On December 1, 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued a bulletin stating that the use of third-party cookies, pixels, and other tracking technology by healthcare companies may be violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This is in the wake of a year of unprecedented data breaches involving business associates, or third-party vendors, throughout the healthcare industry.
2022 saw over 700 healthcare data breaches impacting more than 50 million individuals. And nearly a third of the ten most significant breaches were due to third-party tracking pixels from companies like Google and Meta (Facebook). While Google and Meta help companies understand their website and other owned properties’ usage, users of the platform have inadvertently also exposed data ranging from personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and financial account information to medical record numbers, insurance account numbers, and more.
Such breaches come with hefty financial penalties, including fines, settlements, and other repercussions for the entities involved. But a more significant impact is felt by the consumer whose data has been compromised, as stolen personal information can result in identity theft. And recovery from identity theft is often a long and burdensome process.
Up until last December when HHS issued its bulletin, it had not provided formal guidelines regarding sensitive healthcare data and HIPAA relative to online tracking technologies. So what does this announcement mean and how can healthcare organizations stay HIPAA compliant?
What do the HHS changes mean for healthcare organizations?
A good starting point is an understanding of the technologies involved and the risks they pose. The HHS announcement specifically speaks to tracking technologies, often third-party, which are generally anonymized. Tracking cookies, specifically pixels, are tiny bits of embedded code used to track a site visitor’s online activity. The data collected from the pixels provides insights that allow the site owner to develop marketing strategies, such as on-site personalized experiences and off-site retargeting campaigns, specific to each site visitor’s behaviors and interactions.
The problem? Many healthcare organizations are using third-party pixels to gain a better understanding of how they can optimize the digital experiences within their public-facing websites and patient portals. And these pixels may be sharing protected health information (PHI) inadvertently with third parties. Most often, the concern lies with pixels on the patient portal, a secure website or application where patients can access and interact with their health data. But PHI can also be collected from the public website and mobile apps in the form of cookies, web beacons, fingerprinting scripts, and other scripts.
So what constitutes PHI?
Protected health information is any information related to an individual’s past, present, or future health, healthcare, or payment for healthcare. This includes, but is not limited to:
Medical records, be they physical, electronic, or spoken
Information pertaining to billing, insurance, or of any financial aspect of an individual’s health or healthcare
Mental health conditions
Tests and laboratory results
All information related to an individual’s diagnosis, treatment, or prognosis
Anonymous session user ID
As of December 1, 2022, anonymous session user ID is considered PHI.
Anonymous user identification allows the website to anonymously identify unique site visitors without the user having to log in or consent to a tracking cookie. Anonymous sessions are captured and aggregated and can include data such as (but not limited to) the user’s IP address, geographic location, language, device, and mobile carrier, but is generally, as the name suggests, anonymous. However, HHS has deemed that these data points connect the individual to the entity and therefore can be related to the individual’s past, present, or future health, healthcare, or payment for healthcare.
The addition of anonymous session user ID considered as PHI now adds additional complexity to an already confusing data security landscape. Furthermore, in order to protect themselves and their patients, the onus is on healthcare providers to ensure they and their partners are not improperly using tracking technology on the healthcare provider’s digital properties, mobile apps, etc.
How can healthcare organizations keep web analytics HIPAA compliant?
As there is no easy website or mobile app consent solution, it is best to develop a compliant strategy that will protect both the healthcare organization and its consumers. Developing a compliant strategy requires engaging all departments (marketing, marketing analytics, legal, IT, etc.) and ensuring organizational alignment around it. This starts with examining your current analytics tech stack to determine if it meets both the organization’s needs and HHS requirements.
Is Google Analytics HIPAA compliant?
Over 28 million websites worldwide currently use Google Analytics, over four million of which are in the United States. Of all U.S. industries that use Google Analytics, hospital and healthcare companies are the third most prevalent. Google Analytics isn’t the only option for tracking website data, but it has the largest market share, and for good reason. It is robust and intuitive. But Google Analytics has also faced challenges, having been banned in a few European countries due to General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) violations. Google did take steps toward addressing the European Union’s GDPR requirements with its recent release of GA4.
So, does Google Analytics meet the new requirements outlined in the HHS bulletin? The simple answer is no. In basic and 360 configurations, GA3 and GA4 no longer meet the HHS compliance requirements. This is primarily due to specific attributes of the data sets, specifically the session and user ID dimensions.
As a result, healthcare companies are expediting their searches for alternative platforms that will provide organizations with the information they need to measure their digital customer experiences and — more importantly — store that data securely.
What are the best next steps toward achieving compliance?
The first step is to identify and outline requirements for a cohesive transition to a new, compliant platform. The most important of these requirements is a HIPAA-compliant analytics platform provider, one that will be covered under a Business Associates Agreement (BAA). The good news is there are a handful of platforms available that fit this important need.
Additionally, all businesses are unique and have priorities that must be considered when planning a transition to a new analytics platform. Some examples of priorities might include ease of implementation, tag management capabilities, user limits, integrations with other Google products, and interface complexity, among other things.
Once requirements have been prioritized across internal teams, analytics owners will be able to guide a best-fit decision.
Whether your organization has been using Universal Analytics for years or you have recently migrated to GA4, Tallwave can help you organize around your requirements, gain internal alignment, and provide expertise on next best options all the way through the implementation and reporting transition. Reach out when you’re ready to learn more.
As soon as COVID-19 hit, healthcare systems and organizations across the world scrambled to craft new strategies to serve their communities whilst keeping employees and patients safe. But despite their efforts, there was often one barrier that often prevented patients from seeking care in times of need: Trust. Trust that they’d be protected from contracting COVID-19, should they visit a hospital in-person.
In the latest episode of Tallwave’s Innovator Series, our Vice President of Marketing Jessica Pumo talks to Patrick Knauer, the Director of Digital Marketing for Banner Health’s Ambulatory practices, about developing and implementing digital marketing strategies to give patients peace of mind, as well as what he believes is in store for the future of healthcare, the patient experience, and digital marketing as a whole.
Innovators Q&A With Patrick Knauer
Jessica Pumo: Hello everyone. I’m Jessica Pumo, Vice president of Marketing at Tallwave, a customer experience design company. Welcome to the latest installment of our Innovators Series. Today, I am thrilled to be joined by Patrick Knauer, Director of Digital Marketing for Banner Health Ambulatory Services. Welcome, Patrick.
PK: Hi Jessica. Thank you. It’s great to be here.
JP:Now, at a high level, Patrick, you work with Banner Health’s ambulatory service lines to align marketing strategies to business direction, and then you work with the broader marketing and media teams to execute marketing campaigns. So, I know you’ve got great perspective to share.
To kick things off today, I’d just like to start by hearing a bit about your professional journey. What initially attracted you, like so many of us, to digital marketing, and how did you get to where you are today?
PK: Yeah, I started off in digital marketing, working for a search engine optimization company, not knowing how much I would love it, but it really became my passion just because it changed it. It felt like every two weeks Google would reset the landscape and we would always [have to] adjust and have to rethink our approach.
That sense of excitement really stuck with me as I grew and it’s still that way. I’ve been in digital marketing for over 15 years now and it does feel like every two weeks there is a new tweak to keep you on your toes. So, that excitement hasn’t faded.
JP: So, let’s get a little more specific about how your role contributes to Banner’s larger mission. How is success defined for you and your team and how does that help Banner reach its established business goals?
PK: Yeah, so, Banner is working to meet consumers where they need healthcare, and that’s in an ambulatory setting. My role and the teams that I work with, are working to make sure that we’re easily accessible. That we’re easy to find through digital channels and that when our consumers need care, it’s not troublesome or burdensome to schedule to get into a healthcare clinic and to get out.
So, we have a lot of communication that we need to do, and we have a lot of marketing that we need to do to make sure that we’re omnipresent on various digital platforms that consumers use today.
There was a fear about being inside small spaces and healthcare locations. People were more hesitant to just walk in. They wanted to use their digital tools to limit their time, to limit their exposure, and [to] make that appointment on the computer.
JP: Wonderful. As, as we narrow our focus a little bit, I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with something that I know has changed the landscape for all of us. And it must be an understatement to say that the pandemic has changed the healthcare landscape.
So, given that the pandemic has driven a lot of changes to how consumers find and engage with businesses of all kinds, what kinds of changes have you all seen in terms of how consumers search for and engage with ambulatory services?
