2 health system chief marketing officers predict their toughest challenges in 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic threw an unexpected curveball at healthcare marketers. After dramatically shifting their communications strategies during 2020, they are now preparing to develop messaging that encourages patients to stay connected with their health.

Here, two health system marketing leaders share what they think will be the 2021's most critical challenges in the healthcare marketing field.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

Sandra Mackey, chief marketing officer at Bon Secours Mercy Health (Cincinnati): 2020 has been an unprecedented year as the world grappled with the devastating impacts of COVID-19 and many other environmental, social and economic factors that caused disruption. With so many factors that shape consumers' decisions about health care, the biggest challenge I see in 2021 will be encouraging consumers to proactively take care of their health and well-being — both mental and physical — at a time when they are prioritizing so many other things in their lives. The challenges of working from home, juggling school schedules, isolation and serving as caregivers are a new reality for so many, and personal health care often falls near the bottom of the list. 

Additionally, the unknown long-term impacts of COVID-19 and the subsequent recovery challenges, coupled with potential changes to future health care policy, are critical issues that are top of mind. Keeping our eye on the ball to ensure that we are meeting consumers where they are, while offering digital solutions that create greater pathways to convenient care and resources, remains a top priority for Bon Secours Mercy Health in 2021. Telemedicine, virtual offerings and digital technology must be front and center so consumers remain informed on the best ways to access care, and as a result, how we leverage our technology stack is critical.  

Manny Rodriguez, chief marketing, experience and customer officer, UCHealth (Aurora, Colo.): We are in a very challenging position as an industry as it pertains to marketing and communications moving forward. How do we start to think beyond COVID-19, and how will we re-engage with our audience on other topics pertaining to health care? How do we evolve the conversation we’ve started since COVID-19 hit? 

Our industry was thrust into becoming the obvious voice of authority when it comes to the pandemic. Those who are doing it well have earned a proactively interested audience that they perhaps didn't quite have before. I don't think we can go back to the pre-COVID-19 playbook. We need to build on the trust that’s been placed with us and create a dialogue that will help inspire our audience to resume healthy, active lives, while being mindful of the efforts we all must make to protect one another.


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