Exploring the healthcare marketing landscape with Jared Johnson

In this episode of our popular Tips in Ten(ish) minutes video series, Kirsten Lecky, EVP insights and growth at WG Content, sits down with the founder of Shift Forward Health, Jared Johnson. He shares the evolving expectations of healthcare consumers, highlighting the need for healthcare organizations to adapt their marketing strategies accordingly.

Watch this 15-minute video and learn how to:

  • Understand individual health journeys
  • Acknowledge competitive landscapes
  • Prioritize investments that exceed expectations

This video was recorded on February 27, 2024, before WriterGirl became WG Content.

Watch the video

0:00:05.0 Kirsten Lecky: Well, hi Jared. Welcome to our Tips in 10 Minutes. It’s so nice to have you.

0:00:10.8 Jared Johnson: Thanks, Kirsten.

0:00:12.6 Kirsten Lecky: Yeah. Well, I think it might be best if maybe you introduce yourself. I think everyone knows you, but you have your hands in so many different things. So I would love to hear how you describe what you do in our industry as you’re kind of a pro and a celebrity among all of us.

0:00:26.9 Jared Johnson: Well, yeah. Thanks, you bet. So I think the short version is 20 years in marketing. Most of that’s been in healthcare. The last six years, my focus has been on helping build and design consumer experiences and just understand what it means to innovate around their needs.

0:00:42.3 Jared Johnson: And them I’m the host of the Healthcare Rap, along with my co-host, Zain Ismail. It’s been going strong, it’s the leading podcast about consumer innovation. So, similar topic there. But yeah, we’ve been on air for six years, 300 plus episodes, and we just have a lot of fun there.

0:00:57.8 Kirsten Lecky: Yeah, no, I love following along, and I’ve attended a few of your Friday consumer phone calls or big large meetings and community that you’ve gathered.

0:01:05.6 Kirsten Lecky: And you forgot to mention that you’re also an author, you’ve written a couple of books. So tell us about those?

0:01:11.5 Jared Johnson: Yes, yes, thank you. Yeah, well, and it’s ironic because both books have been compilations of podcast episodes, and so the first one was called Connect the Docs, and it was a handbook for clinicians to help them kinda wrap their mind around digital health in the early days of physical health, and so understanding what it means to empower patients and to use digital health tools.

0:01:29.0 Jared Johnson: And then the most recent one was called Marketing Forward, and that was a vision for marketers to understand that they they can play a leading role in driving consumer transformation in healthcare, what that means.

0:01:40.6 Jared Johnson: And so it was a compilation of 100 different monologues. So we do… It was like a little that we do each episode, which is just a quick like two to three minute thought on what’s the latest thing that Amazon is doing or somebody else is on, and what does it mean for us but also consumers that we’re seeing.

0:02:00.7 Jared Johnson: So yeah, that was the most recent one, and both have been a lot of fun to put together.

0:02:03.6 Kirsten Lecky: So what’s next? Do you have another book? Another podcast? [chuckle] You’ll be the conference here in a few weeks, so we’ll talk a little bit about that. So you’re keeping yourself busy.

0:02:15.1 Jared Johnson: I am.

0:02:16.2 Kirsten Lecky: So you’re going to be spending 10 minutes with us, so thank you so much. So we’re gonna have a little bit of fun, we’re gonna start our conversation today, we are… Obviously, here at WriterGirl we love our words. And maybe you’ve done this before, but I know with my friends and family, we love to do this every year.

0:02:30.2 Kirsten Lecky: And it’s like you see those puzzles where you, it’s a bunch of letters and you kinda look at it and you’re supposed to pick your words and those words become your mantra of the year.

0:02:40.2 Kirsten Lecky: So Jared and I have one of those in front of us and we haven’t looked at them yet, so we’re not gonna cheat, but if we wanna just take a quick look, write it down, don’t say it out loud yet.

0:02:48.9 Jared Johnson: Okay.