PK: One of the best examples that I could give you would be just our online appointment rate for our Urgent Cares, which is of our ambulatory service lines. We see the most volume out of our Urgent Cares. We have over 50 locations in Northern Colorado, [and] Arizona, so a lot of different points of access.
And, what we noticed from the beginning of the pandemic to its peak, was that our online bookings rose by 37% [percent] all the way up to 50% [percent]. So, about half of the patients coming through the doors were scheduling online. And the reason we saw that increase was because there was a fear about being inside small spaces and healthcare locations. People were more hesitant to just walk in. They wanted to use their digital tools to limit their time, to limit their exposure, and [to] make that appointment on the computer.
JP: Since you’ve mentioned it, I would love to jump to that idea: How concerns around personal health and safety have changed with the pandemic.
I know that’s really put those concerns front and center and the need to build trust with consumers has never been more important than it has been just these last several months. This need must have been even more acute when it comes to ambulatory services.
So, I’m curious what data points have you used to help understand patient needs and patient pain points as they’ve evolved through the course of the pandemic?
PK: Our analytics demonstrated that, prior to COVID, the most popular action that we would see consumers takes were clicks over to our website where they could access more information on the location or the services that were there.
But during the pandemic clicks to the website went down and direct phone calls to our clinics went up… We extrapolated from that there was more information that they needed directly from a person: To hear what steps were being taken or specific situations – if you’re at high risk for COVID or you have an auto-immune disease, or you’re in a certain age bracket – you might need reassurance of talking to someone at the front desk, and asking questions [such as], “Can I be seen?”, “What special requirements or services do you have for me?”
That was one data point that we really noticed, and it helped to kind of informed the communication that we put out there to our consumers because we were able to take those data points out of the conversations and understand, what are the concerns? How do we address them [and make] them easy to find, and put them in front of our consumers so that they already know the answers to some of their questions?
There’s a myriad of different digital transformations that are happening, but most of them are revolving around improving the ease and the experience.
JP: It’s really fascinating to hear how you’re looking at those digital signals and interpreting them as indicators of how that experience needs to change, knowing that the experience inevitably – in an ambulatory setting – is going from online to in-person. How has Banner worked to build patient trust through marketing and messaging from what they experienced in local search to what they experienced when they arrive in-person at an ambulatory services center to inspire and build that confidence and trust and drive continuity in that experience?
PK: That was the main challenge with COVID. And the main objective was to really make sure people understood the efforts that, as an organization, Banner Health was taking to make care safe.
So, we created a safe place for care, a logo, and a brand campaign… [We put that logo] on communications, whether it be a top of the funnel advertisement or bottom of the funnel, actually inside the clinic. We had the steps we took to clean a clinic, that we ask our patients to [wear a] mask, and the other steps that we take for our own employees to make sure everyone [is] safe. And we put those pieces of communication on our website, on our blog, within our emails – all over the possible digital touchpoints, so that no matter where the consumer interacted with Banner, the logo was there and the information was there. And if they needed a deeper dive, we provided the URL where they could go and read exactly the steps that we were taking behind the Safe Place For Care campaign.
JP: When you look at any one of those individual touch points, the changes that you’re describing may seem really nuanced, but when you look at them in [the] aggregate, that really is some significant changes to the patient experience.
PK: It really was. And it was a lot of work to spread that kind of communication across 400 plus clinics, [through] email, blog, or website advertisement. But that was our mission. That was our objective. I was proud to be a part of the team, and the outcomes were great because we had a lot of people tell us that they felt safe, and they appreciated the efforts that we took.
JP: Which is so important. So important. Well, let’s move from innovation to transformation here for just a second. Something that’s top of mind for me and for the Tallwave team, based on our recent Tallwave research report, is telehealth as a prime example of the digital transformation underway in the healthcare space. What does digital transformation in healthcare look like for you and your team?
PK: It looks like a lot of things. That’s a difficult question to unpack because it could be an app on the phone that has a host of capabilities – from communicating with your provider to accessing lab reports, to making an appointment. And that’s just within an app. But there’s also other touch points out there, on the web on a mobile web, where you need to have other capabilities like online scheduling.
One of our most popular digital transformation features is our symptom checker, which is really easy to use. You can just pop onto BannerHealth.com, open up the symptom checker app, tell our computer exactly what you’re experiencing: What you’re feeling, [and] what your symptoms are. And after a series of questions and answers, you get a mini-diagnosis, and it’ll point you to the right level of care, which is important in healthcare, because you don’t want to go to the emergency room when an urgent care visit is perfectly appropriate.
There’s a myriad of different digital transformations that are happening, but most of them are revolving around improving the ease and the experience, overall, that you have interacting with healthcare.
JP: I know we’ve talked about some of the complexities of managing that experience within the pandemic, but I certainly don’t want to lose sight of how complex that is for you and your team, just on a day-to-day basis.
In general, outside of the pandemic, I know Banner has leveraged a really diverse constellation of digital touch points to address patient needs and pain points by meeting them where they are, when they’re there. And I know that really does cut across a lot of different teams at Banner. So, how do you set the stage for smooth handoff, from your team to the next, so that that patient experience feels really seamless as they move through multiple points of engagement from the Banner websites to social, to email, to Google My Business, and everything in between?
PK: Yeah, that’s one of the core responsibilities of my role. As the Director of Marketing for our ambulatory service lines, I need to understand the objectives of one of our business units, like Urgent Care or the medical group, and come forward with a marketing plan that meets the goals that they’re trying to accomplish.
Then, I put that together into what we call a marketing playbook, which lists out: What are we trying to accomplish? What are our goals? What are we going to use as our call to action? What are our proof points, or what we like to call “reasons to believe” in Banner Health or Banner Urgent Care or Banner Medical Group. [I] put that into a centralized tool, which we use work from, and pull all of the various teams together and have kickoff calls, and installation meetings, and go over all of this planning [around] the direction, and everything that we are going to use so that everyone understands: “Let’s use these calls to action. Let’s use these reasons to believe. Here are blog resources. Here are website resources.”
And then, whenever it’s time to actually execute, the teams can go into [that] work, [and] know that they can pull the information [and] that will be the same information that the web team is pulling, or the email team is pulling, and the advertising team is pulling. So, everything is the same across the board, and you have that nice, beautiful experience that’s consistent.
We know that the level of trust that we encounter through Google My Business and organic search is higher just based upon the way our consumers convert and make those appointments – but paid search is a very high converting platform in itself.
JP: I think you you’ve touched on some things that really are very actionable for all of us. I think there are very few marketers out there who are not working hand-in-hand with other marketers who may be on different teams, different departments, different divisions, but the idea of starting with a really clear unifying strategy in enrolling everyone into that strategy together, so that you’re all on the same page, and then offering up the tools and resources that everyone needs to do the job. I know it sounds simple. It’s hard to execute and certainly worth bearing in mind. So, thanks for calling those things out.
As a marketer who manages a combination of paid search and organic search, which are needs supported by different teams in my world, it’s not lost on me how challenging it can be to marry those things. That really should be two parts of a whole. So, I’m curious, Patrick, how do you think about organic versus paid search as it relates to the patient experience, and how do you coordinate your efforts on the organic front with those of your partners managing the paid activity so that those things work together?
PK: I think they’re both extremely valuable and, in my mind, there’s not a difference between the two. There’s performance differences – we know that the level of trust that we encounter through Google My Business and organic search is higher just based upon the way our consumers convert and make those appointments – but paid search is a very high converting platform in itself.
The thing that we want to do is make sure, again, that our messaging is consistent, that we’re using the same reasons to believe, because we know from analysis of how long it takes some to convert, that there might be multiple touch points along the way. Paid search might be two of three touch points. So, we want to make sure that the messaging, the reasons to believe are consistent no matter where they interact with us. But from a strategic level, they’re both lower funnel for us. And they’re both of high importance,
JP: [It] all kind of goes back to recognizing that those things have to be seamless in the customer experience. Right? So, how do you see local search within the ambulatory services space changing and how is your team adapting?
PK: So, yeah, I think that’s an interesting question. Real estate in Google is shrinking, and Google is owning more of the first page for its own products, like Google My Business, for zero click information. I think that that’s going to continue. I think paid search is going to stay rather consistent with the results that you see on the page and the real estate that it’s given, but zero click information and Google My Business, in my mind, has more of a future because the big change in healthcare would be if you can make an appointment to get into your doctor or to an Urgent Care clinic directly from Google, [without ever] having to click over to Banner Health or any other health system, that would be a zero click conversion.
