Blog Post

Pitfalls of Channel Obsession – Part 3

November 3, 2014
SE2 friend and project partner Bill Sonn recently moved on from his role as senior director of Marketing, Communications & Public Relations with University of Colorado Health after eight years.
Like Bill, SE2 has a long track record of helping a variety of health care organizations – hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, professional associations, providers and insurers – move the meter on issues that matter. Those issues vary greatly depending on the challenges each client is facing at the moment with internal or external stakeholders.
This post is the final installment in a three-part series in which I interviewed Bill about the future of health care communications. Click here to check out the first post, “The Changing ‘Face’ of Health Care Communications” and the second, Part 2: “Mo’ data, mo’ problems?”
JH: Thinking broadly about the health care landscape (systems, providers, insurers, advocacy organizations at the local, national and international levels), who is innovating new ways to communicate with key audiences? 
BS: Big and small systems – like Cleveland Clinic, Mayo, Advocate Health in Illinois, and Thomas Jefferson University & Hospital, among many – aggressively use digital channels to communicate. They do well by doing video, content marketing, online scheduling and more with precise goals in mind. There are thousands of other systems doing the same. A recent survey of 247 execs at hospitals, practices and long-term care facilities, for example, found virtually all of them are somehow deploying mobile access to electronic health records, telemedicine capabilities, mobile apps, even home monitoring of patients’ health status. (For more information, see “The State of Mobility in Healthcare.”)
JH: How are patients responding to all of this new technology? 
BS: Seventy percent or more of the under-35s at Thomas Jefferson (the hospital, not the dead president) surveyed expect digital features like online scheduling, two-way communications with providers, access to their kids’ or elderly parents’ health records and, in general, online conveniences like they get from their banks. (For more information, see “The Successful Mobile Strategy” from Executive Insights.)
There are, moreover, apps from companies like Axial Exchange and monitors like FitBit moving information to and from consumers, as well as incorporating it in the medical records of big, sophisticated enterprise systems like Epic and Cerner. Those big ones also move information from provider to provider. We have nothing but new channels.
But we also have a bad case of channel obsession. Given the sheer expense, convenience and eye-popping shiny newness of some of these technologies, it’s not hard to understand why many of us have become more concerned about using them than we are about why we should use them. Most of the health care marketing “innovation” conferences I see are about technology, not our key audiences.
We have a historic opportunity to use technology to get closer to, to talk to and—better yet—listen to our various audiences. Among healthcare communicators, though, we still seem to be so enamored of the technology itself that the goal is often simply to use it without regard to purpose or suitability.
Thank you to Bill Sonn for taking the time to share thoughtful to answers to questions our clients are asking!

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