0:02:50.2 Kirsten Lecky: But write it down on a piece of paper what three words you see. I’ll do the same. And then we will share our mantra for 2024. And we’ll just spend just a few seconds here.

0:03:00.9 Jared Johnson: All right, sounds fun.

0:03:03.9 Kirsten Lecky: Okay, here we go. Writing mine down.

0:03:06.6 Jared Johnson: Let’s see. Okay.

0:03:13.6 Kirsten Lecky: Okay. You have yours?

0:03:14.8 Jared Johnson: All right. I do.

0:03:17.0 Kirsten Lecky: All right. What jumped at you?

0:03:18.5 Jared Johnson: Okay. The first one was “abundant”.

0:03:21.0 Kirsten Lecky: Oh, I like that one.

0:03:23.4 Jared Johnson: And then “gratitude” and “purpose”. Were the three that caught my eye.

0:03:30.6 Kirsten Lecky: Those are really good ones. I like those ones. Abundance, especially. Everyone can go into a new year with a mantra of abundance. My three words were “alignment”, “gratitude” and “love”.

0:03:44.0 Kirsten Lecky: So those were the three words that jumped out for me, so I think those are pretty good too.

0:03:46.7 Jared Johnson: I love it.

0:03:48.7 Kirsten Lecky: So those are our mantras for 2024, so we can do what we want with those. So in the spirit of using words and certainly with your experience in the space of healthcare consumerism, what three words would you use to describe the healthcare consumer in 2024?

0:04:07.1 Jared Johnson: Oh my goodness, that is a challenge. This is what I should have expected. A word challenge.

0:04:15.2 Kirsten Lecky: Yes. [chuckle]

0:04:17.9 Jared Johnson: Okay, so yeah, narrowing down to a few words. I think I would describe the healthcare consumer as, is they expect more.

0:04:31.3 Kirsten Lecky: They expect more. So you’re using it really more of the sentence that’s opposed to three separate words, I like it.

0:04:35.3 Jared Johnson: In fact, just where it seems like we are with the state of consumer transformation and the understanding of what’s not only possible, but what’s beneficial to a provider or a healthcare system, as you become more consumer-centered.

0:04:51.2 Jared Johnson: Since is the early days of consumerism, when we first started talking about it, I don’t know how many years ago, many years ago, way before the pandemic, we just talked about it as like, this is a thing, people have choices.

0:05:03.9 Jared Johnson: And so you might need to be nicer to them, you might need to guide them a little bit more and explain to them how complex it is, their encounter with the healthcare system. So as long as you explain to them the complexity, you’re gonna help them make their choices.

0:05:20.6 Jared Johnson: And granted, not all aspects of that apply in all aspects of healthcare, we don’t have choices all the way across the board, it’s not like a one-size-fits-all.

0:05:30.1 Jared Johnson: But it was the awakening of, oh, we do need to have certain information on the website about providers that we haven’t had before. We need patient reviews, we need some interests and some things help us understand how to select a provider. There’s more than just you’re being told to go see, so such a such is best, and you book with them.

0:05:51.4 Jared Johnson: So I think that was a good foundation that’s kind of consumerism 1.0. That’s what’s been fueling a lot of updates to digital properties, digital marketing strategies, over the last, let’s say 10 years. Especially the last six or seven.

0:06:06.1 Jared Johnson: And where we’re going now I feel like is expectations, and that does bring on a different level of priority for understanding some areas that we can reduce friction in the experience, so that’s on the digital side.

0:06:21.5 Jared Johnson: But it’s more than just explaining that it’s complex to people, it’s actually making things simpler for them so you don’t have to explain as much. And that hopefully makes it more likely that you’re gonna at least meet some of the expectation of what it’s like to encounter someone in healthcare.

0:06:39.3 Kirsten Lecky: Do you think… When you say they expect more, do you feel like healthcare today is meeting their current expectations? So now it’s more about like… Well, now it’s the expect more. Now it’s like, let’s exceed my expectations.