Google is working towards that in many industries, including healthcare. And it’s probably not going to be a 2021 solution that you see, but it’s not too far down the road. And being able to provide our consumers with as much information, and as much access as they can out of local search is an extremely strategic focal point for us at Banner Health, and one that we’re keeping a close eye on.
So, we’re very active within our local search tools, [and] with our listings. We want to make sure that we’re providing everything that we can, and the information in there is as up-to-date as possible. So, we solicit reviews. We post new information. We provide videos. We provide images. And that continual effort to work the local search has paid very good dividends for Banner Health.
Being able to provide our consumers with as much information, and as much access as they can out of local search is an extremely strategic focal point for us.
JP: I think that’s a well-informed look at what may lie ahead. When it comes to that local search space, what other changes are on the horizon for you and your team in a post-pandemic world?
PK: That is yet to be known. Right now, we’re kind of letting the data tell us what to do. Our research team is constantly bringing us new information on the consumer perspective [within a] COVID and a post-COVID world. And, right now, we’re continuing our messaging of safety and a Safe Place For Care, but we realize that that may not last forever, and that we need to plan for the future.
I think what we want to do is make sure that, no matter where you are on the spectrum of COVID-concern, whether you feel very comfortable without a mask and you’d like to go about your life like it’s 2019, great! Or if you are forever changed, and you need to know that there are certain safety protocols for you wherever you go, great, we also want to make that person feel very comfortable.
So, planning for those two different consumer types is something that is existing at Banner Health, as well as understanding the nature of the changing landscape of healthcare with the digital space, and how those two things can work together to be each other’s benefit.
JP: Such an interesting road ahead, no doubt, regardless of how that crystal ball changes over time. But you’ve been very generous with your time today, Patrick, thank you again for joining us, and for the great conversation.
PK: Oh, thank you so much, Jessica. I enjoyed it.
If you’d like to learn more about Banner Health, you can visit BannerHealth.com or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, all at Banner Health.
If you’re interested in learning more about Tallwave and how we help companies design exceptional customer experiences, contact us today. You can also read and download our recent research report, “Data-Driven Insights Into the Evolving Customer Experience” here.
The healthcare industry was always going to need to integrate and provide more personalized digital-first experiences for patients. The 2020 pandemic just sped up that demand.
Patient experiences in healthcare – and how to improve them – is something we talk about a lot. Whether with prospects, our current healthcare clients or internal teammates, we’re always hypothesizing, testing, and implementing new data-driven strategies designed to solve the acquisition, engagement, and retention challenges that many organizations are facing. These solutions always have one theme in common: They’re developed with humans at the core and with heart.
This week, a number of companies dedicated to developing technologies and holistic strategies that streamline healthcare experiences and improve patient engagement made announcements that will help organizations get one step closer to delivering truly personalized CX. No matter your CX speciality, these stories serve to showcase the ways in which companies are getting creative with innovative technologies and may provide some much-needed inspiration into CX takeaways for businesses small and large.
Here are the biggest business, tech and data developments that occurred this past week and will most certainly impact how we design and deliver the customer experiences of tomorrow.
HIPPA Just Gave a New Telehealth Video Feedback & Engagement Platform the Green Light
Twenty-first century technology is so cool. A new “video feedback and engagement platform” designed for healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies fits that bill. Medallia, Inc., a SaaS company that develops technologies for customer experience management, is getting ready to change how healthcare needs are heard and understood with their newest product, Medallia LivingLens.
It all comes down to making patients feel seen, heard, understood, and authentically cared for.
The video solution – which achieved HIPPA compliance this past week – gathers real-time customer and employee sentiment (feelings, perceptions or attitudes that arise during experiences) during telehealth sessions. Using proprietary AI technology, the solution “captures six times more information with video feedback than tradition, open-ended text based solutions, including nonverbal communication, such as body language.” This results in action-based insights that enable practitioners to predict and overcome barriers associated with providing optimal care and exceptional telehealth experiences.
One company currently using the solution, Just Worldwide, says the Medallia LivingLens allows them to analyze patient “video diaries,” understand how patients feel, and uncover what they wish their caregivers knew. “We use it to get the emotional impact of a patient,” explained Sally Udayakumar, Research Manager at Just Worldwide.
This is going to open up a whole new world of care that practitioners are able to provide to patients – including preventative care.
“Organizations and practitioners can only truly be lifelong partners if they are emphasizing and providing preventive care to patients,” says Tallwave Product Designer Chelsey Gloetzner. “Those who are proactively providing preventative and whole-person care will naturally improve patient engagement in-between sick visits.”
It all comes down to making patients feel seen, heard, understood, and authentically cared for. Previously, practitioners could only know what patients verbally told them or they could physically observe. Now, Medallia LivingLens allows them to dig so much deeper, and provide a level of care that they’ve never been able to before. And it will only contribute to increased satisfaction and loyalty.
“Patients that know and believe you have their best interest in mind will more willingly partner and trust healthcare providers long term,” says Chelsey.
But will this technology – and telehealth appointments – still persist as the pandemic chapter comes to a close? You can count on it.
“Many patients who have become comfortable with telehealth will still prefer this type of appointment in a post-COVID world,” predicts Chelsey. “More doctors are experiencing the benefits of taking these types of appointments as well. In the future, it is feasible that telehealth will not lose its demand.”
That doesn’t mean all telehealth challenges are resolved. In fact, there’s one outstanding problem that we’re currently helping clients solve for: The need for increased education to help onboard older generations.
“It is a unique challenge because those who would greatly benefit from telehealth appointments due to age, physical limitation or challenges finding transportation to appointments, tend to have the most difficult time utilizing the technology,” Chelsey says. “Without the proper introduction and training for this technology, a large demographic of potential users will not be able to benefit from telehealth appointments. Putting walkthroughs or training within the technology itself will not meet the needs of those who must learn how to utilize this type of technology and the devices they would use it on.”
So, once you know how to connect with your practitioners via the internet, you can bet that computer or mobile phone lens is allowing them to peer right into your soul.
Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot Migrates to the Azure Platform
If you haven’t noticed, you’re surrounded by robots.
Internet bots, that is (think chatbots, Alex, Siri – you get it). And if healthcare organizations weren’t using them before, you can bet they’ll be embedding them into their customer experiences soon.
Microsoft announced their plans to migrate their Healthcare Bot to the Azure platform, enabling healthcare developers to customize bots for both clinical and/or operational uses and build new conversational tools. Additionally, organizations will be able to use the new Azure Health Bot as virtual health assistants, ensure compliance requirements related to privacy and security mechanisms, and merge electronic medical records into touchpoints to drive more personalized, holistic experiences.
“It’s really great to see healthcare companies leveraging and investing in technology to remove barriers and friction from the customer experience,” says our Senior Product Designer Alyssa Hayes. “Healthcare on its own can be notoriously complicated and stressful. Even the routine stuff, especially when you toss in some unexpected illnesses or accidents, can be a burden to navigate. Using technology to naturally provide personalized care – while delivering an experience that’s more approachable and predictable – will help put patients at ease and enable them to understand what they need to do to achieve better health. It gives them one less thing to worry about.”
That’s something everyone could use a little more of, these days.
"This type of bot technology is providing great opportunities for healthcare practitioners and organizations to build trust and provide care that is truly valuable."
“There’s nothing more personal than your own health,” says Alyssa. “This type of bot technology is providing great opportunities for healthcare practitioners and organizations to build trust and provide care that is truly valuable.”
Our Chief Operations Office Ed Borromeo is also on the bot train. “It’s great to see this technology advance,” he says. “It provides so many opportunities to improve experiences within the healthcare space, overall – for both patient and healthcare workers.”
And the benefits aren’t exclusive to the healthcare industry. “We see increasing use of this class of innovation in a lot of other verticals: Banking, travel, even HR. Bots have a lot of utility and, frankly, they’re super cool. Beyond efficiencies, those who can seamlessly transition a bot user experience to, say, a human-to-human user experience with no clunkiness will be winners in the CX space.”
Note for all businesses out there: If your customers already explain their problems to bots, don’t make them repeat it when connected to human representatives. Make the changeover from robot to representative as smooth as a cut from a scalpel.
Walgreens Taps Microsoft & Adobe to Drive New Personalized Experiences For Shoppers
Walgreens is doing big things.
On the heels of an 18 month partnership with Microsoft, in which the two companies worked together to modernize technology and move their health-related operations to the cloud, Walgreens announced a second phase this past week – one that brings Adobe into the powerful fold to help craft next-level experiences and improve engagement with the store’s customers, both in-store and online.
