How marketing, digital health have blurred, according to Ardent's consumer chief

As chief consumer officer for Nashville, Tenn.-based Ardent Health Services, Reed Smith is also in charge of marketing. Just don't call it that.

"We've made a very conscious effort to try to evolve the vernacular that we use within the organization and move away from this idea of marketing and advertising and digital and traditional and CRM [customer relationship management] — and talk about engagement and talk about experience and talk about identity," he told Becker's.

Mr. Smith's role itself is indicative of the changes at the $5.1 billion, 30-hospital system — and the industry as a whole. He said the first hospital chief consumer officer he can recall was at Atlanta-based Piedmont Healthcare. But he expects more of them, as healthcare becomes a more consumer-friendly, personalized, digitized approach.

He said his position, which was created in April, probably most aligns with that of a chief digital officer. But at Ardent he also oversees branding and marketing. But nowadays, those go hand in hand with digital health.

"It's everything from how people research and search for care and ultimately book and receive care, but there's a thread all the way through that consumer experience, to the actual receiving care from virtual and telehealth channels, on-demand visits, remote patient monitoring of chronic care, etc.," he explained.

He hopes to create more do-it-yourself experiences for patients, allowing them to easily find out, say, which type of visit would be best for them (urgent, primary care or telehealth) and then be able to book one online or immediately launch a virtual appointment. He believes generative artificial intelligence like ChatGPT will be able to help with this, with chatbots handing off to live agents as needed.

Ardent has been using GPT technology internally to boost workflows and efficiencies, he said, such as drafting content for the web or social media. He said it might also look to the technology to draft patient portal messages, though he noted that the initiative from Epic and Microsoft that some health systems are taking part in is a "closed pilot."

Mr. Smith got his start in marketing two decades ago for the former Brownwood (Texas) Regional Medical Center and said the challenges haven't changed. "They're the same ones we've had for years, which is no one wants to use our services," he said. "No one's sitting around thinking like, I can't wait till the next time I get to go to the hospital or go to a doctor. So we inherently are starting at a place where you're selling something or offering something that people are not particularly looking for."

That's where engagement and consumerism are important, he said.

Healthcare marketers also have to be more tuned in to patient privacy after HHS' Office of Civil Rights discouraged the use of consumer tracking and analytics tools, he said.

But the opportunities to innovate have also increased, Mr. Smith added.

"When I started doing this, the idea of marketing and patient experience were two totally different things," he said. "And here we are 20 years later, and I can't much tell you how they're different. As I've talked to people who are new in the industry or new in their careers, I try to remind them that what I'm doing today did not exist when I started. The way that we serve the community and the consumer continues to evolve. So it's just a really exciting time to be in the space and be able to be a part of it."

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars