As we just wrapped up the last installment of HITMC Part Deux, it seemed like a great time to highlight another 2020 HITMC Award winner. I can’t think of a better person to end the year with than, Larry Kaiser. He’s the VP of Marketing at Optimum Healthcare IT and he’s also the 2020 Healthcare IT Marketer of the Year!
I had a great time picking Larry’s brain about all things marketing in 2020. Below is a summary of our conversation. Be sure to watch the video to hear the full interview.
How did you initially get started in healthcare marketing?
It was one of those random job applications! Way back in 2005, I applied for a newly created proposal manager position at a company called Keane. At that point, I had a long history of RFP writing from previous positions, and they were trying to improve their process. They had two separate EMRs, so every RFP had two responses – one for each system. That’s how I got into healthcare IT more than 15 years ago.
Once you got into healthcare, what made you stay? It’s not an easy industry.
It isn’t. When I got into health care, I met a few people outside our organization who were attending HIMSS. And those folks gave me a great piece of advice: if you can stay in healthcare, stay in healthcare, because it’s just going to continue to grow and evolve. Shortly thereafter, Keane was acquired by an investment firm that stripped them down to nothing. I survived seven workforce reductions to finally run that marketing department.
What gets you excited most about being in healthcare marketing?
I love that it changes every day. If you go back to 2005, we didn’t have a lot of EHRs in the market back then and they were pretty tough to use. They were on older platforms and technologies. But from those humble beginnings, we are now witnessing the conversion to the cloud. The constant churn of not just new technologies but also of new legislation – it’s something different every day.
Is there a particular project that you really enjoyed or are particularly proud of?
When I joined Optimum four and a half years ago, I built the marketing function from the ground up. I started with just a logo plus a really old website, and took it to where it is today. I was really proud of that, and I’m proud of all the work we still continue to do. It was a huge undertaking, and I was very thankful for the opportunity that Optimum gave me to do that and to be successful. And when you’re the person leading a project like that and you see it come to fruition, then you realize that the work isn’t ever really done. You have to keep churning, keep redefining, and keep changing and evolving to stay ahead of the competition.
Let’s talk about the award, what was it like to be named Healthcare IT Marketer of the Year?
It was humbling. It was satisfying. And it was surprising. I’ve only been really active in the HITMC community for about two and a half or three years, but I’ve met so many great people. And while the award is an individual award, as I told my team, it’s really their award too, because they execute the strategy and ideas. It feels great to be recognized for the 15 years of marketing work, and it’s something I’ll always appreciate.
What advice would you give to someone who may just be starting out in healthcare marketing?
The marketing part is secondary – you have to educate yourself on the market itself and the environment. Understand where the market is today in terms of software vendors and legislation. Understand what has happened in the past to get us to where we are in healthcare today. You have to understand how you can improve patient care. Read up – subscribe to blogs, websites, newsletters, etc.
Also, don’t underestimate the value of social media. Twitter is my favorite place these days. When I came to my first HITMC event in New Orleans in 2018, my Twitter account wasn’t even public. I had to approve people. But by the time I left that conference, my Twitter was unlocked and I’ve never looked back. I had a huge explosion of people following me, and I followed them back. And now, if I’m curious about what’s going on in healthcare, I can go scroll through my Twitter feed and find an article or people commenting on what’s happening on the frontlines of COVID. I can find clinicians on the front lines that you just can’t get in the mainstream media.
What are your thoughts about 2021?
I think obviously, the most important thing is the COVID vaccine and seeing how that goes. We’ll see how quickly we can distribute it and we’ll learn a lot from that whole process. That’s first and foremost. After that, I’m excited to see the future of telehealth.
For years and years, “telehealth” was such a buzzword. In fact, I wrote a blog for our website at the end of 2018 posing the question of whether we’d have widely adopted telehealth in 2019. In hindsight, I should have written that for 2020. But I’m very interested to see whether telehealth is here to stay and how payers will navigate that.
Lastly, I’m really interested to see how soon we get back to in-person events! We really thrive on that. It’s what drives relationships and ultimately the pipeline. I can’t wait to share a hug and a drink with my friends and colleagues. I’m just really looking forward to us all getting back together.