By partnering Walgreen’s global customer data with Microsoft’s cloud-based data platforms and Adobe’s Customer Experience Management solutions, the trio will design holistic CX strategies that connect pharmacy, immunization, and retail interactions.
"Having a personalized experience like this can help customers feel like their time and business matters.”
One example of this is what they’re calling “individually tailored” prescription experiences: Today, customers are contacted numerous ways – by text message, email, phone call – when prescription refills are ready. In the near future, instead of being bombarded through multiple channels, none of which drive a valuable experience, they’ll receive an email that not only reminds them about the refill, but provides a “landing page” filled with information that encomapsses dosage, prices and other educational resources.
And since so much of a great customer experience is saving customers time, shoppers will also receive alerts that refills are available when inside Walgreen stores, so they don’t have to make a second trip later.
“Customers want to have your undivided attention,” says Alejandra Guillen, a Tallwave Content Specialist. “They want to feel like they matter and like businesses actually care about them. Having a personalized experience like this can help customers feel like their time and business matters.”
And Walgreens’ goal to connect their in-store and online experiences are key to sustaining customer affinity and loyalty.
“Before, in-store purchases were the gold standard,” explains Alejandra. “Now, especially with the pandemic, online shopping is becoming crucial. While people will always make in-store purchases, online shopping will continue to thrive even after the pandemic for convenience.”
One brand doing this well? According to Alejandra, Target.
“The Target app remembers your in-store purchases and combines them with your in-app purchases to deliver personalized deals and reminders to buy goods you have purchased in the past. This method is great for both an excellent customer experience and boosting a company’s profits.”
And last, but certainly not least, Walgreens’ new strategy to educate shoppers when reminding them about prescriptions will increase the bond and attachments customers have with them.
“Customers want to know what they’re buying and what they’re putting in their bodies. When it comes to prescriptions, no one is reading the long pamphlets that come with medications,” says Alejandra. “Formatting this crucial information into easy-to-understand landing page content will help customers build and establish longtime trust with Walgreens.”
Anyone else switching their regular pharmacy to Walgreens?
Meet Avidon Health, the behavior change solution that’s solving the engagement problem in healthcare for good.
Born in 2020 after the merger of MedPro Wellness and SelfHelpWorks, Avidon Health enables Healthcare organizations across the country to touch their patients’ lives and inspire long-lasting change. By leaning into cognitive behavior training and technologies that advance human connections, they launched a platform called Engagement RX™. This platform not only enables providers, hospitals and telehealth practitioners to increase patient engagement, but also guide their patients to optimal health by focusing holistically on the individual, rather than just their conditions.
In this week’s episode of Tallwave’s Innovator Series, our Partner Robert Wallace talks to Clark Lagemann, the co-CEO of Avidon Health who is responsible for spearheading the strategic direction and implementation of Engagement Rx™. They discuss Clark’s journey from sales and marketing to entrepreneurship, the “aha” moment that inspired Avidon Health’s newly-defined purposes, the true definition of innovation in the modern digital age, and how Clark’s personal and professional experiences – including being a three-time Ironman athlete – has influenced his business mindset and approach.
Q&A with Avidon Co-CEO, Clark Lagemann
Robert Wallace: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us today, Clark! You’ve had a pretty interesting and inspiring professional journey so why don’t we start at the beginning… In your Linkedin profile, [I love that] you say, “I climbed the corporate ladder and then jumped off into an entrepreneurial world.” Tell us more about how you made that leap from marketing and sales into entrepreneurship.
Clark Lagemann: You’ve probably heard the story many times among entrepreneurs. I wasn’t that great in school. I didn’t know what I was going to do but I graduated college and thought, “Well, now what?” I lived close to New York City so the idea to go onto Wall Street or in finance was prominent amongst most of my fellow graduates and friends, but I was someone that could tell a pretty good story, so I decided to go a different path [and] into sales. I said “I’ll go a couple years here and just figure it out and come back and do something else.”
There are [an] infinite number of problems to solve. There’s no shortage of challenges if you think about how much we spend from a GDP perspective on healthcare. How the aging population is being addressed and treated...
So, I started getting into sales, interacting with people, really learning where problems [were], and leveraging a set of solutions that enabled us to solve problems they had for their business. I spent a couple years at a company called ADP, a payroll company, arguably one of the best entry level sales positions and training you can go through. I really had a strong interest in healthcare and transitioned into GlaxoSmithKline. [I] helped that company launch a variety of pharmacologic agents, and then went into the medical device world, where I was working directly with physicians and patients to impact their lives in a very meaningful way. On that journey – let’s just call it 10 years or so – I saw a lot of inefficiencies or difficulties or challenges [that] weren’t being solved…
I liked sales because it helped problems get fixed by solutions. In many cases, you’d have a bag you [could] pull out and say, “Here’s a solution that fits for you, Robert…” “Here’s a solution that fits for you, Clark….” But, if you don’t see the solution ever being built, you have to say, “I don’t have a solution for that.” Or you can say, “I’m going to build it myself.” So, I decided to build it myself.
RW: I’ve seen a fair amount of entrepreneurs throughout my career and they’re typically either great sales people or great product people. Sometimes, they’re both. Sometimes the best ones are able to – no matter where they started – be that translation layer between here and what the market needs and [then] translate that into what people want and will pay for. What challenges and lessons would you say, as you built your own company, especially in healthcare, were primary lessons that [you learned]?
CL: There are [an] infinite number of problems to solve. There’s no shortage of challenges if you think about how much we spend from a GDP perspective on healthcare. How the aging population is being addressed and treated. I would say there’s no limitation to where you can go and solve something, but ultimately it comes down to: Can you solve it quick enough with the budget you have?
Many people have this idea that they want to have the beautiful house, corner lot, multiple acres of land, in-ground pool, but they have the budget for none of that. So, how do you eventually earn and get the right to build that house [that] you’ve always dreamed of? It’s by solving micro-problems that ultimately become macro-solutions, and that can be deployed across large scale populations.
RW: How would you articulate the biggest problem that is specifically in healthcare today?
CL: [That goes back to] my “Aha!” moment, and where we changed the direction of our business in a very meaningful way.
Forever, in my origin story – in starting my own business – I was in an operating room in a very prominent New York city hospital system and I was helping a surgeon do a case. So, basically, surgery. The person we were doing this case on was there only because they weren’t taking care of themselves. My [“Aha”] moment [occurred one day as I was] sitting in the OR – wearing my scrubs, wearing my mask, watching this person through this procedure – and [thinking], “I can’t believe he didn’t just do X, Y and Z, and if he did X, Y and Z, he wouldn’t be here today.” I became so frustrated that people weren’t treating the health and wellness of themselves… I saw that there was this huge opportunity to flip it. To say, “Let’s help these people get healthier.”
That was kind of my origin story, where I said, “I’m going to build a business to help these people get healthier.” So, six plus years into running the business – this happened about a year ago, prior to COVID; prior to this incredible change and shift of landscape – I had [that] “Aha!” moment [and] realized, this whole time, I was trying to fix people and help them get healthier. But that’s a byproduct of what we’re really solving, which is: How do you get someone engaged around health? How do you get someone to enroll, to participate, and to complete a set of activities that will change either their health or their life? So, all of our attention went into solving that problem of engagement.
That is the problem that we think is the biggest in healthcare, today.
I was trying to fix people and help them get healthier. But that’s a byproduct of what we’re really solving, which is: How do you get someone engaged around health?
RW: That’s well said. A lot of people just have those “Aha!” moments in their everyday lives. Those solutions are sitting out there. It just takes the right people, at the right time to put them together… Tell us about Avidon Health. The company merged two smaller companies in the past year and a half… What you guys are doing and how?
CL: Our belief is [that] healthcare is driven through human connection, but the problem with human connection is that it’s very expensive. In a perfect world, I’d have a doctor, a nutritionist, [and]a personal trainer living with me and telling me what I should and shouldn’t eat, how to workout, making sure I get my vaccinations and take my vitamins, but that’s completely unscalable, and not realistic for most normal people…
We spent five [to] six years doing health coaching, so, one-on-one interactions with people all across the country and identified certain trends we recognized that people need to work with. We sought out a digital solution company based on the West Coast that had an incredible cognitive behavioral training process and video courses to support a coaching methodology. We said, “One plus one probably doesn’t equal two, but one plus one equals three.”
