We as marketers tend to want to blast forward at light speed, so it’s important to balance our digital strategies with an awareness of the risks involved. HIMSS social media ambassador and health care attorney Matt Fisher sheds light on ways to advance health care innovation while mitigating HIPAA concerns, how health IT can improve the patient experience, early adopter advantages, and his favorite tools to keep his finger on the pulse of the industry.
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Jared Johnson: Hello, my friends, and welcome again to the “Health IT Marketer Podcast,” the podcast that tells the story of innovation in health IT. I am your host, Jared Johnson, your pilot on this crazy rockets hip called healthcare. This is the first and only podcast dedicated to you, to the health IT marketing community. Welcome aboard. If you want to keep up with the voices, trends, and marketing tools of today’s health IT and healthcare technology, you are in the right place.
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All right, listeners. Well, my guest this week is HIMSS social media ambassador and friend of the program, Matt Fisher. Matt, good morning, how are you doing?
Matt Fisher: I’m doing well. How about you? Thanks for having me on. Excited to join what’s been a very illustrious group of guests that you’ve had.
Jared Johnson: Yeah, so you’re joining quite a lineup of rockstar guests. I make it no secret that that’s one thing that I like to think separates this program is just the quality of guests we have on. All I’m doing is helping cue the conversation. So yeah, I’m very grateful to have you today. And for our listeners, this is quite a feat to actually get you and me connected on the line here, had some technical difficulties on my end. So thanks for taking the time out today. Why don’t we start out just right at the beginning? Let’s give our listeners a little bit more of a chance to get to know you a little bit better. Tell us a little about your background and what you’re doing in your current role.
Matt Fisher: Sure. So I’m a healthcare attorney. I focus a lot on regulatory issues, so thinking a lot about HIPAA, fraud and abuse laws such as the Stark Law and the Anti-Kickback Statute. Those are two laws that cover relationships between providers, which it’s physicians or hospitals or laboratory companies or pharmacy companies, and kind of restrict how they can interact with each other. So I kind of take those regulations and then use those to help inform when I’m helping my clients structure relationships, whether it be a service agreement or merging or acquiring really any type of financial relationship that could go between them, or even have investments in those types of companies.
So if you have a physician investing, for example, in a physician practice, you can have some issues, or investing into an ambulatory surgery center. So there is a lot of interaction and a lot of complexity that ends up arising in healthcare, just because of the regulatory scheme. I often like to say that for healthcare, you have to treat it about 180 degrees from most other industries because of how the regulations operate. Which, from my perspective, doesn’t mean you can’t do what you want to do, it just means you might have to take a different path than you might have thought of because what’s a very sound and good business idea elsewhere, unfortunately, will not work in healthcare, many times.
Jared Johnson: So what are some of the common roles where that intersects with the marketing function of one of these companies that you’ve worked with versus just a purely legal or regulatory standpoint? What are some of the common things you’re dealing with from a marketing standpoint?
Matt Fisher: Right. From the marketing standpoint, clearly, HIPAA is going to be a big issue there. Thinking of, you know, like a physician practice, if they want to send out marketing communications to their patients, there are pretty strict definitions of what marketing means under HIPAA. And you have to either get an authorization, which will give you quite a bit of freedom because any time an individual gives you an authorization and essentially consents to the communication, that that’s going to be almost a trump card for a lot of instances. But then there are some limited instances where you don’t need that authorization for a marketing communication.
It’s actually interesting. Today, I’m currently working with a client on marketing concerns because it impacts, for example, internal newsletters that they might want to do that could potentially have pictures of residents or patients that would be at the facility and also how they utilize social media. Because I think we’ve certainly heard that a lot of healthcare entities either are hesitant to use social media or kind of slowly getting into it. And you definitely want to keep an eye on regulations such as HIPAA when you’re doing so because you want to make sure that you’re not inadvertently sending out information that you shouldn’t be when you make a post on social media.
Especially because everyone loves to see images, if you’re a hospital and you have a picture of a patient up there, I’d suggest you really want to have an authorization to go along with that because, otherwise, you’re likely displaying PHI and doing so in a public manner without authorization or consent, which can land you in hot water. And certainly, over the years, I’ve seen reports of that.
