You won’t want to miss this jam-packed interview with John Lynn, founder of HealthcareScene.com and co-founder of HITMC — the Healthcare IT Marketing and PR Conference. Hear John’s compelling behind-the-scenes anecdotes, plus musings on why community is so important for health IT, trends that should get your attention, and the future of healthcare marketing.
*We apologize that the audio is of lower quality on this episode at times than we would typically like, but this interview is so packed that we begged the sound elves to work their magic. It turned out pretty well, we’d like to think. Thanks, elves.*
Air Date: September 9, 2015
Guest: John Lynn, founder of HealthcareScene.com and co-founder of HITMC — the Healthcare IT Marketing and PR Conference
|1:23||Introducing John Lynn|
|2:27||What is the health IT marketing community?|
|6:48||Health IT is a complex sell with more than one point of contact|
|7:50||How John founded the HITMC|
|10:20||HITMC was starting a community, not just a conference|
|12:06||The conference has grown|
|13:51||How HealthcareScene.com started|
|17:26||What to do when the lawyers contact you|
|20:35||Bonus question #1: What is the best book you’ve read lately?|
|22:48||The future of healthcare blogging|
|26:42||3 steps to blogging success|
|29:08||What trends should health IT marketers pay attention to in the next 3 years?|
|33:22||What innovations will disrupt health IT in the next 2-3 years?|
|39:13||Join the HITMC community|
|41:07||Bonus question #2: If you could join any music group or rock band for a day, who would it be?|
“In healthcare IT, one thing we’ve found is that it’s a very complex sales process. It’s not something where you just see a banner ad and say, ‘Oh I’m going to buy an EMR today!’ and you click through and purchase like we see in a lot of other marketing efforts.”
“[With HITMC] What I found people really desired was the opportunity to network and connect with people who were just like them. They wanted more than just a one-time event; they wanted a community of people that they could connect with ongoing when they’re dealing with issues like, ‘How do I sell this to my C-level executives so I can get budget for marketing?’ Or, ‘Where do I turn for the best health IT publication? What are the right webinar platforms that I should be using to make the most of my marketing efforts? How should I use content marketing? Where should I go for people who know how to write health IT content? Because these churn-and-burn $5-a-post things aren’t working for me because they don’t understand health care. So where do I turn for high quality content?'”
John Lynn is the Editor and Founder of the nationally renowned blog network HealthcareScene.com. The Healthcare Scene network currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 7,000 articles. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. Plus, Healthcare Scene recently added Health IT focused career resources HealthcareITCentral.com and HealthcareITToday.com to the network.
John also co-founded two companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. Plus, John is the Founder of 10 other blogs including the Pure TV Network and Vegas Startups. John’s 25+ blogs have published over 15,000 blog posts, garnered over 30 million views and had over 122,000 comments. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.
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Jared Johnson: Hello again and welcome to the Health IT Marketer podcast, the podcast for the heartbeat of healthcare. I’m your host, Jared Johnson of Ultera Digital, coming to you from the desert beauty once again of Phoenix, Arizona – possibly the hottest place on Earth. Thanks for being on board today and thanks for your contributions to moving health care forward.
If you are enjoying the podcast so far, I would love for you to tweet me your comments. My handle is @JaredPiano. That’s J-A-R-E-D-P-I-A-N-O on Twitter, or you can also post a comment on our podcast web page, which we just got up which is HealthITMarketer.com, if we wow you at all on any of these shows and we would we be thrilled to hear your comments and we hope that this continues to be a part of your own education moving forward.
So I am delighted today to have with me our guest today who may be joining us from the other possibly hottest place on earth right now, from Las Vegas, is John Lynn. For those of you who somehow are not aware or not familiar with John, John is the editor and founder of HealthcareScene.com, the nationally renowned blog network. It contains over 15 blogs right now with over 7,000 articles.
John is a prolific blogger, has been doing this for a number of years. He’s one of the original bloggers to blog on the on the topics of EMRs and healthcare IT related articles. His articles within Healthcare Scene have been viewed over, I believe this is still accurate, over 13 million times. So John has really just about seen it all. He’s also the cofounder of the Healthcare IT Marketing and PR Conference or HITMC, the HITMC conference every year. Anyway, I am delighted to have him on the show today.
