris Hemphill (09:19):
Very good point too. I love the fact that you said all the tech that we need exists today, but in a lot of scenarios, it is what we do with this existing data. With the healthcare system, having all this data, having some predictive power over a lot of these illnesses, let’s start using the data that we have. Let’s start using the technologies that we have in a different way to address that. So talk about the latest trends in healthcare technology could be focused on a bunch of buzzword and things like that. I love the fact that you’ve come in and focused on, “Hey, what can we do today? What kind of predictions can we make based on the data that we have?”

Tom Hileman (09:47):
No, thank you, I think it’s a challenge for all of us right now. Health organizations have a myriad of issues. They have obviously under enormous stress today from COVID and what that’s done to operations and focus and for good reasons. Now we have it as we can hopefully pivot forward on that. We have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and that trust is solidified with our patients right now of what the value of healthcare brings. I know it’s… Some caregivers may not feel that way right now, it’s a pretty rough caregiving environment. But I think in general, our society has seen what healthcare and what biomedical sciences can do for us in pharma with the vaccinations. And now I think we’re at an inflection point where we have that trust. And we have that position that we can really drive health forward. Cause what choice do we have? We can’t keep doing what we’re doing.

Chris Hemphill (10:38):
Hello healthcare is brought to you by Actium Health. Healthcare leaders use Actium’s 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 And now back to the show.

Chris Hemphill (11:04):
We can’t keep doing what we’re doing. And now we’re seeing examples. You talked about how fast we were able to come out and propagate vaccines. You also earlier in the conversation mentioned how other people that are really good at the consumer experience and the know-me experiences that already have CDPs, and that’s endemic in their operations in retail and technology, they’re coming into this space. So that makes me wonder… A long time ago, there was a mix of healthcare systems that may or may not have had websites for example, but now it’s make or break. If you don’t have a web presence, then you’re absolutely dead. Is there another make or break type technology coming on the horizon? Is there anything that’s that significant?

Tom Hileman (11:43):
I don’t know if there’s one technology. Now, one could argue that the evolution of AI might be that, although I would argue most of those pieces exist today if we were to put them to use, maybe not as scalable as we might want.

Tom Hileman (11:55):
So I really think… I don’t think there’s one silver bullet out there. I think there’s a combination. In our quiver we have a sequence of arrows that we could use. And I think there’s three or four major pieces that you need to do well. You need to manage knowing your data. You need to be able to operate and activate your data and your patients. You need to be able to perform some analysis prediction and the AI pieces on those things. And you need some level of reporting to show why it matters to the executive team. Those four things are kind of the critical business drivers. So there’s varying degrees of that technology being baked or unbaked at this time. But most of it’s there at different levels.

Tom Hileman (12:32):
Certainly as we’ll see at this show today, that I’m sure there’s continuing involvement in the vendors are doing great work driving things forward. So I don’t see a silver bullet. Perhaps my only asterisks there would be the AI side of things. I think people are woefully underestimating how that’s going to change what we can do as marketers in general and healthcare marketers specifically.

Chris Hemphill (12:53):
That’s a good point. A no silver bullet. And even if I say AI-

Tom Hileman (12:55):
It’s awful broad.

Chris Hemphill (12:56):
Yeah. It’s a broad set of technology that I could be referring to. But the things that you mentioned, like doing these analytics, understanding our markets, understanding our patients, and then being able to report effectively to where there’s belief and trust in those reports. It doesn’t point to a single silver bullet technology, but it does point to a way of thinking.

Chris Hemphill (13:15):
I would say that if we’re not moving towards a data driven mentality, then the decisions that we make are not going to be as effective overall as organizations and leaders who are able to understand what’s coming from the data and be able to act and pivot based on meaningful and accurate interpretation of those results.

Tom Hileman (13:33):
Yes. I think that last part of your last phrase is probably the most important thing I’ve heard in a while. Meaningful results and what’s actually actionable. So I think we have lots of data, but we don’t have lots of information. We don’t have much information at all. So I guess to get a little bit in the data science there. So we have lots of inputs and pieces of data, but we don’t really have a lot of information that comes out of that you can consistently execute on.