Kind of one of the most famous ones is a physician from an island who worked in the emergency room went home after a shift and talked about a patient that they had seen during that shift. Didn’t give the name, tried to keep it somewhat general in nature, but because it was such a unique case, the patient was able to be identified and that resulted in a HIPAA violation. So I think that kind of just goes back as an example of you can do what you want to do, especially when you want to . . . in terms of marketing, but you just have to be thoughtful and considerate in how you approach it.
Jared Johnson: So a very good, levelheaded direction, like you said, it’s not an absolute no. There’s just maybe a different road to a lot of the same things that marketers would like to do, so I really appreciate that perspective.
Matt Fisher: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, keep a level head and ask questions, and seek advice. I think you can save yourself a lot of trouble by making a quick phone call and talking about it. It could be if you’re in an organization and you have HIPAA requirements, it could be a quick phone call to your privacy officer or your security officer or maybe your compliance committee. Or seek the assistance of a consultant, because it could be a pretty quick thing to address ahead of time and avoid many larger headaches down the road if you do something where you end up violating the regulations and invite someone to investigate you or report you for an issue.
Jared Johnson: Well, I’ll tell you what, let’s dive in a little bit more along these lines. Let’s dive in a little bit regarding patient experience because there’s been a lot of talk about patient experience. And what I’m seeing is just, first and foremost, a variety of definitions of what that means. To a clinical team, I’m seeing that means something completely different than, for the most part, somebody involved in marketing or somebody involved on your end. So I’m wondering, first and foremost, what does patient experience mean to you, and how we improve it?
Matt Fisher: Yeah, that is an interesting question because I agree with you. It seems like everybody you ask has a different definition. And it’s not just patient experience. It seems like all of us have different definitions for a lot of the hot terms that are out there, thinking of population health, value-based care. But in terms of the patient experience, to me, it means trying to recognize and appreciate the patient’s voice.
I think kind of the traditional, old, maybe old-fashioned or old-school perception was that the physician knows best and that the patient should just listen to what the physician suggests. I think that’s gradually changing. Not to say that the physician voice is not extremely important because, clearly, the physicians have received, obviously, specialized training and have probably a broader and more detailed understanding of a lot of diseases or illnesses or injuries and kind of the interactions among those with different treatment options. But at the same time, the patient, on an individual basis, arguably knows their body best and how they’ve responded to things in the past.
If you have a good dialogue with your physician, or whoever your provider is, and you have kind of an equal voice, then you’re going to be able to bring forth the best information possible, which I think will result in better quality and more efficient care. So kind of a very roundabout way of saying it, but I think, to me, the patient experience means making the patient part of that care team and allowing the patient to have a role and a say in what’s going on, but recognizing at the same time the special training and the special knowledge that each side can bring.
So just because you’re involving the patient in having an increased say doesn’t mean to counter kind of that common retail statement that the consumer is always right. The patient maybe isn’t always right. But if that message is conveyed, I think, in a constructive and open manner, then I think you can avoid a lot of the frustration that you can see expressed by engaged patients online and in social media perspectives or in other mediums.
Because, to me, at least, it seems like a lot of those issues seem to stem from the feeling that you’re not being listened to or you’re not being respected. Which, as I said, to me, doesn’t mean you have to agree with what’s being stated. But if you at least acknowledge what’s being said and kind of from the provider perspective can help explain why the drug you see on TV or something you read online isn’t necessarily the best course in the particular circumstance, I think that will result in a better outcome at the end of the day.
Jared Johnson: Well, what’s the role of health IT tools, the EHR, the remote monitoring program, virtual health, wearables, all the devices and platforms that we tend to focus on the technology of them in health IT space? What’s their role in the patient experience? I mean, is there an early adopter advantage for a health organization that outweighs the risks? Because there definitely are risks involved.
Matt Fisher: Yeah. No, I definitely agree with you. There are risks. Just to kind of start from the risk level and then kind of dive a little bit more into, I think, the four or five questions, I think, were contained in your statement there. From the risk level, for me, from the legal perspective, obviously, there are concerns about all the data being generated and where it’s going, who’s reviewing it, who’s doing what with it.
