The Evolution of Healthcare Marketing, ft. Larry Meade


The role of the healthcare marketer is constantly evolving and adapting to the needs and expectations of the audiences that they serve. Nowhere is that more apparent than in healthcare, where marketers are faced with multidimensional audiences both internally and externally, as digital transformation blazes across the healthcare landscape.

Join Larry Meade, former System Marketing Director, Engagement Platform at Franciscan Health and podcast host, Alan Tam, as they explore and discuss the ever evolving role of the healthcare marketer and the challenges they face during these transformative, and often turbulent, times.

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

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larry meade franciscan health evolution healthcare marketing podcast

Larry Meade

Former System Marketing Director, Engagement Platform
Franciscan Health

franciscan health evolution healthcare marketing podcast

Alan Tam

Chief Marketing Officer
Actium Health


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Larry Meade (00:00):
I think within healthcare, we’re not very deliberate and intentional about creating experiences. So if you’re the marketer, you’re the marketer, and if you’re the finance person, you’re the finance person. So we’ll have situations where you’ll see nursing move into clinical informatics, or you see these things that are a little bit of a shift, but it’s still, they’re in informatics, but they’re leaning on their core competency as a nurse in that space. So I think the lack of very deliberate and intentional development opportunities is a challenge for marketers. So you have to go create your own.

Alan Tam (00:41):
Hello Healthcare. As the podcast host on the show, I’ve been very lucky to have the opportunity to speak with and learn from many healthcare marketing leaders, folks who have been very successful and accomplished in their roles and transform the healthcare experience for many. And as a student of marketing for almost three decades, I still continue to learn day in and day out about marketing. But let me ask you this, what exactly is marketing and what are marketers supposed to do? I’d be curious to know if I would even get the same answer twice from all our listeners and even from the guests on the show.

I also strongly believe that the role of marketers are constantly evolving, adapting to the needs and expectations of the audience that they serve. And nowhere is that more apparent than in healthcare where marketers are faced with multidimensional audiences both internally and externally. Joining me today here on Hello Healthcare is Larry Meade from Franciscan Health to explore and discuss what is the role of the healthcare marketer today, and how is it evolving? Larry is the System Marketing Director of Engagement Platform at Franciscan Health. Welcome, Larry. I’m really excited to have you on the show.

Larry Meade (01:56):
Thank you for having me. I’m looking forward to the conversation.

Alan Tam (01:59):
Larry, what is a System Marketing Director of Engagement Platform? What are some of the key things that you’re focused on right now?

Larry Meade (02:08):
So it’s a very kind of enigmatic kind of title. So the premise behind it is I work in part of the marketing department, but not, maybe in the traditional marketing role you would suspect. So I’m not the guy out doing the service line marketing campaigns and that kind of stuff, although I do support those teams. Really the premise behind it and what the engagement platform is, was how do we begin to take marketing and all we have to offer from technology data and things, and how do we better begin to integrate that throughout the system, better relationships with clinical operations, better relationships with our other leaders, business leaders. And so that’s the premise of the engagement platform is that it’s a structure for where we’re trying to break down the silos that exist and try to find different ways to work together.

Alan Tam (02:51):
I like how you define that and how it’s very expansive. It’s beyond infrastructure, it’s beyond a tech stack. So as a system marketing director on the engagement platform, how would you define the role of a marketer today in the health system?

Larry Meade (03:08):
Yeah, I think the role today is, I think marketing for most health systems, I think it’s still is situated as being a shared service. I think that we’re the communications lead when it comes to brand marketing, performance marketing. So I think for many health system leaders, marketing equals communications. The challenge I think we have with that is as long as marketing continues to be defined as a shared service, that leads to us being defined as a call center. And so I think that’s a very important part of what we do today, and we’ll always do. I mean, that’s what we have core competencies and communications, but I would say shared service model is kind how it’s defined in most service systems today.

Alan Tam (03:51):
So you did mention that marketing is often viewed as a cost center, and I think for healthcare marketers, that’s one of the biggest challenges and thinking that needs to be flipped. How can marketing be an investment resource? How can marketing be a revenue generator? What are some of these other challenges that you think marketers are facing today and why?

