Permission vs Forgiveness in Healthcare Marketing

Blog post by Colin Hung.

Last week, we got surprise news from consumer genetics company 23andMe – the best known for helping everyday citizens discover their ancestry. They announced that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the British drug giant, would be investing $300 Million USD into the company and the two organizations would be jointly using the 23andMe genetic database (de-identified of course) for life-saving drug research.

Reaction to this announcement from consumers has been concerned…bordering on negative. Some feel betrayed by 23andMe, believing their genetic data would not be used by the company for profit. Many were concerned about the ability to re-identify the genetic information and have it used against them in the future (de-identified data can be traced back to the original person using a variety of data mining techniques).

There has been a lot of discussion on Twitter about the announcement, the issue of data ownership and the ethics around selling healthcare data. I recently hosted an #hcldr chat on that very topic. You can view the transcript via Symplur and see the blog here.

From a marketing perspective, I found the announcement a fascinating study of permission vs forgiveness. You’ve probably heard the adage: ‘Better to ask for forgiveness than for permission”. I’ve used it myself on many occasions when needing to make quick decisions regarding marketing strategies and program funding. But does this approach work when it comes to customers?

Consider the practice of “negative billing” – where a company foists a price increase on customers by universally moving them from a basic package that is suddenly no longer offered to a higher priced package that offers slightly different features. Cell phone providers and cable companies were notorious for this practice. Negative billing in this context an example of large scale ask-for-forgiveness-vs-permission.

Part of the reason why this approach proved effective was:

  1. Switching costs for customers was very high (contract restrictions, swapping out cable boxes, new phones/SIM cards)
  2. Alternatives were limited (AT&T vs Comcast…ugh!)
  3. The cost increase was relatively small

In 2018, however, switching costs for many products/services is near zero and there are plenty of alternatives just a few clicks away. So does asking forgiveness still work?

23andMe is not a huge company, but it has built a reputation as being a good steward of genetic data. Their management team has made it clear from the beginning that their intent was to use genetic data to improve the health of people around the world. The company recently got FDA approval to report on BRCA1- and BRCA2-related genetic risk for breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. Bottom line, the company is not evil (hello Turing Pharmaceuticals and Theranos!)

That’s why I am puzzled why they would risk their reputation by implementing an opt-out/negative billing approach to sharing genetic data with GSK. From their press release: “23andMe customers are in control of their data. Participating in 23andMe’s research is always voluntary and requires customers to affirmatively consent to participate. For those who do consent, their information will be de-identified, so no individual will be identifiable to GSK.”

In my opinion, it would have been better to approach this from the other side and ask permission from their customers to share data. They could have mounted a marketing campaign encouraging their customers to donate their data to the research endeavors with GSK. They could have highlighted all the wonderful societal benefits that would be possible AND they could have donated a portion of the profits (even as little as 0.05%) to a charity that helps patient in the same space where they were doing research (ie: breast cancer). It would have been a marketing coup.

Instead, the company is now dealing with negative reaction from its customers and it has given pause to anyone considering their ancestry services. Plus, it has opened the door to new competitors who promise to ask permission prior to selling/sharing data whereas before they were the dominant player.

On next week’s monthly #HITMC chat I would love to hear the community’s opinion on permission vs forgiveness. Do people have different views on the approach for projects that only affect internal stakeholders vs customers? Is healthcare marketing held to a different standard than other industries? Is there a best practice for asking permission and forgiveness?

Please join me Tuesday August 7th at noon ET (9am PT) for a discussion on permission vs forgiveness in healthcare marketing:

  • T1 Have you ever made the conscious decision to forge ahead with a marketing initiative knowing you might have to ask forgiveness later? Details!
  • T2 Better to ask for permission or forgiveness before launching a healthcare marketing program that impacts customers? Why?
  • T3 What tips or strategies have you found effective in getting permission from stakeholders for marketing programs? How have you gotten them on board?
  • T4 What tips or strategies have worked for you when asking forgiveness from stakeholders for a marketing decision you have made?
  • T5 Is there a campaign that you feel is a best-practice example of how to get customers onboard with a change/price increase/new initiative?
  • BONUS What topics would you like to see on future HITMC chats?

For those not familiar with Twitter chats, just hop on Twitter and search for #HITMC on Tuesday, August 7th at Noon ET (9AM PT) and you can join in.  I look forward to seeing you online!