Because I worry that if, for example, a patient’s wearable, say they’ve got some type of heartbeat monitor or some other function on maybe an Apple watch or some other device like that that could arguably show some type of an arrhythmia or other potential concern about their bodily functioning. And that device is connected into a provider’s EMR, for example, so that data’s flowing in, what happens if no one looks at that data and then an adverse outcome happens?
For example, taking that heart example. I’ll be honest. I’m not sure exactly how detailed the information can get from each device, but what if shows that there was an impending heart attack and there was no response because, again, that data wasn’t reviewed? Could that create exposure for a potential professional liability? So, to me, I definitely agree that there’s a lot of promise and there’s a lot of benefit that can come out of this. But I think given the potential liability concerns, it should be adopted in a measured and considerate manner.
So kind of circling around to the question that you had about what’s the role for all these health IT tools, I think, in my opinion, one of the roles is it can help provide essentially a universal or a day-to-day perspective on what’s going on with each individual. I think it’s been an oft-repeated statement that 99% of our individual lives, if not more, occurs outside of the knowledge or ability to see our physicians and other medical providers. So if they can somehow be able to get that data or information about our daily lives, then that can help better understand what’s going on or what’s potentially causing an issue, I think that could be extremely valuable for the delivery of healthcare services.
But we can’t just be providing the raw data, it’s got to be coming in in a useful and, I guess, utilizable format. If we just flood data in, I think it’s going to end up causing more headaches than not. So I think we’re still very much in those early stages.
And it kind of comes to the last piece of your question, which was, you know, is there an advantage to being an early adopter? It really depends. I think if you’ve got an organization that wants to come in early and has experience working with some of these digital tools or is able to quickly adapt, then maybe that’s a good thing. But if you’ve got an organization where you have concerns or you’re not quite sure how it’s going to fit in, I think kind of taking it a little bit more slowly is going to make sense. So I think like with many tools and many changes, there’s going to be a very broad spectrum in terms of adoption and use. And I think each organization really needs to assess its own operations and then be able to figure out what is best for its unique circumstances.
Jared Johnson: Well, I’m glad you actually have . . . you have an opportunity now. You’re going to have a new channel to talk more about these types of issues because you actually have your own new program on HealthcareNOW Radio. Tell us about that. I mean, tell us how you decided to start that and what topics are you discussing.
Matt Fisher: Yeah, no, thank you. It’s been exciting. To some degree, I try to model what I do on my program, which is called “Healthcare Du Jour.” After programs like yours and some of the others within our, I guess, HITsm and health IT community. But the general goal is to talk about hot topics in healthcare. So we launched with our first episode at the end of April. We record twice a month and it’s through the HealthIT Answers Network so some of your listeners might be familiar with the HITECH Answers website. So it’s the same group behind it.
But we’re just going to, you know . . . picking off interesting people that we want to talk to. So, for example, Deven McGraw from the Office for Civil Rights was the first guest. On July 12, Regina Holiday is going to be my guest. And I’ve got Lucia Savage as a guest later in July. John Halamka was a guest. So it’s really just trying to find people who are maybe in the news or talking about some interesting topics and really being able to get their perspectives. So it’s kind of scattershot and just going all over the place, which is kind of nice because it’s a great way to be able to learn about a lot of different issues.
Jared Johnson: How do you personally kind of curate topics? I am curious. Not even just for the program itself, but how do you kind of keep your finger on the pulse of what the health IT world is talking about?
Matt Fisher: Kind of breaking that apart for the show, in terms of finding guests, it’s really collaborating with Carol Flag from the HealthIT Answers Network. Carol and Roberta Mullin, you know, the two of them are the full scope of the operation there, and they are fantastic. The three of us work together to find a guest for the show and doing the reach-out. So I certainly cannot claim all the credit.
Backing up for second to your previous question, in terms of how I started doing the show. They actually proposed it to me because they saw it as a unique opportunity and we’ve enjoyed working together over the past couple years. They’ve had me on as a guest on some of their other programs and I contribute articles for their website. So it’s that it is definitely collaborative.