Larry Meade (04:14):
I think another one of the challenges is that there’s this growing concern around privacy and concerns around data. And so I think that makes people more skeptical, not just about marketing, but just in general about where our data is living and how it’s moving across the systems. I think that presents a big challenge for us. And then that leads into another really big challenge we have that continues to be our nemesis in marketing, and that is how do you determine indisputable return on investment for what marketing’s doing? And I think we still, while we’re making progress in that, I think we still struggle with that in a meaningful way. A lot of it’s focused on still fee for service type methodologies, which are still very important, but I think there’s other opportunities to think broader about how we define what value we’re bringing to the organization.

Alan Tam (04:59):
So you talked a little bit about ROI. Is that a key metric that marketers should be measured by? How does that map to the overall business initiatives and objectives of a health system?

Larry Meade (05:10):
Yeah, I think ROI, I think it’s changing though. I mean, I think one of the things with marketing, I think historically when we’ve looked at defining return on investment from marketing, it’s often focused on what I call efficiency things. How well are we at email open rates? How well are we at cost per lead acquisition? Other things that are really important, but they’re really process metrics and not so much around business metrics. And again, that goes back to the data challenges with it as well. But I think there’s also a massive opportunity around how do we help supercharge and empower other ROI metrics? So what is value-based care trying to achieve, or what are the ACOs trying to achieve? And I think getting involved in how we can help leverage the skills that we have, we can help achieve those things. And so now you start talking about more of a balanced scorecard and how you’re kind of measured and not just top line revenue. I think that’s something that has to change.

Alan Tam (06:07):
So what should the role of a healthcare marketer be to be successful?

Larry Meade (06:12):
Yeah, I think we should be moving towards a model where we’re involved in everything. I think everything from service design to experience design, we’ve got to create those kinds of opportunities for marketers to be there. The reason why is I think one of our greatest skills as marketers is creativity, not just artistically, but conceptually. That’s what our minds are wired to think that way. Healthcare needs a lot of creativity right now in solving business challenges. And I think the more we are at the table and involved with that, I think that will continue to allow us to evolve. We will continue to be the communications arm. I mean, I think it’s additive. We’re not stepping away from that. It’s just a matter of really growing into other opportunities where the business needs our skills.

Alan Tam (06:58):
So I would say your colleagues in healthcare marketing would probably agree with you, but I would also say that the partners you’re trying to work with probably will not agree with you. Why does marketing need access to this? Why does marketing need to be involved in that? They don’t know anything. They’re just running brand awareness campaigns. So how do you overcome those challenges and how can marketing get a seat at the table?

Larry Meade (07:23):
Yeah, I think one of the challenges that really exist is let’s talk about institutional challenges that exist when you look at healthcare, and we’ll talk specifically around hospital health system based healthcare. I think one of the challenges is how the systems are designed. So to help illustrate that, let’s kind of do a comparison look at in consumer packaged goods. So think about companies like Proctor and Gamble or Unilever, even within healthcare, think about even pharma and biotech inside of those organizations. It’s really important to their culture that you have different experiences in the organization. So for example, if you were at Proctor and Gamble, the concept of would they allow the product manager for one of their key service lines to be in that role for 30 years? The answer is no, they wouldn’t. They encourage things like that. I think within healthcare, we’re not very deliberate and intentional about creating experiences.

So if you’re the marketer, you’re the marketer, and if you’re the finance person, you’re the finance person. So we’ll have situations where you’ll see nursing move into clinical informatics, or you see these things that are a little bit of a shift, but still, they’re in informatics, but they’re leaning on their core competency as a nurse in that space. So I think the lack of very deliberate and intentional development opportunities, is a challenge for marketers. So you have to go create your own right and do that, and we can talk about how you kind of go in and do that.

Alan Tam (08:47):
Yeah. Yeah. So let’s talk about that. How do you go about doing that and why? I sense there’s just this fear of, well, one, we’ve always done it this way, and two, why does marketing need access to certain things?