Tapping Into HITMC: 5 Outlets to Find and Flaunt Healthcare Marketing Expertise

For four years I have been a part of the Healthcare IT Marketing & PR Community – HITMC. The community welcomed me, made me feel right at home and has given me so much knowledge as well as inspiration. I feel that HITMC is the closest thing I will ever have to a professional association.

The fifth annual HITMC Conference is just around the corner – April 4-6 in New Orleans. This year we have quite a number of first-time attendees, which is fantastic. I thought it would be nice to write a piece about HITMC for these new friends so that they can connect with the community beyond the conference.

The Health IT Marketing and PR Community is an offshoot of the grassroots initiative that bore the first Healthcare IT Marketing and PR Conference (HITMC) into reality in 2014. That initial assembly brought together the health IT public relations and marketing professionals in a way that had never been done before.

Unlike other marketing conferences, HITMC fuses the trends of the in-flux healthcare industry with an educational forum that proffers peer collaboration over competitive hustle. The event offers an industry-specific, profession-oriented outlet to those navigating the unique challenges of connecting with hospital executives, clinicians, and practice managers.

Since 2014, HITMC has blossomed from first-time conference to full-time community. Here are just a few of the places you’ll find HITMC just a click away.

#HITMC on Twitter

#HITMC Twitter chats are a fantastic way to connect with and learn from healthcare marketing gurus. February’s chat, for example, highlighted the “Ultimate Marketing Tech Stack,” culling feedback on the apps, tips, and tools favorited by #HITMC community members.

Follow @HITMarketingPR on Twitter for notices on up-coming chats and access to past chat archives.

HITMC LinkedIn Group

The HITMC LinkedIn Group offers an equally handy avenue for collaborating with healthcare IT marketing minds. Whether you are looking for SEO expertise or advice on the best content management system, this group puts the hive intelligence right at your fingertips, anytime.


The HITMC blog is another great forum for tapping into the latest learning opportunities and ideas from fellow healthcare marketing thought leaders. From perusing past HITMC presentations to these tips on building an effective HIMSS18 media plan, the blog is your way to stay in the know between shows.

Sign up for the HITMC newsletter so you never miss a beat.

HITMC Marketplace

The HITMC Marketplace offers healthcare professionals a great point of introduction to health IT marketing and PR resources available to support branding, media, and messaging initiatives. Companies are broken down into the following helpful categories:

  • Developer
  • Healthcare Database
  • Full Services PR/Marketing Agency
  • Tools
  • Content Creation
  • Media

Request meetings through the Marketplace or reach out to HITMC organizers for help with more tailored recommendations and warm introductions.

HITMC 2018 Conference

The 2018 HITMC Conference is your opportunity to network with a couple hundred of your healthcare B2B and B2C marketing peers in New Orleans over engaging sessions on topics like content strategy, marketing automation, event PR planning and more.

If you are joining us this year then I wish you safe travels to New Orleans. If HITMC18 isn’t in your travel plans, then I hope you will participate online via the #HITMC hashtag next week!


Finding Good Partners – HITMC18 Sponsor Roundup

A mentor once told me “No one is as smart as all of us.” It wasn’t until years later when I started managing teams that I realized what his words truly meant.

It is very tempting in Marketing & PR to believe that you can build a team that can do it all. I tried to do this in my first Marketing leadership role. It was a fun journey and we ended up with an amazing team. But it became quickly apparent to me that there was simply too many areas of Marketing, PR and Communications for any one team to master. Bottom line: you need good partners when you have projects that go beyond your team’s capacity.

Finding good partners isn’t easy. On paper everyone looks the same. Sometimes a well designed website or particularly clever copy can help a company stand out, but for me it comes down to shared values…and I don’t mean the values everyone plasters on the walls of their office. What I’m talking about is finding a partner that approaches business the same way you do. For me this meant a partner had to:

  • Have a “we’re in it together” attitude
  • Trust the people on their team
  • Be willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard
  • Keep my goals in mind vs focusing just on their documented responsibilities

Luckily, many of the companies I have met through HITMC share these values.

At HITMC18 , April 4-6 in New Orleans, we have an unprecedented number of sponsors – all amazing partners. Below is a brief overview of who they are.

Marketing Technology

The organization behind .health – the domain extension for the health industry. The .health domain extension is for brands, organizations, and people who provide high-quality health products, services and information. Learn more about how to register a .health domain at!

Business Intelligence and CRM/PRM platform that helps you grow healthy relationships with patients, prospective patients and physicians in your community.

Area 10 Labs
Advances and develops technologies that enhance human capabilities by fusing humans with computing, neuroscience, engineering, and physics.

