Podcast

Building a Consumer-Centric Patient Experience

Reed Smith

Chief Consumer Officer, Ardent Health

On this episode of Healthcare Market Matrix, host John Farkas sits down with Reed Smith, Chief Consumer Officer at Ardent Health, for a conversation about Reed’s role with Ardent and his thoughts on the state of the healthcare marketing industry. Reed has spent twenty years in healthcare marketing, serving in prominent positions for the Texas Hospital associations and working with the world’s largest healthcare brands and providers as a strategist. Throughout the episode, John and Reed discuss Ardent’s approach to AI, the importance of a clear value proposition, and what Reed looks for in providers.

Show Notes
(1:04) Introducing Reed Smith and Ardent Health
(7:08) Reed’s Role at Ardent
(15:17) Ardent’s Main Partnerships
(22:41) Engaging with Different Consumer Segments
(27:42) Ardent’s Approach to AI
(30:49) Reed’s Three-Year Outlook with Ardent
(36:47) The Importance of a Clear Value Proposition
(42:38) Looking for Innovation at Conferences
(45:34) What Reed Looks For on Provider’s Websites
(48:54) Closing Thoughts

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Transcript

Introducing Reed Smith and Ardent Health

John Farkas:

And hello everyone. I’d like to join the team at Ratio in welcoming you to Healthcare Market Matrix. I’m your host, John Farkas, and today we have the rare chance to talk to a fellow marketing professional. Reed Smith has found his way into one of the more progressive and I think needed C-suite positions in the realm of healthcare providers. He is the Chief Consumer Officer at Ardent Health Services. And from where I sit, Reed has come into his position honestly. He spent 20 years in healthcare marketing, he served as the hospital marketing director, then overseeing product development for the Texas Hospital Association.

And he’s been a strategist at several prominent agencies working with some of the world’s largest healthcare brands and providers. And in his spare time, he founded the Social Health Institute, which I’ll want to hear a little bit more about, where they are helping healthcare organizations figure out how to approach their social media and digital marketing strategies. And he’s a founding advisory board member for both the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network and the health and wellness track at South by Southwest. And because there’s still a few gaps in his calendar, you can also find him behind the mic with co-host and accomplished healthcare marketing pro Chris Boyer on the Touchpoint Podcast where they explore consumer experience and digital marketing in healthcare. And I just bumped into him at the Becker’s conference in Chicago where he was asked to speak. So this guy definitely covers some ground. Reed, I’m not sure how you fit it in, but thanks for joining us today.

Reed Smith:

Yeah, happy to do it. Good to be here.

John Farkas:

So Reed, I guess tell us a little bit about Ardent Health Services.

Reed Smith:

Yeah, for sure. So Ardent, people may know some of our hospitals and health systems in the markets that we’re in, which I’m happy to touch on. But based in Nashville, Tennessee, we own and operate 30 hospitals around the country, a couple 100 sites of care, including clinics and physicians, offices and doctors and all that kind of fun stuff. But pretty large, I guess, across six states, eight markets, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Idaho, Kansas, New Jersey. So that’s what we do.

John Farkas:

And if you were to talk a little bit about Ardent and what sets Ardent apart in your eyes, what would be some of the things that you’re doing that are a little different?

Reed Smith:

Yeah, so on paper we probably look like a number of other health systems that are out there. I think what we’re doing, where we find ourself today is trying to think through where are the markets moving? Meaning our actual markets with the actual consumer being more at the center of our attention and what we’re planning and looking at and driving towards… Hospitals are still very important to us, certainly, and still a very core piece of the business, but I can at least speak from the consumer marketing side of the equation. Much of what we’re doing is much more consumer centric and starting there versus thinking through hospitals and service lines and trying to go out and acquire consumers, if you will, for those services, really trying to wrap services around what the consumer needs.

John Farkas:

Yeah. So tell us a little bit about how you got there. Tell us about your road to Ardent.

Reed Smith:

Yeah. Yeah. So I think you mentioned it about 20 years ago was my first job in healthcare. And before that was… My career is probably just a lot of luck, quite honestly than anything else. But my wife and I were living in Pensacola, Florida. She was the director of marketing for our minor league baseball team who happened to be owned by a guy named Quint Studer, who, many hospitals probably remember the name and the Studer Group. And so I spent a lot of time standing around with him watching baseball, and of course he was a hospital administrator, and then got into the organizational consulting that he was doing with the Studer Group, got me interested in hospitals. And so ended up taking a job as the director of marketing and communications at a hospital back in Texas.

So did that for a handful of years. And it was really interesting because at the time, I had marketing, I had communications in a small town that also meant you went to the ribbon cuttings and you were around town at all the events and things like that. But coincidentally, our CEO gave me the opportunity to oversee our patient experience initiatives and coordinate or orchestrate those. And at the time it felt like two very different things, the marketing work that I was doing and the experience work that I was doing. And so if I jump all the way ahead to now, it’s really hard to delineate where those things are different more than they are the same. And so it was interesting back then to now think how this has all come together. But I did that for some years.

And then as you mentioned, I moved to Austin and worked at the Texas Hospital Association. Started consulting and working with hospitals around the country. Got involved at the Mayo Clinic at South by Southwest other organizations, and ultimately came to Nashville with Gerard, Phillips, Kate, and Hancock, another great group, and doing some digital work there. And then found my way over to Ardent. So yeah, it’s been fun.

Reed’s Role at Ardent

John Farkas:

So you are the first chief consumer officer that I’ve known or talked to. And so I’m guessing the wiring of your role might be a little unfamiliar for some of our listeners, and I know that it emphasizes a really critical area right now for healthcare. And let us into your job description a little bit. Tell us what are your responsibilities? What’s the reporting structure?

Reed Smith:

Sure, sure.

John Farkas:

How’s that look?

Reed Smith:

Yeah, I report into our chief strategy officer and then kind of have dotted lines if that’s a-

John Farkas:

I bet there’s a few dotted lines for you.

Reed Smith:

Yeah, if that’s a thing. I work quite a bit with our chief medical officer, our CEO, a lot of different folks, our chief digital information officer, our CIO. So I work with a lot of different folks, but my job is really to oversee and orchestrate everything consumer facing. And so that is what we would consider or what most people would consider the historical marketing function. We don’t really call it that, but we look at that as more consumer engagement, but the historical marketing function of consumer experience, consumer data and technology, creative services and innovation. So really how do we go and engage and have a relationship with consumers or patients in our markets? What’s the experience they then have? And then the data and technology and creative services and even innovation to some extent supports those two things. So it’s really about engagement and experience.

And so I’m working quite a bit on Epic is our EHR, so all the consumer facing side of Epic, like MyChart for example, or online scheduling, things like that. The campaigns that you might imagine. So how do we reach out to folks? Either if we know them or don’t know them and try to give them that next best action, but really everything consumer facing. And then it really dovetails quite a bit with even our clinical side of the house around remote patient monitoring or chronic care management, some of the social determinants of health initiatives, hospital at home, wearables, those types of topics.

John Farkas:

Absolutely. That makes sense. I’ve heard you speak several times and each time you’ve mentioned the critical nature of your alignment with your CEO. Who’s Marty Bonick? I always want to say Botnick because I know I’m Marty Botnick and I have to, which is just strange coincidence. But I’ve heard Marty speak a number of times. I know that there’s a culture that he’s working to create that has helped empower that whole consumer focus, that patient, that person-centric approach. Talk a little bit about the importance of your alignment in that regard.

Reed Smith:

Yeah, that’s really where it all starts. I mean, it’s really hard to do anything new or culturally different if you don’t have the support. And even more than that, the leadership from the folks at the top and it does, starts with him. A lot of this is his vision and his idea around becoming a health services company and it being about the consumer and not about the hospital. So it’s a little bit of a inverse from a focus standpoint. And so he’s the one driving all this and pushing for this, and how do we become and create experiences for the consumer? He likes to hold his phone up a lot and say, “Why can’t I do things here that I do in the rest of my life as it relates to healthcare?” And just because we have online scheduling, does that mean that it’s optimally the best experience? Probably not. And so it’s still something that we have to work on and try to fine tune. Just because you have a chatbot doesn’t mean that magically or something like that.

And so it’s a continual work in process to try to think through, well, what are experiences do we need to build and drive? But it really does come from his view of the world and really how he and others are seeing the healthcare, the provider side of healthcare shift sites of care and things like that.