I think one of the things that hopefully this podcast is helping the community to learn about is kind of what the health IT marketing community is all about and kind of who we are and what we do, what makes a similar to other healthcare communities and what makes us different. Maybe that’s a good place to start in terms of how you would describe the health IT marketing community.
John Lynn: Sure, so it’s actually pretty interesting because if you look even, say, two years ago, there really wasn’t a community. There was plenty of healthcare IT marketers. In fact, I describe it as the golden age of health IT marketing. We had $36 billion of stimulus money thanks to the RS stimulus package, or as we know it in healthcare, the High Tech Act which stimulated EHRs and everything associated with. So it was a really exciting time for health IT marketing.
Everyone was kind of busy working in their siloes. They’d be going to conferences and certainly they were all at the same conferences, but when a marketer goes to a conference, they’re going there managing all their people, managing the sales people, managing what coverage they’re getting from media organizations and they’re never talking to the people in the booths next to them. Matter of fact, maybe their salespeople or some of their leaders get to talk to them more than the marketing people because they’re dealing with all sorts of event-related logistics, which make their job hard. So they really didn’t connect with each other.
If you look even two years ago, there wasn’t a community. These health IT marketers were doing their job and they were doing the best they could and occasionally they might meet one or two of their colleagues at these events or they’d connect with them in some other way. But they didn’t really have a way to connect with each other.
Over the past couple years we’ve really seen a coming together, and I’ve actually seen this in many industries. It makes sense this happened in the marketing community as well, is that things like social media, Twitter in particular, but also LinkedIn to some extent and other platforms like that help the community to really come together. Obviously in my experience with HITMC, the Health IT Marketing Conference, that was another level of bringing the community together.
It’s been interesting to se the evolution. I think we’ll talk more about this later but over these two years we’ve seen a community come together where one didn’t exist before. In fact, that’s the most exciting thing. If you look at other healthcare communities, there certainly have been other healthcare PR conferences, healthcare marketing conferences. We’re similar in a lot of ways because we have HIPAA regulations. There’s things we can’t say. There’s things we can say. We have to be careful about taking pictures at our venues.
I remember one of the early topics when the community was coming together was, “Where can I take some pictures of the hospital environment without getting patients there?” People gave you four or five simulation areas and different places they could [inaudible 00:05:31] to that weren’t a HIPAA violation. There’s some of those kinds of things, even pharma regulations you have to deal with, med device regulations about what do you promise and how do you promise it. You have to deal with all of those things, so in some ways those are very similar.
For the most part it’s quite a bit different though because in healthcare IT in particular, you’re focused on very hard to reach people. You’re talking about doctors, practice managers, hospital executives, hospital CIOs or hospital IT managers or maybe an HIM manager. So it’s a very different approach than, say, a hospital that wants to market their hospital to patients, which is more of a consumer-focused play as opposed to more of the B2B focus, which most health IT companies have.
Plus, when you’re selling to a patient, it’s pretty much a unilateral decision. I guess it really is unilateral. The wife just decides and the husband follows along, right? Well, maybe not completely in that way but close enough, right? It’s a pretty one-sided decision.
Whereas in healthcare IT, one thing that we found over and over again is that it’s usually a complex sales process. That means there’s not just one stakeholder that you have to get on board. You might have to get the CIO on board. You might have to get the HIM manager on board. You may have to get the security and privacy officer on board. Then there’s some person down running some server which you need to get on board too and they’re just a server manager and they don’t really care about product development, but they could derail your sales effort too if they think that you’re insecure or you’re not efficient or you’re going to cost a lot of money to implement or whatever their reason.
In healthcare IT, one thing we found was is it’s a very complex sales process. It’s not something you just see a banner of and it’s like, “Oh, you know what? I’m going to buy an EMR today,” and you click through and purchase like we see in a lot of other marketing efforts. Instead, you really have to sell multiple people over a certain period. Then it becomes a very long sales process after that as well.
So I think those are some of the things we’ve seen and some of the differences we’ve seen.
Jared Johnson: Excellent. I’m sure some of those observations led you to the founding of HITMC conference. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about how that started, how that vision formed in your mind and where you want it to go from here.
John Lynn: Sure. It was really interesting. HITMC, as we call it, you can go to HITMC.com, which we’re rolling out a community site, but you can go to healthITmarketingconference.com and just see what we did last year. We’re about to launch next year.
