Nick Ragone on Healthcare Marketing in the "Everywhere Care" Era

by Heather Hammond, Managing Editor - 03/26/19

week4 

Nick Ragone from Ascension offers a model for meeting consumers where they live and work.

If you’ve worked in hospital or health system marketing for more than five years, you’ve likely observed a significant shift in the patient journey. Thanks to online shopping features like Amazon's 1-click ordering and price-comparison tools across the web, the modern healthcare consumer is conditioned to expect a higher degree of access and convenience when making purchase decisions.

A few recent studies illustrate this shift:

More than seven in 10 consumers run a search before scheduling a physician or surgical appointment, and 69 percent conduct a search before selecting a hospital (DialogTech).

The number of consumers tracking their health data with wearables has more than doubled since 2013 and many are also willing to share their data to improve their health or the device's performance (Modern Healthcare).

In the Advisory Board’s 2017 Virtual Visits Consumer Choice Survey, 77 percent of respondents said they would see a doctor virtually—and nearly one in five already had.

Millennials are more likely to visit a freestanding emergency department (ED) than a traditional hospital ED setting (Tampa Bay Times).

At the Forefront: Ascension’s Transformation

Week4_Nick-Ragone_Ascension_AdjustedUnder the leadership of Nick Ragone, senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer, Ascension is evolving to address these realities and facilitate the shift to “everywhere care.”

Since 2014 when he joined Ascension, one of the nation’s leading nonprofit and Catholic health systems, Ragone has transformed the organization’s marketing function from a local and decentralized community to an integrated, enterprise-wide team to support its 2,600 sites of care and more than 150 hospitals in 21 states and the District of Columbia.

“Consumers want a different experience from their healthcare providers,” Ragone says. “They want it to be connected, seamless, convenient and to work on their behalf. Having a single, unified brand has allowed us to begin focusing on an exceptional consumer experience across all our sites of care.”

This transformation has allowed the system to rebrand all its hospitals, ambulatory sites and physician practices as Ascension—the largest such undertaking ever in the provider space—as well as create a more strategic, data-driven, direct-to-consumer marketing approach and consumer experience. Ragone said this unified brand has made it easier for consumers to connect the dots across the system’s continuum of care, whether it’s in the acute care setting, urgent care, senior living, a physician office or even home care.

Content as the Competitive Advantage

In this era of increasing competition, Ragone cites brand storytelling as a critical component of any marketing strategy.

“We know that consumers are making more and more of their healthcare choices through online search—and it’s not just to find the closest urgent care or a new primary care doctor,” Ragone says. “It includes going online to find specialists or reference-check a physician referral.”

With that being the case, Ragone says creating your own branded content that’s shareable and interesting is becoming increasingly important to grow “share of voice” online as consumers are doing their research and making choices. He points to owned and original content as being critical to online optimization, both paid and organic, so consumers can find your content and shop your services. Additionally, great content positions you as a trusted authority so that when potential patients have questions, they will turn to you for answers—both online and in your service lines.

According to Ragone, content needs to be:

  • Findable
  • Digestible
  • Shareable

“Just like any other consumer-focused product or service, consumers want to know that they are making the best choice when it comes to their health care,” Ragone says. “That process begins with search. When making choices and recommendations, profiles of care, personal testimonials and success stories are supporting provider endorsement and referral—particularly in online communities and social sharing.”

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