John Farkas:

And so when you are thinking through your approach and how you are assembling that journey that you’re working to create with the consumer, what does that conversation look like with your team? I know that there’s, like you said, you have dotted lines throughout your entire organization and how you’re pulling that through. Talk a little bit about how you guys are envisioning that. How are you assembling that picture and creating the journey?

Reed Smith:

Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s, I’m not going to sit here and pretend we’ve got it all figured out. I think we’ve got some ideas that are working and some things that we’re going to try. And I think culturally trying to get into more of this iterative process versus thinking we’re going to magically build some experience that will unveil at some point in the future is not really the way that we’re thinking about this. So what I did is, and I started with my team internally, is reorganizing ourselves to better drive this consumer centricity approach. So we have a team that’s focused on engagement. We have a team that’s focused on experience. We’ve got a data and technology team, we have a creative services team. And because of the way our systems work, those people have to report to people and it creates boxes on a page and there’s a hierarchy.

But we’ve really tried to drive more of a cohort, a horizontal approach of how we’re actually getting work done. So we have people that are leading the engagement and experience and data teams that are working together on a daily basis. And we’re not just creating and driving work in these silos of teams because it’s just not realistic. There are other parts of the organization, our managed care team, for example, is focused on population health and some of those value-based metrics and things like that. Well, they need to communicate with the consumer.

I need to communicate with the consumer. Our finance folks need to communicate with the consumer. So there’s all these ways that we’re starting to work more horizontally across the organization to think, okay, if we need to engage the consumer, how do we put the next best action in front of them or be about them, not about what we think is important or trying to prioritize. Again, it’s a lot easier said than done, but we are starting to put some of those things into motion and building teams to more execute or focus in that way than it is again, a scattershot approach of just to each their own and whoever can convince the consumer to come to an event or pay a bill or answer their text message or what have you. Trying to get a little more of a team approach around a lot of that.

Ardent’s Main Partnerships

John Farkas:

Got you. That makes sense. And it’s obviously a requisite because there’s a lot of parts that this touches and a lot of necessary cooperation that is hard to put together in the complex system you guys are trying to work through. So when I think about the terms I associate with consumer in the context of healthcare, I immediately think about technology or the importance of technology connecting the dots. And I might be a little biased there, but I know that reaching consumers in healthcare certainly has to involve a robust technology stack. So what are some of the systems you’re employing right now and to what end? You mentioned Epic obviously, but I know that there’s a lot of things that sprout out from that. So talk about what you guys have in place currently that you’re working to leverage.

Reed Smith:

Yeah, so it’s an interesting time. We’re evolving a lot of that. I think when I got here, we were probably much like most organizations in the country, a lot of point-based solutions. And so we came by it, honestly and I think most people do. You go to a conference, you see something that’s interesting or a cool value proposition, and so you buy that thing. CRM was one of those things for a long time and then chatbots and then so you end up kind of acquiring these things over time, and that’s not all bad. It proved out use case and value and those types of things, but to really get the value that we needed and to create the experiences that we needed, we really needed to pull a lot of this together into a platform or a couple of platforms that are the core, what I would consider the core ecosystem that we’re working in.

And so you mentioned and I mentioned, but Epic is a big driver of that. There obviously are clinical operating system and they power a bunch of other parts and pieces. So that’s one thing. Secondly, ensemble is our revenue cycle partner. And so they really drive everything revenue cycle related, including some of our scheduling and obviously the bill pay and collection of money and all that fun stuff. So that’s a core piece of what we do. And then the third piece is Loyal Health. They’re really our consumer experience platform. So they’re the ones that are really, we’re using to orchestrator be that operational layer between those two and the consumer.

And so those are really our three that we’re positioning ourselves around. We’ll innovate around the edges. We’ll have things around remote patient monitoring, for example, wearables, SDOH initiatives, things like that that we’ll dovetail into these. And then obviously Epic, Loyal others. I mean they’re innovating every day and driving new pieces of technology. So that’s always up for debate. There are other things around credentialing or some of our contact centers that we’re looking at, but those are the three big, big ones right now.

John Farkas:

And so I know Loyal was a fairly recent decision, right? That’s a fairly recent implementation. I was actually just talking to them about you guys when I was at Becker’s. There was a couple of folks there. What were some of the deciding factors there? What did you like about what you saw from them? How did that process go? And were you the primary driver in your position? Was that your primary relationship?

Reed Smith:

If it works out, yes, I’ll be the primary. No. Yes, I was the primary driver of that. We started with them, I knew them before coming to Ardent. And so once I realized a few of the deficits we had mainly around data management, some of the taxonomies and things like that, that was where the conversation started with them and pretty quickly evolved into more of a full platform conversation of, if I can really sell the value and show the value from a proforma standpoint, it would be great to have the entire platform because of all the reasons I mentioned. The more things I can have under one roof and in one place, it’s just easier, it’s better. I can now use this data from a predictive standpoint. There’s less interoperability, struggles and all those types of things. And so we started that conversation and that conversation then evolved into more of the full platform piece.

But yes, we started rolling it out in April of this year, so we’re just a handful of months in and starting to see some wins as we’ve turned on some of their feature and functionality. And that’s really going to continue to snowball over the next few months as we get more of their products in place. And so excited about that. I think what was exciting and really the deciding factor for us was the number of boxes that it checks. So it allows us to really kind of drive that consumer experience more holistically, and there’s a lot less gaps that we have to then go plug in. So between Epic were some of the pieces, the MyChart, for example, some of the ER registration, for example, FastPass waiting in line functionality and a few other things that we’re doing there. And you wrap Loyal around that, and it allows us to really get at most, if not all the consumer engagements that we run into.

John Farkas:

Yeah, it’s got to be integrated, and we talk about that in the context of what we do. Anytime you are trying to map a journey that is so integrated like, what a patient journey ends up being as they’re interacting with their provider, any gap is going to be a disruption. Any gap has the opportunity to be in some measure offensive to the person that you’re trying to serve. And that’s where I think it makes sense for deploying a platform that is really focused on eliminating those gaps in the journey. I mean, I think that that ends up being really critical and so that makes sense.

Reed Smith:

It is. And I think you could spend all the time you have going and trying to figure out if there’s a better chatbot or is there a better widget to accomplish something. I think at some point it’s not really about that. There’s table stakes relative to functionality and can it do certain things? But really it’s about the aggregate. It’s not about, it’s the sum of the pieces versus any individual piece. So is there a different CRM out there? Well, I mean, sure there’s plenty of CRMs, but that’s not really the value proposition. Again, it needs to do certain things and we’re excited about what Loyal can bring to us, but it really is about the sum of the parts.

Engaging with Different Consumer Segments

John Farkas:

That makes sense. So in the context of your work and the customer experience and engagement, how do you distinguish between the consumer segments that you’re working to engage? How does the delineation evolve based on target markets that you’re concentrating on? Active patients, folks that are on the peripheral? How’s that work?

Reed Smith:

Yeah, we’ve broken it down at the highest level, really into three buckets. Active patients being one of those meaning, we have a recent relationship with them. They’ve had an encounter with us in the last 12 months kind of a thing. And so we know who those people are. It’s a little bit easier to reach out to them based on the fact that they’ve had an encounter with us and they’re in Epic, and we know what should come next. And so the opportunity there is around leakage. How do we continue to engage them, create a good experience, nurture that relationship? So that’s one big bucket. The second is what we’re calling dormant patients. These are folks that we’ve had some relationship with in the past, in recent memory, but maybe not in the last 12 months. So there’s a time parameter around that.

But we know because they haven’t been in the last 12 months that there’s a logical reason to reach out to them. That there’s an easy path in to hopefully be able to reengage them and create an experience for them that is this easy, frictionless, and quite honestly, something that they need to do. Annual wellness visits is a good example, mammography thing like that. And then that third bucket really is the unknown. Now maybe we’ve seen them, but it’s been some years, but more commonly we probably don’t know them at all. And that’s really where more of the acquisition work comes in. And so that’s what people would have probably looked at as traditional marketing type campaigns, outreach, acquisition type work. Now we have all but eliminated traditional advertising. So we’re looking at ways that we use digital predominantly in different mechanisms of outreach, even direct mail to try to do that acquisition work. So those are the three big buckets, there’s obviously segments inside of each of those, depending on exactly what we’re trying to do or who we’re trying to reach.

John Farkas:

And so when you’re saying you’ve eliminated advertising, that’s makes sense in this context especially, but how are you replacing that tactically? What are some of the things that you’re doing as far as direct outreach and connecting with people and what’s some of the technology that’s helping fuel that?

