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Top 10 Insights from HCIC 2023 for Healthcare Marketing Leaders

Kayla Brown and Marlana Voerster at HCIC 2023

I recently had the pleasure of attending HCIC – The Healthcare Internet Conference with Perficient’s Senior Healthcare Strategist, Kayla Brown. Kayla and I were both invited to speak at the conference, and, while we were there, we took full advantage of the great learning opportunities that always arise with the industry comes together. Kayla spoke about driving consumer centricity with enterprise digital experience platforms and I joined Bayhealth’s Digital Innovation and Consumer Experience Program Manager Leigh Ann Coleman on strategies for optimizing recruitment, retention, and staff engagement approaches in health systems, and how Bayhealth as found success thanks to their recent careers-driven project. While we hope we brought great insights to the attendees, we certainly gained our share as we attended sessions, chatted with our peers, and kept our finger firmly on the pulse of the healthcare industry. So, without further adieu, here are our top insights from HCIC 2023.  

 1. People love superlatives

In an HCIC keynote session, John Youshaei, Forbes writer and former marketing lead at YouTube and Instagram, explored core principles of writing for a consumer audience, especially on social channels. His entire talk was engaging and thoughtful, but our ears especially perked up when John referenced our high school yearbook days and a love for somewhat meaningless superlatives.  

We often find ourselves gravitating to this narrative in the content we consume online. Top 10. Best and Worst. — These headlines and their supporting stories provide a contextual benchmark, or if we’re being really honest, a research shortcut.  

What we recognized in John’s approach is that by adding individual perspective we can hold ourselves accountable to the connection that links content with the nuances of our organizations and audiences. (And we hope you see that commitment to connection demonstrated in the “Top 10” list we’ve prepared here!) 

 2. Use AI to your advantage

Throughout so many of the sessions we circled around the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) – and for years we have been leveraging it without worry that autocorrect, or grammar check, would take our jobs. The theme was leveraging AI to do the portion of your task you hate the most, consumes the most time, or falls outside of your skillset. If that is overcoming blank-page syndrome – use it to create the first draft of your copy. If that is understanding how to process data models, find a way to make it work for you.  

Obviously, these are two wildly different scenarios – but finding ways to leverage AI to make you better at your job, or make your organization better, leaves you more time to spend providing input or context, providing a differentiated view, or answering complex problems. AI is not at the point where it can take our jobs; human intervention is key. We must work hard to provide the human element necessary to refine the model – and not approach it with fear, but with the goal of controlling and enhancing the experience. 

YOU MAY ENJOY: Generative AI in Healthcare

3. Converge the silos

As teams expand and roles and responsibilities blur, it is more critical than ever to remove silos and build cross-functional teams to drive forward consumer-focused, complex solutions. But when this is in play, how do we create structure, ownership and autonomy? In a hallway conversation, we talked about the difficulties of the decision by committee and how they put a lot of pressure on consensus which is not always possible.  

How can we move the conversation to assuming positive intent and building trust with other areas of our organization? While at the same time making movement to more Agile processes and a faster iteration cycle to de-risk those outputs, knowing that we will use learnings live to reiterate? One answer is to understand that a great experience requires the consumer knowledge that marketing brings to the table, the technical know-how that technology teams provide, the medical knowledge that clinical partners contribute, and many, many more stakeholders from across the organization. A great digital experience simply can’t be created without cross-department collaboration. 

Kayla Brown speaks at HCIC on consumer centricity

Senior Strategist Kayla Brown speaks at HCIC 2023 on Consumer Centricity With an Enterprise Digital Experience Platform

 4. Recruitment and retention require a team effort

Speaking of silos, recruitment and retention is another place where we see a significant impact. No longer can we rely that there is a pool of staff large enough to fill all our open positions – and keep marketing to our highly competitive roles. Instead, we must focus on a partnership to derive the greatest result – bringing together HR, Clinical Leadership, Marketing, Business and Technology stakeholders to help solve for the only limited resource (our people).  

As colleagues are continuing to be asked to do more with less, we need to think about the ways that our solutions are driving economies of scale, and the impact that new solutions have on our retention efforts.  

Marlana Voerster speaks at HCIC 2023 on recruitment and retention in healthcare

Marlana Voerster speaks at HCIC 2023 Master Class: Recruit, Retain and Engage Job Seekers: How Bayhealth Excels in a Highly Competitive Job Market.