It took those two pieces: [Being] human-centered and coach-driven, and layering in enablement technologies to make the coaches more successful and effective. [That’s what we] think is a huge differentiator [for us] – [we empower] technology with a human-centered focus and [partner it with ] a human-first approach. We’re having our coaches and our care teams and clinicians say, “Here’s all the things people need.” Then, the technical team and engineers build it. So, now, it feels like you’re really interacting with one person.
RW: There are a lot of solutions in and around that space, but you really seem to have a lot more empathy around what people are facing, and understanding that connection. It seems to be more about the combining of real people and technology, and trying to figure out where that happy ground is, because it seems neither one on their own is fixing the problem.
CL: Changing unhealthy behavior is hard. Most people are going to fail. The most ambitious, driven individuals are not always achieving what they hope for in their health and in their wellness.
The belief behind this is [that] there aren’t great solutions – that we’ve identified – that are solving that problem. There are great solutions that have assets that could solve that problem. But, the problem is, Robert – as I say problem six times in a row – they’re not being used. There is no engagement. There is no acceleration, on top of that. You can’t just do text messages and emails, because it doesn’t feel natural. It doesn’t feel like a person. It doesn’t have [that] connection. So, we’ve been able to incorporate that human connection into all the other steps [we were] taking.
RW: I have at least three health and wellness apps on my phone, and I don’t use any of them. But, I do track certain things, and I do answer when my human trainer yells at me. That, I pay attention to.
CL: Accountability is incredibly important.
Our belief is [that] healthcare is driven through human connection, but the problem with human connection is that it's very expensive.
RW: Tell us about your business and how it’s structured – who do you sell to?
CL: We’re an enablement solution or technology for third parties. So, we [identify where] people [are] trying to interact or engage with a large population, and [ask], how do we make it run better, faster, stronger, longer?
Primarily, you think of the BUCAs – the Blues, United, Cignas. They have a large number of members that interact with them for health and wellness. Can we make their solutions run better? The answer is: Of course, we can. We have incredible third-party data and case studies that validate and demonstrate [our] efficacy in creating more meaningful change. Then, [we] just go down the line [considering] where people interact with health. So, hospital systems and healthcare providers…
Prior to COVID, people weren’t talking about virtual coaching – how [to] make engagement in people’s homes and communities. They were doing it a little bit, but COVID happened, and it’s like the whole world shifted. [Our] expectations – as consumers, consuming healthcare – are a lot different than they were a year ago. [We’re] not waiting for the doctor for 45 minutes, [we’re] expecting things to be delivered to [our homes], [and we’re] expecting things to be easy and simple. We believe – and you know this, Robert, from your experience – [that Healthcare is] slower to implement newer technologies… We can help give them a little more speed… Consumers are expecting that right now.
RW: I’ll diverge here for a minute. In many ways, a lot of the things that have happened in E-commerce over the last 12 months pushed everything forward five years. I think there are some things in the healthcare world that happened, too, around telehealth.
Telehealth was a thing, for sure, but now, I think it’s been pushed forward five years. And here we stand. That plays well for Avidon Health.
I actually heard the other day, you know, the Mirror, the fitness solution recently bought by LuluLemon? They’re now thinking about having that be the portal for telehealth. That’s an example of how the whole thing got disrupted right under our noses, and it bodes well for the kind of integrative approach Avidon Health is taking.
CL: Again – going back to the problems – think about a huge problem right now that’s across every state. It doesn’t have any empathy. [It doesn’t care about] your social, economic class: Substance abuse.
People are addicted to pain pills, addicted to different substances. They’re having a difficult time going to their traditional therapies and treatments, because they’re not in their same environments, anymore. So, we said, “This is a tremendous opportunity for us to leverage what we’ve learned and throw it against a big problem that many Americans across the country, healthcare systems and communities are suffering from…
So, we built out a program to solve that, because we can acknowledge that there’s this [fear] that [people battling addiction aren’t] going to be able to get the treatment they had in the past. Now, we’re doing something where they can get [treatment] 24/7. Within minutes, [they can] be interacting with an experience that can change their lives and help them get off of – or stay off of – those abuses and different substances they [are or] were on.
Can we increase the interactions? The completion rate of certain predetermined clinical paths or clinical protocols? While we are a face fresh in the industry, we have a tremendous amount of experience.
RW: How are you thinking about the customer experience? You’ve described a much more different, and potentially effective, way of doing things for the business, but how are you thinking about how the customer experience is being effective? How are you ensuring you’re effective? Are there specific metrics you look at?
CL: Ya, going back to engagement. Can we increase the interactions? The completion rate of certain predetermined clinical paths or clinical protocols? While we are a face fresh in the industry, we have a tremendous amount of experience: [We’re impacting] four million lives right now, [and hosting] hundreds of thousands of interactive coaching sessions. Everything we’ve built has been built on the problems and pain points that we were trying to solve for ourselves, and now, we’re saying we can package this whole thing up, and give it to another organization and say, “We know you have these problems too. Take this box and open it. It will give you all the tools you need to be successful and engaging with your own populations.”
RW: How does the product actually work. I’d love to hear about how the pieces interact: What a customer might go through and how they interact with the technology, coaches and content?
CL: Almost always, someone has a solution. They have something they’ve worked on, built, or is sitting on the shelf behind them that they want to use, but don’t know how.
We built our solution to fit into their solutions. So, robust APIs, webhooks, [and] documentation. People can take our solution, and bring it right into their universe and environment. The end user would never know it’s us…
For those [who] don’t have a solution, we say, “Well, we’ll give you something that’s white label, so again, the end user will never know that we’re there.” They’re just running with the solution. We give them all that at their fingertips with a few clicks.
[Now], the end user’s perspective. This is where it becomes very fun and very interesting. The greatest solutions in the world only work if you use them, you know about them, and you’re engaged with them. This is a repeated theme, over and over. So, we built out what we call a Recruitment Phase. Most solutions start with the person actually on your product. That’s, like, step five. You don’t just download an app and put in your information – that’s crazy talk, man! You had to have a moment, a life event, [or] a motivation to get signed up.
Now, once you’re there, [that’s when] everything happens. Our magic starts when we try to get you interacting. We say. “We’re going to educate you and engage with you.” We look at zip codes where people are [interacting from]. We have data to support different personality types of those zip codes. So, we look at one of five different personality types that you will most likely have if you live in a certain zip code. Then, we start to create a messaging strategy to get you into our system and solution. You come on our solution, you verify that our assumptions were correct, and your experience begins.
Some personalities say, “I want to tell you everything about me, I’m going to give you my life story!” Other people say, “No, thank you, just give me what i need. Give me my answer.” So, as you’re interacting. the solution evolves and shows you things that are more relevant for your personality type. Then… it gets exciting. We’re dancing at that point. [The solution surfaces] interactive content relevant to your health risks, holds you accountable and makes sure we use – and this is really important – cognitive behavioral training actually influence your activities long term.
RW:That’s really smart. When I think about customer experience, I use the term “Persona,” but what personas really are are amalgamations of behaviors. What you’re saying: You’re trying to think about what behavior types and what personality types lead to certain behaviors and build the product around that – or at least form the pieces of the product based an individual person’s needs. That’s really interesting.
CL: Ya, and think about this: There’s five generations in the workforce right now… It’s insane! Think of someone in their mid-60s working, and someone in their early 20s working. Do you think they want the same solution? No, absolutely not! Yet, the idea behind it is, “Let’s build something that fits all people.”
Our solution is focused on the individual. Not the condition, but the individual. Their personality, their interactions, their learning style – which we haven’t even talked about. How people learn is different. You may want to consume something that takes you seven minutes to read; I may want to consume video content. So, how do we serve it up to you [so that it’s] relevant and timely?
RW: I have more of a philosophical question, when you define innovation, do you think it has to be disruptive?
CL: When you hear the word innovation, it’s sexy and people want to just slam down innovation and say, “Thats me, look at what I can do!” But innovation happens everyday. I look at my daughter – she’s 2 years old – she’s innovating, she’s telling me what she wants. It doesn’t need to be so disruptive that it changes the world, but it [needs to change] her world.
For me, if I can innovate on something that makes a meaningful change for one of my employees. or for a person that’s consuming our product, it could change their life. [Even if] it’s just a small change for them, [it could] ultimately amass into something very large because it’s so incredibly needed for their own experiences or personal beliefs.
Changing unhealthy behavior is hard. Most people are going to fail.
RW: You’re a technology person. You’re also a healthcare person. Do you see any larger trends that you believe are moving one way or the other for 2021, 2022, or even over the next five years?