Reed Smith:

Yeah. So we have, now, this is a recent thing, so it’s not that there is no outdoor board that doesn’t exist somewhere. But we’re not signing any new contracts, there’s no radio or TV or anything like that. And I’m not saying there won’t ever be, again, it’s just tactically to your point, what do we need to do to really engage those three populations? And so when we’re looking at active patients, we already know who they are. And so we can do that via email, via SMS, even snail mail to some degree phone calls, things like that. The dormant patients also kind of in the same bucket, at least to some extent or broadly, email, SMS, phone calls, direct mail, things like that. Again, we know who they are.

When you get to the acquisition work, that’s when we’re really using claims data and some different things like that to target and run more like your Google products. So search and display and some of those types of things, maybe even some social, depending on exactly what it is, organic and paid. And so that’s where we’re focusing. We are doing some more targeted, even down to things like geofencing or device ID based targeting and some things like that. So obviously there’s been some movement around the privacy side, and so we’ve got to be cognizant of that, but it’s mostly the Google products at this point that are driving most of that.

Ardent’s Approach to AI

John Farkas:

So curious, I’ve heard you speak a little bit about some of the stuff that you’re working toward in the AI realm, and obviously it’s the thing everybody’s talking about right now, is how we’re going to incorporate and use generative AI and some of the latest advances in that realm. What are you considering in that regard currently? How are you approaching that?

Reed Smith:

Quite a bit. And so I’ll try not to [inaudible 00:28:13] on too much here. But we do have a design studio partner that is an AI shop here in Nashville. So that in and of itself is driving quite a bit. So Switch Point Ventures is the group, but our joint venture with them is called Cordio Health and is acutely focused on AI, more specifically machine learning and large language models. And so you can imagine everywhere that, that makes sense around the health system is everywhere that there’s large amounts of information. So supply chain, obviously Epic on the clinical side and even on the consumer side as we think about claims data and those types of engagements like CRM and things like that. So we’re looking at different opportunities. They’re starting with really just trying to solve our own problems. Now, those may be become companies and products and all that kind of stuff that get spun out, and we’ve had a couple of those, but that’s not really where we’re starting.

And so we’re doing some things around nursing safety. We’re doing some things around personalization on the web. We’re doing some things around understanding growth patterns in our markets and some things like that. And then as you move into some of the partners that we’re working with, obviously Epic is piloting generative AI, certainly within their products. So you think about in basket messages to physicians, translation, things like that. So creating drafts, creating summaries, do the translation work, their analytics and reporting tool, having it built in there. And so these are all things that are being piloted as well. And then we’ve got some partners that use it in various ways as it relates to some of our RPM or wearable based modalities that we’ve rolled out, vital sign collection and being predictive about deterioration indexes and things like that. So again, it’s early, honestly on a lot of this stuff, but exciting nonetheless that there may be ways that all the way down to super practical stuff like how we create content for our websites. And so there’s lots of ways that we’re using it. Yeah.

Reed’s Three-Year Outlook with Ardent

John Farkas:

Absolutely. So as you think through your consumer engagement, and I’m going to ask two things here. If you were to push out three years, give us the meta view of your vision for what you want to see, what Ardent is doing and what that journey looks like for patients. And then what are the gaps that exist right now that are keeping you from realizing that picture? What are the problems that are going to need to get solved to get you there?

Reed Smith:

Yeah. Yeah. I think three years from now, it’s not hard to imagine a more DIY virtual healthcare system in our markets. There’re already, whether it’s Intermountain or OSF or whoever that have virtual hospitals. And so that in and of itself is not necessarily new. It would be new for us. So as you think about hospital at home, what care is actually going to take place in the home? And you couple that with virtual visits and online scheduling and all these things, it’s going to allow us to really rapidly create services around the consumer that maybe if we had to do it in a brick and mortar fashion, just we couldn’t do it as fast. And so it’s going to allow us one, to create services and drive specialties into areas where it’s just not practical. So you think about rural or community hospitals actually having neurologists and pulmonologists and things like that, that it’s quote unquote you have to go to the bigger city to have that level of care. So I see the level of care heightening in these rural areas.

I see consumers being able to engage with us on their own terms and doing the scheduling and having the visits and even the specialty care and things like that in their home. And so I think that’s really where we’re headed. I think the part that we’re in the middle of solving for are super practical things. So credentialing, all right, well, if you’ve got a doctor, can they see people in that other state or from a command center type fashion? And so there’s the credentialing piece, which goes to some of the labor issues that we see around any clinician, quite honestly, nurse or otherwise.

So that’s a big one. The other one is we’ve mentioned Epic and being able to schedule online is creating that consistency on our side of the fence so we can actually present this inventory online. So we’ve done a lot of work around creating consistency around primary care to allow for scheduling for primary care visits online. And we’re starting down the path of specialty care, tons of decision trees there on how you schedule a specialty care visit. So these are things that it’s not unknown. We know what we need to be doing, and we’re working through that as we speak. So it’s really a lot of times process driven, not necessarily the technology. The technology has to get deployed, but a lot of it is some change management and process related work.

John Farkas:

As organizations are looking at making the switch from the hospital paradigm to the consumer paradigm, what are some of… If you were to counsel them and say, here’s some of the things that you just need to change, what are some of the things that have to die? What are some of the things that need to be born in order to help that bridge take place?

Reed Smith:

Yeah, I think one, you’ve got to understand the segments, understand the population and who you’re engaging with, and start breaking that down and then understanding the journeys that people have. And I think that will really surface where the gaps are. And so again, online scheduling or something, that’s probably something easy to point to that you can walk through and understand where are the gaps. I think being more consumer-centric really changes and flips everything on its head in the sense of you need to know those things, but then what do you do about it? How does that change and inform the outreach that you’re doing, the engagement activity that you’re doing?

As you work with operators, A lot of what the focus is going to come back to is high margin service lines that are based on inpatient market share. And so you’ve got to be able to get to a place where you can have conversations around what’s best for the consumer, not what’s best for the hospital necessarily. I mean, there will always be a certain percentage of people that will find their way to the hospital, that’s just what it is. And so you’ve got to kind of change the mindset a little bit to say, let’s go talk to this consumer and engage them with what they need to do next, not engage a whole bunch of people about what we might want them to do.

And so again, this is that idea of hopefully getting to more of a one-to-one conversation. I don’t know if we ever get to one-to-one, but that’s the hope. Is that you’re not doing a long screen campaign.

John Farkas:

You are focusing it on the folks that we know need it.

Reed Smith:

Right.

The Importance of a Clear Value Proposition

John Farkas:

Yeah, that is a good differentiation. If you were to share a piece of it, so we’re talking to health tech marketing folks, and I know that you are looking at evaluating in contact with a number of different solution providers, and I know just because I’ve talked to enough folks on the provider decision makers side, knowing that there’s some pet peeves that you’ve developed in working with them and some things that they do consistently wrong. If you were to share some advice to a health tech company looking to get your attention, somebody who’s trying to get something across to somebody in your position that has some authority in making decisions on solution deployment, what would you want them to know?

Reed Smith:

Yeah, that’s a great question, and I’ll try to talk to this, and I’m not trying to disparage anybody, but I do see a lot of people coming and pitching. They’re just not prepared, and actually they’re presenting and asking the wrong thing. And so one, I mean, you’d be amazed, or maybe not, I don’t know, but I think you’d be amazed at how many people have no idea who we are or what we do. They don’t know where our hospitals are, it’s interesting because our corporate office is here in Nashville. They show up and they want to talk about Nashville or Tennessee, and we don’t have a site of care-

John Farkas:

You just happen to be headquartered there.

Reed Smith:

I mean, we’re not within 500 miles of Tennessee, much less in Tennessee. And so it’s like our markets are listed on the website. I mean, it’s not super hard to figure out who it is that you’re talking to. So I think, again, it’s probably little things like that that show that somebody’s prepared and has some idea of what you do. Now, if you want to ask questions, “Hey, I know you’ve got two hospitals in New Jersey. I noticed they’ve got this. So you guys are, is that a joint venture?” Asking clarifying questions? Yeah, yeah, for sure. So there’s some of that, that I see quite a bit. And then the other thing is figuring out how to articulate the value proposition pretty quickly. A lot of groups come in and want to talk, and they spend, I was on a call last week and I knew what they did, and I felt like there was value.

And so I had pulled together a number of leaders from across our organization because they were really the subject matter experts. I looked at it and went, yeah, I can see how this makes sense. And that is part of my role in innovation, which is a little bit different than what we’re talking about. So I pulled this group together and I sat there, and it took 27 minutes for them to get to what they did-

John Farkas:

Not that you were timing or anything.

