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When Technology and Marketing Join Forces: A Conversation with Jared Johnson from Phoenix Children’s Hospital

MedTouch Marketing

MedTouch sat down with Jared Johnson, Manager of Marketing Technology and Analytics from Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Their conversation covered the organization’s wins and challenges of the previous year, his advice for other marketers, and his vision of what’s coming next in digital healthcare marketing.

Jared JohnsonJared Johnson’s career in healthcare marketing began a decade ago when he first worked with a provider and then for a couple of medical device companies. At that time, new technologies and social platforms were coming into the cultural framework, and it got him to thinking about how they would fit into the healthcare ecosystem. Intense curiosity about the possibilities of that intersection led him to branch out on his own. So, Jared quit his job.

“I told myself, ‘I think I can do this. I’d like to try this on my own for a while,’ so I started a little agency focused on healthcare marketing on both the B2B and B2C sides. And as ideas came around, I wanted to capture and then share them.” Jared did so in 2015 with a podcast called Health IT Marketer, which featured conversations with providers, thought leaders, and marketing leaders.

I'm the kind of person who likes to start a discussion. I know I don't know all the answers, but I like having the discussion because that's where a lot of us find answers.

Connect the DocsFrom those interviews, Jared compiled and published what he calls “a handbook for clinicians,” called Connect the Docs: Put Digital Health Into Practice, which offers insights for providers on how to dig into, understand, and use digital health technologies. “Sometimes those conversations centered on the EHR, sometimes they were about other digital ways of engaging with patients, but I hadn't seen really a compilation of that type of information anywhere else.”

Jared Joins Phoenix Children’s Hospital

In 2016, Jared found a perfect convergence for his interest in both tech and marketing when he joined Phoenix Children’s Hospital. “I went all in here at Phoenix Children's, and it's been exactly what I hoped it would be – opportunities and initiatives are moving together on both the tech side and the marketing side.”

Phoenix Children’s Hospital is a modern freestanding children’s hospital that has expanded and elevated its presence in recent years with pediatric clinical acquisitions and new urgent care clinics. Jared says in the last 10 years, “Phoenix Children’s has progressed from an organic community hospital into a national leader, in large part because we have a CIO and a cultural vision on the tech side that promotes innovation.”

Phoenix Childrens Hospital

Those innovations include broadcasting a surgery live on the video streaming app, Periscope. “We were the first, and to my knowledge, the only children’s hospital to do that, so we’ll always have that little star next to the Phoenix Children’s name, ” Jared says.

Phoenix Children’s also added streaming cameras so parents and families can watch their babies who are in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), something that Jared reflects would have been profoundly beneficial for his own family had they been available before now. “That innovative tech focus on patient care is amazing. It can make such a difference for families.”

How marketing and IT effectively get together

When asked if he’s a marketer, an IT person, or a hybrid, Jared says his interests have always been on the strategic side, but “there is such an intersection these days, it's hard to distinguish.” One of the biggest successes Jared notes over the past year for Phoenix Children’s is that hybridization of what tech can increasingly offer and how to evolve the strategy around that.

Jared describes the structure of the hospital’s marketing team as that which is organized around a marketing analytics theme, noting, “it's unique in that we are more connected on the IT side, breaking down some of those silos and learning from each other. Our organization is set up to do that.”

“Typically, an approach to analytics may be our marketing vendors sharing curated metrics with us about how well a campaign did. Or on the business support side, we might hear metrics about patient volumes, appointments scheduled, or second opinion visits. Traditionally, there has not been a way to merge those two things together, to own the data and truly mine insights out of it. And that's only half the equation; the other half is what we do with those insights. How do we share it with leadership and the rest of the team in a meaningful, digestible way? We made great strides in doing those things by hiring a dedicated analytics specialist, and then the rest of us – the team – learned to use that data.”

“Every week we have meetings where we talk about data, even micro trends, such as what has trended on social media down to the numbers. We then pull insights out, like not only how often to post or what types of things to post, but why they worked that way.”

One of the ways Phoenix Children’s uses those insights is to hone a focus on live video, a strategy that has gained good traction. They’ve produced around 60 25- to 30-minute Q and A sessions with providers on Facebook, and then repurposed them on the website and elsewhere.

“Our business goals focus on customer service, with a primary push to make it all easier: restructure content, reimagine the mobile experience, add live chat everywhere instead of just on targeted pages. And we will have more videos than we already have. We’re also adding patient reviews to our doctor profiles – a big touch point and a movement we're excited to join.”

Jared’s advice for healthcare marketers

Jared relates a potential pitfall for marketers: “I’ve fallen into this trap for years thinking that senior leadership doesn't understand marketing, and I've blamed them. In the last couple of years, I've tried to reflect back on myself: ‘When am I not communicating? Why is it not resonating?’ I think this is a common organizational struggle.”

“I try to put myself in [senior leadership’s] shoes and understand what makes them tick. Obviously, without business goals from a leadership team, especially in the case of a hospital, we wouldn't be able to keep the lights on. But marketing is not contradictory to those goals. There are direct business outcomes to it.”

“So, what we try to do with our content is make health care less scary, more convenient, or even just more accessible. We use the framework, Jobs to be Done, to connect with parents and families by focusing the content we create toward what drives them to seek it – their motivations. Our every strategy becomes easier when we continually answer the question of why are we doing what we’re doing. The overarching answer is to help parents.”

It’s so easy to get burned out. It's so easy to get caught up in the day-after-day, in all the data, in the content itself, and not reflect on the ‘why.’ But we have a role to play in where healthcare is going in the future and we can take advantage of that.

“Whenever we can, we should realize that what we're doing – if we're doing our marketing right – should be improving health care in this country. We should be taking steps to make health care better for people.”

“We shouldn't be afraid of technology; we shouldn't be afraid of analytics or data. We should be willing to experiment, hypothesize to try to solve a problem, then conduct an experiment to see how things work out. Be okay with trying something different and with failure. The more we do that, we'll start to see even more progress as an industry and get to a better place in health care.”

Jared’s predictions for digital healthcare marketing

Jared points to three emerging technologies – virtual reality, augmented reality, and voice search – which he says are going to be transformative in the next three to five years and will “dramatically change content strategy.” He also predicts that parts of the healthcare system will be automated, and he believes they should be – in a responsible way.

“In the end, we should be moving towards a state where digital health technology and marketing all exist in the same place. That ideal state has been talked about and has worked in pockets here and there, but has never really been successfully scaled. My conception is in technology that works in a secure, responsible, and personalized way, which usually means connecting with the EHR one way or another, to truly help people access the right care and still keep the hospital lights on. How the team is set up to accommodate that is going to change a lot between now and then, but that's what I'll be working towards.”

Share your expertise with Jared

We offered the chance to crowdsource a professional challenge, and Jared says his biggest hurdle right now is CRM or PRM systems. “I would love to truly better understand what peers are doing now, what is working, and more importantly, how it is supported organizationally. I don't hear a lot of success stories yet about the operational part of it and I'd like to.”

If you’d like to contribute your thoughts, we’d to hear from you. Share your expertise or comments with a post on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag, #HILS.

Socialize with Jared Johnson:
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And check out his Healthcare Rap podcast.

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Don’t miss other articles and interviews with digital healthcare leaders!

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