CL: I think of the acceleration of everything – virtual and remote – that happened with COVID. It was really incredible. Where I thought the market was, as you touched on, it basically got sped up by three years – five years potentially.
So, where I thought we were going to be going, we’re almost there now, which is kind of crazy because i was only thinking – as an entrepreneur you look at, “What am i going to do tomorrow? What am I going to do in a month from now? What am I going to do in a year? Three? Five? You’re not twenty years out. That’s just not realistic. So, where I think we’re going is almost what I see coming at me right now, which is leveraging this highly personalized approach to interact with people in their homes, and a very convenient time that they desire, versus forcing people to get into their cars, to wade into buildings – typical brick and mortars – with a dozen other people waiting. You don’t get seen on time; the experience is not great. It’s not a consumer experience. You’re going to take that experience whether you like it or not because you have to.
Now, there’s a different way. It’s making it more interactive and more compelling.
RW: A lot of startups are ahead of the trends and, a lot of times, they have to either hope they can pull the market with them, or hope the market catches up with them, and that those two things hit each other while the company stays alive. You were doing that and everything went like this, and now, you’re standing here saying you have a perfect solution for the time. It’s so fascinating and rare.
CL: Before [we acquired] the company in the West Coast, we just saw white space and thought this is where [things were going]. We started pulling it together, and as COVID happened, it came almost too fast… It’s a good problem to have.
Now, it’s a matter of, “How do we translate our story, so that it’s compelling to the budget holder that’s making that decision, that has some sort of solutions or budget in place?” They’re deploying against this problem that isn’t getting better. People are not reversing the curve in healthcare – healthcare costs are getting more expensive every year, it’s insane. But yet, we’re doing the same thing, over and over and over again, with a different skin, maybe a different smell or a different taste, but it’s the same general solution.
So, we say, “Let’s take that solution, and let’s make it a hell of a lot better.”
RW: Right. I mean, stay healthier. There’s the first answer, right?
RW: I want to switch to a personal question and fun fact. Our research team dug up that you’re a three time Ironman, is that correct?
CL: I’ve suffered those hours on the course, yes.
RW: My guess is that what you learned during those Ironmans has helped you in how you approach your professional work. Is that a fair statement?
CL: It is. To get to that starting line, the amount of work you have to do… People [associate] overnight success [with] entrepreneurs, but [they] only see the final product.
It [took] eight months of training to get to my first Ironman, and it forced me to cut out noise. When I started training for it, I cut out social media. I just disappeared because my primary focus – just like when you’re running a business, is making sure this thing gets to the starting line. Not even the finish line, to the starting line. And when you get there, you’ve got this race, the cannon goes off, and you realize: There’s a whole community of people that are there, that want you to get to the finish line.
So, just like an entrepreneur, as I’m seeing right now, there’s a whole community – yourself including – that wants to see us get to the finish line. And the finish line for me could be different than someone else’s finish line, but the idea is that we rally behind our entrepreneurs, and people want to see them do really well. But you have to earn the right to get to the starting line. You’re sure as hell not going to go do it without thinking about it. You have to earn the right to get to that starting line. That, to me, was my “Wow” moment.
This business that we’re doing right now is going to change the way people interact with healthcare in a very meaningful way.
RW: There’s also a mental stamina to entrepreneurship. Those overnight successes you mentioned, and people think about the “Unicorns.” Those unicorns are 10 years old. Those first seven or eight years were really difficult, but no one remembers that first half of the process.
CL: I remember when I ran across the finish line at my last Ironman. It was 15 ½ hours on the course. I was exhausted… As I’m coming up to the finish line – I’m not having a good day. I’m not feeling well. I was telling my wife and family friends that were there, “I’m sure as hell not going to do this, again. No way. I’m done, I’m exhausted, this is stupid. What was I thinking?”
The next day, we’re in wine country having a couple glasses of wine celebrating, and I say, “I’m going to do this next year.” And [my wife] said, “You told me you were never going to do it again?!”
What you said is so true. You forget the pain that got you there. Ya, it was painful to get there. But I have this desire to run this business. You see a problem, you go to solve it, and if you don’t have the solution, you keep working on it.
RW: It isn’t about the money, it isn’t about the finish line – well, it is but it isn’t. It’s about doing what’s necessary to see if you can make it happen.
CL: How often in life do we have times like that? We have a finite amount of time to be here. For all the things I’ve done, there’s so much more I want to do and achieve, and I need to force myself to do it.
It’s easy to let a week go by. And [then, when it’s gone] you don’t realize what you’ve done and achieved to help make yourself better, your family better, or your community better. I want to make sure that I’m doing that.
This business that we’re doing right now is going to change the way people interact with healthcare in a very meaningful way.
Learn more about Avidon Health by visiting their website and staying up-to-date with them on LinkedIn
Welcome to our first of many interviews with innovators, mavericks and leaders across the globe who are challenging convention and changing the CX status quo!
To kick off the series, our Partner Robert Wallace who leads Tallwave’s strategic market and growth opportunities interviewed Kelli MacDonald, Chief Marketing Officer of the world’s first clean medicine company Genexa. Founded in 2014 by two dads who were concerned about the ingredients in their family’s medicine bottles, Genexa has one simple mission: To put people over everything. They believe in expanding health education and improving accessibility to clean medicines for all. And in 2021, they’ve got some pretty big goals – some backed by data, and others inspired by their ‘StoryDoing’ ethos.
Learn how Genexa plans to evolve from start-up to household name, Washington D.C. lobbyist, and the brand that changed the over-the-counter (OTC) industry for good.
Q&A with Kelli Lane MacDonald, Genexa CMO
Robert Wallace:To start, I think it would be worthwhile for you to give us a brief overview of your background and an introduction to Genexa.
Kelli Lane MacDonald: Sure! I [started my career cutting] my teeth at various different advertising agencies up and down Madison Avenue, if you will, in New York City. I went back to school while working at one of those agencies to really dig into customer experience, human centered design – to expand my knowledge.
Through that process, I landed at a brand strategy firm that really focused on putting the person at the center of the experience. [They] hung their philosophy on this idea of ‘StoryDoing’… [it’s] the concept that you [not only] need a really powerful story and mission – you need to do that story in the world. The best brands in the world – [the ones that] are most famous, impactful and giving back to society – are the ones that follow that kind of philosophy. So, through that work – through my previous agency where I was the Managing Director – we started working with Genexa to help them finalize their brand and really take them to the next level with the launch into stores – 40,000 different retailers like Target and RiteAid, Walgreen, Whole Foods and many others. So, I bring a lot of experience with marketing, communications and consumer insights – how to speak with, touch and provide value to consumers everyday.
What really drives me every morning to wake up and [makes me] excited to do this job with Genexa is what they’ve built. The founders of Genexa, David Johnson and Matt Spielberg, are two dads. About five years ago, they looked at what was in their children’s medicine and couldn’t believe the artificial dyes, colors and ingredients – literally the poisonous ingredients in substances like Antifreeze – that are being used in micro-doses in our medicines and we ingest to make us feel better. They felt there had to be another way and so they embarked on a journey to really create alternatives that are just as effective and have the same active ingredients, which is the reason you take a medicine – acetaminophen, diphenhydramine… the reason you take Tylenol or Mucinex or Benadryl – but take out all of the dirty, inactive ingredients and replace them with organic, non-GMO alternatives. Our whole company is built around this philosophy ‘People over everything…’ That everyone deserves access to cleaner, better for you medicines. And you know, we’re thankful to all of our retail partners who are helping us bring that to everybody.
"Our whole company is built around this philosophy ‘People over everything…’ That everyone deserves access to cleaner, better for you medicines."
RW: Thank you for that. It’s a really interesting concept. When you looked or are looking at building out Genexa, do you take into consideration any specific touchpoints in the over-the-counter buying journey? What user experience components do you believe to be most critical to customer conversions and loyalty?
KLM: That’s a great question. There’s really two kinds of OTC drug shoppers and all of us are those two personas depending on the situation that we’re in. There’s the emergency situation: Your child has a 103 degree fever. It’s 11pm at night. You need to go get relief for them to bring that fever down. Or you are not in a moment of crisis and are thinking about how to improve your health, be prepared and clean up your medicine cabinet or find alternative options.
As consumers, there’s been a clean revolution in all kinds of industries – food, beverage, beauty – to me, it’s actually the most counterintuitive thought in the world that the medicine we put into our bodies to make us feel better would be the products that are still dirty and have dirty ingredients.