A digital studio, passionate for engineering beautiful simple and functional websites and apps.

B2C Healthcare Marketing Services

When you walk into our office, you’ll see these words on the wall: “To use our insights and creativity to make our clients successful.” Simply put, that’s our purpose for being in business. And our business is healthcare marketing. We live and breathe it. And we have a fanatical commitment to our clients’ success.

We create compelling, engaging content across a variety of digital, social, traditional and non-traditional media platforms. We work on consumer and physician-focused internal and external marketing programs. And we’ve done it for more than 100 healthcare clients over the years.

An independent healthcare marketing consultancy, helping healthcare organizations with everything from brand strategy to SEO to email marketing.

Healthcare Database

AHA Health Forum
During a time of unprecedented change and challenge, hospitals are looking for solutions. But in order for them to find yours, you’ll need to be seen and heard in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Credibility is more important than ever.

AHA Health Forum is your single best source for hospital market intelligence, access and meaningful connections.

As the strategic business enterprise of the American Hospital Association, we are dedicated to providing insights, resources and innovative services to support our hospital members. This position makes us an indispensable resource for businesses seeking to engage the hospitals we serve.

BlackBook Research
Independent industry benchmark studies, innovative data and analytics provide buyers and consumers with impartial insights, and help vendor companies improve quality, engagement and business performance.

Experience Marketing

mg is your single all-inclusive partner for your experience marketing needs. Far more than an “exhibit house,” mg thrives at the intersection of your brand and your audience. Discover our broad portfolio of imaginative exhibits, corporate events, branded environments and marketing engagements at

Our industry-leading standards for customer service and our ability to deliver the ideal visitor experience for your guests, and the ideal partnership experience for you, are what make us truly great.

Our trademark Single Source Simplicity™, illustrates mg’s distinctive and strategically-insourced suite of services.  We offer: scalable in-house marketing agency expertise; cutting-edge Digital Solutions including content creation and hardware rental; nationwide Installation & Dismantle labor provided by our own internal teams; and three full-service production facilities strategically located to provide cost, time and environmental efficiencies.

Across the street or around the world, mg builds great experiences that engage face-to-face, enhance relationships, and evoke action.

Content Creation

We define our business as helping client organizations manage, produce and distribute information.

Influential Networks
Influential Networks is one of the largest networks of healthcare IT influencers.

Netspective Media
Netspective Media publishes opinionated insider-driven content for builders of complex & safety-critical regulated products.


Serving nearly 6 million senior executives, thought leaders and industry professionals, SmartBrief is the leading digital media publisher of targeted business news and information by industry. By combining technology and editorial expertise, SmartBrief delivers the most relevant industry news – curated daily from thousands of sources – in partnership with leading trade associations, professional societies, nonprofits and corporations.

Answers Media Network
Answers Media Company LLC owns and operates Answers Media Network,  a series of topic-driven websites and multi-media channels dedicated to covering current issues and Federal initiatives driving change in healthcare delivery.  Established in 2009 with the debut of, the company has grown to five websites and their popular Healthcare Now Radio station.

Healthcare Scene
Healthcare Scene is an award-winning media company dedicated to the healthcare and HealthIT industry. Our portfolio of online publications are widely read and respected by key decision makers, influencers and thought leaders in hospitals, health systems, physician offices, government agencies, and technology vendors.

Our company brings quality, value-add content to audiences online and in-person. Our unique HITMC Community brings together healthcare marketing, PR and communications professionals in a collaborative and supportive atmosphere. Our new Health IT Expo event offers a unique healthcare conference experience and is focused on breaking down silos through collaboration on practical innovations

4MedPlus addresses the increasing need in the healthcare community for clear, unbiased resources and online learning.

HealthIT Video-based Community. Short video recaps of the day’s news and events, plus insights from HealthIT industry luminaries.

Marketing/PR Agency

On any given day at the Studio, you’ll hear the traditional marketing buzz about driving leads, aligning to the customer journey, filling the sales funnel and accelerating conversions. We care deeply about marketing that gets results for our customers. And we care about data and metrics as much as anyone—in fact, we have teams that focus specifically on that.

But you’ll also hear us talking about why a certain creative approach might get the audience to laugh, or cry, or share their story with their peers. At the end of the day, we want the work to inspire. To spark an emotional response. To forge a deep, emotional connection between your brand and your customers.