Reed Smith:

Yeah. So at the 27-minute mark, I looked at my watch, and that was the first time they gave any real understanding of what it is their product was. And I worry that I’m looking on the screen that we’ve lost everybody by this point. And it’s like, everybody’s already bought in. I don’t need you to articulate this big problem and then ask if we agree that that’s the problem and all this kind of stuff. There’s just that, there’s just this right balance of how do you sell your product or sell the value proposition. And that seems to be the biggest issue because again, there’s a lot of really cool stuff that I see and stuff that I think would be really impactful, but you’ve got to understand who the audience is and that whole idea of selling past the close thing. It’s like, no, no, no. We’ve all agreed that this is good. So just tell me how does this work? What’s the value proposition? [inaudible 00:41:19].

John Farkas:

Yeah, it’s interesting, and Reed you are saying it in a few different words, but a very similar thing I hear coming through with many of the provider executives I’ve talked to, it is you’ve got to get to the value, and you’ve got to know the value. Not only get to the value, but you have to know the value in the context of the folks that you’re presenting this to. I mean, it’s not just generic, it is specifically applied. It’s coming with some knowledge not only of what the general value is, but how it’s likely to apply in a specific instance. Because if you’ve not done that work, it’s showing that you’re not invested in the-

Reed Smith:

If you can start the conversation, and again, I’m just making something up here, but if you can start the conversation by saying, “Appreciate the time. I think what you’ll see is that we’re able to reduce length of stay by 20%.” Well, now you’ve hooked everybody’s attention and they’re like, “How’s that going to work?” And so now you’ve put out in the beginning what the end goal would be, why would you want to use us? And so yeah, getting to the value statement is pretty important.

Looking for Innovation at Conferences

John Farkas:

Yep, that makes sense. So as you’re surveying the market, as you are connecting, and I know you’re very connected, you’re touching base with a lot of folks in the industry on a regular basis, but how are you learning about new innovations? Again, we’re talking to marketing folks here. How are they effectively getting your attention? What channels is new? Are new ideas coming to you from? What things are you reading on a regular basis that is helping feed your knowledge base? What works?

Reed Smith:

Yeah, that’s a great question. I still put a fair amount of value in conferences. I mean, it’s the right conferences of course, but I mean, that’s where you get a chance to really see what’s going on. I think healthcare-

John Farkas:

What are those right conferences for you?

Reed Smith:

Yeah, I think the Becker’s conferences are good. I think Reuters does a good job with a few of their digital health conferences, things like that. Total Health, the Health Conference as well as VIVE are really great. I think on the marketing side, you see things like the Healthcare Marketing & Physician Strategies Summit or the Healthcare Internet Conference, even [inaudible 00:44:03] to some degree. All of these are good.

Now, I’ll tell you some of the things that have happened in Nashville as of late, the healthcare sessions, the AI conference at Vanderbilt, the 36 86 out of the Entrepreneur center, the Telehealth academy. I mean, those are all strong Health Evolution Connect or the Health Evolution Conference. They have a couple of different ones. Those are all good, because what I want to see is people, I like the idea of a health system and a solution provider presenting together. That value proposition usually gets articulated there. Also, healthcare systems talk quite a bit, so people call me all the time asking, “What about this? What about that?

John Farkas:

What are you doing with X, Y, Z?

Reed Smith:

What are you seeing? And who are you guys using for this? And all that stuff. But those are a couple of big ways. I mean, again, also online. I see a lot, certainly on LinkedIn, but the Becker’s publications, and there’s a few others like that. The weekly gist from just Healthcare is good. And so yeah, that’s the biggest thing. Again, it’s a lot of networking, quite honestly.

What Reed Looks For on Provider’s Websites

John Farkas:

Yeah. Great. If there was something that, if you’re looking at just the marketing functions, not necessarily sales, but if stuff that you see, if you go to a vendor’s website that flips the off switch for you, what are some of the more tactical or pragmatic top line type of things that might be annoying? And conversely, what might be something that works well?

Reed Smith:

Man, I will tell you, I’ve been to an ordinate amount of websites over the last couple of years leading the innovation function here, because a lot of what we do is when we’re presented a solution or something that somebody saw or whatever it may be, we do some initial due diligence, and that includes going and what other ones do this thing? Who are their competitors? That kind of stuff. But we’ve got a template we fill out for our innovation and transformation committee, and when I go and I’ve been to a number of these websites where I literally don’t know what that, I can’t figure out what they do. I’m on the homepage, I can’t make… What is this? And I can’t find the three sentence snippet that I can put in this document that explains what it is that they do. That is the biggest thing that I’ve seen over and over again.

I mean, half the time, I can’t tell if they’re a healthcare provider, if they’re a technology company. That I’m like, because everybody’s gotten where the naming of these things. We’re running out of names, obviously. And so it’s really hard. I can’t tell what they do. And so that’s the biggest thing. Again, much if you’re talking to me in person, figure out, I’m not going to spend a ton of time trying to click around your website. Tell me pretty quickly what it is that the company does, how you solve problems, that kind of thing. That’s the biggest thing. And really all that needs to accomplish is generating a meeting. That’s really all the website should accomplish.

So now secondarily, I do think there’s room for the thought leadership piece, case studies, insights, all that information is really useful. And especially if it’s not super product centric, you’ll have people coming back to your website actually pulling studies and insights and things like that, that I do it every week for my team. I pull five articles off the internet that I send out to my team every week, and some of those are from other consulting firms, and so it’s somewhat vendor-agnostic, obviously. Some of it is actually from Sitecore, for example, from their website, their thought leadership or something like that. So those are good places as well.

Closing Thoughts

John Farkas:

Yeah. Awesome. Reed, as we’re winding up here, tell us a little bit about where folks can find out more about you. Tell us about the podcast, what you’re doing in that context.

Reed Smith:

Yeah. Yeah, so LinkedIn’s probably the best way to track me down. Quite honestly. I am on Twitter as well. It’s just my name. I got on Twitter a long time ago, so I haven’t just my name, but name or X, I guess it’s X now. But LinkedIn’s probably the best way to track me down. And then the podcast Touchpoint, it’s touchpoint.health is the website. You can find out more about the podcast there. Certainly you can find it on all the Apple and Spotify and all the places that you might be listening. But yeah, co-host that with a guy named Chris Boyer. He and I have been around for a long time. You mentioned my involvement with the Mayo Clinic. That’s where he and I met, I don’t know, 10 years ago, and we threatened to do a podcast for two to three years, and then finally started one six or seven years ago. And so yeah, still doing it, comes out every week. Talk a little bit about digital and transformation and things like that, so if you’re not subscribed, that would be great. But yeah.

John Farkas:

Awesome. Well, Reed, thank you. For the rest of our listeners, I’d say if you are listening and you like what you’re hearing, please take a minute and to rate and subscribe to our podcast. Your feedback is incredibly important to us. We’re always eager to hear your suggestions on future topics, and your input helps us create content that will resonate with you. For other additional information about this episode and we’ll link out to Reed’s podcast and other elements that were shared here, encourage you to visit us at goratio.com and check out the podcast page. We will get you more information and resources regarding what we covered here. Reed, thanks so much for joining us today. I appreciate the conversation. Excited to see what you continue to unfurl in the context of your work there. I’ve been tracking a lot of what you’ve been communicating and saying, I love how you’re thinking about the problems and eager to learn more and continue to watch the story unfold. So Reed Smith, chief Consumer Officer, thanks for joining us today on Healthcare Market Matrix.

Reed Smith:

Yeah, thanks for having me. Enjoyed it and look forward to talking again soon.

John Farkas:

Healthcare Market Matrix is a Ratio original podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, then jump over to healthcaremarketmatrix.com and subscribe, and we’d really appreciate your support in the form of a five star rating on your favorite podcast platform. It does make a difference. Also, while you’re there, you can become a part of the Healthcare Market Matrix community and get access to courses and content that’s created just for you by signing up for Insights Squared. A monthly newsletter dedicated to bringing you the latest health tech marketing insights right to your inbox Ratio is an award-winning marketing agency headquartered in the Nashville, Tennessee. We operate at the intersection of brand and growth marketing to equip companies with strategies to create meaningful connections with the healthcare market and ultimately drive growth. Want to know more? Go to goratio.com. That’s G-O-R-A-T-I-O.com, and we’ll see you at noon Central next week for an all new episode From our team at Ratio Studios. Stay healthy.