Really, it started out in an interesting way. One of my advertisers reached out to me and said, “Hey, is there a conference that focuses on B2B marketing, how do I market to doctors?” I thought about it and I looked around. Obviously I’ve been to a lot of conferences, I’ve traveled to a lot. They’re always hitting me up, trying to market their conference on my blogs. I thought about it and I was like, “I really haven’t seen one.”
So I just replied as such. I said, “Sorry, there isn’t one, not one that I know. Sorry about that. Wish I could help you more.” She replied to me and she said, “Well, I think you should start one and I’ll be your first customer.” I kind of was like, “Yeah. All right. That’s good.” But of course I’m very deliberate in the things I do so over the next two or three conferences that I went to, I talked to my other marketing colleagues I met at these conferences, some that I had been friends with forever, some that had been advertisers or whatnot. I asked them, I said, “Hey, if I held this conference, would you come?” They’re like, “Oh, when is it?” When you get a response like that, you’re like, “Oh, okay, maybe there’s interest enough to start it.” So that’s really where it started.
I reached out to five founding sponsor companies. Actually, maybe it was four. Anyway, four or five founding sponsor companies that I said, “I have this crazy idea. This is what I want to do. Will you sponsor it?” when basically all we had was a PDF document saying, “This is what I want to do.” Credit these companies, they supported me really early on so that then I felt confident enough to really go after it.
It started that way. We had 75 people attend our first conference with 100-something that attended online as well. They signed up online. Then we had 145, I think was the exact number, the second year in 2015. So we almost doubled the growth of it and a lot of momentum coming out of that.
What I think was really interesting is that we started as a conference. Let’s come together, share ideas and knowledge. But what I realized early on in the very first conference is that what we were really starting was a community. Sure, it started as a one-time manual conference, but what I found people really desired was the opportunity to network and connect with people just like them.
They wanted more than just this one-time event. They wanted a community of people that they could connect with ongoing when they’re dealing with issues like, “How do I sell this to my C-level executives so that I can get budget for marketing?” or, “Where do I turn for the best health IT publication?” or, “What are the right webinar platforms that I should be using to make the most of my marketing efforts?” or, “How should I use content marketing and where can I go for people who know how to write healthcare IT content because those churn and burn $5 postings aren’t working for me because they don’t understand healthcare. So where do I turn for high quality content?”
What we found in the community is that people wanted to connect more than just at the conference to be able to connect year-round about a variety of topics. So that’s what we’re trying to build with HITMC now is a community that’s connected year-round, as opposed to just at the conferences.
Jared Johnson: Great comments and that’s a great story of how the community itself has evolved and how you were able to help those who were seeking a community and weren’t necessarily even sure where to find it to start bringing them together in a way that, like you said, is more than just a once a year need and interest. So fantastic. It’s no wonder that the conference has grown so much from the first year until now.
John Lynn: Yeah, you know what’s really interesting about the growth of the conference, and even the initial reaction to the conference was kind of two-fold. One is actually finding the marketers, which is a little ironic for a marketing conference, figuring out how to market to marketers. It’s a challenging mix, right? So what we found is there are many people like, “Oh, I didn’t even hear about it,” which is always a challenge in every industry.
The thing that we found, though, once we started pushing it out is we’d push out the conference to these marketers and they’d reply and say, “Here, let me send that to my events team.” Or they’d say, “Oh, okay, let me see if we should sponsor the conference.” It’s like these marketing and PR professionals in their mind, they’ve essentially created this idea that, “If I go to a conference, I’m going to go sell my stuff. I go to conferences to sell.” They don’t even have this mentality of, “Oh, I could go to a conference which would help me learn and do better at my job.” Their mentality was just like, “Conferences are where we sell.”
So changing that mentality and helping them understand, “No, no, no, you do not need to sponsor this conference. You shouldn’t do that. You should just attend and learn and share and participate in the community.” So that was one of the big learning curves that we’ve had when marketing to these people is just helping them understand this is a professional development opportunity. This is not an opportunity for you to come and sell your product. We’ve seen that challenge but luckily, as we’ve grown, I think that’s been less of an issue.
Jared Johnson: How interesting. That is a little bit unique, I’m sure, to marketing conferences versus other types. Maybe you can give us a little bit more of an inside scoop there about Healthcare Scene and about how it has grown so much. Any fun or interesting stories as you’ve built that up?