But then in terms of how on a day-to-day basis do I keep my finger on the pulse of health IT, Twitter is by far the most useful and beneficial tool that I’ve got. Just trying to follow and find some of the thought leaders and some of the reporters and news sources. I can learn things on Twitter probably hours in advance of any other source, which, to me, is just incredible. The speed of information there is just unfathomable and something that really didn’t exist a few years ago.
And then I’m lucky enough to have two computer screens at my desk so my Twitter feed is up on one of them all the time. So I can keep an eye on it out of the corner of my eye. And then just interacting. And the people who I really like that I’ve met through Twitter, if it’s possible, set up an in-person meeting or do a phone call and it’s kind of creating that larger network.
Because social media, as I said, is great, but it’s only one aspect of things. I really have to use it in conjunction with, I hate to say, “old-fashioned tools,” but nothing really beats a phone call or a face-to-face meeting. And then that also leads to, if you go to a conference, being able to walk in maybe not having met somebody, but at least being able to set up to meet maybe an online friend in person, and it makes it a lot easier to walk into a large conference.
Kind of at the start, you mentioned HIMSS. It was my first time attending the HIMSS Annual. And to walk into a place where there were over 40,000 people, when I’m used to going to legal conferences where there are a couple hundred people, it made it a lot easier to know that I could reach out to people like you or others that I follow or interact with on Twitter and be able to find a friendly face.
Jared Johnson: Do you have a favorite social media management tool? I know Hootsuite and TweetDeck are a couple of favorites. I’ve heard of several others. Is there one that you like to use more often than others?
Matt Fisher: Yeah, so I use TweetDeck for Twitter. I initially used Hootsuite, but then I honestly was starting to get somewhat annoyed with the fact that it doesn’t refresh the columns as quickly as I wanted it to. Being able to get the constant stream on TweetDeck is helpful, and it seems like I can see more on my screen at once on TweetDeck as opposed to Hootsuite. And honestly, I also pre-schedule a lot of things just because I actually do have a day job that I need to focus on and I can’t just be tweeting all day long, no matter how much my addiction to Twitter wants me to do that.
So you can be a lot more refined in terms of scheduling through TweetDeck. You can pick really any minute that you want as opposed to, I think, it’s in five-minute increments on Hootsuite. So it’s arguably somewhat restrictive. Although, again, the benefit of Hootsuite was I could tap other social networks. But since I do most of my posting on Twitter, TweetDeck seems to do the job, although I do like LinkedIn as well. But my view on it is that I limit my posting on LinkedIn to two to three times per week because I don’t view it as a place where you want to inundate with too many messages per day or per week or, at least in my opinion, people start getting annoyed with what you’re doing.
Jared Johnson: Well, it is. It’s important to have frequency down and have a good sense for what people are engaging with and what they’re responding to so that’s why I was curious which tool you found useful as well. So, perfect.
Well, to kind of distill all this down into just a couple of tips here. What would you say is your number one tip for health IT marketers?
Matt Fisher: For a number one tip, I would have to go with know your market. When you’re trying to send messages out or engage people, I really suggest that it’s important to know who you’re going after, what they’re thinking about, what’s important to them, and not try and fit your solution into what you perceive to be their problem. But find their problem, then figure out how to mold what you’re trying to do to what they really need.
And even though I’m not necessarily straight in healthcare as an attorney, I still need to market my services because I still have to find clients. For me, one of the more enjoyable things is to sit down and meet with people. Even if I don’t think they could be a client, I just like to know what’s going on in the industry. Because if I know what’s going on, then I can better talk about the issues and know how my knowledge can fit in with what they’re encountering.
And sometimes, having those conversations is almost better than trying to do a marketing pitch because you get to show that you’re listening to them, you’re finding out what’s their concern. Do your background work and don’t just come in with an off- the-shelf or cookie-cutter presentation. If someone’s taking the time to meet with you, then respect that and really interact with them. And that can be extremely valuable.
Jared Johnson: Well, speaking of interacting, we have a question from a listener to the program which I want to throw out here to you. This is from Chris Hemphill and he has a question about potential HIPAA concerns with channels like Facebook, Messenger and chat bots to improve experience. Do you have any comments on that?
