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Marketing as a Catalyst for Innovation and Change: A Conversation with Craig Kartchner from HonorHealth

James Gardner

James Gardner, head of Market + Business Development for MedTouch, recently sat down with Craig Kartchner, AVP of Growth and Performance Marketing at HonorHealth in Scottsdale, Arizona. Their conversation covered Craig’s path to his current role, the innovation-friendly culture at HonorHealth, some of his team’s current priorities, and his thoughts about how marketing can be a catalyst for innovation and change.

Craig KartchnerOne of the great benefits of my role at MedTouch is getting to cross paths with healthcare marketing’s visionaries and thought leaders — almost all of whom are eager to share their insight and expertise. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Craig Kartchner, AVP of Growth and Performance Marketing at HonorHealth in Scottsdale, Arizona. Throughout our conversation, Craig not only spoke passionately and candidly about our industry, but he also seemed to have keen insight and focus about the direction in which we’re collectively headed.

It makes his a particularly good brain to pick.

Craig’s path to HonorHealth

There’s a highly-focused lens through which Craig views healthcare marketing, and it offers both precision and prescience, which is perhaps at least partly due to how long he’s seen the industry as his calling. “Even in college, I knew that I wanted to be in healthcare marketing,” he says. “I thought it was one of the industries that was going to burgeon and be strong and reliable for decades to come.”

A college internship turned into a full-time position with Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, where Craig ultimately spent 15 years. Last summer, though, he felt the itch to make a change. Not just in terms of his job, but in the industry as a whole. HonorHealth seemed like the right fit. He explains: “It’s community-owned and not for profit—which was a prerequisite for me—and it’s big enough to be able to make some interesting moves and actually influence the market and a good-size patient base, but small enough that it's pretty nimble and can make changes quickly. And even more important than that, perhaps, is the culture here is very eager to change. Leadership is open to new ideas and innovation.”

A culture of change is something that Craig’s very tuned into, and it came up throughout our conversation. But first I wanted to circle back and hear a little bit more about why healthcare appealed to Craig in the first place. As someone who is also passionate about my work, I’m always curious to know what draws people to our industry. For Craig, it stems from his values and a clear sense of conviction about and commitment to his work.

"I believe that healthcare is a right and it isn’t always provided well or with empathy and compassion—but I think it needs to be. That needs to be a fundamental part of your mission and your values."

“I believe that healthcare is a right and it isn’t always provided well or with empathy and compassion—but I think it needs to be. That needs to be a fundamental part of your mission and your values,” he says. “I never want to be in an organization that doesn’t truly value customer experience and the community the organization serves.”

According to Craig, the antidote to that kind of organization is HonorHealth, a five-hospital system with a sixth in the works. “We have a mixed model employment, with employed physicians and a really diverse base of partnerships and co-management agreements with physician groups,” Craig says. “I think we're best known for cancer care, neurological care and cardiac care. We do provide full spectrum across all specialties, but in those areas we have a really robust research institute and do a lot of really solid clinical work and research. We have about 11,000 employees and serve mostly Scottsdale and North Phoenix.”

HonorHealth

Craig’s role as a change catalyst

Craig joined HonorHealth with a mission: “I was recruited specifically for three things: to enhance our capabilities in digital marketing; for consumerism, to really focus on the customer experience; and then third, innovation—helping to build an innovation infrastructure so we can test and then deploy successful innovations throughout the organization.”

One of the frustrations I sometimes hear from our clients about healthcare marketing is that the perception of what marketers do within a hospital is so limiting and so focused on corporate communications and advertising. Craig and I both believe strongly that the future of marketing needs to be much more focused on the overall patient experience.

“That’s the thing that excites me the most,” he says. “In other industries marketing is kind of the epicenter, in regard to the consumer. In healthcare, it’s just not the case. As an industry, we don't have as much control over the four Ps and as marketers we’re not even involved in the discussion a lot of the time.”

"We're 15 years behind other industries but it’s finally changing because the consumer is demanding that the industry change rapidly."

Craig acknowledges that all this is changing, albeit slowly. “We're 15 years behind other industries,” he laments, “but it’s finally changing because the consumer is demanding that the industry change rapidly.”

Change, as I mentioned earlier, requires a culture of change, and I asked Craig to expand on where he sees that emerging in healthcare marketing. (Asking Craig how he sees the industry culture changing is a bit of a trick question, since he’s as likely to be the one making the changes as the one observing them.)