Reaching today’s educated and empowered consumer requires a different approach than traditional B2B or B2C. It takes H2H – Human to Human connections. This is what matters to us: finding human relevance in a commercial world. Our teams, our people and our clients believe that marketing can have an emotional impact that leads to success. And we’re all in this journey together—you, your customers, and us. Let’s make a difference together. Let’s make marketing meaningful and memorable again. Let’s make it matter.

Agency Ten22
Agency Ten22 is a public relations firm with focused healthcare expertise and a personalized approach. Our dedicated team helps clients make their mark through distinctive, well-placed industry content. With access to 30+ years of healthcare marketing and public relations experience, you gain captivating messages, compelling cover stories, feature articles in industry journals, and smart social media content. We offer the critical link between healthcare IT companies doing big things and healthcare media running timely stories. As a vital extension to your program, Agency Ten22 delivers the exposure you need.

Aria Marketing
Aria Marketing is an award-winning healthcare communications agency that has been providing unmatched industry and strategy expertise, thought leadership-driven PR, compelling creative and superior client service for twenty years. Aria earned its reputation as healthcare’s leading thought leadership agency from working with some of the biggest, sharpest and most innovative healthcare organizations, from pre-angel start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. We have the healthcare industry knowledge and deep relationships with leading market influencers to cut through the noise and elevate your brand. As a full service agency, we handle all aspects of your communications program, from public relations, to strategic marketing and social media.

Clarity Quest Marketing
Clarity Quest Marketing combines technology know-how with creativity and marketing acumen to grow healthcare and technology companies across the US. Founded in 2001, Clarity Quest provides marketing services in the healthcare, medical device, software, hardware and technical professional services industries. The agency’s core areas are marketing strategy, online marketing, lead generation and outsource marketing. Clarity Quest has offices in Michigan, Connecticut and Washington State.

Matter Communications
With five offices spread across the country, Matter is a Brand Elevation Agency unifying public relations, social media, creative services and digital marketing into strategic, content-rich communications campaigns that inspire action and build value. With Matter, you are not only choosing a partner and extension of your team, but a trusted advisor.  We immerse our healthcare teams into our clients’ industries and become experts at what you offer customers, your culture and the talent behind your products and services. Our strategic communications programs elevate brand stories and drive real, measurable results.

MERGE Atlanta
Dodge Communications and AVID Design are joining forces under one roof as MERGE Atlanta. Together, we make a marketing communications and technology agency for healthcare.

The name MERGE reflects our belief that a collaborative approach leads to more creative and brand-transformational programs for our clients. We bring together our deep understanding of healthcare and uncommon expertise in digital communications to help clients make meaningful and lasting connections.

Our new brand creates a leading national digital communications agency with nearly 40 years of combined experience working with hundreds of healthcare clients, including healthcare IT, hospitals and health systems, provider groups, payers and life sciences.

We help clients connect with humans, whether as business leaders or consumers in MERGE healthcare markets, leveraging paid, earned, owned and shared digital strategies to drive engagement. Our offerings include overarching brand strategy, website creation, mobile apps, digital strategy and marketing, PR and social programs.

Revive Health
ReviveHealth is a full-service agency focused on the intersection of healthcare delivery, finance, and innovation. We know the business of healthcare inside and out. We identify and solve complex challenges. We recognize patterns and anticipate trends. And we help our clients own the moments that matter. Bringing together left- and right-brains, we leverage our expertise in B2B and B2C marketing strategy, creative, and execution. Learn more at

Anderson Interactive
Anderson Interactive injects a consulting methodology to the typical client-agency relationship – elevating your brand so it can be seen by the right audiences.

G&S Marketing & Branding
We are brand-marketing specialists. We integrate research, strategy, graphic design, content and digital services—and full implementation—all in one studio.

Hayutin Creative
We use our insights to design the most effective inbound and branding campaigns, as well as deliver lead-gen content assets that resonate with the right audiences.

KNB Communications
KNB is the communications marketing partner for health and health tech companies that are under pressure to perform in a rapidly changing business environment.

NPC Creative Services
NPC Creative Services specializes in providing strategic public relations to health IT software and service organizations.

RedBird Marketing
In a cloud filled with blue birds, we’re here to help you find your unique voice and be a bird of a different color. We focus on authentic storytelling and help bring out your style and personality.

12 Quick Wins With Your Leftover Marketing Budget

It’s the week after US Thanksgiving which means it is now officially leftover season! Turkey salad. Turkey sandwiches and endless scoops of mashed potatoes. Having leftover Thanksgiving dinner isn’t too bad, but you definitely do not want to leave it lingering too long. There is nothing worse than having to throw out food that you could have eaten.