Larry Meade (09:04):
Yeah. I think the key is, I think as marketers, I think the first thing we have to come to terms with and understand is we’re business leaders first and marketers second. And that’s true if you’re a business leader first, you’re a finance person. I think if you look at it through that lens, it kind of changes your perspective a little bit. So if you’re a business leader, then that curiosity should start sparking in other things that you’re not doing. So I think that there’s other opportunities that you have to find to get involved.

And so if your organization doesn’t have deliberate ways where they encourage you to do things, you have to find things to do that you have to ask to be a part of things, ask to attend conferences and committees, ask to be on groups, find projects that are happening that are a non-traditional role for a marketer. We don’t need a communications need. But I think just being there. And so what that boils down to is a really strong principle I’ve had throughout my career, and that is visibility equals credibility will equal opportunity. So if you’re visible in these areas, that will build credibility for you and over time that will build opportunities for you.

Alan Tam (10:13):
That makes a lot of sense. And you shared some examples. I’m curious to know, are there any other specific examples that have worked for you that you can share with the audience?

Larry Meade (10:24):
Yeah, the one thing I think is, for example, when I came into Franciscan, I’ve been on there almost 13 years now. When I first joined them, I joined part of a team that was really kind of reshaping and forming what the cancer services was going to be for the organization, and I was very fortunate that I had a sponsor. I think that’s another really key thing in organization. You need to find somebody outside of marketing that can be a sponsor for you. His name is Kent Rumbold. I’ll give him a shout out here on the podcast. He was really great about creating opportunities for me. So I was involved in everything from the services, the building of the new cancer center, physician recruitment, just anywhere and everywhere was creating these things. And so I think what happens is with that as marketers is when the situations happen, we can’t be afraid of new roles and opportunities.

So where that journey I was just talking about led to was eventually I became Executive Director of Cancer Services for our central Indiana division as a marketer. And I remember very vividly that conversation with Kent about when he was saying to me, “Hey, I think I want you to assume this opportunity as I move on to a different level.” And I’m like, “Why do you want the marketing guy?” And his response to me was, “No one knows this program better than you do. You’ve been here throughout everything.” And that goes back to a serendipity type thing that I think if you open yourself to non-traditional roles, finding ways to put yourself in different situations, who knows what kind of opportunities might present themselves, then have the curiosity and the courage to accept it, I think is my recommendation.

Alan Tam (11:59):
So let’s take that and talk about access to data and the data silos and technology and having exposure to that. As a marketer, I view marketing as everything’s data driven, and without data, I can’t do my job. I don’t know if I’m doing it correctly. I don’t know if I’m reaching the right audiences. I don’t know if a campaign is successful. So what role does data and technology here play for healthcare marketers, if any?

Larry Meade (12:32):
Yeah, I think it’s probably the most critical part, and I think earlier we kind of just made a comment about that our operations from a marketing function especially data and technology, are kind of siloed. And so I’ll give you a great example with some of the work we’re doing with our pop health department that I remember having a conversation with them that if you’ve got people that are enrolled in a value-based care or some kind of risk management product, so they’re part of a Medicare service savings program or something. Typical models in healthcare is you’ll have case managers that are kind of overseeing these patients. I remember having a conversation with one of our case managers and I said, “Please tell me a little bit about one of your most complex patients.” And so she went on to explain this patient all the health challenges and what she’s trying to navigate, and then asked her a question.

I said, “So if over here in my world of marketing, if this patient was having multiple engagements with our opportunities, so let’s say they were attending sleep seminars that we had, or they had taken some health risk assessments around sleep issues, or there were just a lot of indicators that were saying, this person is really interested in what’s going on with sleep, would you want to know that? Because in your data, if you don’t have that, this person is diagnosed with sleep apnea?” Her response was, “Absolutely, I would want to know that.”