 5. Momentum to hire internally and build domain expertise

Digital is not going anywhere, and as the influence of digital and technology expand to marketing, consumer support, business development, and patient experience, many organizations are thinking of ways to grow those capabilities internally. Though this comes with tremendous upside, it can sometimes come with a steep learning curve. Healthcare is complex, heavily regulated and often not a factor of consumer choice [who do you know that wants to go to their physical] – making it different than a lot of other consumer-focused industries – however, customer obsession should be our numbe

r one priority. How do we take the innovation and new ideas coming from our domain and technology experts and challenge ourselves to think differently about the ways health systems and health plans have traditionally done things? How can we then think of partnerships, technologies and consulting relationships to either support scale, or solve complex challenges?  

 6. Reduction of point solutions

Another topic that consistently got talked about was the decision to consolidate spending and reduce point solutions. As any good seller knows, there a lot of people in a health system or health plan with buying autonomy – and often point solutions are built around those use cases and dollar amounts – what we are left with is a number of technologies aimed at solving specific problems and built for singular purpose. The question becomes how do you consolidate? How do you start to identify what is out there, understand the way those tools are being used, and, if appropriate, make a choice – 1. scale them to the enterprise or 2. retire them, in favor of a more robust solution. The wake of this consolidation can leave you with a variety of use cases that compete in priority, and that has left teams with overflowing backlogs and lack of strategic direction. 

 7. Fractured brand experiences still pose challenges

Much to the chagrin of marketing managers everywhere, we are still seeing organizations struggle with creating a holistic brand experience. Many still run across rogue landing pages or micro sites and are seeing some parts of their organizations adopt martech solutions to solve individual awareness goals. While this wack-a-mole is frustrating, it also creates problems for the brand itself, from inconsistent experiences to content and messaging that fails to align with the mother ship. Not to mention the SEO implications and valuable sets of data locked in silos. For marketers, educating internal audiences on the value of a consistent, aligned brand experience (and acting as the brand police, from time to time) continues to be a valuable – and critical – part of the job.  

 8. The digital front door isn’t the start of the journey

For most healthcare consumers (even ones loyal to a health system) the journey does not begin at your digital front door. As much as we would love to own that experience from start to finish, the reality is that journey likely begins with an offline conversation, a google search, a referral from a friend in the context of a conversation, or a health topic article in a separate publication. This can have both positive and negative impact on our content strategy. For one, stop investing in stock content – though it is important to have baseline content so consumers can find available services – without perspective or differentiation, it is unlikely to outperform other available resources – instead invest that time and energy in ways that resonate with consumers through peer validation, provider perspectives, and simple clear messaging. Two, think differently about where those consumers are within their action funnel – assuming this is their fourth interaction on the topic, will help us define clear calls to action that align with their journey to make intelligent choices on how to best engage them. The influence of non-digital channels and the available digital ecosystem cannot be ignored when it comes to the influence they have over patients and prospective patients.

9. We’re moving beyond the digital front door

In the land of acquisition and retention we need to level up our conversations surrounding digital front door to include the entire patient experience. In a talk led by Cris Ross and Edward Marx, two CIOs turned patients in the face of cancer, they highlighted the way that even for those of us who live our lives in healthcare, the complexity of receiving care can sometimes feel insurmountable. Complexities like government regulations, privacy, health insurance coverage, and even those that are system-imposed often get in the way of delivering simplified, consumer-centric and quality care that meets the needs of our patients and their families. Historically silos have made it nearly impossible to drive real change when it comes to things like ease of access, referral management, patient education and resources – but as access diminishes, and new players enter the market (that are not bound by traditional methodology, our focus needs to broaden to think differently about the challenges that our patients face. We must push our healthcare leaders to think differently than traditional models and create buy-in with key stakeholders who are looking to push the envelope in an effort deliver care in the right way. We hear this is going to be a book soon – it is going on our must read list. 

10. Everybody owns the experience – yes, even your patient consumers

One of our biggest takeaways is that no one group within an organization ‘owns’ the digital experience, for better or worse. It is a group effort in the truest sense, and organizations need to ensure that whoever the digital experience rolls up to understands that they are similar to a conductor of a large group of musicians, they need to harness the skills of each of their ‘musicians’ and lead the group to play in harmony to create beautiful music, or an engaging website, as the case may be.  

But patient consumers are part of this symphony, too. After all, their needs, preferences, and expectations are driving the digital experience forward. When teams can put the patient at the center of their cross-department collaboration, memorable experiences can happen.  


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Marlana Voerster

Marlana Voerster is a Senior Healthcare Strategist at Perficient, where she works with providers and MedTech, pharma, and digital health organizations to build brand loyalty and enhance the patient experience through customer-centric digital experiences.

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