Les Lifter is the Chief Marketing Officer at Stanford Children’s Health where he leads marketing and communications efforts across the Stanford pediatric healthcare enterprise, including Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.
In your opinion, how is the role of marketing changing in healthcare?
Healthcare has evolved into a much more consumer-centric and consumer-driven industry which means that the marketing department gets to sit in the driver’s seat. For the first time, healthcare marketers are getting an opportunity to look at patients as both patients and consumers.
Health systems are now competing for customers which forces us to change our approach. We have the opportunity to influence the overall patient experience and create stronger relationships. In order to do this we need to look at the the patient experience in three buckets: access, treatment, and proactive engagement.
Healthcare professionals have the middle section handled. We’re all really good at treating the sick, especially in an acute situation. This is why physicians became physicians in the first place.
Where we need to improve and can differentiate ourselves for a greater impact is in the other two areas: Access and Proactive Engagement. We are now asking the questions – How do we ensure patients are accessing our system and how do we keep them well between visits?
How are marketing teams using data to better target consumers or in many cases, the providers themselves, to choose Stanford?
I’d like to see healthcare approach the market like a consumer-goods industry – meaning that we need to treat our patients as valuable customers and proactively reach out to them. We need to create and track different metrics in order to facilitate new behaviors and truly understand our patients needs and behaviors.
Here’s how we’re thinking about the new metrics::
- Branding: From familiarity to trust
- Traditional metric: Do they know our name?
- New metric: Will they refer us to their friends and family?
- Engagement: From mailers and clicks to personalized email
- Traditional metric: How many clicks did we get on our website?
- New metric: Are we providing a tailored care plan with recommendations? How many patients complete their next best actions?
- Business metrics: From service line utilization to reducing network leakage
- Traditional metric: P&L based on service lines
- New metric: How many appointments stayed in our network? Recognize the value of your PCPs and how much value they drive to your highly profitable service lines.
Historically we have not been able to make direct links of our marketing activities and those performance or business metrics, but that is starting to change. As we evolve, we are beginning to leverage the data within our EMR to get smarter about when we correspond and engage with both our patients and their families, as well as with providers, either our own or on the referral path.
How do you think of consumer loyalty, such as building loyalty or tracking loyalty from either the provider or patient’s perspective, at Stanford Children’s?
There is not a simple answer to that, unfortunately, because we have so many different types of patients and situations. For example, if your child needed a transplant, God forbid, and comes to Stanford – nothing else matters except for that middle bucket that I talked about – treatment. If we successfully do a transplant for your child, you are loyal for life because we did something no one else could do for you. That’s the easy side.
The more difficult scenario includes the 99.7% of the population that never need a transplant, making wellness care and other types of sub-specialty care the areas where we need to find ways to drive loyalty among patients. Suddenly, the factors that might lead to patient loyalty are less about care and more about things like how easy we are to access or how is our post-appointment follow up? It’s about providing information about health topics a patient is interested in to become their trusted healthcare advisor. These seemingly basic touchpoints can make all the difference in how a patient feels about us – even before he or she has walked in the door.
With competition increasing in all forms, loyalty is becoming a much larger piece of customer (patient) retention, and one that we will have to make a priority if we want to stay competitive in this rapidly changing industry. The move to a customer-centric model also provides a great opportunity to keep healthy patients healthier and mitigate health episodes for chronic care patients.