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With changes in the law and new, disruptive business models, health care in America is a constantly shifting field. Marketers in this industry need to be flexible, savvy and, most importantly, empathetic.

To learn more about health care’s transformation, we spoke with Katy Dalton Rigsby, system vice president of marketing and communications at OhioHealth. In our conversation, Katy reveals why patient engagement is more important than ever and shares how she looks to other industries for inspiration and ideas. 

What are the top three challenges in health care, and why?

Shifting regulatory requirements, new payment models and industry disruptors.

The first two challenges both impact how we are paid for our work. As our industry continues the journey toward pay-for-performance or “value-based” care, we’ve had to transform what we do. It’s often challenging to forecast the impact to our business with the changing regulatory landscape and the uncertainty on the future of the Affordable Care Act.

Many companies and organizations are eager to disrupt the industry. New players are challenging traditional models. Consumers want greater transparency and control of their health care, and new companies are emerging to meet those needs.

"Consumers want greater transparency and control of their health care."

For years, the industry has taken for granted some of the things that retail has mastered in terms of customer segmentation and understanding consumer attitudes and behaviors. As an organization, we've been committed to attracting more people from retail organizations so that we can learn from that industry. We've been recruiting people that don't have health care experience to our marketing communications team.

Why is health care behind other industries when it comes to understanding consumers?

In the traditional fee-for-service health care model, our business has been physician-driven. The physician decided what procedures and tests you’d get. But now we're moving to a consumer-driven model. Patients have a greater share of their wallet or dollar going toward health care costs, and they want more accountability from health care providers in explaining those costs.

Patients today want more transparency. They want to know, "well, how much is that going to cost me?" Health care systems have to be smarter about understanding their patients. For instance, we need to know which patient segments prioritize price over something else like convenience, and which ones don’t.

You mentioned that you like to hire marketers from retail. Is that to get a fresh perspective on the industry?

They've got fresh eyes, they've got a fresh perspective, and they have more experience with various tools to help us understand the customer.

That can take the form of traditional consumer insight work, ethnographic research or other approaches we may have not been doing. And it requires more robust data and analytics capabilities. By bringing a fresh perspective and relevant experience, we can move faster.

What other things do you look for when hiring new marketers?

The most important thing is finding someone who will fit our culture.

At OhioHealth, we adhere to a certain set of values—they're very important to us as an organization—and we have behavioral standards that we've created that align to those values. We look for people who not only will bring in fresh eyes, but who will be successful in living and demonstrating our values every day.

What’s the best thing about working as a marketer in the health care industry?

Every day presents new challenges and opportunities. Health care is truly evolving and transforming. It’s an industry focused on innovation to engage consumers in new and different ways.

As a marketer, it’s exciting to be part of the process to bring forward insights that fuel where we go next to improve customer engagement. I have an opportunity to drive change, which requires a lot of resilience and flexibility.

What tools do you use to get insight about your patients, and how do those tools work together?

We have an insight community with Vision Critical. In addition, we do customer journey mapping, focus groups, online bulletin boards and customer satisfaction surveys. Our CRM tool also helps to paint a more holistic picture of our customers and their behaviors.

Recently, some of our team members were sent as secret shoppers to observe patients and experience what it's like to get a flu shot at different OhioHealth locations. You'd be amazed at what you can learn by taking off your marketing hat and walking a day in the life of the customer.

Could you share some of the most surprising insights you’ve learned about patients?

We recently conducted journey mapping research in our emergency departments.  We learned that patients experienced high levels of anxiety when waiting to be discharged from emergency. While we assumed patients would feel relief to be going home, we learned that they often felt abandoned, not knowing what to do next.

Reducing hospital re-admissions is a big goal for our industry, so ensuring that our patients feel prepared to leave the hospital is important. 

Before joining OhioHealth, you were working in the advertising world. What motivated you to make the switch from the agency side to working in-house?

Even when I was in the advertising agency role, my clients were in the health care or pharmaceutical space. But working for one of the largest health systems in the country places me closer to the mission of the organization. I have an opportunity to see firsthand what our customers or patients are experiencing. Working in-house provides a lot of perspective both personally and professionally.

"Working at OhioHealth deepens my appreciation for the work of our doctors, nurses and other caregivers."

I go to meetings at our hospitals or care sites, and I see customers coming in and out of our doors. I see the challenges they're facing. And we have an obligation to try to make it easier for them to navigate health care. Working at OhioHealth deepens my appreciation for the work of our doctors, nurses and other caregivers. It gives me more empathy.

Were there any books that you've read that shaped your thinking, perhaps about your industry or career?

I'm fortunate to work in an organization where we're encouraged to read. Many of us will read the same book, so that we can have conversations about it and the impact that it might have on our organization.

One of the books we're focused right now as an organization is Humble Inquiry by Edward Schein. It’s about being curious and drawing someone out, rather than being directive in the way that you speak to them. This book has connected a lot with us as an organization because as we’re creating a lean organization, we’re empowering front line staff to solve problems. If we, as leaders, are not really being curious and listening, then we might miss opportunities that our associates bring forward to us.

Another author that I've read a lot is John Maxwell. We're a faith-based organization, so we read a lot of his books on leadership. His work is rooted in the concepts of faith and servant leadership.

The other book that I've read that has made an impact on me is Start with Why by Simon Sinek. The ideas in this book really connect to those in Humble Inquiry.

If you could give just one piece of advice to a young marketer who wants to work in health care, what would it be?

Be curious. Health care is a highly complex and evolving industry and you have to listen, ask questions and be prepared to always learn something new.

Our thanks to Katy for sharing her thoughts on the health care industry with us. Check out our Q&As for more insight from business executives.

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