Having guided the digital marketing strategy for health systems, our digital team leads can relate to the highs and lows that come with the territory. Here’s how that translates into their roles at True North Custom, along with their take on trends with the greatest potential impact on healthcare digital marketing.
Ashley Dufrene and Michael Robideau, senior digital marketing specialists at True North, have both walked a mile in the shoes of health system marketers, having previously served at Halifax Health (Florida) and Fairview Health Services (Minnesota), respectively. Here’s how they’re leveraging that experience, their digital marketing expertise and healthy doses of empathy to help clients navigate a path to success.
Why did you decide to shift to the strategic partner side of the marketing relationship?
Ashley: Whether I am working at a health system or on the agency side, being a strategic partner is ingrained in me. I wanted to work for True North because the opportunity to be a strategic partner for many health systems, instead of just one, was very appealing. [Watch Ashley share additional perspective on why she joined True North in this video.]
Health care, and the understanding of health care and what you have access to in your community, is very important in this country. I feel people still hear “health care” and think of it as this complicated beast and try to avoid it at all cost. To me that is not a fair assessment, and communities need to understand what access they have to care.
Michael: The great thing about digital marketing, and why I love the industry so much, is the fact that what you do today could completely change tomorrow. Now that I’m on the strategic partner side of the equation, I am able to push my limits more and build off my skill sets to continue helping clients grow and succeed.
How does your previous experience working for health systems inform your work at True North?
Ashley: I know there is more to the story. Some people see a hospital building, and that’s often all they see: a building. Most do not realize what truly goes on inside of that building and the access to amazing care.
That access carries through to all healthcare systems or hospitals—each has many different attributes that make it the best. Knowing how to make the community aware of those attributes is a game changer. My goal is to help foster the relationship between communities and their healthcare providers so they’re closer than ever before.
Michael: I come from a unique situation in that, when I started my previous job, I was working with three of the largest healthcare providers in the state of Minnesota, all at the same time. I helped lead the new branding efforts when they all merged and have experience with numerous aspects of health care.
I have worked in everything from primary care to most forms of specialty care to educational medicine. There is little that can be thrown at me in terms of digital marketing for healthcare organizations that I haven’t already seen, tested and created a strategic plan for.
What are some of the greatest challenges health systems face when it comes to digital marketing? How do you help clients overcome those challenges?
Ashley: Even though digital marketing is not a new concept, it’s still an emerging concept in health care. A primary reason for that is HIPAA. Many systems avoided using online marketing because of patient privacy information.
Now that those established rules about HIPAA compliance are in place, the health industry is more open to using digital. But where do you start? That is where we come in. We know the rules, we know what you can and cannot do when it comes to healthcare digital marketing, and we bring that knowledge to our clients every day to ensure they remain complaint while getting the results they’re looking for.
Michael: Honestly, when we talk about digital marketing, one of the biggest areas that needs work is just the effort. There is often this idea of, “Everyone needs health care, why advertise?” But that is the furthest thing from the truth. Consumers today are very savvy and conscious of their decisions, and with all the technology at their fingertips, it's more important than ever to place your brand message out there.
On top of that, the healthcare industry is changing by the minute. How brands advertise to consumers has become a challenging puzzle as providers start to look at how they compete, not only with your standard healthcare providers, but also with new providers in the market such as Amazon and Walmart. These brands definitely have the ability to change the way health care operates, and the opportunity to work in the area is exciting.
What are some digital marketing trends you anticipate having the most impact on health systems in 2020 and beyond?
Ashley: Three words: Trim the fat. Now that there have been several years of data to showcase what works and what doesn’t in digital marketing for health care, many organizations will start trimming the fat—focusing on niche targeting efforts to ensure they are getting the right message in front of their consumers at the right time to achieve the goal conversion.
Since health care was late in the game getting into digital marketing, we have seen organizations overspend on digital efforts just to not get the results they were told could be achieved (because they didn’t know better). But now the knowledge has caught up. We are seeing a shift in health systems: They’re consolidating vendors and trying to find strategic partners that can align on all fronts of marketing, not just one aspect of it.
Michael: Right now, looking at how Walmart and Amazon will potentially change the way health care operates is crazy to me. Today, you can slip, fall and break your arm, and while waiting for your X-ray results (which you got at Walmart), you can shop and prepare for your day. Walmart has already started rolling out clinics within their stores—and not just minute clinics, but fully operational offices.
Or, imagine being able to ask Alexa to contact your doctor for a prescription refill, or even have a face-to-face conversation with a doctor, all with your information and vitals being taken from your Alexa device. This is the future of health care, and the change that it will bring is incredibly exciting.
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