0:06:52.1 Kirsten Lecky: Do you feel like we’re doing a good job meeting those expectations? I think I just heard you say maybe not. There’s still opportunity there.

0:07:00.4 Jared Johnson: There’s definitely opportunity there. There are thousands, what? 4500 hospitals, something like that in the US? And so there are… It seems like a little bit more, a little less. Somewhere in that neighborhood, though. So there’s a spectrum of how we’re responding to that and how we’re able to prioritize that.

0:07:18.4 Jared Johnson: First and foremost, I wanna convey that the empathy that anyone in this field has for one another, of trying to address this opportunity together. And part of that is maybe it’s some of those more surface-based needs and expectations that we have, that are being addressed a lot better than they were a few years ago.

0:07:40.4 Jared Johnson: We do have more information to help us select a provider. Our hospitals and health systems do have a landscaping tool, they do have the same as we experience in other areas of our lives.

0:07:51.8 Jared Johnson: And I used to just be like, “Well, why even try to do that? Why bother try to make something more like that?” Well, then we encounter… And any time you order something off Amazon or you see what Netflix recommends to you next or whatever, like any streaming service, you realize that what happening below the surface that is helping personalize something and has made an experience easy for you. You don’t have to do everything yourself.

0:08:14.1 Jared Johnson: And so I think those are some of the areas that we do have opportunities to build and design a whole ‘nother level or type of experience that isn’t necessarily common right now.

0:08:23.5 Kirsten Lecky: Right, yeah, yeah. Well, I think consumers just generally are becoming savvy as the way we access things is becoming easier, and so our expectations are constantly changing, and so we expect that from everyone everywhere. I think that’s… So it’s an opportunity not just for healthcare, but for every business, for sure.

0:08:46.2 Kirsten Lecky: So with that in mind, that they expect more, those being your three words, what can healthcare communicators do today? Maybe what can they start doing, stop doing, keep doing, what sort of tips would you give them to better meet today’s healthcare consumer?

0:09:04.2 Jared Johnson: Well, first and foremost, I would just say acknowledge that health journeys are different for everybody. And even when you do journey mapping, I feel like journey mapping is making a little bit of a come back. And it didn’t go away anywhere, but they’re in high demand right now, for healthcare organizations to understand.

0:09:26.8 Jared Johnson: And I do think that’s attributable, at least partially, to recognizing there’s no one-size-fits-all, we’ve owned that. But even to an nth degree of…

0:09:35.8 Jared Johnson: So just thinking about brand experience as part of your marketing strategy helps connect some of those dots. Right? We all know that brand dissonance occurs when there’s… That brand experience doesn’t match the marketing promise.

0:09:48.3 Jared Johnson: If all of the campaigns are saying something that we’re making things easier for you and your experience doesn’t match that, there’s some dissonance that occurs.

0:09:57.7 Jared Johnson: And so sometimes that renders those marketing promises more aspirational than actually functional, it’s not actually what people are experiencing. There’s nothing wrong with the marketing promise that says, “We’re making… We’re bringing high quality to you in a simple way.” There’s all sorts of iterations of that in dozens of hospital and health system campaigns. It’s great.

0:10:20.2 Jared Johnson: It’s recognizing that there’s a difference and maybe a gap between that and what people experience. And so that had to do with just simply listening to people who are encountering your health system.

0:10:32.6 Jared Johnson: Then I’ll also say to open up your competitive analysis. A lot of times, and I don’t know, when I was a hospital-side, client-side, we weren’t looking at non-traditional providers of care within our competitive grid that we were doing like, “What are they saying?”

0:10:46.4 Jared Johnson: And the fact is some part of those traditional disruptors, not all the time. I recognize that can come across as a little disrespectful sometimes to the great work that our clinicians do in traditional provider organizations.

0:11:03.2 Jared Johnson: But the fact is there are a lot of those digital and retail health offerings that are marketing themselves in a very aggressive way, that we might not realize if we’re not actively going out and seeing it.

