In a recent meeting with senior colleagues, researchers and clinicians, we discussed the power of precision medicine. This approach to health care taps technology, large sets of data, artificial intelligence and algorithms to develop better, personalized treatment plans for subgroups of patients. In turn, it has the capacity to render some traditional care practices obsolete.
Marketing is experiencing a similar transformation, with technological advances requiring us to tap different skills sets and to reorganize core functions. These changes can be unsettling for some. But instead of worrying about these shifts, we must embrace them. Technology can automate tasks and provide data that allow us to better understand the consumer and to spend more time on strategic decisions for our institution.
“Our digital strategy helps us connect with our consumers, obtain and interpret their feedback instantaneously, and engage them in meaningful dialogues and interactions”
At Johns Hopkins Medicine—an institution that straddles the worlds of higher education, health care delivery and academic medicine—we are on a journey to better understand the expectations and needs of our students, patients and colleagues. Our digital strategy helps us connect with our consumers, obtain and interpret their feedback instantaneously, and engage them in meaningful dialogues and interactions. As technology evolves, so too does our digital strategy and the tools we use to evaluate where our consumers are—geographically and virtually—and where we should invest resources. We do this to improve the health and lives of our patients and their families, and the well-being of our communities and the world.
What Is a Digital Business Strategy?
There is a common misconception that digital is synonymous with a website, a mobile application or an online presence. But digital isn’t something you download onto a smart device or a website listing products and services. It’s a collection of innovative tools used for a larger integrated approach that puts consumer relationships at the center of the business model.
Health care needs a digital strategy to achieve our most salient goal: better health for the people we serve. Organizations such as Johns Hopkins can optimize digital platforms to engage core audiences, empower care teams, raise clinical and operational efficiencies and effectiveness, and allow for the delivery of precision medicine. Technology can help us improve patient experiences and clinician productivity, which can lead to improvements in the health of people nationally and to lower costs of care. Take for example telemedicine, virtual visits and monitoring devices. Twenty years ago, few may have thought that these would be available and widely used, or that “continuous engagement” could be achieved via a “cloud.” Yet today, these things—and so much more—are increasingly possible.
An environment that changes this fast; can leave senior business leaders with more questions than answers. I recently attended a presentation by a leading consulting group on digital and technology strategies, where I learned about key questions CEOs grapple with as they try to bring their business into the digital arena. What opportunities and threats does digital pose to our institution? What added security measures do we need in place as we increase our digital capabilities? What should our digital strategy be? What capacity gaps do we have in our current technology structure? How must we not only organize but also measure differently for digital success?
Marketing’s Role in Digital Strategy
Colleagues in information technology, operations, finance, human resources, patient care and clinical quality each approach digital strategy differently but have the same purpose—to better serve our patients and our employees while moving the mission forward. We need digital platforms to better interact with and to better understand our customer. We all strive to be agile in the delivery of our products and services.
In marketing, we’re charged with understanding the market forces and prospective customer, and advising the institution on how to be more consumer-centric.
We have invested in learning which digital platforms our consumers are using, and how they search and consume information. Are they searching on Google or in social media? What kind of content are they seeking? Are they interested in health and wellness content or patient stories?
Using digital management systems, we track trends across our different audiences to better understand each consumer’s journey, from start to finish. A profile is created that collects each person’s preferences for content topics and the history of engagement through different channels. This information is used to maintain relationships with consumers while they decide whether to further tap our services.
At Johns Hopkins Medicine, we have six primary audiences: prospective patients and their families, employees and faculty, students, donors, beneficiaries of our insurance products, and other providers or partners.
Students, prospective patients and consumers want personalized information. They also want exactly what they are looking for, and they want it fast. By tracking our interactions, we create a better customer experience. Everything they convey online helps us do this. By adding competitive data to this body of information, we build the foundation for predictive analytic models that guide us in our decisions to give consumers exactly what they expect from us.
Using Marketing Insights to Drive the Strategy
This knowledge about digital platforms and consumer engagement also provides us with critical information about where to direct resources. The information often helps us identify potential gaps in efficiencies and in services and allows us to address areas for growth.
However, data optimization can happen only if we have two things: the right data and tools to ensure that the information is actionable, and the human insight and emotional intelligence to know what to look for and how to take value-added actions. Recognizing trends and patterns helps my team and me with our decisions.
In a world of clutter, it’s important to cut through the noise to remain relevant. The more we can measure and personalize, the more we can target. And the more precise we can be in connecting the inquiring consumer with the best, most appropriate services and specialties. For those of us in health care, that can mean more lives are saved and more communities are served.