John Lynn: Yeah, there’s so many. I’ve been blogging for 10 years. I quit the day job about five years so I’ve been full-time blogging on Healthcare Scene for the past 5 years but been blogging 10 years and I think we’re somewhere around 8,000 blog posts now, and I’ve written at least half of them, so somewhere around 4,000 blog posts just myself.
You can imagine when you write that much, you get the best education in the world because you have everyone in the world, especially when you have a large readership, coming and telling you when you’re wrong. I describe that as the best education because there’s two choices – either you are wrong and they just taught you something valuable and you say, “Thank you.” Or they’re wrong and you battle and you have a deep discussion on the idiosyncrasies and intricacies of the topic. So it becomes a powerful thing to be able to blog.
If I go way back 10 years ago, about six months into my blogging experience, I had a goal to be on the first page of Google for the search term “EMR” and I achieved that. I looked at the traffic and I think I was about 1,000 page views a day. As I looked at that I said, “Okay, well, who really reads this stuff?” If I’m a doctor and I go home in the evening, do I want to read about electronic medial record and how to implement it and the ways to make it secure? I wouldn’t want to do that. That’s not what I’m interested in doing.
Six months in I kind of thought maybe this is the whole market. Maybe this is the people that care about it. It turns out I was wrong. There’s a much larger market than that. But I really kind of just set it on the back burner about six months in and I’d keep posting maybe once or twice a month, a couple times a month. I kind of petered it along.
Then the real breakthrough for Healthcare Scene was certainly the stimulus money. In fact, at the time, we just knew it was government money for EMR. It wasn’t even government money for EHR, let alone that we knew that there was High Tech Act and meaningful use. Those terms hadn’t even existed at the time. So I wrote about it early and traffic just exploded over a couple month period from less than 1,000 page views a day to 3,000, 4,000, 5,000.
I finally was very creative and said maybe I should put a little image here that says you can advertise on the site. So I put one of those up and I got more advertisers. It was really strategic on my part. Like I said, this was a part-time thing in the evenings that I was doing while I had the day job in implementing electronic medical records. This was the side project.
It kept growing and growing until about five years ago. At HIMS, actually, on a blogger panel they had a “meet the blogger” session at HIMS. I think it was the first time they’d ever done it. They had me on one of panel and they’re like, “How many of you are doing it full-time?” and I said, “It’s funny you say that. I’m actually quitting my job and I’m going to do this full-time now,” which was a bit of a leap of faith but it worked out really well.
Like you said, we’ve grown to a large number of blogs that are quite influential. I think we have about 60,000 social media followers. I have about 30,000 email subscribers across everything that we do. We have a strong readership. It’s been a lot of fun sharing those stories. As long as the lawyers from various vendors don’t come after you, it’s a pretty fun job.
Jared Johnson: Is that from experience where something like that’s ever happened to you, or you would just hear about that?
John Lynn: No, that was an actual experience. I wrote this . . . it literally was probably the most journalistic thing I’ve done. My approach is really trying to create more of a thought leadership one or in some ways an aggregator. I like the idea of “we read everything so you don’t have to” kind of approach and then layer on some thought leadership onto the kind of aggregation for people.
Our approach is very different but the one journalistic kind of article I did was it kind of just fell in my lap. A number of doctors and other people reached out to about an EHR vendor who had posted all these physician reviews where basically they were emailing all these patients. We estimated there were somewhere around 9 million emails that were sent to patients saying, “Please review this doctor.”
As I started digging, literally I’m digging on this EHR vendor’s forum, their very own forum where they have a doctor who says, “My brother emailed me and said, ‘Hey, your address needs to be updated on the email,’” and his brother said, “What email are you talking about?” and he discovered, “Oh, you’ve been sending, ‘Please review me,’ to all my patients and I didn’t know about it.
They had a psychiatrist to . . . their patients were getting emailed these things saying, “Please review me,” which is a major issue for a psychiatrist where many psychiatric patients want drugs so of course they’re going to review them nicely. It’s a breach of their relationship with the patient and all these things.
