Hospital Impact—How Ascension is embracing the future of healthcare marketing

Doctor patient
Ascension's consumer research shows that the populations it serves value physician dialogue to create a personalized care plan.
Nick Ragone
Nick Ragone
The healthcare sector is experiencing a pretty dramatic transformation. Healthcare reform, financing and reimbursement, and a trend toward consumerism are all shaping the way providers interact with consumers. Digitally driven consumers have inspired us to rethink the way we communicate and deliver care.

As we look to the future of healthcare marketing, the most notable transformation is the expansion of consumer options. Now more than ever, consumers have instant access to unlimited information about their choices, which heightens their expectations of us and our providers. As part of a national healthcare organization, Ascension is collaborating across our sites of care to provide responsive solutions and exceed our consumers’ expectations.

In the provider space, our research shows that patients value the services we provide both inside and outside our facilities. We are delivering care through processes that are digital, analytical and data-driven. From a marketing perspective, we are messaging to consumers where they are to achieve targeted, intentional and measurable results.

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As we inform communities of our services, we must deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. We are using grassroots research to develop predictive analytics to fully understand the populations we serve and anticipate their needs before they walk through our door. This approach considers more than just brand awareness, how providers have historically marketed their services. This change pushes us to think bigger than billboard and newspaper ads—we have to be visible and available to our patients even before they need us.

As we work to prioritize digital access points, we recognize the importance of collaboration. In the past, each Ascension marketing team operated independently from one other with their own creative design, media buying, digital and social media functions. In this format, it was challenging to compare data across markets. We were missing the benefits of streamlined analytics to provide insight into what’s working.

We have come together as one marketing community to support our clinical and operational integration. Throughout our One Ascension Journey, we are sharing best practices across our markets, and strengthening our brand connection and awareness nationwide. Collaboration and integration across markets includes establishing partnerships to standardize our approach. We’ve implemented one CRM tool across all of our systems, and we’re in the process of redesigning our websites on one content management platform. This consolidation of resources creates a more consistent experience for users accessing our web entry points and allows for uniform data analysis.

And we’re putting even more resources together to better understand our consumers. We built consumer research focus groups to identify the variables that drive patients to our care sites. As a system, we needed to take off our marketing and clinical hats and see our hospitals through the consumer lens, specific to each market. The research spoke volumes. Patients appreciate that our providers are engaged and don’t just diagnose—they listen, too. The populations we serve value physician dialogue to create a personalized care plan.

We’re excited to be running our first-ever national campaign focused on primary care. Based on consumer insight, we created our campaign to hone in on how our caregivers take the time to understand you as a whole person—not you as a patient. We know our patients are multifaceted, and their healthcare needs are not one-dimensional. You’ll see this theme in our new campaign.

This is an entirely new approach that we wouldn’t have considered a few years ago, but we’re evolving in response to the dynamic needs of consumers in the digital age. Our shift from traditional marketing tactics to digital, data-driven strategies is proving successful, and we’re excited to continue developing this new marketing model.

Nick Ragone Esq. is senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer for Ascension, the nation’s largest nonprofit health system and the world’s largest Catholic health system.