As we think about those two personas – the emergency shopping persona versus the non-crisis but trying to prepare [persona] – there are different needs, right? If you’re in an emergency situation, [you’re] not ordering something online and waiting two days for it to [arrive]. It’s not useful, at that point. Where as.. If you’re thinking about how to live a less stressful life or help with sleep at night because of the changing of time zones, you’re more in that reactive mode. Because of that, we made a really conscious decision to be the only pharmaceutical company that sells omnichannel. We, obviously, have an in-store presence with retailers. We have a .com, we have Amazon, we’re selling through instacart. [We’ve made] a conscious decision that we never want to force a consumer to shop in a way that is not natural or useful for them, and, therefore, we had to build out sales and marketing strategies that supported that.
RW: How did you come to those realizations that it needed to be a 360 customer experience or to understand that those were the two primary personas that you were looking at? Did you do audience research?
KLM: Yes, we did quite a bit back in [quarter one] of last year. To give my counterparts that run sales internally at Genexa credit – they started having retailer conversations long before the marketing team did tons of audience research and segmentation and said this was the right decision: To go have those conversations. I think, originally, like any entrepreneurial culture, there’s probably a little bit of gut feeling, a lot of talking to people in aisles. Everybody on our executive team walks into retail aisles and just talks to customers – well before COVID. We don’t do that currently. And so, it starts by understanding the customer – we used research to validate that – and also find additional insights to understand how to reach them, how to add value and [to uncover] what their need states were.
RW: How did you identify or evaluate which channels to go after first? You have DTC, big and small retailers, instacart – how did you prioritize those or even think of those when crafting omnichannel funnels? What was most important to you and your strategy?
KLM: It’s chicken and egg, honestly, because from my perspective, depending on who you are as a brand – that’s where I think you need to really start: Do some soul searching, figure out what is authentically you. Then use that to inform how you think about your business and where to build, invest time, money and effort first. But I think the egg side of that is – especially with more entrepreneurial startup environment – you have to get your product into people’s hands. So, really organically, our sales team went to the Erewhons and the Sprouts in LA [where it was founded] with backpacks of product… and just asked for some time with the decision-makers of those stores.
But I also think, coming back to the brand point, part of what makes Genexa so different is that we call ourselves the only human funnel. We are pharma with a face. Our founders phone numbers are on every single product on the box. We have Founder Fridays where our two founders actually call customers. Our customer service team are people, they’re not robots or offshore. They sit in the office with the rest of the teams. It was really important to us to make sure that, when we’re thinking about where we’re going to show up, we do that in a way that ladders back to the brand and that humanity.
RW: Is that a good example of ‘StoryDoing?’
KLM: Yes! My team gets tired of me saying this, but I constantly say, ‘Living out our purpose is not the job of just the marketing team.’
In order for a company to be successful – [for] a brand to be built and have long-term loyalty and really impact change in a society – every single person in the company, whether in quality or compliance or legal or sales, they need to understand what mission we’re on and they need to shape and drive their actions accordingly.
"Every single person in the company, whether in quality or compliance or legal or sales, they need to understand what mission we’re on and they need to shape and drive their actions accordingly."
RW: I agree. You think about brands people truly love – truly covet – and have an emotional connection to. Those people that have that kind of affinity, they don’t talk about it in terms of a product thing or a customer service thing or a marketing thing. It’s a brand thing and that means every touchpoint has to be right in line. You’re making a promise as a brand – you have to question if everything else is fulfilling that promise.
KLM: Right, [you have to consider] every interaction [a person has] with the brand: Opening the package of a medicine bottle, where [they shop for that, calling customer service or, obviously, the social impact work that we do. All of [those are] our brand touchpoints. [They’re all] opportunities for consumers to create a relationship, good or bad, with the brand. The companies that are doing it poorly are only thinking about advertising – they’re talking, they’re not walking. It’s those that are on the flipside of that – that understand that purpose has to be embedded into everything you do as a business – that are most successful.
RW: It’s that idea of authentic awareness. It’s not just about doing a mass market campaign, but doing something authentically that actually speaks to people in a way they care about. It’s not just driving eyeballs, that’s only part of it. So, you have the authentic awareness part of things, you have the culture storytelling… you obviously have a product that’s cleaner, better and healthier for people. Those are departures from other OTC brands out there, but is there anything else you’re doing that’s different from other legacy brands you’re competing against? Not that those two alone aren’t enough.
KLM: Yes. We’ve been working on a [longer term] impact strategy, so we’re going to have a couple of pretty significant initiatives kick off this year that are in service of driving change at a systemic level. So, with the FDA – I don’t know if you know this but Europe actually has the European standard, which is the equivalent of the FDA in Europe, and the standards that they put out are incredibly more strict than they are in the U.S. All of the ingredients that are on Genexa’s ‘X List’ – which is our growing list of ingredients that we vow never to put in our products and are in our competitor’s products – 98% of those are banned in Europe. So, it’s not even a question for European products. That really gets you thinking. How come European citizens have access to carte blanche better products than there are in the U.S? It doesn’t seem sensible. So, Genexa is really leading the charge. I don’t want to give too much away, but we’re going to be partnering with some other brands that you know and love to really drive that change at a systemic level in Washington D.C. [and with the FDA.
We’re also really looking at – I said the word access earlier – [increasing] knowledge. First and foremost, people don’t know that these ingredients are in their medicines. Then, [it’s about getting people] access to the actual product. We’re standing up an initiative that will help bring education and actual products to communities that otherwise don’t have access, have been forgotten about or are often overlooked because – especially with clean products – I think marketers realized a couple decades ago that they could mark those products up to be premium pricing. Genexa does not believe in [in that]. Our products are more expensive to source because they are better-for-you products – they’re not synthetically made in a lab – and so what we’ve done is kept those price points as competitive as possible. They’re never more than 15% of the leading skew. That’s really driven by this idea of ‘People over everything’. Everybody deserves knowledge and access to better products.
RW:How do you measure ‘People over everything’? You have this idea of people – it feels qualitative… super important but qualitative – but then you have to measure that somehow. How are you measuring your impact or how are you using data to measure whether you’re on the right track or not?
KLM: There are some really incredible brand impact partners that have built out tools to help do that. I think there’s probably a more formal way to do that, which we’re working on standing up.
I think informally, we do donate quite a bit of product to different organizations – new moms that don’t have health insurance… Baby2Baby does a lot of really good work with new moms. We don’t shout it off of the rooftops. We feel we’re privileged enough to be in a position where we can give the product to people [who] need it. And that’s our duty, we are fortunate to be in that position. Two years back, we actually built a clean water well in Central America because access to clean water is really the fundamental starting point for good health, or better health.So, we’ve really acted out quite a few initiatives over the past few years that we can more informally measure.
But to answer your question, there are tools that – when you design your brand impact strategy – you look at societal and cultural health and there are all these different metrics that you can measure the impact your brand is having over time to help move that needle. One of our goals over the next few years is to start getting the FDA to cross out previously approved ingredients in all medicines, [so] Genexa [is not] the only [brand] that has better ingredients. That’s a tangible measurement. If we can get five of those products removed – or however many ingredients removed – across the U.S., that’s longterm going to incrementally have an incredible impact on people’s health.
RW: If you’re successful in what you’re setting out to do, that will disrupt the OTC market quite a lot. Do you feel that disruption is a prerequisite of innovation or do you think that you can innovate and do cool things that aren’t necessarily disruptive but still effective?
KLM: The latter. If you go back to the famous Henry Ford quote of 1920-something, when he said ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.’ He wasn’t necessarily looking to disrupt horse and buggy [businesses], he was identifying an opportunity to create a better product, a better experience. [He was identifying] a need state for people. So, I think disruption is one way, but I also think consumer insight – understanding where people are and what they need most – [can be disruptive].
I love the Swiffer example, too. They went in people’s houses and looked at how women, primarily, homemakers were cleaning floors. One woman wet a paper towel and mopped up the coffee grounds off the floor. Again, not setting out to disrupt vacuums, but trying to define a better option. In-between the vacuum happens to be a Swiffer.
"It was really important to us to make sure that, when we’re thinking about where we’re going to show up, we do that in a way that ladders back to the brand and that humanity."
RW: I love that example. The spinbrush is another one. So, this has been a big year for everyone, obviously: 2020. But Genexa went through a rebranding, released a new line of products, launched some campaigns and even established a partnership with Nintendo. That’s a big year. What do you see as your mandate as CMO for 2021?