Transcript (custom)

Introducing Reed Smith and Ardent Health

John Farkas:

And hello everyone. I’d like to join the team at Ratio in welcoming you to Healthcare Market Matrix. I’m your host, John Farkas, and today we have the rare chance to talk to a fellow marketing professional. Reed Smith has found his way into one of the more progressive and I think needed C-suite positions in the realm of healthcare providers. He is the Chief Consumer Officer at Ardent Health Services. And from where I sit, Reed has come into his position honestly. He spent 20 years in healthcare marketing, he served as the hospital marketing director, then overseeing product development for the Texas Hospital Association.

And he’s been a strategist at several prominent agencies working with some of the world’s largest healthcare brands and providers. And in his spare time, he founded the Social Health Institute, which I’ll want to hear a little bit more about, where they are helping healthcare organizations figure out how to approach their social media and digital marketing strategies. And he’s a founding advisory board member for both the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network and the health and wellness track at South by Southwest. And because there’s still a few gaps in his calendar, you can also find him behind the mic with co-host and accomplished healthcare marketing pro Chris Boyer on the Touchpoint Podcast where they explore consumer experience and digital marketing in healthcare. And I just bumped into him at the Becker’s conference in Chicago where he was asked to speak. So this guy definitely covers some ground. Reed, I’m not sure how you fit it in, but thanks for joining us today.

Reed Smith:

Yeah, happy to do it. Good to be here.

John Farkas:

So Reed, I guess tell us a little bit about Ardent Health Services.

Reed Smith:

Yeah, for sure. So Ardent, people may know some of our hospitals and health systems in the markets that we’re in, which I’m happy to touch on. But based in Nashville, Tennessee, we own and operate 30 hospitals around the country, a couple 100 sites of care, including clinics and physicians, offices and doctors and all that kind of fun stuff. But pretty large, I guess, across six states, eight markets, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Idaho, Kansas, New Jersey. So that’s what we do.

John Farkas:

And if you were to talk a little bit about Ardent and what sets Ardent apart in your eyes, what would be some of the things that you’re doing that are a little different?

Reed Smith:

Yeah, so on paper we probably look like a number of other health systems that are out there. I think what we’re doing, where we find ourself today is trying to think through where are the markets moving? Meaning our actual markets with the actual consumer being more at the center of our attention and what we’re planning and looking at and driving towards… Hospitals are still very important to us, certainly, and still a very core piece of the business, but I can at least speak from the consumer marketing side of the equation. Much of what we’re doing is much more consumer centric and starting there versus thinking through hospitals and service lines and trying to go out and acquire consumers, if you will, for those services, really trying to wrap services around what the consumer needs.

John Farkas:

Yeah. So tell us a little bit about how you got there. Tell us about your road to Ardent.

Reed Smith:

Yeah. Yeah. So I think you mentioned it about 20 years ago was my first job in healthcare. And before that was… My career is probably just a lot of luck, quite honestly than anything else. But my wife and I were living in Pensacola, Florida. She was the director of marketing for our minor league baseball team who happened to be owned by a guy named Quint Studer, who, many hospitals probably remember the name and the Studer Group. And so I spent a lot of time standing around with him watching baseball, and of course he was a hospital administrator, and then got into the organizational consulting that he was doing with the Studer Group, got me interested in hospitals. And so ended up taking a job as the director of marketing and communications at a hospital back in Texas.

So did that for a handful of years. And it was really interesting because at the time, I had marketing, I had communications in a small town that also meant you went to the ribbon cuttings and you were around town at all the events and things like that. But coincidentally, our CEO gave me the opportunity to oversee our patient experience initiatives and coordinate or orchestrate those. And at the time it felt like two very different things, the marketing work that I was doing and the experience work that I was doing. And so if I jump all the way ahead to now, it’s really hard to delineate where those things are different more than they are the same. And so it was interesting back then to now think how this has all come together. But I did that for some years.

And then as you mentioned, I moved to Austin and worked at the Texas Hospital Association. Started consulting and working with hospitals around the country. Got involved at the Mayo Clinic at South by Southwest other organizations, and ultimately came to Nashville with Gerard, Phillips, Kate, and Hancock, another great group, and doing some digital work there. And then found my way over to Ardent. So yeah, it’s been fun.

Reed’s Role at Ardent

John Farkas:

So you are the first chief consumer officer that I’ve known or talked to. And so I’m guessing the wiring of your role might be a little unfamiliar for some of our listeners, and I know that it emphasizes a really critical area right now for healthcare. And let us into your job description a little bit. Tell us what are your responsibilities? What’s the reporting structure?

Reed Smith:

Sure, sure.

John Farkas:

How’s that look?

Reed Smith:

Yeah, I report into our chief strategy officer and then kind of have dotted lines if that’s a-

John Farkas:

I bet there’s a few dotted lines for you.

Reed Smith:

Yeah, if that’s a thing. I work quite a bit with our chief medical officer, our CEO, a lot of different folks, our chief digital information officer, our CIO. So I work with a lot of different folks, but my job is really to oversee and orchestrate everything consumer facing. And so that is what we would consider or what most people would consider the historical marketing function. We don’t really call it that, but we look at that as more consumer engagement, but the historical marketing function of consumer experience, consumer data and technology, creative services and innovation. So really how do we go and engage and have a relationship with consumers or patients in our markets? What’s the experience they then have? And then the data and technology and creative services and even innovation to some extent supports those two things. So it’s really about engagement and experience.

And so I’m working quite a bit on Epic is our EHR, so all the consumer facing side of Epic, like MyChart for example, or online scheduling, things like that. The campaigns that you might imagine. So how do we reach out to folks? Either if we know them or don’t know them and try to give them that next best action, but really everything consumer facing. And then it really dovetails quite a bit with even our clinical side of the house around remote patient monitoring or chronic care management, some of the social determinants of health initiatives, hospital at home, wearables, those types of topics.

John Farkas:

Absolutely. That makes sense. I’ve heard you speak several times and each time you’ve mentioned the critical nature of your alignment with your CEO. Who’s Marty Bonick? I always want to say Botnick because I know I’m Marty Botnick and I have to, which is just strange coincidence. But I’ve heard Marty speak a number of times. I know that there’s a culture that he’s working to create that has helped empower that whole consumer focus, that patient, that person-centric approach. Talk a little bit about the importance of your alignment in that regard.

Reed Smith:

Yeah, that’s really where it all starts. I mean, it’s really hard to do anything new or culturally different if you don’t have the support. And even more than that, the leadership from the folks at the top and it does, starts with him. A lot of this is his vision and his idea around becoming a health services company and it being about the consumer and not about the hospital. So it’s a little bit of a inverse from a focus standpoint. And so he’s the one driving all this and pushing for this, and how do we become and create experiences for the consumer? He likes to hold his phone up a lot and say, “Why can’t I do things here that I do in the rest of my life as it relates to healthcare?” And just because we have online scheduling, does that mean that it’s optimally the best experience? Probably not. And so it’s still something that we have to work on and try to fine tune. Just because you have a chatbot doesn’t mean that magically or something like that.

And so it’s a continual work in process to try to think through, well, what are experiences do we need to build and drive? But it really does come from his view of the world and really how he and others are seeing the healthcare, the provider side of healthcare shift sites of care and things like that.

John Farkas:

And so when you are thinking through your approach and how you are assembling that journey that you’re working to create with the consumer, what does that conversation look like with your team? I know that there’s, like you said, you have dotted lines throughout your entire organization and how you’re pulling that through. Talk a little bit about how you guys are envisioning that. How are you assembling that picture and creating the journey?

Reed Smith:

Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s, I’m not going to sit here and pretend we’ve got it all figured out. I think we’ve got some ideas that are working and some things that we’re going to try. And I think culturally trying to get into more of this iterative process versus thinking we’re going to magically build some experience that will unveil at some point in the future is not really the way that we’re thinking about this. So what I did is, and I started with my team internally, is reorganizing ourselves to better drive this consumer centricity approach. So we have a team that’s focused on engagement. We have a team that’s focused on experience. We’ve got a data and technology team, we have a creative services team. And because of the way our systems work, those people have to report to people and it creates boxes on a page and there’s a hierarchy.

But we’ve really tried to drive more of a cohort, a horizontal approach of how we’re actually getting work done. So we have people that are leading the engagement and experience and data teams that are working together on a daily basis. And we’re not just creating and driving work in these silos of teams because it’s just not realistic. There are other parts of the organization, our managed care team, for example, is focused on population health and some of those value-based metrics and things like that. Well, they need to communicate with the consumer.

