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Innovators Series

Innovators Q&A: How Banner Health’s Digital Marketing Strategies Increased Customer Trust During COVID-19

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?

 

Also read: Data Driven Insights Into the Evolving Customer Experience

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.

 

Also read: 9 Metrics That Help Measure Customer Engagement

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.

Categories
News This Week in CX

This Week in CX: 3 Big Healthcare Tech Companies & Providers Announce Future CX Plans

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.”

 

Also read: Innovators Q&A: How Avidon Is Solving the Patient Engagement Problem In Healthcare

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.

 

Also read: Real People Tell Us What They Want From Healthcare In 2021

"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?

Categories
Innovators Series

Innovators Q&A: How Avidon Is Solving the Patient Engagement Problem In Healthcare

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.

 

 

Our Work: Upleveling a Product That’s All About Great Service

 

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.

Avidon post about the importance of content

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?

 

CL: I’ll take that. Yes, please!

 

Also read: Real People Told Us What They Want From Healthcare in 2021

 

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