Anyway, I wrote I guess you could call it an exposé of sorts. I was really just trying to tell the story of what I discovered and what happened and how I think this HR vendor had [inaudible 00:19:22] their physicians by not warning them, by not telling them and those things. Anyway, they weren’t very happy with it. They threatened legal action. “Don’t make us get our lawyers involved.” I talked to my lawyer and felt pretty comfortable that what we had done was pretty on. So I told them if they have any issues they want changed, I’m happy to update it but I felt good about it.
Of course they said that there were so many factual inaccuracies that they wouldn’t send them line by line but instead here’s their three-point response, which I took as you couldn’t find the inaccuracies so you’re going to respond. Anyways, I think it was an important piece to do but it’s never fun when a lonely blogger like me gets threatened by legal action from a massive corporation. But you stick to your guns and try to do what’s right and things usually work out, I think.
Jared Johnson: No doubt. I’m sure hopefully you’d say right now things seem to be working out so that’s great. Like you said, that would have been a leap of faith for you at that point where you decided to move forward and do this full-time. So great to hear success stories where that does work out.
I will take a break for just a second from that train of thought and I try to lob a couple of bonus questions to our guests. The first one I was going to ask of you was what is the best book you’ve read lately? It could be fiction or non-fiction.
John Lynn: It’s interesting, I don’t read that many books. I’ll occasionally read some biographies or a few business books occasionally. I mostly read stuff online – blogs and social media and whatnot. But I did recently read the book by Ed Marx, the CIO, he was at Texas Health Resource. Now he’s in New York as CIO. His book was called the Extraordinary Tales From a Rather Ordinary Guy, which was a pretty good book. If you’ve read his blog posts, you’ve read a lot of what he has in there.
My favorite story that he shares in there is I think he was at HIMS Orlando or something like that. He went to Disney World and as a joke he said, “I’m going to go take a picture with the princess.” So he gets in line with all the kids and he goes in to take a picture with the princess and he ended up loving the experience. The princess made him feel just as loved and appreciated and showed affection to him just like they would one of the kids.
So he actually ended up going around the park and doing it with every single princess because he almost was addicted to that personal touch and that personal connection that the princesses are taught by Disney, obviously, to make with every person. So he shared we need to do more of that in healthcare IT. I think that’s absolutely true in healthcare IT marketing as well is thinking about how do you create that kind of special one-on-one deep connection.
There you go, Ed Marx, Extraordinary Tales From a Rather Ordinary Guy, which is an ironic title because when you read it, you realize Ed Marx is not an ordinary guy. He’s quite extraordinary.
Jared Johnson: No doubt. I’ve never heard of anyone doing that all throughout the park.
John Lynn: I remember seeing a picture of him tweeted with him and I think it was Snow White or something and I was a little jealous.
Jared Johnson: How interesting. That actually kind of does apply, I think, to this next segment that we want to talk about a little bit, kind of looking to the future of a couple of different aspects of health IT community itself, the first one just being healthcare blogging in general. I was curious what you thought and really what’s the future of it? Do you see some momentum there? Are there certain topics that are growing more than others? Is there room for someone like yourself to continue growing what you’re doing? And really just where do you see things headed in healthcare blogging?
John Lynn: It’s quite interesting. We’ve seen a massive evolution over 10 years, as you can imagine. Ten years ago Twitter didn’t even exist. Facebook was a college network and LinkedIn was your résumé. It didn’t have groups or anything else. So we’ve seen this massive change in how people consume content and how they connect with other people.
Ten years ago, blogging was the way to connect with other people in the industry. So you would connect on the blog and the blog would essentially be a community of users, including the comments, including new people would start a blog because they’re like, “Oh, I want to connect with other people.” Now we don’t see that as much, unfortunately, because people are doing it on Twitter, they’re doing it on LinkedIn or Facebook or other social media.
In some ways that’s good because obviously it’s easy for anyone to get involved with Twitter and start connecting and that’s great and it’s beautiful obviously. I’m a massive Twitter user with far too many accounts, so I understand it fully.
The thing that makes me sad about it, though, is that even though it’s easier to get a message out on a lot of these, it doesn’t have nearly the lasting impact. The time it takes you to write 140-character thing is very little, so you don’t put as much effort into what you actually put out and it also is very short-lived. Once you’ve tweeted it out, it’s gone. Whereas if you’d written a blog post about that same topic, those blog posts last much longer and they create a deeper connection between you the person you’re connecting with.