This is also the time of year when some Marketing Teams find themselves in the enviable position of having leftover budget. It’s a fantastic position to be in so congratulations if this is where you are! For those in smaller organizations, there is a chance you can take your surplus and carry it forward to next year. That is the best possible outcome. However, most Teams will not be able to do this, so they need to find a way to spend that money before it disappears like door-crashers do on Black Friday.

Although you may not be able to carry forward the actual dollars from this year into next, there are things you can do with the your surplus THIS YEAR than can benefit you NEXT YEAR. Here are 12 suggestions for quick wins that you can purchase with your leftover marketing budget that will help you and put your team in good standing with senior leadership.

1) Subscriptions and books. Whether it’s Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Brand Republic or AdWeek you and your team will benefit from keeping on top of the industry’s latest trends. Prefer something more longform? Then a set of books for the Marketing library is the answer. Stock up on classics like Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm, Scott Stratten’s UnMarketing or friend Dan Munro’s Casino Healthcare.

2) Analyst Report/Helpful Research. Find out more about your target market or get the inside scoop on your competitors by purchasing reports from Gartner, IDC or KLAS. There is a lot of helpful research out there that can help guide next year’s marketing programs.

3) Stock/Custom Photos. You can never have too many photos of smiling people using smartphones or groups of smiling people around a conference table. Now is the perfect time to add to refresh your stock photo library. Even better – hire a local photographer (students are great) and stage your own photos to guarantee uniqueness.

4) Professional Headshots. Selfies are great, but nothing compares to a well-lit, professionally taken headshot. Consider bringing a photographer and make-up artist to your office. It’s the perfect time to help your team look their best online.

5) LinkedIn upgrade. Once of the best investments you can make for you, your marketing team AND your sales team, is an upgraded LinkedIn account. Gain access to advanced search capabilities and more inMails with a LinkedIn Premium Account. Have even more money? Then try Sales Navigator and Premium Business. Take your social selling to a new level.

6) Short ad run. As the year winds down, people stop responding to email marketing. However, now is when people get the time to catch up on reading interesting articles they have saved throughout the year. Placing a banner ad on high traffic sites can help fill the top of your funnel for next year. (Note: I’m totally biased when I say that would be a great place for you)

7) Advanced purchases. Everyone is trying to make year-end numbers so you may be able to negotiate a good deal for ads, dedicated emails, content, graphics, etc. for next year. Don’t be afraid to ask what your marketing partners can do for you given you are willing to pay TODAY.

8) Software utilities. There are likely a number of small utilities that can make you and your team more efficient. Image conversion programs, project tracking platforms and video editing tools are sometimes hard to justify during the year, but they fit nicely when you have leftover budget.

9) Computer accessories. I am convinced there are unseen video adaptor gremlins running around hoarding those cables. There may also be sprites that take presentation clickers. Mine always seem to go missing. Why not take advantage of all the sale prices and stock up on much needed computer accessories. Your team will thank you.

10) Voice work. Professional voice actors are often considered luxuries, but boy do they make a big difference. Consider hiring a voice actor to update your company’s automated phone attendant or refresh your motion graphics videos. Like #5 don’t forget to ask for an end-of-year deals.

11) Professional Development. When you have an unexpected surplus, this is one of the best ways you can invest it. Education and professional development often get overlooked in the rush of projects during the year. Take the time now to register for conferences, sign up for online courses or add a pre-conference session to an event you are already planning on attending. For a list of healthcare conferences, including our own HITMC18 and HITExpo18 events, check out this blog from John Lynn.

12) Internal Awards. This is my favorite. One of the biggest challenges for Marketers is getting other people in the organization to help with Marketing programs. It’s always a struggle to get client quotes, case study approval, social media amplification and proper documentation in the CRM/Marketing Automation Tool after conferences. With your surplus, consider holding an internal awards party with food and trophies (which are surprisingly cheap). At the party, publicly recognize people who have been most helpful to the Marketing Team. The praise and the trophies will encourage others to contribute. Here are some awards I have used in the past:

  • Best Implementation that led to a case study
  • Salesperson with the most referenced client
  • Most on-time attendance at tradeshow booth
  • Cleanest powerpoint
  • Subject matter expert that contributed the most content/blogs
  • Retweeter/Liker of the year

Don’t let even a few hundred dollars of marketing surplus go to waste. Take that leftover and carry it into next year by spending it smartly.

