The Marriage Between Marketing and Patient Experience ft. Carrie Liken


Season 2, Episode 5

It’s clear that consumer experiences are key to attracting and retaining loyal patients. It’s also clear that efforts to improve consumer experiences are fraught with challenges.

Carrie Liken, head of healthcare at Yext, and Chris Hemphill break down what it takes for health systems to be consumer centric. You’ll hear advice on how to think like the patients in your market, and when you should and shouldn’t listen to your doctors.

As the pieces start to come together, Carrie’s views paint a picture of the growing marriage between marketing and the patient experience. Unconventional? Indeed.

Video Chapters
5:45 Know Consumer Expectations as a Healthcare Leader 
10:30 How to Put Consumers at the Center 
15:30 What Success Looks Like 
17:30 Where Consumer Experience and Marketing Meet

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


Carrie Liken

Head of Industry, Healthcare

Yext logo

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Carrie Liken (00:00):
If you have negative data, that’s a gift. If you have negative information that’s coming at you, then that means that you can actually do something with it and then make the changes. I see patient experience living in one place and I see marketing living in another place and I do believe that maybe in the future, there will be some sort of unification where consumer experience might be the encapsulation of both, or there might be a crossover.

Chris Hemphill (00:29):
That’s Carrie Liken, the head of healthcare at Yext. Along with being a bit cheerful when negative data rolls in, Carrie has some unconventional views concerning what it takes to be consumer-centric in healthcare. You’ll hear advice on how to think like the patients in your market and when you should and shouldn’t listen to your doctors. You might be a bit shocked at first. I was. But then the pieces start coming together. There’s a picture that Carrie is painting here on the growing marriage between marketing and the patient experience. You’ll hear more on that after the break.

Chris Hemphill (01:11):
Consumer experiences, major disruptors in 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 (01:34):
Hello Healthcare, we have Carrie Liken from Yext. Hello.

Carrie Liken (01:38):

Chris Hemphill (01:40):
Carrie comes to us from… She’s the leader of the healthcare vertical at Yext and also has a background from Google, got her MPH at Harvard University, so it’s a unique combination. We have masters in public health combined with deep expertise in the tech industry to triangulate around the consumer experience within healthcare. Carrie, could you share a little bit about your background and what’s got you here?

Carrie Liken (02:04):
Yeah, happy to. I originally wanted to be a doctor. When I was in sixth grade, we did a human body notebook, and we studied every single system of the body. It was the first time I had been presented with this thing called “anatomy” and “systems,” and it was science. It was really, really, really fascinating. I did really well putting all of this together and it was a whole year and I decided I wanted to be a cardiologist. Then I went to college and I took my college-level chemistry class and I realized I had to be in a lab for hours and hours at a time. I went to college in the south and it was sunny outside and I wanted to be outside more than I wanted to be in inside in the lab, figuring out how to boil water.

Carrie Liken (02:47):
After I realized that maybe that wasn’t the thing for me, I tried to find all of these different ways of how to get into healthcare in a different fashion, and it led me through to public policy. I spent some time working with a lawyer who is blind. We did a lot of work advocating on behalf of people with disabilities on the Hill. I learned a lot about Medicare and Medicaid in that sense.

Carrie Liken (03:10):
That led me to Harvard Kennedy School, which is where I focused a lot on health policy, but at the time, I realized I really wanted business experience, and so I graduated from grad school and I joined the Google Boston office, which was about 20 people at the time, and we were quickly able to, within about six months, bring out the healthcare team on the business side, so we split this healthcare team, so it was half in Mountain View and it was half in Boston.

Carrie Liken (03:41):
Then I helped to basically start the hospital group within the healthcare team, and we grew that, and I spent eight-and-a-half years, pretty much all of the eight-and-a-half years studying the digital patient journey, understanding how people actually searched for healthcare. We didn’t really even have mobile phones when I started at Google. I remember getting the iPhone. Actually, I had the BlackBerry and I was BBMing all of the time and then I got the iPhone 3 and then Google came out with, I think it was called the G1, I can’t remember what it was, but it had this weird screen. It was kind of like that T-Mobile phone almost. It had a flip screen almost, or a flip keyboard almost.

Carrie Liken (04:18):
That’s when things started to change for the consumer. People were now starting to get phones that they could actually have computers in their pocket, so when they went to their healthcare appointments, they were not only coming with printed pieces of paper from, let’s say, WebMD or other sources online of something that they had googled because we had started to see that people were googling healthcare things, but now they were able to actually look things up when the doctor was giving them a diagnosis, or look things up while they were in the waiting room, and so I was able to see what the evolution looked like from there, and then moved over to Yext, where I’m now the head of healthcare at Yext, where I’m in charge of product strategy and go-to-market for basically helping people find health information anywhere where they’re searching, whether it’s on Google, or it’s on an app, or a website, or just driving a much better experience so that people can actually get what it is that they need.

Chris Hemphill (05:15):
Excellent. Well, I love hearing about all the different things you’re bringing together. That is a powerful intersection to have that deep public policy experience and then have studied the consumer journey from Google’s perspective, which is extremely data-backed for eight-and-a-half years, so that’s exciting to hear. Now, I think I want to tease out just a little bit of what you learned on that journey because we all see it. We see these new technologies coming. We heard about the iPhone 13 and all these different things, but there’s an impact that I don’t necessarily know what that impact is on consumer expectations on their healthcare experiences, so how can healthcare systems, or how can hospitals know what those consumer expectations are to have a basis to be able to act on?

Carrie Liken (05:56):
I love this question. I feel like I answered this question in many different ways a lot over the last couple of years. How health systems can do this is to literally be a patient. Put themselves, if you are just an individual, if you’re the CEO, the CIO, the CMO, the COO, the head of nurse, the head of digital, whoever you are put yourself in the patient’s shoes, and walk in those shoes.

Carrie Liken (06:24):
There are so many experiences that a patient has that I think gets lost in the different layers of leadership within a healthcare organization and I see it whenever I go into healthcare… Well, we don’t actually go healthcare organizations anymore unless you’re sick, but when I used to visit with organizations, it would be really interesting to talk to the different groups of individuals, different leadership areas, where I would be told that’s not how it is. Then I would press back and I would ask, “Have you done it? Have you been a patient? Have you gone through that experience?” I would get a head-shaking no. Then I would press on and say, “Why not try it?”

Carrie Liken (07:04):
We’ve done this. Actually, at Yext, we used to host different teams. They would come in and we would facilitate these types of journeys and experiences and it was always mind-boggling to me to see how many people had never actually done that. Biggest thing is take a journey, break it down, and then put yourself, or put your group into those shoes. What is it like to find healthcare information even before you decide on care? You receive a diagnosis. What is it like? What would you do? Would you search? Would you ask a friend? Would you read an encyclopedia? Not likely because how many of us actually have encyclopedias anymore. What would you do and what is that experience for your system directly?

Carrie Liken (07:50):
Then once you’re actually in, let’s say, you’re going to get ready to go to the doctor, what’s the parking experience like? Or what’s the transportation experience like? What’s the front desk experience like, especially now during COVID, what does that look like? How different is it? Is it good? Is it bad? What’s positive about it? What’s negative about it? What’s the inpatient experience like? Is it positive or negative? What is the post-op experience like? What is the post-diagnosis experience? What is the experience like when you call just to find out additional information because you have some sort of GI procedure and you need to find more information. What’s the call center experience like? Just do it and be the patient. Then very quickly, I think health systems will see that there are a lot of broken points within all of those areas that then need to be prioritized of how to fix first.

Chris Hemphill (08:42):
Wow. I thought you were going to tell me to go and spend millions of dollars on consultants and identify these gaps, but be a patient.

Carrie Liken (08:49):
No. Be a patient.

Chris Hemphill (08:50):
Three simple words. Yeah. I will attest that a lot of the change that I’ve seen, a lot of leaders that have been gone and written books about this, or made major transformation to their experience, a lot of times, no matter what the data says, it was like the experience that they had as a patient that in their own health systems, or with their own close family members to get them to realize the importance of these gaps.

Carrie Liken (09:13):
It’s true. I can tell you for my own personal experience and I’ve read those books, too, and I know for a fact that only when the individual becomes the patient do we really understand just the pain points that we’re experiencing. I like to say personally, for my own pain points, I am steeped in this. You and I are both steeped in this. I remember you talked about your experience, even going to Walmart Health, and how interesting it was and how it was quite illuminating in many ways, very transparent. How could we do that within health systems in any of our healthcare? I mean, I don’t know that until I actually become the patient and I’ve had those experiences.

Chris Hemphill (09:51):
Exactly. You can’t really truly know unless you actually go and experience what your patients are actually going through.

Chris Hemphill (10:02):
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 at Now back to the show.

Chris Hemphill (10:28):
The next question, though, is you’re being a patient. You’re learning about that consumer experience. What are some things that organizations can do? Or let’s say that I’m a leader at an organization, I know I have other people who have their own opinions about how healthcare should be, but what can we do to then rally around the consumer and put the patient and the consumer at the center of that experience?

Carrie Liken (10:51):
Can I answer honestly?

Chris Hemphill (10:53):

Carrie Liken (10:54):
I’m married to a doctor, so I feel like I’m allowed to say this.

Chris Hemphill (10:56):

Carrie Liken (10:57):
Stop listening to your doctors.