0:11:14.4 Jared Johnson: And it’s very clear, it’s clear as day on any of their websites, but it’s wise to include that in your competitive analysis. So if you’re talking about consumer brands, anywhere from Amazon to Costco, to Walmart to CrossFit, CVS, GNC, Hy-Vee, Albertsons, Walgreens, Oak Street, ChenMed, Firefly, it can come from their employer.

0:11:33.4 Jared Johnson: But if you look at any of those sites, they are saying finally, “Come see a doctor who cares about you enough to make it easy for you to schedule with them.” The messaging themselves, as soon as you start seeing that, it’s wise to include that in your competitive grid, ’cause that is some of the marketing that’s being sent to your target patients as well.

0:11:54.3 Jared Johnson: Then I’d finally just say just to prioritize the investments that are gonna be necessary to meet and exceed those expectations. That’s the long-term piece, that’s going to take some time to even understand what those investments are, how they’re different than what you have now.

0:12:07.9 Jared Johnson: But yeah, it’s gonna take some investing there, and prioritizing that now is worth starting to look at.

0:12:15.7 Kirsten Lecky: Yeah. So really being empathetic, so understanding, listening and taking the different journeys of your consumers in your market, understanding the competitive landscape is certainly important, and who’s in that pool now is very different than who was a few years ago.

0:12:30.2 Kirsten Lecky: And then really just prioritizing, right? Prioritizing strategies, investments and budgets to meet those kind of accelerating changes and needs, seem to make sense.

0:12:41.9 Kirsten Lecky: And I think that topic, which is a nice segue to our upcoming conference that you’re chairing, the marketing summit, Healthcare Marketing 360 Summit. We have a launch year for that, right?

0:12:53.4 Kirsten Lecky: So this is our first year, and you’ll be speaking and you’re chairing the conference and you’ve got a couple of topics there on consumerism and even addressing the disruptors in the marketplace and really leaning into brand loyalty.

0:13:08.5 Kirsten Lecky: So that conference is still open for registration. Think it’s in Nashville, I know it’s in Nashville. It’s March, what? 16 through 19. So we’ll be sure to include a link for people, that if they wanna register and attend, I think it will be very informative and a lot of fun.

0:13:21.5 Kirsten Lecky: And anything you’d like to add about the conference?

0:13:25.3 Jared Johnson: First and foremost, I am excited about it. It is the first year. So it’s gonna be a lot of fun. The main conference occurred the March 18th through 19th, and there’s a meet-up and things starting on 17th.

0:13:39.5 Jared Johnson: I can throw the discount code out there.

0:13:40.5 Kirsten Lecky: Yes.

0:13:41.3 Jared Johnson: There’s, I’ve got a 25% discount code out there. It’s just “JARED 25”. I did not create it.


0:13:50.3 Jared Johnson: It’s all caps, J-A-R-E-D 25. It’s good for 25% off registration. We’d love to see even more people come there. And yeah, one of the sessions I’m doing is kind of related to one of the topics I shared, it’s called Market Like a Disruptor.

0:14:00.4 Jared Johnson: And so it’s about just even recognizing how these non-traditional players are shaking up the industry and their marketing messaging is at a very different level.

0:14:12.2 Jared Johnson: And understanding that, I think will help health systems understand even just how to, on the front lines, communicate with patients that they do care about them in a different way, rather than just have everyone who’s out a new competitor look for it.

0:14:26.0 Jared Johnson: So I think we’ll have fun in that session. And yeah, I’m really looking forward.

0:14:30.6 Kirsten Lecky: Yeah. So appreciate again, you spending 10 minutes with me today for Tips in 10 Minutes. And we’ll include links to all the information, maybe even to your book as well. So one of, or both of your books, so everyone can follow up and purchase that if needed as well.

0:14:44.7 Kirsten Lecky: So thanks again.

0:14:46.5 Jared Johnson: So much fun, Kirsten. Hope you have a great time. Really appreciate being invited.

0:14:49.2 Kirsten Lecky: Yeah. You bet.