SHSMD17 – Day 3 – Upping the dose of perspective

Day 3 reaffirmed that SHSMD17 was all about giving attendees perspective. However, unlike Day 1 where opening keynote Ceci Connolly spoon fed the audience her insightful healthcare perspective, Day 3’s keynote speakers, Mick Ebeling and Amy Herman, inspired and taught the audience how gain a better perspective.

Lunchtime keynotes are always challenging – there is constant clinking of cutlery and people are often more focused on their meal than the speaker. It was a testament to Ebeling that his presentation was so riveting that there was almost complete silence. Right from the start, it was clear this would not be your “normal” keynote. Clad in jeans, t-shirt and baseball cap, Ebeling captured the audience’s attention with his amazing journey of success through impossible projects.

The journey started when Ebeling was the head of a film production studio in LA. A last minute decision to attend a gallery event led to learn of Tempt One, a talented street artist who had become bedridden with ALS. Tempt could only communicate by blinking his eyes when his family pointed to the right letter on a piece of paper. Appalled at how absurd it was that in this modern age, someone had to resort to using the alphabet printed on paper to communicate, Ebeling decided to help the family pay for a “Steven Hawking device” so that Tempt could “talk” to his family again. That alone was a noble gesture, but then Ebeling did something that would change his life, and the world – he made a commitment that he would find a way for Tempt to create art again.

With that, Ebeling set out to create a device that would allow Tempt to paint using nothing but his eyes. He gathered a bunch of smart people in his home and through grit and determination they hacked together what would eventually become the EyeWriter. They used off-the-shelf parts from Radio Shack and Home Depot along with the camera from a Sony Playstation. Armed with Ebeling’s device, Tempt.

The act of committing to solve a problem THEN figuring out how to actually solve it, became Ebeling’s mantra. He founded Not Impossible Labs and tackled the problem of children amputees in war-ravaged Sudan. Dubbed “Project Daniel”, Ebeling and his team used 3D printers and down-to-earth engineering to develop prosthetic limbs that could be produced by locals for less than $100 (compared with $15,000 for a typical prosthetic arm). Project Daniel won international acclaim.

Ebeling saved his most powerful story for last. After developing a set of wearable blue-tooth vibration generators to help deaf people experience music (a wrist unit might be the guitar, while the foot unit might be vocals and a chest unit drums), a member of the Not Impossible team thought the devices might help patients suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. You can watch this incredible story here.

Through his stories of triumph over the impossible, Ebeling changed the audience’s perspective on what’s possible. Suddenly healthcare’s problems didn’t seem all that daunting anymore.

Everything that is possible today was at one point in the past, impossible. Impossible is therefore only a temporary state of being.

Where Ebeling inspired the SHSMD17 audience to reconsider their perspectives, the SHSMD17 afternoon keynote, Herman, provided the audience with the tools necessary to actually change perspectives.

Herman, an art historian and attorney, became a sought-after lecturer after she began using art to hone the skills of Homicide Detectives in the New York City Police Department. The success of her class garnered national attention and she has since trained intelligence agencies, the FBI, elite military teams, first responders, local law enforcement and even ER/OR/Trauma teams in healthcare.

Using only pictures of art and artwork, Herman, took the SHSMD17 audience through a series of exercises designed to strip away people’s ingrained perception biases and experiential assumptions – referred to as “perception anchors”.

The first exercise was designed to highlight how much power our personal experiences exert on our perception. Herman asked audience members to pair up and had one person close their eyes. Using only words, the other person was shown a piece of art and asked to describe it to their partner. At the end of a minute the partner open their eyes to see how close their imagined image was to the actual piece.

After the chuckles died down, Herman revealed that in almost 90% of the time the describer fails to tell their partner the type of art they are describing – a painting vs a photo or sculpture. This critical piece of information seems obvious, yet in the heat of the moment this critical piece of information is often overlooked. Herman went further and said that in more than 50% of the time the describer skips over the common objects that are in the painting – the table, the fruit and strings of pearls around the woman’s neck.

Herman’s most powerful exercise – and the one most applicable to healthcare – involved a photograph of an elderly Asian woman holding a young Caucasian baby. When Herman showed this picture to non-healthcare classes, they used words like ‘nanny’, ‘baby’, ‘nephew’ and ‘neighbours’ to describe the photo, however, from her healthcare classes she often received diagnoses like “down syndrome”, “astigmagtism” and “thyroid condition”. The exercise clearly demonstrated how perception bias can have real life-and-death implications. If clinicians and nurses made these observational statements based only on a photo, then it is likely they do the same when walking into the exam room or their ER.

At the end of Herman’s keynote, I found myself wondering if it would be feasible to add her course as a Quality Measure.