I need to communicate with the consumer. Our finance folks need to communicate with the consumer. So there’s all these ways that we’re starting to work more horizontally across the organization to think, okay, if we need to engage the consumer, how do we put the next best action in front of them or be about them, not about what we think is important or trying to prioritize. Again, it’s a lot easier said than done, but we are starting to put some of those things into motion and building teams to more execute or focus in that way than it is again, a scattershot approach of just to each their own and whoever can convince the consumer to come to an event or pay a bill or answer their text message or what have you. Trying to get a little more of a team approach around a lot of that.

Ardent’s Main Partnerships

John Farkas:

Got you. That makes sense. And it’s obviously a requisite because there’s a lot of parts that this touches and a lot of necessary cooperation that is hard to put together in the complex system you guys are trying to work through. So when I think about the terms I associate with consumer in the context of healthcare, I immediately think about technology or the importance of technology connecting the dots. And I might be a little biased there, but I know that reaching consumers in healthcare certainly has to involve a robust technology stack. So what are some of the systems you’re employing right now and to what end? You mentioned Epic obviously, but I know that there’s a lot of things that sprout out from that. So talk about what you guys have in place currently that you’re working to leverage.

Reed Smith:

Yeah, so it’s an interesting time. We’re evolving a lot of that. I think when I got here, we were probably much like most organizations in the country, a lot of point-based solutions. And so we came by it, honestly and I think most people do. You go to a conference, you see something that’s interesting or a cool value proposition, and so you buy that thing. CRM was one of those things for a long time and then chatbots and then so you end up kind of acquiring these things over time, and that’s not all bad. It proved out use case and value and those types of things, but to really get the value that we needed and to create the experiences that we needed, we really needed to pull a lot of this together into a platform or a couple of platforms that are the core, what I would consider the core ecosystem that we’re working in.

And so you mentioned and I mentioned, but Epic is a big driver of that. There obviously are clinical operating system and they power a bunch of other parts and pieces. So that’s one thing. Secondly, ensemble is our revenue cycle partner. And so they really drive everything revenue cycle related, including some of our scheduling and obviously the bill pay and collection of money and all that fun stuff. So that’s a core piece of what we do. And then the third piece is Loyal Health. They’re really our consumer experience platform. So they’re the ones that are really, we’re using to orchestrator be that operational layer between those two and the consumer.

And so those are really our three that we’re positioning ourselves around. We’ll innovate around the edges. We’ll have things around remote patient monitoring, for example, wearables, SDOH initiatives, things like that that we’ll dovetail into these. And then obviously Epic, Loyal others. I mean they’re innovating every day and driving new pieces of technology. So that’s always up for debate. There are other things around credentialing or some of our contact centers that we’re looking at, but those are the three big, big ones right now.

John Farkas:

And so I know Loyal was a fairly recent decision, right? That’s a fairly recent implementation. I was actually just talking to them about you guys when I was at Becker’s. There was a couple of folks there. What were some of the deciding factors there? What did you like about what you saw from them? How did that process go? And were you the primary driver in your position? Was that your primary relationship?

Reed Smith:

If it works out, yes, I’ll be the primary. No. Yes, I was the primary driver of that. We started with them, I knew them before coming to Ardent. And so once I realized a few of the deficits we had mainly around data management, some of the taxonomies and things like that, that was where the conversation started with them and pretty quickly evolved into more of a full platform conversation of, if I can really sell the value and show the value from a proforma standpoint, it would be great to have the entire platform because of all the reasons I mentioned. The more things I can have under one roof and in one place, it’s just easier, it’s better. I can now use this data from a predictive standpoint. There’s less interoperability, struggles and all those types of things. And so we started that conversation and that conversation then evolved into more of the full platform piece.

But yes, we started rolling it out in April of this year, so we’re just a handful of months in and starting to see some wins as we’ve turned on some of their feature and functionality. And that’s really going to continue to snowball over the next few months as we get more of their products in place. And so excited about that. I think what was exciting and really the deciding factor for us was the number of boxes that it checks. So it allows us to really kind of drive that consumer experience more holistically, and there’s a lot less gaps that we have to then go plug in. So between Epic were some of the pieces, the MyChart, for example, some of the ER registration, for example, FastPass waiting in line functionality and a few other things that we’re doing there. And you wrap Loyal around that, and it allows us to really get at most, if not all the consumer engagements that we run into.

John Farkas:

Yeah, it’s got to be integrated, and we talk about that in the context of what we do. Anytime you are trying to map a journey that is so integrated like, what a patient journey ends up being as they’re interacting with their provider, any gap is going to be a disruption. Any gap has the opportunity to be in some measure offensive to the person that you’re trying to serve. And that’s where I think it makes sense for deploying a platform that is really focused on eliminating those gaps in the journey. I mean, I think that that ends up being really critical and so that makes sense.

Reed Smith:

It is. And I think you could spend all the time you have going and trying to figure out if there’s a better chatbot or is there a better widget to accomplish something. I think at some point it’s not really about that. There’s table stakes relative to functionality and can it do certain things? But really it’s about the aggregate. It’s not about, it’s the sum of the pieces versus any individual piece. So is there a different CRM out there? Well, I mean, sure there’s plenty of CRMs, but that’s not really the value proposition. Again, it needs to do certain things and we’re excited about what Loyal can bring to us, but it really is about the sum of the parts.

Engaging with Different Consumer Segments

John Farkas:

That makes sense. So in the context of your work and the customer experience and engagement, how do you distinguish between the consumer segments that you’re working to engage? How does the delineation evolve based on target markets that you’re concentrating on? Active patients, folks that are on the peripheral? How’s that work?

Reed Smith:

Yeah, we’ve broken it down at the highest level, really into three buckets. Active patients being one of those meaning, we have a recent relationship with them. They’ve had an encounter with us in the last 12 months kind of a thing. And so we know who those people are. It’s a little bit easier to reach out to them based on the fact that they’ve had an encounter with us and they’re in Epic, and we know what should come next. And so the opportunity there is around leakage. How do we continue to engage them, create a good experience, nurture that relationship? So that’s one big bucket. The second is what we’re calling dormant patients. These are folks that we’ve had some relationship with in the past, in recent memory, but maybe not in the last 12 months. So there’s a time parameter around that.

But we know because they haven’t been in the last 12 months that there’s a logical reason to reach out to them. That there’s an easy path in to hopefully be able to reengage them and create an experience for them that is this easy, frictionless, and quite honestly, something that they need to do. Annual wellness visits is a good example, mammography thing like that. And then that third bucket really is the unknown. Now maybe we’ve seen them, but it’s been some years, but more commonly we probably don’t know them at all. And that’s really where more of the acquisition work comes in. And so that’s what people would have probably looked at as traditional marketing type campaigns, outreach, acquisition type work. Now we have all but eliminated traditional advertising. So we’re looking at ways that we use digital predominantly in different mechanisms of outreach, even direct mail to try to do that acquisition work. So those are the three big buckets, there’s obviously segments inside of each of those, depending on exactly what we’re trying to do or who we’re trying to reach.

John Farkas:

And so when you’re saying you’ve eliminated advertising, that’s makes sense in this context especially, but how are you replacing that tactically? What are some of the things that you’re doing as far as direct outreach and connecting with people and what’s some of the technology that’s helping fuel that?

Reed Smith:

Yeah. So we have, now, this is a recent thing, so it’s not that there is no outdoor board that doesn’t exist somewhere. But we’re not signing any new contracts, there’s no radio or TV or anything like that. And I’m not saying there won’t ever be, again, it’s just tactically to your point, what do we need to do to really engage those three populations? And so when we’re looking at active patients, we already know who they are. And so we can do that via email, via SMS, even snail mail to some degree phone calls, things like that. The dormant patients also kind of in the same bucket, at least to some extent or broadly, email, SMS, phone calls, direct mail, things like that. Again, we know who they are.

When you get to the acquisition work, that’s when we’re really using claims data and some different things like that to target and run more like your Google products. So search and display and some of those types of things, maybe even some social, depending on exactly what it is, organic and paid. And so that’s where we’re focusing. We are doing some more targeted, even down to things like geofencing or device ID based targeting and some things like that. So obviously there’s been some movement around the privacy side, and so we’ve got to be cognizant of that, but it’s mostly the Google products at this point that are driving most of that.

Ardent’s Approach to AI

John Farkas:

So curious, I’ve heard you speak a little bit about some of the stuff that you’re working toward in the AI realm, and obviously it’s the thing everybody’s talking about right now, is how we’re going to incorporate and use generative AI and some of the latest advances in that realm. What are you considering in that regard currently? How are you approaching that?

