What 'won't be optional' for hospital marketers in 2024

Deploying artificial intelligence and boosting patient experience will be major focuses of health system marketing leaders in 2024.

Chief marketing officers told Becker's they plan to use everything from generative AI to print magazines to give consumers more personalization and relevant healthcare content in the new year.

"In 2024, marketing will undergo a significant evolution," said Shweta Ponnappa, chief marketing officer of Renton, Wash.-based Providence. "Healthcare marketers who figure out how to use AI-generated videos correctly will transform the consumer digital experience."

She also pointed to a Gartner report predicting that search engines backed by AI will cut organic search traffic by 50% over the next five years. So she said "search generative experience," or generative AI-enabled search, "won't be optional" for marketing leaders in 2024.

"AI-powered marketing almost goes without saying. Except — to paraphrase my old 'boss' Walt Disney — it's time to quit talking and begin doing," said Kevan Mabbutt, executive vice president and chief marketing, communications and consumer experience officer for Charlotte, N.C.-based Advocate Health. "What's mainstream in other industries will become routine in healthcare."

Also, with the challenging economics in the industry, the spotlight on marketing return on investment should only get bigger, he said: "This is a golden opportunity to be expansive, not expensive — to grow our accountability and broaden our value."

Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health has already started using generative AI to create marketing content and images and personalize messaging for patients. Adam Rice, senior vice president of marketing and communications for the 142-hospital system, said he expects that work to accelerate in the new year, and for cross-department partnerships to continue.

"The collaboration between marketing and IT teams will further strengthen in 2024, as they prioritize maximizing investments in MarTech stacks to enhance operational efficiency and improve the consumer experience," Mr. Rice said.

He also expects "consumer-driven permissioning and preference centers" to become "essential technologies" to meld personalized patient experiences with data privacy.

Cleveland Clinic, meanwhile, intends to pilot AI for marketing and communications content creation and performance, competitive analytics, social media, and podcast efficiency. "We believe these generative AI tools have the potential to transform the way we work in the future," said Chief Marketing Officer Paul Matsen.

Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente, which spans eight states and the District of Columbia, plans to use data and analytics to determine the best marketing approach for its local markets.

"This ensures brand consistency, at the same time acknowledging the local variations that differentiate our model of care," said Kristy LoRusso, chief marketing officer of the 39-hospital system. "While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, by using the support of data and insights, common frameworks, and measurement, a customized consumer experience at scale is possible."

Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger, a 10-hospital system that Kaiser Permanente has agreed to acquire as part of a new value-based care organization called Risant Health, intends to prioritize the shift to value in its marketing, concentrating on growing its health plan membership, the use of its pharmacy and patient volume at its walk-in and senior-focused primary care clinics.

"To do that effectively, we need a robust set of MarTech tools, and we are focused this year to fully leverage our CRM (customer relationship management) to create personalized journeys not only for customer acquisition but for customer engagement," said Don Stanziano, chief marketing and communications officer at Geisinger.

That doesn't mean Geisinger won't continue to invest in its old-school website and blog and even older-school print magazines, he said.

Further illustrating the blending of marketing and digital, Houston Methodist's marketing arm aims to heighten the patient experience by improving its online appointment booking and find-a-physician features, helping better match patients with relevant providers who have openings in their schedules.

"Our market research has shown that (patients) want more of a partnership with healthcare systems and with their providers," said Laura Lopez, senior vice president of marketing and communications at Houston Methodist. "People are focusing more on health and well-being and looking for big healthcare brands to be thought leaders in these areas."

The eight-hospital system plans to get there by juicing up its blog, social media, e-newsletter and e-digest, as well as delving deeper into "more easily digestible content" such as podcasts, videos and infographics.

Ease and accessibility of care will be top of mind for Cincinnati-based Bon Secours Mercy Health's marketing department. Patient education is ever important. 

"While utilizing traditional and digital tools to drive service line volume remains a priority, it is important that we open doors and direct patients to the right level of care at the right time — in a manner that makes sense to them," said Sandra Mackey, chief marketing officer of the 48-hospital system. "It is essential that patients understand the difference between primary care, urgent care and the emergency room to help secure appropriate and cost-effective care."

Sacramento, Calif.-based Sutter Health's 2024 marketing approach will help further the 22-hospital system's multiyear strategy of driving "growth with purpose," said Jennifer Bollinger, senior vice president and chief consumer and brand officer. Ms. Bollinger started in the role last February.

"This intentional growth aims to extend our high-quality care to more individuals and positively impact more lives," she said. "Our bold brand promise aligns seamlessly with internal work we've completed to reimagine our vision, mission and values."

But in 2024, it all comes back to AI. Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health is investing in the technology to "increase the speed and reach of media placement, CRM automation and overall creativity," said Julie Spencer Washington, executive vice president and chief marketing, communications and customer experience officer.

"For Trinity Health, AI is only as valuable as its ability to help us improve health outcomes for individuals and whole communities," she said. "We will need to remain agile, creative and responsive, using all the tools, new and familiar, to pinpoint the needs of our customers and our communities."

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