Today we’re talking to Craig Kartchner, Associate Vice President of Marketing at HonorHealth. Craig has been working as part of the healthcare industry in the marketing world for his whole career and has seen a lot of changes. One of those changes is in the increased focus on the patient experience and how to improve it using data.
Lucky for us, Craig shared what he and his teams are doing, how it’s impacted their marketing, and what he sees as a big miss for many hospital marketers.
Hi, Craig! Thanks so much for sharing your expertise with us today. So, what does being the AVP of Marketing for HonorHealth entail?
One of the things that I love about my job is that it’s really varied. I don’t do the same thing every day, and although I’m in the marketing department, I’m focused at least as much on customer experience as I am on actual marketing. So, we do some traditional marketing and certainly a lot of digital marketing and try to use data as effectively as we can in a lot of different ways.
And then in the customer experience realm, I work with teams throughout the organization to work on technologies and processes that will improve the customer experience, and that is really rewarding – kind of a little more avant-garde – work.
That’s really cool! What is some of the work you guys are doing to improve the customer experience?
We started out about a year ago doing some really intense market research. We switched it up a little bit and asked people what they wanted to fix in healthcare – what was most important to them.
And then we got together teams from throughout the organization to basically brainstorm solutions – we’d take what we heard and the feedback and talk about ways we could solve it using technology, changing around processes and operational things, and then came up with all these ideas of things we could work on to get rid of some of the pain points that the customers described, and then we retested those ideas with that same panel of customers and asked them to help prioritize the work we should do. So, given these solutions, which would you put money behind? Which should we tackle first?
So, we have a long list of initiatives that we’re working on, and a lot of them are technologies that we’re trying to implement, but a lot of other things impact the clinical experience and the patient experience outside of that.
So, that’s been really interesting work, and there were some surprises. Things that I thought would matter to people really don’t and vice versa.
What are some examples that surprised you?
Things like parking and wayfinding. I didn’t realize how big of a problem it was at some of our hospital campuses. It’s not a newfangled idea, but it’s just an obvious one that without research we simply wouldn’t have known.
Some of the others were around telehealth solutions. Consumers showed they prefer to text or email their physician than they do to have a video chat or even a live phone call. Most people still prefer a face-to-face visit with their physician, but they would rather replace that – if they were to replace it – with a text or an email. They’re looking for convenience and to get the care and treatment plan they need without having to disrupt their life.
One we found they weren’t really interested in – at least as a top-three priority – was around wearable technology and integrating their clinical record with their wearable devices.
You mentioned your list of initiatives based on your data – what are they?
Our research popped up three prominent categories where consumers wanted the most focus: billing, communication, and experience outside of their clinical care.
With billing, it's really hard to give a seamless experience. We don't control the billing for a lot of the professionals that provide care in our facilities. We can work on the billing that we control, but we can't mandate that billing is done in the same way with every physician's office. That's a tough nut to crack. But we are really working on unified billing solutions and partnering with different physicians’ groups to make it better.
For communication, it goes beyond simple reminders. It’s about knowing the customer so we can honor their preferences and understand what's important to them based on their clinical history and their personal life.
And for their experience, it’s things like being able to find the right physician, know what they need to do before an appointment, and feeling like they’re educated throughout their care journey.
So how are you using this information that you're collecting and finding about consumers in in your marketing?
I think it fits in the marketing part of it because we are the voice of the customer. We have the tools to listen to them, to survey them. And we can impact the customer experience in our marketing.
It’s interesting you said that the customers weren’t very interested in wearables and emerging technology and yet in hospital marketing, a lot of it is moving toward this kind of innovation piece. How are you seeing those two things meld?
I think that what we surmised based on what we heard from customers is that it's not that they're not interested in technology. It's more like they want the technology that can help with their experience. So, if the technology can make it easier to get their appointment, if it can figure out their pain points faster, if it can make it more convenient to get their prescription filled or to schedule various kinds of appointments.
It's just simple things, and maybe that indicates that healthcare just has a long way to go when it comes to customer experience.
What do you think are some opportunities that hospital marketers are missing out on?
I would probably say that in healthcare, we have more access to customer data than almost any other industry. What other industry knows as much detail about a person's body and health history and life than we do? And yet we don't really do anything with that data outside of the very thin sliver of the clinical encounter when the patient is in one of our hospitals or clinics. We’re getting actual patient data when they’re in the hospital or at the clinic and we use it for a very, very brief period. We don’t use these rich data as effectively as we need to in order to serve customers across their entire lives – long before the cross the threshold of one of our facilities, and long after they’ve left. And that's, I think, the biggest miss in healthcare marketing.
What are some ways you think marketers could use that data?
We should be using data in order to improve clinical care, but also to improve the customer experience for people. And in my mind, that is marketing. If you do that well, people will come to you because you're providing value.
We're trying to make things so much easier and better and more convenient and better clinical outcomes and so on and so forth that people are happy. They want to opt in, to participate in programs to share some of their data that's meaningful, useful to them.
So, going back to what you were saying about the data your team has collected. You guys have done all this research, and you have your list of priorities to act on. How did you present that to your stakeholders to get them to move forward with some of your recommendations?
When I first started, my leaders definitely got the vision and supported it. But it wasn’t prioritized quite high enough to get the funds to do something about it until about a year ago when HonorHealth hired a Chief Transformation Officer, and it’s like the system made a commitment to transforming healthcare and focusing on the customer experience.
After that, my team and I did a lot of presentations to our leaders about the tie between this type of marketing and the bottom line. It’s not as direct as some marketing tactics, but there’s a clear connection to the bottom line. So that was always my focus in addition to using their language, their metrics, and the way they look at things.
It sounds like you’re very passionate about marketing and healthcare in general. How did you get started in this industry?
You know, right out of college, I knew I wanted to be in healthcare marketing. I loved marketing mainly because I see it as a blend of art and science. And I love using the creative side of my brain but also the analytical side.
And I wanted to be in healthcare marketing specifically because I think that healthcare, frankly, hasn't done marketing very well. And I see a huge opportunity to improve marketing in an industry that is behind the times when it comes to marketing and also really critical to consumers.
We're not just selling widgets, we’re actually doing something that improves lives.
So, I sought out an internship in healthcare while I was still in college and that turned into a full-time gig. I transferred to different parts of that organization, which was just phenomenal. I ended up being there for about 15 years and then came to HonorHealth closing in on three years now. So, it's been super rewarding. I couldn't have plotted it this way, and I love the way my career is going.
I love that! How have things changed in healthcare marketing since you started to where you are now?
I think we’re so much better now. When I first started, it was really all public relations. Marketing was almost like a swear word. It was distasteful. So, I feel it's just a big transition to get the marketing staff on board and actually call them marketing and help them measure results based on traditional, typical marketing metrics. So, it's changed astronomically. And now hospital marketing is so much more sophisticated and data centric. We have access to way more marketing tools than we used to. It's just been a journey.
Thanks to Craig for sharing his expertise with us! Want more healthcare marketing insights? Check out the related articles below.