I guess that’s my sadness about some of the blog. I used to call them my blog spar, where we would take a topic and we would essentially spar. I would write a blog post on one angle and then someone else would write a blog post arguing the other angle. Then I would reply again and kind of this spar match where we educated each other and we felt deeply about certain topics. Now that doesn’t really happen too much. Occasionally but not very much because it’s all happening on Twitter, it’s happening on LinkedIn, other places.
But the thing that I think won’t change is that people’s desire to learn and share what they know will never disappear. That’s just going to be a feature that we’ve always had. Ever since the days when you chiseled it into a rock, you wanted to share what you had and found. You’d put it on scrolls and have someone run a marathon over to the next city to share.
We have this insatiable need to share and also to learn, we want opportunities to learn. So I don’t think that will ever go away. Just the modalities that we use to share that knowledge are going to change, and the technology we use to connect and share is going to change as well. But we’ll always have a need for high quality thought leadership and ways to improve what you do at work to improve what your organization can do to be more successful, etc. So I think that will just always be there and there will always be a place for it.
The key is what’s the right information to share and how are you going to get readers to read it? It’s really a simple model when you look at the blogging model. You have to create amazing content. You have to market it so you get readers. Then you monetize it.
Now, if you’re a company, if you’re a health IT company, use that same model. You create amazing content, you get people to actually read the content and then you have something to sell, you sell your products to them. If you’re not a company like that, it’s the same model. You can create amazing content, you get people to read it and then you sell other people’s products.
It’s always been the media model. If you have people’s attention, you can use some of that attention and provide opportunities for them to purchase something.
One thing I think has changed dramatically in the blogging is how you approach what you sell. We’re doing a lot of sponsored content, for example, with companies it’s been a powerful thing and many people are afraid of sponsored content. But you have to realize that, like I said, this is a complex sell in healthcare IT and so the best way to sell to someone is to show that you know what you’re talking about. If you know what you’re talking about and you show that you’re experienced in that, then they’ll come to you and say, “Okay, tell me more.” Then you’ll have an opportunity to sell them.
So you’ll build that relationship with them and you’ll position yourself as a thought leader in the space. Then you’ll have the opportunity to sell them, as opposed to trying to put up a banner which tries to get them somehow to recognize your brand or to purchase it.
Now, banner ads might be a great way to reinforce what you’re doing in thought leadership and in content marketing so that then they’re like, “Oh, I remember those five other things that they sent me that showed they know what they’re talking about. Now I need your solutions so now I’ll click the banner ad.” We’ve seen that evolution where they’re really providing great content and to me, blogging is the simplest form to publish online, so that’s why blogging has always been so powerful.
Jared Johnson: How interesting, because coming from the med device side of the world at one point in my career also, I found a lot of the same thing, where if you didn’t establish that credibility that you know what you’re talking about, then there was an immediate turnoff. So how interesting to hear that you’ve seen the same thing along the way.
John Lynn: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a relationship sell. It’s very rarely an impulse buy.
Jared Johnson: I bet. Maybe if we broaden that our a little bit and we talk about just other trends in general that health IT marketers ought to be paying attention to, what would you say, if we say in the next three years, what trends should health IT marketers be paying attention to?
John Lynn: The first one, it kind of goes along the lines of what I just talked about – content marketing. Now, that’s a pretty broad range of things because it could be a blog, it could be a webinar, it could be a white paper. Social media is all content. But understanding what content really resonates with customers and how to distribute that content.
It doesn’t matter if you create the best content in the world. If they don’t know about it, if they don’t read it, then it doesn’t matter. So you have to pair both great content with distribution and that’s a powerful, powerful combination. So I think that’s the first one.
You need to take a long term strategy with that. Unfortunately, most marketing departments are so worried about how many leads did you get in or how many clicks did you get or how many impressions did you get. That’s a short-sighted view that ends up causing problems for any company that wants to build long term.
If you’re just trying to sell your company in the next six months, maybe that’s a good strategy. But If you want to be a player in the space, content marketing is a much better long term strategy here. So that would be my first one.
The second one I would suggest is really you should build relationships with your customers and potential customers. So like I said, it’s a complex sell. You shouldn’t just try to market to them. Unfortunately, many health IT brands are only because they send out a lot of junk mail either through snail mail, through email, through social media. So they know that you’re trying to see them something but they don’t know what you’re about.