Both Ebeling and Herman put an exclamation point on Day 3. Each delivered a keynote that upped the dosage of perspective that started with Day 1 presenter Ceci Connolly.

Together, Connolly, Ebeling and Herman truly changed my perspective on my personal challenges and the challenges facing healthcare.  They all seem smaller now.

SHSMD17 – Day 2 Recap – Keeping it Real

One sign of a good conference is that the day flies by. You wake up, grab a coffee and before you know it the bartender is letting everyone know it’s last call. That was pretty much my Day 2 experience at SHSMD17.

The day started early with a keynote session by futurist Daniel Burrus who spoke about basing strategic decisions on “hard truths” vs soft opinions. According to Burrus a hard truth is a future fact – something that is almost certain to come true. He offered several examples including: more data will move to the cloud, the number of goods purchased online will continue to grow and tasks performed by drones will grow in sophistication.

Burrus provided a fantastic summary slide of his hard truths:

I am convinced Burrus wrote his keynote specifically with Twitter in mind. He delivered his presentation in bite-sized 140 character-long quips which made it easy for live-tweeters to craft their messages. Here are just two examples:

The remainder of SHSMD Day 2 was filled with concurrent sessions separated by breaks in the exhibit hall. Three sessions stood out for me.

Mark Jones, President and Michael Chetham MD, Chief Surgical Quality Officer at Orlando Regional Medical Center presented a raw and unvarnished behind-the-scenes look at how their organization responded to the Pulse Nightclub tragedy in 2016. Both presenters repeatedly spoke about how they relied on the strength of pre-established working relationships with staff, vendors, law enforcement and local city officials to get through the situation. Those relationships were sources of energy and support.

Mark Head, VP of External Affairs at South Nassau Communities Hospital and Bill Wax, President at Wax Custom Communications showed how advanced analytics and predictive marketing helped them improve the utilization (and recognition) of their facility by local residents. They presented a fascinating mashup of patient data, demographic information, spending tendencies and geo-spatial data (from ESRI) that allowed them to better focus their marketing dollars and outreach efforts:

Dan Dunlop (President at Jennings), Julie Henry (VP of Communications at North Carolina Hospital Association) and Vanessa Stafford (Director of Communications and Member Services at New Hampshire Hospital Association) presented a very interesting set of case studies on how they used a combination of social media, dedicated microsites and infographics to engage patients. The latter generated what I consider to be the best quote of the conference so far (from Dan Dunlop):

For me, all the presentations on Day 2 kept things real. Nothing was pie-in-the-sky, everyone presented material that was down-to-earth, immediately implementable and realistic.


There was no better way to end the day than gathering with friends from the #HITMC #hcldr and #HITsm communities. Turn-out was fantastic. Shout-out to our sponsors @dot_health, represented by @SidoniaRose and @HealthTechJen. Everyone had a great time.

Special mention and thank you to @paul_griffiths for graciously inviting the #HITMC group to join the MedTouch and Acquia dinner event. Your hospitality was amazing and all of us appreciated the yummy pizza!

If you are at #SHSMD17 tomorrow (Tuesday) or are in the Orlando area, we would love to have you join us at the Universal City Walk for #hcldr chat at 8:30pm ET. @dandunlop and I will be live-chatting from a restaurant. We will tweet out the restaurant location once we determine where the SHSMD evening is being held. Hope to see you!

SHSMD17 – Day 1 Recap – Time to Think Differently

Although not an official theme for the 2017 Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development (SHSMD17), it was difficult not to characterize Day 1 of the event as one in which attendees were encouraged to “think differently” about healthcare and healthcare marketing.

Right from the start, SHSMD17 organizers challenged the norm by holding a cocktail reception BEFORE the opening session. This unconventional approach was utterly brilliant given what they had in store for attendees in the the conference kick-off.

To get things started, local a cappella group, reVoiced, serenaded the audience with an amazing rendition of the National Anthem. They quickly followed with an impressive vocal performance that was reminiscent of an opening number from ‘Glee’. It was a pleasant departure from standard conference fare.

Opening keynote speaker, Ceci Connolly, President and CEO at the Alliance of Community Health Plans, later took the stage and gave a thought-provoking 60 minute presentation that challenged preconceived notions of healthcare’s biggest challenges. From high-deductible plans to rising drug prices to payer consolidation, Connolly repeatedly offered new perspectives and ways to re-frame issues. She ended by asking the audience to “think differently about healthcare” and suggest we take the lessons learned from seat belt safety initiatives and apply them to healthcare.