Tom Hileman (13:58):
And I think some marketer, we have a couple, so data driven is a core foundation, because if you don’t have the data to understand it… But we also need to marry that with the human understanding. So I think one of the biggest pieces that we have now in society is we have all the information we need about vaccinations. What else could there possibly be to know whether you should get vaccinated or not? And I’m not going to go into the topic cause that’s all a lightning rod, but it shouldn’t be. I mean the data is all there. The data’s there, the information there, it’s spoken. It’s a settled topic from a science perspective, but not a societal perspective. So when look at healthcare, healthcare is as much science as it is society. So we all know that we need to exercise more and eat better stuff typically.

Tom Hileman (14:39):
But many Americans don’t do that, including this guy. So when we think about the data orientation you talked about, incredibly important with that, but we also have to marry it with some empathy and understanding of the human condition and how do we nudge people to do the right things?

Tom Hileman (14:53):
How do we bend behaviors using that data and the insights that we’ve gathered? I think the art and science of that is really the critical part that we’re going to have to put together the art of the messaging and the communications and the empathy and the science. The data is really where we need to go. Now that’s a tall order to fill.

Chris Hemphill (15:09):
It is surprisingly tall because a long time ago, maybe we thought that by having the data, then people will just magically start doing the right thing or trusting the right information sources.

Chris Hemphill (15:19):
But what you’re pointing at is that it’s not just enough to have the data, but it’s about the types of actions that can be inspired from that. And that doesn’t come from sending people a bunch of Excel spreadsheets.

Tom Hileman (15:29):
Does not.

Chris Hemphill (15:29):

Tom Hileman (15:30):
So if we were truly rational beings, we would all just read the medical journals and we would decipher what that means and take those appropriate actions for ourselves. But humans are a mixture of rational, irrational behaviors. So unfortunately in healthcare we have to handle both sides of that and the data and the science is great for the rational side of that. For the human learning side are hundreds of thousands of years of evolutions of people sitting around a fire, talking and sharing stories. That’s kind of who we are at a base level. That’s what we have to solve as marketers too.

Tom Hileman (16:01):
So those are the two sides of the coin. The good news is we have, once again, we have all those tools that we have now we need, we just need to bring them to bear and put them together artfully.

Chris Hemphill (16:09):
That’s a good message in that if you aim to be data driven and don’t forget about being empathy driven.

Tom Hileman (16:14):
Right, because at the end of the day, healthcare is a business about people serving people. And the folks who are being served, the customer and the patient, and they have to be an active participant in their care. Because if not, if they don’t comply with medications, they don’t do the behaviors that they’re supposed to do. The physicians, the clinicians can’t change that. So it’s this symbiotic relationship that we have to put… It’s much different than going to the grocery store and picking up the eggs and milk.

Tom Hileman (16:40):
That’s a transaction. When we try to make healthcare too transactional, we lose those pieces of how we can change behaviors and change hearts and minds.

Chris Hemphill (16:47):
So I want to finish off with a little bit more of a broad question, because like we said, at the very beginning, there’s a whole ton of technologies out there. Thousands of engagement technologies, both patient oriented or healthcare non-specific at the same time. But when it comes to this technology stack that people are buying into and that leaders are building, how do they know they’ve done a good job? And how often should they checking on that? What should they be checking for?

Tom Hileman (17:10):
That’s a great question. So how do we know if we’ve succeeded or not? So marketing, there’s endless studies of brand studies and lift and you can measure, there’s lots of control groups and things that we can do, but how do we know if we’re meaningful?

Tom Hileman (17:23):
So what I would first say is if you put the customer, the patient, at the center of that experience, is what we are doing furthering the benefit to them? So that’s where I would start if I were looking at a strategy.

Tom Hileman (17:35):
The communications that we put together, whether it’s around general health and wellness, whether it’s specific service line disease condition, whether it’s community engagement, the ways that we’re doing the outreach does it all further our ability to reach the patient? So if you can’t answer with a hell yeah on that, then we probably are missing something.