That’s really awful if you think about that from a sales perspective. I’m a salesperson going into a thing and they say, “Oh yeah, I’ve seen all your mailers. I’ve deleted a bunch of your mailers.” That’s not a great way to sell it versus, “Oh, yeah, you guys talked about how to do integration engines and how to integrate HL7 at a lower cost. Tell me more about that.” Then they know what you’re about and they know what the problems you solve and they know how you approach solutions. That creates a relationship with the customer and the potential customer that’s very different than, “Oh, I’ve seen your sales and marketing collateral.”
So I think that’s the next one is build relationships and how you do that through the nurturing through social media. It takes multiple touch points to really build that relationship.
Then I guess my third trend would be really kind of back to the basics of the concepts of do you build it, do you buy it or do you earn it. Understanding each of those and creating the right mix for your organization that really builds around your strengths is important because building something is a long term strategy and it takes effort and it takes a long term approach to build something that’s valuable.
You can buy something, and that’s great and it will provide shorter term options, but is that what you want, is that your goal? Versus are you doing something interesting enough to actually earn media from organizations? Are you doing something interesting enough that they want to talk about you just because you’re so interesting and you’re doing some amazing work?
I think that’s the next trend is figuring out how to combine all of those three into a powerful marketing message that gets your message out there in the most effective way possible.
Jared Johnson: That’s a long list. That’s great.
John Lynn: Gives you a little something to do.
Jared Johnson: Yeah, exactly. If we could just clone ourselves now, right?
John Lynn: Let’s just remember, this is not easy stuff. When you’re selling a minimum $100,000 EHR package and it might even be up to $9 billion if your name’s Kaiser, you’re not selling a $5 t-shirt. This is something that takes effort and takes investment in relationship. We shouldn’t be surprised that it takes work.
Jared Johnson: Very good point. If we can take our marketing hats off here for a second and even broaden this question out even broader and talk about what innovations you see that will disrupt or currently disrupting health IT in the next couple of years, let’s say the next two to three years, what do you see there and we’ll expand that outside of marketing? Are there technologies? Is regulation pushing things that are disrupting, really who’s disrupting and why?
John Lynn: Interesting. It’s actually important for marketing too because marketers need to spend more time understanding what industry trends are so they know what the reporters want to write about, so they know what the customers cared about. So I think that’s a great question even for marketers.
Speaking more generally, the biggest trends I see happening across all of healthcare, and it’s happening in a variety of ways, is really the changing reimbursement models. I think doctors are scared about what’s happening. Sure we had this SGR fix that came, but all that did was, okay, fine, we’re not going to give you your 22% decrease in Medicare reimbursement which had been hanging over their head forever and everyone knew that was never going to happen.
But instead what they gave as a concession is that now you’ve got to change to value-based reimbursement. Unfortunately, most of healthcare has no idea what that is. In fact, I’m not sure anyone in healthcare knows what that is. We’re still trying to figure it out.
These changing reimbursement models are going to change so much of how organizations act and that’s true of hospitals, that’s true of the small doctors’ offices. There’s some people are making the case that the small doctors’ offices are going to die because of it. They won’t be able to keep up, that they’ll have to join in some sort of consortium or get bought up by the hospital system in order to do a value-based reimbursement model.
Those things are going to drastically change what people purchase, how they purchase, when they purchase, and it influences almost everything in healthcare IT because healthcare IT is going to be required to facilitate these reimbursement models. Meaningful use has kind of run its course. We know where that spending is essentially going, so now they’re looking at what’s next and I think it’s these changing reimbursement models that are going to really impact it a lot.
Related to that is the ACA stuff with health insurance exchanges, which is a totally different legislation, even though many in the industry like to write about them being the same thing – meaningful use versus ACA, versus this change in reimbursement models like the ACOs and SCR fix, which now I just forgot the name of it. There’s a new acronym every week it seems. Anyway, these changing reimbursement models.
But the other one with ACA, with Obamacare if you prefer, is that we’re seeing a lot more patients with high deductible plans. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen study after study after study showing this. We’re seeing this in practices where a lot of these patients that are coming in with health insurance exchange plans that they’ve gotten through Obamacare or through some other are coming in as high deductible plans and they don’t even realize it.