KLM: To make 2020 feel like it was just a step on the journey. This year is all about growth. Last year was about foundation and reinforcing foundational elements and starting to put the pieces in place for serious growth. Obviously, getting a presence in 40,000 doors is growth, but it was really just starting to reinforce that foundation. This year is about taking us to the next level. Ultimately, I want Genexa to be a household name. I want everybody to understand that they don’t have to settle for less than acceptable ingredients in their medicines. Then we can start thinking beyond just OTC… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
RW: We’re marketing people. It’s what we do. Thank you so much, Kelli! I love what Genexa is doing. I love your passion for it and I love the idea of really being authentic in how you’re doing your business and at scale. Genexa looks like it’s well on its way.
KLM: Thank you, Robert!
Want to learn more about Genexa? Visit their website and check out their latest advertising spot below.
In the words of our leaders, 2020 was surreal and challenging, but also a year of immense of learning.
Through it all – the pandemic action plans, work from home, civil unrest and political elections – our healthcare workers remained steadfast in their mission and promise to take care of our communities. They have felt the long hours and longer days, held our loved ones who’ve recovered and passed, forfeited memories with their own children and partners, and supplied us with information when we needed it most. We are so thankful and forever in debt.
Throughout it all, our healthcare workers remained steadfast in their mission and promise to take care of our communities.
Help us help them
To put action to our words of thanks, on behalf of our Tallwave employees and clients, we are donating meals to the healthcare heroes of Banner Health. If you feel so inclined, you too can give back in the following ways:
Donate personal items: If you have connections to secure bulk items of individually packaged meals, snacks and beverages, or bulk donations of personal care and comfort items (gentle and unscented skincare products, lip balm, cooling towels, mini fans, and more), contact Loren Bouchard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-747-7439.
With COVID-19 cases continuing to climb, our healthcare workers need our support more than ever. No action will ever be thanks enough for all they have done and continue to do. We are so grateful.
A few words from our leaders
If you’d like to hear a few words about 2020 and how Tallwave navigated through the year, please watch the message from our leaders below:
Despite good intentions, healthcare has been a point of contention for those who work in it and those who receive it far before the pandemic knocked down our doors. Through numerous stakeholder interviews, we’ve seen, heard, and felt this first hand. Practitioners and patients often believe that healthcare no longer lives up to its ideals of putting and serving humans first – which is precisely the kind of business we’re in.
But the question remains: What do we do and how should it change? There’s no time like the present and zero time to waste. Organizations in every marketplace, especially healthcare, must answer the call to evolve. Despite challenges, we believe the way forward is to return to serving the patient first by rethinking and redesigning experiences that can ultimately help rebuild trust. All internal and external customer experiences must be evaluated with the organization’s core values in mind or risk being left behind as the new normal (namely Telehealth, concierge medicine and digital therapeutic offerings) stakes its claim.
“The churn and burn business of medicine is doomed to fail us all.”
Where Do We Start?
The answer to this question always lies in the same place: In the hands of the people to whom it impacts the most.
So to kick-off our solution mapping journey, we asked patients and practitioners to share what pain points of the industry curtail their customer loyalty and experience the most. After just a few hours, we had hundreds of responses from both sides of the aisle, and that’s not all that surprising. Health is a crucial corner of interest for every human being (and every living thing) on this planet.
While some frustrations were unique to the individual, most were ubiquitous. Here is a summary of what we heard:
From the patient perspective:
Patients don’t believe their time or business is valued
They consistently feel tricked and lied to for monetary gain
They feel judged for their appearance, sexuality, lifestyle, or lack of knowledge
They feel like a means to an end when it comes to monthly quotas – not seen, heard, and appreciated as humans
They worry they’re misdiagnosed for time’s sake and ultimately uncared for
They feel overwhelmed by complexities involved in navigating health solutions and don’t know who to turn to or trust
They feel easily forgotten and largely unimportant
“I feel like the healthcare system is up to me to figure out solo. For example, if I never went to a doctor again, no one would care. No one would even know.”
From the practitioner’s perspective:
They feel they aren’t given enough time in the day to provide patients with the care they want to give
They worry the educational materials they’re provided to share with patients is too general and doesn’t actually deliver the information that’s needed
They feel overlooked when important organizational decisions are made that will inevitably impact the their work
They don’t believe enough functional and progressive options for patient communication are available
They don’t feel they’re given proper tools to enable and empower patients to ask the right questions in tumultuous situations
They believe the world quickly and technologically advanced, but the way health is provided is behind
If you look for patterns or trends in the concerns we received, you’ll notice that the challenges patients and practitioners reported circulate around the way their experiences with healthcare made or make them feel. Healthcare patients and practitioners alike are craving more connection, understanding, and transparency, and feel they’re being let down at nearly every turn.
But does it have to stay that way? Of course it doesn’t. The healthcare industry is just suffering from a bad customer experience problem – and luckily, we can change that.
We believe that true innovation happens when you solve human needs first, business needs second, and that all experiences (which encompasses every workflow, process, and deliverable!) should be crafted with intention and care. Even though the underpinnings of the healthcare system and healthcare organizations are complex, to a patient, it’s all about their own personal end to end experience.
By implementing data- and technology-driven processes that enable practitioners to meet patients where they are, you can begin to craft customer experiences internally and externally (remember, your employees are customers, too) that increase overall satisfaction and loyalty, and in turn make positive impacts to your bottom line.
Here are just a few approaches to keep in mind:
Do Your Research
Execute in-depth market research and interviews to redefine audience personas, pain points, competitors, and growth opportunities in the given industry. Using these qualitative and quantitative insights, come up with strategies to reach your ideal demographic more often and improve retention and engagement throughout the entire patient lifecycle. Pro tip: Look to other industries for innovative ideas and solutions.
Figure Out Where You’re Falling Short
Compile data related to search results and social conversations to identify when, where, how and why your organization is showing up the way it is. Uncovering your audience’s motivations and behaviors – what matters most to them, what they actively search for, how they make key decisions – will help inform new and improved strategies to reach, acquire and engage more of your core and adjacent audiences. Let these learnings not only improve reach, but differentiate your organization’s identity, offerings, and voice.
Discover the Root Cause
Identify communication and decision-making breakdowns that impact the customer experiences for patients and practitioners alike. Then explore and implement solutions to mend bridges and fill those efficiency-barrier gaps.
Strategize New Ways of Operating & What They Would Entail
Reimagine business operations through a streamlined lens exploring options for subscription models, virtual care (also known as telehealth), easy-pay and other technology-driven practices that lend to a more functional customer experience.
Develop & Implement New Products
Based on your previous learnings, develop and implement new telehealth offerings, scheduling apps, and A.I. tools focused on providing general health information, mental health assistance, patient-practitioner connection, and nutrition advice related to managing chronic diseases from a whole-person perspective.
Lean Into Digital Content
Ensure your website is structurally sound through a content and SEO strategy that provides cleaner data results and enables you to grow faster. This strategic planning will build on itself, reducing the need for continued high dollar investments in other channels like paid search. Pro tip: Don’t forget that the words you use and how you use them on your website impacts patient acquisition and retainment, too.
Evaluate Your Digital User Experiences
Evaluate and redesign external customer mobile and web experiences for easy navigation, clear communication, customized patient portals and visual differentiation and identity. Simultaneously, implement new internal data-focused dashboards to cut through bureaucracy and siloes, enable cross-functional collaboration and inform decision-making and provide real-time updates related to monthly, quarterly or yearly goals.
Find Progressive Ways to Connect Patients & Practitioners
Use social media and technology to increase transparency via digital events, educational seminars, interactive practitioner profiles, video live streams, 24-hour question portals, and more.
“I want to see what kind of person you are. What are your hobbies and what makes you unique? I want to know these things so I can decide whether or not I think we are going to jive.”
Healthcare is innately and uniquely personal to each individual. From the moment each of us are born, we mustinteract with it in some way. But just because healthcare is organically woven into the fabric of our lives doesn’t render it safe from evolutionary needs. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Now more than ever, healthcare needs to meet humans where they are which means crafting experiences and related processes in transparent, uncomplicated and truly thoughtful ways. Doing this isn’t easy – it requires a lot of work – but the final end product drives more meaningful results for everyone and everything (including the bottom line) involved.
By choosing the road less traveled to innovate and solve for the root cause, healthcare organizations will set themselves apart and ultimately contribute to enriching the lives of the patients, employees and communities they serve – just as they initially set out to do.
So, are you ready to get to work?
Be the change you want to see. Tallwave can help you reimagine the future and holistically transform. Contact us now.