Consumerism, competition, and choice

One example, he says, is how our industry views consumerism. “Before, people tended to define consumerism as patient engagement, like getting people the information they need to make good decisions or the technologies so they can track their own health and engage more meaningfully with their physician,” he notes. “Consumerism in my mind comes down to one simple term: competition. The customer has more and more choice. Even in healthcare we have to compete for their business. That’s the definition of consumerism in my mind, and I think that, slowly, people are realizing that we need to compete.”

I believe Craig’s right. This idea of choice—where our patients get treated, how they get treated, if they even choose to get treated at all—is tilting into the hands of individuals. So where do we place our energies to deploy and harness consumerism? Craig says he’s focusing on three things at HonorHealth: brand building, growth, and engagement, across all audiences.

Enterprise CRM’s mission-critical importance

“A lot of people talk about building the 360-degree view of the customer, patient, and employee and certainly we want to do that,” he says. “But it’s what you do with that. It’s not action-oriented just to collect it. So a big part of the new enterprise CRM we’re rolling out is using analytics to recommend the next best action. And having a business plan or a recipe card for every customer: what do we want this person to do or what is the best thing for this customer to do?”

As we know, screening patients to offer preventative care recommendations is a great way we already use this data. Craig wants us all to dream bigger. “Think of that on steroids,” he says. “Where we need to go is truly predictive analytics, actually diving into the data to predict behaviors and problems, and then proactively engage the consumer to address them together."

"HonorHealth is becoming more data-centric, so we can show ROI for a lot of our services. But I want to be able to show ROI for everything we do, from start to finish."

Data is also essential to showing ROI, Craig says, especially in the areas of growth and engagement. “HonorHealth is becoming more data-centric, so we can show ROI for a lot of our services. But I want to be able to show ROI for everything we do, from start to finish,” Craig notes. He envisions a near future where customers are making appointments in real time, taking complete and direct control of setting up their healthcare visits.

Craig also says integration is key. There’s no point in having a suite of sophisticated platforms for conducting and implementing market research if they aren’t integrated. But he cautions against getting ahead of ourselves when it comes to the software and services necessary to do the work. “People always talk about open APIs and having a real-time interaction integration when flat files are usually more than adequate,” he says. “We’re taking that approach where we’re starting with basic flat files and if we determine we need full open API style integrations then, great, but those take a lot of work to do.”

Other areas of focus for HonorHealth include reputation management, transparency, increasingly sophisticated website personalization, and content management. The foundation of all of it, of course, is CRM—which seems like it should be true across the board in the hospital industry, but it isn’t always.

Technology but also teamwork and communication

Not everything that Craig sees as being key to CRM success is about data points and technology. Some of it goes back to good, old-fashioned teamwork and clear, effective communication aimed at maximizing impact. He explains, “You can have a recipe card for each consumer but if your team doesn’t get the water to the end of the row, then you're not going to get nearly as far. Wherever the customer is going to encounter your organization—whether it’s at the front desk, on the phone, via email, via chat—it has to be the same message, the same recipe card. Otherwise the cake that comes out of the oven doesn't look like it should. That’s almost the hardest thing and why enterprise CRM is so important.”

Craig also thinks we need to fine-tune the way we view our relationships with the customer. “Healthcare doesn’t really look at the value of relationships as much as some other industries,” he says. “Instead of focusing on the episodic value of each individual interaction, now we’re trying to focus more on the lifetime value. That’s another cultural shift that we’re trying to effect here to help people understand that we’re in an industry where the relationship is paramount.”

ROI from outcomes — not outputs

As Craig talks, it’s clear to me that HonorHealth both supports and appreciates his expertise and vision. I asked him what advice he had for peers who might not yet have the same level of influence and impact. “Our department is respected within our organization, but we still have a long way to go,” he clarifies. “We’re still not at the table in a lot of areas where we need to be. I’m sure healthcare marketers across the country are frustrated that they’re maybe not respected or consulted, but I have to ask why. And I think it’s because marketers in healthcare don’t go to causation. They go to correlation. It’s softer. They don’t get down to data and metrics. They don’t show ROI for their efforts.”

"There’s respect and authority that’s given, and then there’s respect and authority that’s earned. You need to earn it by thinking of things the same way your CFO would."

He continues: “There’s respect and authority that’s given, and then there’s respect and authority that’s earned. You need to earn it by thinking of things the same way your CFO would. We get into a trap of trying to prove our worth through regurgitating volumes of output measures. That’s all great. But the value is in the outcomes and that’s so much harder to measure, but so much more important for the CFO and for the organization. I think that’s what I would recommend to healthcare marketers out there: focus on outcome, not output—with fanatical intensity.”

If you’d like to build on Craig’s thoughts, I’d be happy to hear from you. Share your comments with a post on Twitter using the hashtag, #hcmktg.

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