Reed Smith:

Quite a bit. And so I’ll try not to [inaudible 00:28:13] on too much here. But we do have a design studio partner that is an AI shop here in Nashville. So that in and of itself is driving quite a bit. So Switch Point Ventures is the group, but our joint venture with them is called Cordio Health and is acutely focused on AI, more specifically machine learning and large language models. And so you can imagine everywhere that, that makes sense around the health system is everywhere that there’s large amounts of information. So supply chain, obviously Epic on the clinical side and even on the consumer side as we think about claims data and those types of engagements like CRM and things like that. So we’re looking at different opportunities. They’re starting with really just trying to solve our own problems. Now, those may be become companies and products and all that kind of stuff that get spun out, and we’ve had a couple of those, but that’s not really where we’re starting.

And so we’re doing some things around nursing safety. We’re doing some things around personalization on the web. We’re doing some things around understanding growth patterns in our markets and some things like that. And then as you move into some of the partners that we’re working with, obviously Epic is piloting generative AI, certainly within their products. So you think about in basket messages to physicians, translation, things like that. So creating drafts, creating summaries, do the translation work, their analytics and reporting tool, having it built in there. And so these are all things that are being piloted as well. And then we’ve got some partners that use it in various ways as it relates to some of our RPM or wearable based modalities that we’ve rolled out, vital sign collection and being predictive about deterioration indexes and things like that. So again, it’s early, honestly on a lot of this stuff, but exciting nonetheless that there may be ways that all the way down to super practical stuff like how we create content for our websites. And so there’s lots of ways that we’re using it. Yeah.

Reed’s Three-Year Outlook with Ardent

John Farkas:

Absolutely. So as you think through your consumer engagement, and I’m going to ask two things here. If you were to push out three years, give us the meta view of your vision for what you want to see, what Ardent is doing and what that journey looks like for patients. And then what are the gaps that exist right now that are keeping you from realizing that picture? What are the problems that are going to need to get solved to get you there?

Reed Smith:

Yeah. Yeah. I think three years from now, it’s not hard to imagine a more DIY virtual healthcare system in our markets. There’re already, whether it’s Intermountain or OSF or whoever that have virtual hospitals. And so that in and of itself is not necessarily new. It would be new for us. So as you think about hospital at home, what care is actually going to take place in the home? And you couple that with virtual visits and online scheduling and all these things, it’s going to allow us to really rapidly create services around the consumer that maybe if we had to do it in a brick and mortar fashion, just we couldn’t do it as fast. And so it’s going to allow us one, to create services and drive specialties into areas where it’s just not practical. So you think about rural or community hospitals actually having neurologists and pulmonologists and things like that, that it’s quote unquote you have to go to the bigger city to have that level of care. So I see the level of care heightening in these rural areas.

I see consumers being able to engage with us on their own terms and doing the scheduling and having the visits and even the specialty care and things like that in their home. And so I think that’s really where we’re headed. I think the part that we’re in the middle of solving for are super practical things. So credentialing, all right, well, if you’ve got a doctor, can they see people in that other state or from a command center type fashion? And so there’s the credentialing piece, which goes to some of the labor issues that we see around any clinician, quite honestly, nurse or otherwise.

So that’s a big one. The other one is we’ve mentioned Epic and being able to schedule online is creating that consistency on our side of the fence so we can actually present this inventory online. So we’ve done a lot of work around creating consistency around primary care to allow for scheduling for primary care visits online. And we’re starting down the path of specialty care, tons of decision trees there on how you schedule a specialty care visit. So these are things that it’s not unknown. We know what we need to be doing, and we’re working through that as we speak. So it’s really a lot of times process driven, not necessarily the technology. The technology has to get deployed, but a lot of it is some change management and process related work.

John Farkas:

As organizations are looking at making the switch from the hospital paradigm to the consumer paradigm, what are some of… If you were to counsel them and say, here’s some of the things that you just need to change, what are some of the things that have to die? What are some of the things that need to be born in order to help that bridge take place?

Reed Smith:

Yeah, I think one, you’ve got to understand the segments, understand the population and who you’re engaging with, and start breaking that down and then understanding the journeys that people have. And I think that will really surface where the gaps are. And so again, online scheduling or something, that’s probably something easy to point to that you can walk through and understand where are the gaps. I think being more consumer-centric really changes and flips everything on its head in the sense of you need to know those things, but then what do you do about it? How does that change and inform the outreach that you’re doing, the engagement activity that you’re doing?

As you work with operators, A lot of what the focus is going to come back to is high margin service lines that are based on inpatient market share. And so you’ve got to be able to get to a place where you can have conversations around what’s best for the consumer, not what’s best for the hospital necessarily. I mean, there will always be a certain percentage of people that will find their way to the hospital, that’s just what it is. And so you’ve got to kind of change the mindset a little bit to say, let’s go talk to this consumer and engage them with what they need to do next, not engage a whole bunch of people about what we might want them to do.

And so again, this is that idea of hopefully getting to more of a one-to-one conversation. I don’t know if we ever get to one-to-one, but that’s the hope. Is that you’re not doing a long screen campaign.

John Farkas:

You are focusing it on the folks that we know need it.

Reed Smith:

Right.

The Importance of a Clear Value Proposition

John Farkas:

Yeah, that is a good differentiation. If you were to share a piece of it, so we’re talking to health tech marketing folks, and I know that you are looking at evaluating in contact with a number of different solution providers, and I know just because I’ve talked to enough folks on the provider decision makers side, knowing that there’s some pet peeves that you’ve developed in working with them and some things that they do consistently wrong. If you were to share some advice to a health tech company looking to get your attention, somebody who’s trying to get something across to somebody in your position that has some authority in making decisions on solution deployment, what would you want them to know?

Reed Smith:

Yeah, that’s a great question, and I’ll try to talk to this, and I’m not trying to disparage anybody, but I do see a lot of people coming and pitching. They’re just not prepared, and actually they’re presenting and asking the wrong thing. And so one, I mean, you’d be amazed, or maybe not, I don’t know, but I think you’d be amazed at how many people have no idea who we are or what we do. They don’t know where our hospitals are, it’s interesting because our corporate office is here in Nashville. They show up and they want to talk about Nashville or Tennessee, and we don’t have a site of care-

John Farkas:

You just happen to be headquartered there.

Reed Smith:

I mean, we’re not within 500 miles of Tennessee, much less in Tennessee. And so it’s like our markets are listed on the website. I mean, it’s not super hard to figure out who it is that you’re talking to. So I think, again, it’s probably little things like that that show that somebody’s prepared and has some idea of what you do. Now, if you want to ask questions, “Hey, I know you’ve got two hospitals in New Jersey. I noticed they’ve got this. So you guys are, is that a joint venture?” Asking clarifying questions? Yeah, yeah, for sure. So there’s some of that, that I see quite a bit. And then the other thing is figuring out how to articulate the value proposition pretty quickly. A lot of groups come in and want to talk, and they spend, I was on a call last week and I knew what they did, and I felt like there was value.

And so I had pulled together a number of leaders from across our organization because they were really the subject matter experts. I looked at it and went, yeah, I can see how this makes sense. And that is part of my role in innovation, which is a little bit different than what we’re talking about. So I pulled this group together and I sat there, and it took 27 minutes for them to get to what they did-

John Farkas:

Not that you were timing or anything.

Reed Smith:

Yeah. So at the 27-minute mark, I looked at my watch, and that was the first time they gave any real understanding of what it is their product was. And I worry that I’m looking on the screen that we’ve lost everybody by this point. And it’s like, everybody’s already bought in. I don’t need you to articulate this big problem and then ask if we agree that that’s the problem and all this kind of stuff. There’s just that, there’s just this right balance of how do you sell your product or sell the value proposition. And that seems to be the biggest issue because again, there’s a lot of really cool stuff that I see and stuff that I think would be really impactful, but you’ve got to understand who the audience is and that whole idea of selling past the close thing. It’s like, no, no, no. We’ve all agreed that this is good. So just tell me how does this work? What’s the value proposition? [inaudible 00:41:19].