Following the keynote, attendees were treated to yet another reception, this time in the SHSMD17 exhibit hall.  A quick tour of the hall yielded a pleasant surprise – mixed in with the usual booths from marketing agencies and consulting service companies, were several technology vendors. Unlike prior years, there were a number of marketing automation providers, content management platforms and patient analytic engines.

Also noticeable was the diversity in booth messaging. There were pop-up banners everywhere extolling the benefits of expanding beyond healthcare marketing’s traditional roots. You could almost see the words “marketing as a strategic partner” floating above the LED-powered booth halos.

For me the clearest evidence of “thinking different” came in the form of a simple SHSMD17 sign – one that I felt elegantly demonstrated that healthcare marketers are approaching things from the right perspective – that of consumers and patients. It also showed that marketers have a sense of humor.


3 Things To Look Forward To At #SHSMD17

This week I will be heading to the AHA’s Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development annual conference (#SHSMD17) being held in Orlando September 24-27.

SHSMD is targeted at PR, communication and marketing professionals that work on the provider side of healthcare. About half of the attendees are from hospitals and large health systems. The balance are from agencies, marketing service providers and MarTech companies. In 2016, there were over 1,800 attendees along with 140 exhibitors.

As a marketer from the vendor side of healthcare, SHSMD gives me a unique opportunity to get a glimpse of what life is like for marketers inside hospitals. The terminology is the same: acquisition, impressions, conversions, and content, but the context is completely different. Most of us in the HITMC community are ultimately measured in terms of revenues and deals won. At SHSMD the measures of success are patient volume, appointment density and HCAHPS scores.

This will be my third time attending SHSMD and I’m really looking forward to it. I will be live-tweeting the event using the hashtag #SHSMD17 and blogging daily about the latest news from the conference. NOTE: If you use any sort of Twitter utility like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, I would strongly suggest adding “-booth” to your search parameters to filter out the numerous booth cattle-call tweets…which is really ironic if you think about it.

Here are the top 3 things I’m looking forward to at this year’s event:

  1. Ed Bennett @EdBennett and Cynthia Floyd Manley @CynthiaManley session Improve Patient Satisfaction with Hospital-Sponsored Online Support Groups – Monday September 25th at 11:30am. I met Ed many years ago at a #hcsmca meetup in Toronto organized by my good friend Colleen Young. Ed gave a talk about the challenge of proving the value of social media to hospitalists. His insights were spot-on and I’ve been following him ever since. Similarly I have heard Cynthia speak about her experiences at @VUMCHealth and came away with new appreciation of how hard it is to get content approved for marketing purposes inside a hospital.
  2. SHSMD Exhibit Hall. The SHSMD exhibit hall is fascinating. There is no better way to get a sense of what will be trending next year than to see what the agency vendors are displaying in their booths. In 2015 a lot of signage was centered around patient acquisition. In 2016 it was physician referral directories and matching patients to physicians within the network. As well, there is nothing more fun than to watch vendors try to attract the attention of fellow marketers. Let’s be honest, marketers are jaded when it comes to exhibit halls. We’ve all been there and done that. SHSMD exhibitors, therefore, have to work doubly hard to be noticed. If you watch carefully you can pick up useful ideas that you can use to improve your own booth experience.
  3. Connecting with great people. To me there is nothing better than connecting with people at conferences. I love catching up with old friends (like @DanDunlop and @kate_gillmer from Jennings Healthcare Marketing as well as @SarahBennight from Stericycle Communication Solutions) and trading exploits from the past year. I also enjoy meeting people in-person who I have gotten to know online. However, my favorite is meeting new people and learning their personal stories – especially how they landed in healthcare marketing.

With regard to #3, if you are heading to SHSMD or know someone who is, please let them know about the #HITMC, #HITsm and #hcldr meetup happening on Monday evening 5:30 – 6:30pm at the High Velocity Sports Bar in the conference hotel. The meetup is being sponsored by our good friends at dotHealth. We’ve set up an Eventbrite registration for the meetup – so we can get the right number of tables. It should be a fun event!

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We're glad you found the Healthcare IT Marketing and PR Community (or as we affectionately call it...HITMC). This blog is a place for healthcare IT marketing and PR professionals to come together and share their insights, skills, expertise with other people trying to make healthcare better through the use of technology. This blog grew out of the Healthcare IT Marketing and PR Conference which is held annually. We look forward to connecting and learning from you. Please feel free to reach out to us on our contact us page if you have any questions.

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