So what does that mean if they have a high deductible plan? That means the patient’s going to pay a lot more, the insurance is going to pay a lot less, and these patients aren’t ready to pay for it. So you can imagine how that changing environment is going to impact care. I heard it from Intermountain, large, massive hospital system across all of Utah. What do they own? Some massive percentage of healthcare in Utah. They’re saying the same thing.
They’re seeing massive shifts to patient pay versus insurance pay, and their collections rate with patients is so much lower than insurances, so that’s hitting their bottom line. Then along with that change is patients now care a lot more about what they’re buying. Since I’m going to have to pay more, I may or may not take that service or I may be more interested in shopping around for my doctor.
It changes how you handle healthcare when you start paying for it. These changes and models are really going to impact people’s purchasing decisions. On the negative side, doctors are scared. On the positive side from a marketing standpoint is if you have a solution that can solve that problem, it’s a tremendous opportunity because technology is going to be the way that many of these problems are solved and many of these problems are attacked, with technology. Probably with a mix of humans as well, but it’s a tremendous opportunity if you can solve that.
So I would look at this, ACOs, value-based reimbursement, high deductible insurance plans with patient self-pay and things like that, and as many things are happening that healthcare IT will need to solve.
Jared Johnson: Again, not a short list. We have our work cut out for us but, like you said, seeing the opportunity there is really the key, and thanks for that. As much as we’ve heard about some of those topics, I’d agree with you. I’m not sure very many folks in the entire healthcare continuum really understand the implications of some of those trends.
Anything else you’d like to comment on about the health IT marketing community in general or just healthcare overall?
John Lynn: One of the exciting things about HITMC and that community is that we’ve really come together around the hashtag #HITMC, so you’ll see a lot of people participating on that. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow along. It’s free to join and everyone shares and asks questions. That’s really great. We have monthly Twitter chats at the beginning of the month, so that’s another great opportunity as well to connect with people and discuss important topics and share and learn and connect with people that are interested in the same topics.
At the end of this month we’re planning to announce the HITMC 2016. It should be in early April. We do it about a month after the HIMS conference, so it’ll be in early April. We’re checking out venues this week, actually, and finalizing all of that. So we’ll be announcing that shortly, along with the call for speakers if you want to share your insights there, which will be really exciting.
We’ve got some exciting things planned as far as where do we take it to the next level, how do we make it more interactive, how do we make it more engaging, how do we offer some beginner tracks and some advanced tracks. Those are some of the things we’re doing.
We’re also looking to roll out HITMC.com. Jared’s actually going to help with some of the content there, so that should go out shortly where it’s fully put out with all the content. You can participate in, you can share, you can comment. We’ll have guest bloggers as well, so that will be a powerful way to continue to bring the HITMC community together, the marketing and PR community to help each other with these challenging jobs. Those are, I think, some of the exciting things for me.
We’re actually doing a meet-up in Atlanta. We’re going to probably do a meet-up at MGMA. We’ll do one at HIMS, as we do every year. We’re looking to find more ways to connect and share with each other.
Jared Johnson: Excellent. Yes, I was going to ask you where people could find you, so thank you for letting us know.
Very last question here, our last bonus question.
John Lynn: Bonus!
Jared Johnson: Yeah, right? Very subjective but this is one of those psychological test questions. I think you can tell a lot about somebody by how they answer this, so here we go. It is if you could join any music group or rock band for a day, who would it be?
John Lynn: It was interesting, you sent this question over, I thought about it and maybe I should change it if . . . No, my initial gut reaction was I would love to be in a group with Faith Hill. I probably wouldn’t do anything, I just would want to stand there and listen to her sing and watch her work her magic.
Ever since college, I saw an about Faith weekend on CMT or some show so I’ve been an addict of Faith Hill ever since. Yeah, there’s my dream is to be [inaudible 00:42:02]. How’s that?
Jared Johnson: I don’t think there’s any wrong answer to those questions, so way to go.
John Lynn: Says something about me for sure.
Jared Johnson: Well, we’ll let the audience decide what that is. But in the meantime, I do want to thank you again, John, for joining us on the podcast today and for your support of this program itself. I’m looking forward to how this podcast can continue to promote and hopefully build that HITMC community in other ways.
In the meantime, for both of us, thank you to everyone who’s listening to us and please check out our other episodes. We’re very excited to keep offering this to you. Thanks a lot.
John Lynn: Thanks, Jared.