And so my point is that’s why our experiences and our engagements, it’s the same patient, and so our experiences can’t be separate from the clinical experiences. Now, there are ethical issues that get raised in that conversation and other privacy things, but the kind of things have to come together. So the data and the technology that’s being designed in healthcare, it has to be designed as an ecosystem. Marketing can’t have its tools, its data that’s separate from everything else. There are very specific things that we do, but at our core, we’ve got to have common models, common data, and I think that’s going to help us really to accelerate improving experiences.

Alan Tam (14:33):
So share with me oftentimes as a marketing leaders or any business leader, we typically draw inspiration from other examples. Where do you draw your inspiration from and your team draws inspiration from as you go down this path of utilizing data to create a better experience?

Larry Meade (14:52):
Yeah, I think the key is to look outside of healthcare. I think the unfortunate thing right now is if you’re looking for best practice in this, you’re not going to find it within traditional health systems. Again, there’s examples where I think that’s changing, but I think you could have looked to other leaders and other marketers I mentioned, we talked a little bit earlier about curiosity and things. I’m a big fan of Michelle Taite, who is CMO for Intuit at MailChimp. I think she’s got a great philosophy on leadership and she has that belief around humility and curiosity supercharge each other. I think it’s those kinds of things.

If you’ve looked at other leaders and how, because the challenges are the same. I mean obviously in healthcare we’re very regulated and we have a lot of barriers to try to overcome with that. But at the core, you’re still trying to create great experiences and connect with people. And I think if we look to other industries and try to find those examples, I think that’s really important. Then the key is when you identify these opportunities, whether they’re within the healthcare environment or outside of it, how do you come back and contextualize that to your organization and take action on it? Again, I think that’s a really big opportunity for marketers as well.

Alan Tam (15:59):
Absolutely. So what would your advice be to others who’s trying to transform the role and function of marketing in their systems?

Larry Meade (16:09):
I’ll go back to a comment I said earlier. I think first really embrace the fact that you’re a business leader first, and in doing that, that will change certain behaviors. So I think what are you doing in your professional development, right? Are you only attending marketing conferences or are you attending other healthcare environments that aren’t marketing related? There’s tons of webinars and content and things out there. I think that’s really important. I think the other one is you’ve really got to begin to break down the transactional relationship that exists. And in the work that I do, I often say that my job is to work with our teams to break down data technology and operational silos to improve experiences. Note I didn’t say patient experiences. I think marketing, we have a lot of work to do in the experiences that we have with our IT leaders, with our finance leaders, and I think that starts by finding ways to get them a lot more involved earlier in the process of what you’re doing.

Because if you are working on some new technology or some new strategy and you go down the path of developing all of this work, and then you get to the end and it’s like, “Okay, now I’m just going to go to finance and ask them, just give me this.” That’s a transactional thing that’s not collaboration. And so it’s getting them involved very much from the beginning.

For example, at Franciscan, right now we’ve been working on defining our CRM platform and things like that, we’ve had finance, privacy, risk involved from day one in a lot of the conversations. Sometimes they don’t want to be there. It gets a little boring for them, I think, but you’re also challenging them to get outside of their comfort zone too. And I think that really being deliberate about redefining the experiences you have with your internal, I think will do very much to drive your objectives and your goals going forward.

Alan Tam (18:01):
So I do like what you’re saying as we should all be business leaders first, and I can’t agree with that statement more. Does this change the way that marketers should then be measured?

Larry Meade (18:14):
Absolutely. I think we’ve got to take more of a balanced approach. Let me share to help explain that. I’ll illustrate some of the work we’ve done recently. I think we’re always going to have core marketing things. For a while we’re still going to live in this value-based care world. So as a big part of what we’re doing is still going to be around new patient acquisition, marketing efficiency, all the things that we’re doing are really going to be important. So those are just kind of a staple. But then how do we begin to look at experience metrics? How do we begin to figure out ways that we can be jointly sharing goal with other leaders? So for example, within Franciscan, we’re doing a lot of work right now with our engagement center, which is our centralized call center and others around how do we achieve first encounter resolution, not first call resolution.

