This originally appeared on the Health IT Marketing and PR Conference (HITMC) blog. Jared is speaking at HITMC 2015 on May 7-8.

I’m a huge Survivor fan. The show is the grandfather of reality TV and is still running after 15 years and 29 seasons.

For those unfamiliar with the show’s premise, contestants live in the remote wilderness for several weeks and are voted off one at a time. There is an individual winner, but they are initially divided into tribes. This becomes their new family. They camp, cook, eat, compete and endure the elements together. Their tribes are their teams during challenges, and the winning contestants are frequently those who gain their tribemates’ favor most quickly. As long as a team keeps winning challenges, no one gets voted out at tribal council, so they have a huge incentive to work together.

The Merge

When both tribes have been sufficiently depleted from too many vote-offs, they reach what’s called the merge. They combine and create a new name. Contestants who rock the boat too hard or make enemies at this stage often get voted out without a further thought. In a twist, a group of the final contestants who have been voted out become the jury that eventually selects the winner. You can imagine the incentive to play well with others throughout the entire game.

Historically, health care IT and Marketing have been able to remain as two separate tribes, living in separate camps. But digital marketing is bringing them to the merge whether they want to or not. The Web, social media and mobile have each come around and slowly forced the two tribes to set up camp together. There are countless examples of how they interact and need one another. Marketing may craft the content of a website, but they typically require partnering with IT to implement the CMS that publishes those contents. IT may have the developer resources to code a native app, but they may need Marketing to advise on the user experience to ensure that buttons, menus and swipes function as expected.

The degree to which the Marketing and IT tribes collaborate is one of the greatest indicators of how well health care organizations will succeed in this age. Forrester Research recently identified the need to create a list of shared objectives:

To deliver smarter experiences … marketing leaders must break away from the pack by working with their counterparts in the CIO’s organization to accelerate what Forrester calls the business technology (BT) agenda, a shared to-do list across roles for applying technology systems, and processes to win, serve, and retain customers.

Thomas Husson and Julie A. Ask. “Predictions 2015: Most Brands Will Underinvest in Mobile.” Forrester Research. November 11, 2014.

Beyond “Breaking Down Silos”

Creating a shared agenda is easier said than done. How often have you heard Marketing concerned about uptime, bandwidth or scalability, or IT worried about cost-per-lead or font faces? Some days, do we wonder if Marketers come from Mars and IT pros come from Venus?

So what does it take to bring together two camps that, by nature, don’t have a lot in common? I believe it requires a fundamental culture shift. We have to go beyond the buzz phrase of “breaking down silos.” To start, it requires mutual respect for members of the other tribe and acknowledgement of their contributions to the mission. A mix of in-person tactics and communications materials, particularly when upper management is involved, can send the right message. This can be done in several ways such as departmental Lunch ‘N’ Learns, Intranet content, social mixers and newsletters. Communication, as usual, is key.

Collaboration also requires empathy – putting yourself in the other tribe’s shoes. Do you view one another as equal contributors to the organization’s success? Is your digital strategy held together by a string of “band-aid” fixes? Does Marketing have a standardized process to intake new project requests and communicate the technical business requirements to the appropriate IT teams? Do you involve one another early in project planning and consider their input valuable rather than ignore it? Marketing may not consider it an issue to have microsites floating around on multiple servers on different platforms, but it may drive IT out of their minds.

Impact on Patient Care

The greatest impact of merging the Marketing and IT tribes may be the innovative solutions to patient care that have yet to come. Joint brainstorming sessions and shared objectives on an industry-wide scale will revolutionize the ways we use EHRs, clinical applications, mobile devices, remote monitoring, content management systems, patient portals, marketing automation and other data sources.

It’s the way we will not only survive, but thrive, in today’s health care marketplace.