John Farkas:

Yeah, it’s interesting, and Reed you are saying it in a few different words, but a very similar thing I hear coming through with many of the provider executives I’ve talked to, it is you’ve got to get to the value, and you’ve got to know the value. Not only get to the value, but you have to know the value in the context of the folks that you’re presenting this to. I mean, it’s not just generic, it is specifically applied. It’s coming with some knowledge not only of what the general value is, but how it’s likely to apply in a specific instance. Because if you’ve not done that work, it’s showing that you’re not invested in the-

Reed Smith:

If you can start the conversation, and again, I’m just making something up here, but if you can start the conversation by saying, “Appreciate the time. I think what you’ll see is that we’re able to reduce length of stay by 20%.” Well, now you’ve hooked everybody’s attention and they’re like, “How’s that going to work?” And so now you’ve put out in the beginning what the end goal would be, why would you want to use us? And so yeah, getting to the value statement is pretty important.

Looking for Innovation at Conferences

John Farkas:

Yep, that makes sense. So as you’re surveying the market, as you are connecting, and I know you’re very connected, you’re touching base with a lot of folks in the industry on a regular basis, but how are you learning about new innovations? Again, we’re talking to marketing folks here. How are they effectively getting your attention? What channels is new? Are new ideas coming to you from? What things are you reading on a regular basis that is helping feed your knowledge base? What works?

Reed Smith:

Yeah, that’s a great question. I still put a fair amount of value in conferences. I mean, it’s the right conferences of course, but I mean, that’s where you get a chance to really see what’s going on. I think healthcare-

John Farkas:

What are those right conferences for you?

Reed Smith:

Yeah, I think the Becker’s conferences are good. I think Reuters does a good job with a few of their digital health conferences, things like that. Total Health, the Health Conference as well as VIVE are really great. I think on the marketing side, you see things like the Healthcare Marketing & Physician Strategies Summit or the Healthcare Internet Conference, even [inaudible 00:44:03] to some degree. All of these are good.

Now, I’ll tell you some of the things that have happened in Nashville as of late, the healthcare sessions, the AI conference at Vanderbilt, the 36 86 out of the Entrepreneur center, the Telehealth academy. I mean, those are all strong Health Evolution Connect or the Health Evolution Conference. They have a couple of different ones. Those are all good, because what I want to see is people, I like the idea of a health system and a solution provider presenting together. That value proposition usually gets articulated there. Also, healthcare systems talk quite a bit, so people call me all the time asking, “What about this? What about that?

John Farkas:

What are you doing with X, Y, Z?

Reed Smith:

What are you seeing? And who are you guys using for this? And all that stuff. But those are a couple of big ways. I mean, again, also online. I see a lot, certainly on LinkedIn, but the Becker’s publications, and there’s a few others like that. The weekly gist from just Healthcare is good. And so yeah, that’s the biggest thing. Again, it’s a lot of networking, quite honestly.

What Reed Looks For on Provider’s Websites

John Farkas:

Yeah. Great. If there was something that, if you’re looking at just the marketing functions, not necessarily sales, but if stuff that you see, if you go to a vendor’s website that flips the off switch for you, what are some of the more tactical or pragmatic top line type of things that might be annoying? And conversely, what might be something that works well?

Reed Smith:

Man, I will tell you, I’ve been to an ordinate amount of websites over the last couple of years leading the innovation function here, because a lot of what we do is when we’re presented a solution or something that somebody saw or whatever it may be, we do some initial due diligence, and that includes going and what other ones do this thing? Who are their competitors? That kind of stuff. But we’ve got a template we fill out for our innovation and transformation committee, and when I go and I’ve been to a number of these websites where I literally don’t know what that, I can’t figure out what they do. I’m on the homepage, I can’t make… What is this? And I can’t find the three sentence snippet that I can put in this document that explains what it is that they do. That is the biggest thing that I’ve seen over and over again.

I mean, half the time, I can’t tell if they’re a healthcare provider, if they’re a technology company. That I’m like, because everybody’s gotten where the naming of these things. We’re running out of names, obviously. And so it’s really hard. I can’t tell what they do. And so that’s the biggest thing. Again, much if you’re talking to me in person, figure out, I’m not going to spend a ton of time trying to click around your website. Tell me pretty quickly what it is that the company does, how you solve problems, that kind of thing. That’s the biggest thing. And really all that needs to accomplish is generating a meeting. That’s really all the website should accomplish.

So now secondarily, I do think there’s room for the thought leadership piece, case studies, insights, all that information is really useful. And especially if it’s not super product centric, you’ll have people coming back to your website actually pulling studies and insights and things like that, that I do it every week for my team. I pull five articles off the internet that I send out to my team every week, and some of those are from other consulting firms, and so it’s somewhat vendor-agnostic, obviously. Some of it is actually from Sitecore, for example, from their website, their thought leadership or something like that. So those are good places as well.

Closing Thoughts

John Farkas:

Yeah. Awesome. Reed, as we’re winding up here, tell us a little bit about where folks can find out more about you. Tell us about the podcast, what you’re doing in that context.

Reed Smith:

Yeah. Yeah, so LinkedIn’s probably the best way to track me down. Quite honestly. I am on Twitter as well. It’s just my name. I got on Twitter a long time ago, so I haven’t just my name, but name or X, I guess it’s X now. But LinkedIn’s probably the best way to track me down. And then the podcast Touchpoint, it’s touchpoint.health is the website. You can find out more about the podcast there. Certainly you can find it on all the Apple and Spotify and all the places that you might be listening. But yeah, co-host that with a guy named Chris Boyer. He and I have been around for a long time. You mentioned my involvement with the Mayo Clinic. That’s where he and I met, I don’t know, 10 years ago, and we threatened to do a podcast for two to three years, and then finally started one six or seven years ago. And so yeah, still doing it, comes out every week. Talk a little bit about digital and transformation and things like that, so if you’re not subscribed, that would be great. But yeah.

John Farkas:

Awesome. Well, Reed, thank you. For the rest of our listeners, I’d say if you are listening and you like what you’re hearing, please take a minute and to rate and subscribe to our podcast. Your feedback is incredibly important to us. We’re always eager to hear your suggestions on future topics, and your input helps us create content that will resonate with you. For other additional information about this episode and we’ll link out to Reed’s podcast and other elements that were shared here, encourage you to visit us at goratio.com and check out the podcast page. We will get you more information and resources regarding what we covered here. Reed, thanks so much for joining us today. I appreciate the conversation. Excited to see what you continue to unfurl in the context of your work there. I’ve been tracking a lot of what you’ve been communicating and saying, I love how you’re thinking about the problems and eager to learn more and continue to watch the story unfold. So Reed Smith, chief Consumer Officer, thanks for joining us today on Healthcare Market Matrix.

Reed Smith:

Yeah, thanks for having me. Enjoyed it and look forward to talking again soon.

John Farkas:

Healthcare Market Matrix is a Ratio original podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, then jump over to healthcaremarketmatrix.com and subscribe, and we’d really appreciate your support in the form of a five star rating on your favorite podcast platform. It does make a difference. Also, while you’re there, you can become a part of the Healthcare Market Matrix community and get access to courses and content that’s created just for you by signing up for Insights Squared. A monthly newsletter dedicated to bringing you the latest health tech marketing insights right to your inbox Ratio is an award-winning marketing agency headquartered in the Nashville, Tennessee. We operate at the intersection of brand and growth marketing to equip companies with strategies to create meaningful connections with the healthcare market and ultimately drive growth. Want to know more? Go to goratio.com. That’s G-O-R-A-T-I-O.com, and we’ll see you at noon Central next week for an all new episode From our team at Ratio Studios. Stay healthy.

About Reed Smith

Reed Smith has spent nearly 20 years in healthcare marketing, first as a hospital marketing director, then overseeing product development for the Texas Hospital Association, and finally as a strategist working with some of the world’s largest healthcare brands and providers. Smith brings a unique perspective thanks to his pre-healthcare working in telecommunications and professional sports.

In addition to founding the Social Health Institute, he is a founding advisory board member for both the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network and the health & wellness track at the SXSW® Interactive Festival. Outside of his day job, you can find Smith behind the mic with co-host Chris Boyer on the Touch Point podcast, a weekly show about consumer experience and digital marketing in healthcare.

A graduate of Texas Tech University, Smith holds an MBA from LeTourneau University, and most recently, in the fall of 2020, Smith was inducted into the Health Internet Hall-of-Fame as that year’s most innovative individual.

Watch the Full Interview

There's the right balance of 'how do you sell your product' or 'sell the value proposition.' That seems to be the biggest issue because, again, there's a lot of really cool stuff that I see and stuff that I think would be impactful, but you've got to understand who the audience is and that whole idea of selling past the close thing. It's like, no, no, no. We've all agreed that this is good. So, tell me, how does this work? What's the value proposition?

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