Chris Hemphill (10:58):

Carrie Liken (10:59):
The providers, or the doctors, the MDs, it doesn’t necessarily mean they really understand the patient or the consumer experience. They’ve been educated and they are experts in their area of medicine, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they really understand the experience side of that. That’s where I think administrators and leaders and others need to step up and say, “Thank you for your input. However, we are going to go any different direction” or, and/or, maybe, “Thank you for this, but in order to deliver a better patient experience or consumer experience, we are going to have to ask more of you in this context,” so maybe we do have to open up your schedule for virtual care, more so than you’re willing to, or maybe we do have to shift around what the waiting room experience is, or maybe we do have to make sure that if somebody is discovering information online, we have to put X, Y, Z components online, even though you don’t really want it there.

Carrie Liken (11:56):
But I think historically, and this could be very controversial, and I’m willing to fall on the sword for this because I think that it’s very important, healthcare is one of the only industries that I can think of that leaders are also practitioners, so they’re also the doctors in many cases, but also, other leaders or other individuals within the space performing the business listen so much to the doctors when in reality, the doctors are the product. Their specialties, what they treat, they’re the product, and so the marketing teams and others need to figure out, “How do I make sure that people understand and know that this product is out there?” But you can’t always let the product lead the way, because it doesn’t always mean that it’s going to be in the best interest of that experience that the consumer is going to have.

Carrie Liken (12:49):
I would say maybe separate a little bit. There’s a lot of politics in that and I understand that and I just feel like it is slightly controversial for me to say, but I think the more that we can remove ourselves from having the doctors dictating what it is that we’re doing and placating them and bowing down. I can’t tell you how many times I see how teams bow down to the doctors and the doctor walks into the room and we treat them like, “Oh, it’s the doctor.” They put their pants on the same way I put my pants on, one leg at a time. I mean, we are all the same just because they have an MD doesn’t necessarily mean that they know any better about what we should be able to help drive for the patient experience. They know how to treat the patient and they will do it really well, but leave the rest up to the other teams to really drive a much better experience that way.

Chris Hemphill (13:39):
I think we have some common ground on this thought because you’re married to a doctor.

Carrie Liken (13:42):

Chris Hemphill (13:43):
My opinion, or at least from what I’ve seen, is that when it comes to who cares about an individual patient that we’re working with, like I’m delivering care to this patient, there’s nobody more invested in that than the people that are working with them directly, the clinicians and the doctors who put their hands on the patients every day, but at the same time when it comes to the thinking around the overall experience and how we’re communicating with them, what their engagement patterns are, that might not be the background or expertise.

Carrie Liken (14:09):

Chris Hemphill (14:09):
Like you said, “Thank you for your input.” That’s very well needed from a patient care perspective. Then when we start looking broader, there’s just different areas of expertise that we shouldn’t expect our doctors to know everything about the business side and all of the aspects of the consumer experience that people go through.

Carrie Liken (14:26):
Many components of that. That’s true.

Chris Hemphill (14:27):

Carrie Liken (14:28):
“Thank you for the input,” I think is the best term, but then there has to be a willingness to say, “That was great input. We’ll use it,” or, “That was great input, but we’re actually not going to use it.”

Chris Hemphill (14:39):
When you bring politics and dictating into the picture, nobody should be dictating to anyone, it should be we have an understanding of these different elements and we come to a consensus, but when it becomes a place where one dictates to the other, it just sounds like a structure that’s planned for toxicity.

Chris Hemphill (14:55):
A final question that I wanted to get into is we talk about the consumer experience, we talk about expectations and things like that, but one thing I’m really curious about is how does somebody know that they’ve actually delivered? If I’m a leader in the health system, what lets me know? Are their metrics? Or what let’s me know that we’ve actually done a good job?

Carrie Liken (15:14):
I wish that we had something that was more uniform, but I don’t think that we do. In the absence of uniform metrics, I think there are a number of things that we can look at. First off is let’s look at what’s happening outside of healthcare. I can’t tell you how many times I receive, for example, an email after I’ve purchased something that has said, “Hey, did you have a good purchase experience? Or how is your product? Or would you mind rating this? Or would you mind letting us know how it went?” That’s one thing. It’s just an easy way of collecting data just to get an overall sentiment of, was it good? Was it not good? We survey for other things, so why wouldn’t we survey?

Carrie Liken (16:05):
The bigger element of that, though, is we have to do it in a timely fashion. I think historically, we have some survey companies that don’t really send timely surveys out, so you’re not really hitting the patient or the former patient in a place where they even remember that it was a great experience or not, and probably the response rate is fairly low. I don’t know. I don’t have all of the data on that. Maybe it’s relatively high. I would say gather data. I’m a big fan of gathering the data.