It’s like the first time someone encounters with us, whether it’s on the phone in the call center, if it’s through a MyChart or some other EMR app, online, how are we best building? So whatever they’re coming there for, it gets done in that first engagement. So that’s really an experience metric. We’ve done a lot of work with access to care and working with primary care and saying, how do you define access to primary care? What does that even mean? And we did a lot of work in looking at data and things and saying, look, there’s kind of windows of time where not every patient wants same day, next day. I think that’s one of the big misnomers in healthcare. Sometimes people are scheduling a few days out is fine with them, but the research clearly shows that if you get in that three to five-day window, you’re probably okay.

You get beyond that now you’re really putting at risk. But we started looking at data and saying, we went to our analytic team and said, we want to look at every provider practice, every doctor, and I want to know breakdowns of what does their access look like from the time someone engages? Are they getting seen same day, next day, three to five days, five to seven days? So now we have dashboards around that that we look at on a monthly basis on how the doctors are doing that. And now that work is even being used as part of value-based compensation models for physicians.

So now we’re looking at being measured around improving that metric on physician access in these different day parts. But now marketing is a part of that. We don’t influence the operational part of it as much, but we are as far as the design of it. And so I think finding those opportunities to get involved with that I think are really important.

I’ll give you another example that I mentioned earlier about the importance of contextualizing things into your own experience. We hear a lot of talk in healthcare today around people just can’t get in to see doctors and physician recruitment is difficult, all that kind of stuff. So we’ve done a lot of work redefining EPIC and helping rebuild EPIC templates and schedules, and I think that kind of work marketing can have common goals with leaders.

Alan Tam (21:09):
Absolutely. So what should those metrics be? What are some KPIs that you think marketers should be measured by today?

Larry Meade (21:17):
Yeah, so I think trying to figure out how you can get to first encounter resolution. I think as marketing, if you think about yourself as a business leader, an income statement has revenue and expenses on it. Oftentimes we talk about growing revenue, but there should be some metrics around how are you reducing expenses, but creating value. I think that could be a really interesting thing to have with your finance leaders. I think we’ve got to find these key outcome things. How are you improving health outcomes? I think this is where marketing’s creativity can really help.

So we know everyone’s working on Medicare, wellness visits, diabetic care, but I think really having common goals that you share with value-based care to where you create an interdependent relationship between the two, I think we’ve got to have a whole portfolio of those kind of outcome metrics. And again, those are going to be unique for every organization depending upon where you are in your journey. But we’ve got to move away from traditional marketing only type metrics and really get into revenue. How are we cutting expenses? How are we helping to achieve health outcome and things like that. There’s a plethora of opportunity out there. We just have to get ourselves attached to it.

Alan Tam (22:26):
Yeah, absolutely. Larry, I want to thank you so much for your time today and sharing those wise words and wisdom. I think that healthcare marketers have a long ways to go still, and there’s a lot to learn, and I think you’re a great example of the progress that’s being made, and we definitely need more folks like you in the industry to help transform healthcare marketing and drive things forward.

Larry Meade (22:47):
Well, I thank you for the opportunity.

Alan Tam (22:49):
Absolutely. So I know that many in the audience probably want to continue the conversation and learn more, and maybe if you can share some insights with folks on some of the personal experiences that you’ve had that have led to your success, what is the best way for people to get ahold of you?

Larry Meade (23:06):
Yeah, I’m very active on LinkedIn. It’s the best way to reach me. There’s probably not a day that goes by that I’m not on there, so send me a message, happy to connect and talk about any topics that are out there. It’s an exciting time to be a marketer, and so I’m happy to talk about any topics.

Alan Tam (23:21):
Wonderful. So for those of you in the audience, this was a super insightful conversation for myself and I hope for all of you as well. And if you’re listening to the show, I’m sure that you are all students of marketing, and there’s definitely a lot that we can learn from with what Larry has shared. So please go ahead and reach out to Larry on LinkedIn and continue the conversation so we can move and transform the healthcare marketing industry forward. With that being said, Larry, thanks again. And until next time, hello.

Outro (23:53):
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