Matt Fisher: Yes. There are healthcare-specific tools that probably mimic some of those functions where you can be assured that the connection between the provider and the patient is secure and that minimizes the potential security concerns. That being said, if you have a patient who specifically consents to and authorizes that you communicate with them through a certain medium, on the provider side, you can do that. I would strongly encourage clearly documenting that the patient directed you to communicate in that manner so that way if something comes up in the future where there’s a concern that information is getting out, there’s the background evidence that you actually have followed through on what they’re looking for.
Even with that being said, though, I would probably strongly caution against using general commercial products or solutions. Because like Facebook Messenger, I haven’t dived into the terms of service, but I would have a lot of concerns that any information that is posted through Facebook Messenger, Facebook can retain a copy of that information. So you have a lot of concerns on that front when you’re using tools that aren’t necessarily geared towards healthcare and where your information can end up. So that’s why I think it is helpful to use, oftentimes, specific solutions that have been created with HIPAA compliance and healthcare-specific needs in mind.
Jared Johnson: Excellent. And thanks, Chris, for that question too, because that’s an important question. And I can tell you, having recently moved over to a provider again, that question does come up quite often.
So we’ve time for our bonus question here as we’re wrapping up. And that is, “If you join a music group or artist for a single day, just one day, who would that be?
Matt Fisher: So, I’m going to go with my favorite bank, which is Aerosmith, the bad boys from Boston. I would not dispute that they are one of the greatest American rock bands ever.
Jared Johnson: I don’t think I would dispute that either. So any particular era of Aerosmith that you enjoy the most?
Matt Fisher: Most of the ’70s is amazing. Clearly, when the drug problems were popping up and interrupting things as you get toward the end of the decade, you got some problems that, I think, what was it? “Rock in a Hard Place” when Joe Perry wasn’t there. I’ll be honest, not one of my favorite albums. And then the late ’80s into the mid-’90s is a reinvention from them in more peak form. And then I really enjoyed the blues cover album, “Honkin’ on Bobo” that they did. I guess that’s probably the early 2000s already. It’s amazing how quickly the time goes by. But on the whole, I enjoy everything that they do.
Jared Johnson: Well, they have done a lot so I guess that gives you a lot to work with, doesn’t it?
Matt Fisher: [inaudible 00:26:15] a pretty significant corner of my iPod.
Jared Johnson: Well, Matt, I have enjoyed being able to chat with you today. If our listeners want to learn a little bit more or get to know you a little bit better or have a question for you, what’s the best way for them to reach you?
Matt Fisher: I would say you can get me on Twitter, and my handle is @matt_r_fisher, and Fisher is F-I-S-H-E-R, or e-mail is often always a good way, and that’s mfisher, so that’s firstname.lastname@example.org, Mirick O’Connell dot com. Unfortunately, a little bit of a long address, but it’s important that everyone know the name of the firm.
Jared Johnson: Absolutely. Well, I appreciate the time again. And hopefully, we’ll have you again on soon, and hopefully, it won’t be mired in so many technical difficulties next time. But thanks for your patience and being a guest, and I look forward to sharing this with our listeners.
Matt Fisher: Yeah, no, thank you again. I really enjoyed it and I’m just happy you were able to make it work and we were both able to have open spots on our schedules.
Jared Johnson: All right. We’ll see you next time. Thanks a lot.
Matt Fisher: All right. Thank you. Have a good day.
Jared Johnson: Well, that wraps up the program this week. Let me know what you thought. Send me a shout-out @jaredpiano on Twitter, jaredpiano, J-A-R-E-D-P-I-A-N-O. You can also leave me a review and subscribe on iTunes, on Stitcher Radio, or on PodBean. Ladies and gentlemen, remember, it is up to us to tell the story of innovation and health IT. And remember to build your audience one gig at a time.
Until next time, I’m Jared Johnson and you’ve been listening to the “Health IT Marketer Podcast.” This program is sponsored by Clarity Quest, marketing experts who speak fluent healthcare. For a full archive of previous episodes, you can go to healthitmarketer.com. That’s healthitmarketer.com. Thanks again, and I’ll talk to you again next time.