Carrie Liken (16:37):
I think the other piece is then see how much of it has changed from negative to positive. If you have negative data, that’s a gift. If you have negative information that’s coming at you, then that means that and actually do something with it and then make the changes. I see patient experience living in one place and I see marketing living in another place and I do believe that maybe in the future, there will be some sort of unification where consumer experience might be the encapsulation of both, or there might be a crossover. The consumer experience piece can take that data from an external perspective, can actually take that data, and do something with it, whether, and again, I’ll talk about the digital side, but it can also be implemented internally, too, for the service recovery and others. But I think that the external piece of it… Make the change. It’s so easy to make the change once you get that negative information to then flip it over so then you can start seeing what the trend is to see if it’s starting to trend upward.

Carrie Liken (17:40):
I think the other piece is if you’re not getting feedback, that’s a big element, too, because what we tend to see is that the loudest, most vocal voices tend to be those who are displeased. Those who are happy or fine, they don’t even really take as much time to do that unless asked, so I think it would be really interesting to see, are you even getting the feedback in the first place?

Carrie Liken (18:06):
Then finally, what I would say is, okay, so you were the patient, you put yourself in the patient’s shoes, and then you said, “I’m going to go ahead and enact some consumer-like, maybe retail-like changes into the healthcare experience,” so you have a pre-document, the pre, so when you’re actually the patient, document it, implement, and now, try again, and take a look at the comparison of what does that actually look like, so you can see, have we made any changes? Maybe get a group of people together, get a group of patients, get a group of providers, get a group of internal employees together to understand, let’s go through this experience now having made these changes. What was that like? See, is it better or is it worse, and chart that out.

Carrie Liken (18:47):
I think there are so many different touchpoints within a healthcare organization where we could be making these changes that it is probably very overwhelming as well to say, where do we do it first, or how do we do it first? We’ve talked about this before. Start with something really small, look at some of the feedback on it, see if you can make the changes, be the patient, record it, and then go ahead and see what it’s like after you’ve made that change, and then keep on making the changes. See if it works.

Chris Hemphill (19:13):
That’s a really good point. I can’t go and look at my Facebook page and say, “Oh, if we have this many likes now, the consumer experience is great.” It’s more like find a challenge and there’s not a uniform metric around it. There’s a bunch of different, unique scenarios that are going to be fitting to whatever problems you identify when you, as the patient, have, like you said, documented these experiences, identified what’s wrong with them, documented the pre, and they made a commitment to follow-up on those same metrics, and see where those have shifted.

Carrie Liken (19:40):
Have they gone up? Have they gone down? I mean, Facebook is a good example of this. I remember even when I was at Google and learning about the number of A/B tests that Google was constantly doing on the search engine results page constantly, they’re constantly doing A/B tests with the individuals who are coming to the page. Maybe I at one desk was seeing something different than somebody at a different desk, literally inside the Google office, for the vast globe of people who were accessing Google, so why not A/B test things constantly, always be looking at things? I know Facebook does this. Organizations are constantly doing this to see, what is a better experience? Then once you collect that data, then stick with it, and then start A/B testing something else, and then start A/B testing something else. It’s just these little incremental tweaks.

Carrie Liken (20:30):
I see this a lot in health. Even we’re working with an organization right now, we’re getting ready to launch a find a doctor for them. We were supposed to launch in August, but they still haven’t launched because committee after committee, after committee, after committee, after committee has to review, and then has to approve. This goes back to what I was saying before about come on, doctors. We respect you. We love you. You’re wonderful. But at some point, okay, no. How do we also make sure that if we’re just making these small things, we’re not necessarily getting committee after committee, after committee together, and making this a really big thing? Just start tweaking. You’ll actually make a lot more progress if you’re A/B testing, as opposed to pulling something big together and making this massive project because it just gets too many people involved, too many voices involved, and then too many things crowding what actually needs to get done to make for a much better consumer patient experience in the long run.

Chris Hemphill (21:26):
Well, Carrie, I got to say, I appreciate all the thoughts that you shared. I think people should be ready to collect data and then be ready to act on that data. When you say, “Do A/B tests,” that requires a follow-up period of you evaluate after a certain period of time and see whether or not there was a change that occurred. It doesn’t mean launching a campaign or launching a program, seeing that it didn’t work, and kind of just pushing that to the wayside and only presenting what was awesome.

Carrie Liken (21:50):

Chris Hemphill (21:50):
For all the folks out there that want to get in touch or debate on the doctor, period, what’s the best way to get in touch with you?

Carrie Liken (21:57):
You can find me on LinkedIn, just Carrie Liken, and then you can also email me at, C-A-R-R-I-E @ yext dot com.

Chris Hemphill (22:06):
All right, well, Liken on LinkedIn or Yext or however you want to reach her. It’s been a pleasure talking to you about this.

Carrie Liken (22:11):
It was great talking to you too, Chris. Thanks.

Chris Hemphill (22:12):
All right. Thank you.

Chris Hemphill (22:14):
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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