Tom Hileman (17:54):
So if it’s not hell yeah it’s hell no. So that’s the first thing I would measure. Are we reaching our patients and can we say that resoundingly? And if we do then what are we reaching them with? The messaging strategy and that framework that we need to build the hierarchy of explaining.

Tom Hileman (18:10):
You have to say… If I’ve learned anything in leadership, you can’t say anything once. You can’t even say it five times, you probably need to say it 20 times. So I would say if I were in leadership, I’d look, one, are we reaching the people that we’re here to serve? So our stakeholders, are we really engaging them? And be honest with yourself, cause the stakeholders of most large health systems are a variety of people along a continuum of different communities, local and many overlooked.

Tom Hileman (18:33):
And so I think there’s an opportunity there. Are we really engaging our entire community that we care for? That’s where I start with. Two, the activities that we’re doing, are we delivering a message that’s consistent to those folks and it’s meaningful to our patients? So you have the audience, you have the message and then in classic marketing, the call to action.

Tom Hileman (18:50):
What do you want to do there? Are we enabling folks to take action in that? Those are the three things I would look at a very high level and broad perspective. How I would approach that general problem. And there’s of course, PR and comms, and there’s all kinds of things that go into running a healthcare organization that are beyond just a patient. But at the end of the day, that’s really our mission. It’s really to serve the patients and the community that we exist in.

Tom Hileman (19:13):
And for almost every healthcare provider in the US, that’s about serving the patient. If we think and we architect what we do around those, I don’t think we can go wrong. We may not be as efficient as we need to be, Chris, but as long as we’re in the right direction, approximately the right direction, we’ll get there someday.

Chris Hemphill (19:29):
Indeed. And that’s something that we can really think about rallying behind, especially if we’re buried in reports on clicks and various things that might represent little nudges, little trickles towards what we’re ultimately getting at. I like the three part structure that you put out because everything that we measure should still ultimately be answering that question on whether or not we’re serving the population effectively.

Tom Hileman (19:52):
And at the end, it’s the center of all marketing, right? Marketing is about influencing human behavior. And so if you think about that, you have to know who you’re talking to. You have to be able to speak to them in terms that they understand and embrace, and then you need to be able to get action taken. That’s kind of what we always do, how we influence in marketing, no matter what we’re doing. Healthcare marketing is no different, although it’s a different space in terms of human behavior and very personal and real risks. As opposed to buying a watch or buying a car, your healthcare is the most personal and risky purchases you’ll ever make in your entire life.

Tom Hileman (20:25):
And you’ll, often only infrequently… You only have to think about a joint replacement. I guess you have two knees once or twice, I guess, but not very often. So these are very risky, very hard to understand to the layperson, procedures and decisions they have to make that are incredibly important.

Tom Hileman (20:41):
So I think that’s the banner we have to hold us marketers. How do we help people through all of that?

Chris Hemphill (20:46):
Well, Tom, I really appreciate the message that you share today. I do like the idea that, within healthcare marketers, you’re not just focused on getting people to watch a bunch of YouTube videos or getting them to binge watch Squid Game or what have you. So yeah, there’s a much higher calling that folks have.

Chris Hemphill (21:01):
Appreciate you sharing that message with us and for the folks that want to reach out and discuss more about that message or ask you any other questions-

Tom Hileman (21:08):
Oh sure.

Chris Hemphill (21:09):
Best way to get in touch?

Tom Hileman (21:10):
Certain. We have the website LinkedIn’s a great place LinkedIn to slash Tom Hileman. Or you can email me at as well.

Chris Hemphill (21:19):
All right, Tom. Well, I really appreciate you-

Tom Hileman (21:21):
Great. I appreciate it. Thanks for having me up.

Chris Hemphill (21:24):
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. You and your feedback fuel us. This conversation is brought to you by Actium Health. To get the latest on what these healthcare leaders are saying, subscribe to our newsletter on or join us for our weekly sessions on LinkedIn. Thanks. And when we see you next time, hello.

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