Dr. Stephen Klasko talks about the keys to adapting marketing to the new era of “care anywhere” and to patients’ increasingly digital lifestyle.
Healthcare marketing has not kept pace with the transformation in healthcare delivery. Dr. Stephen Klasko talks about the keys to adapting marketing to the new era of “care anywhere” and to patients’ increasingly digital lifestyle.
Dr. Klasko will join a host of healthcare leaders at MM+M Transform, scheduled for May 5 in New York City. To learn more about Dr. Klasko’s keynote fireside chat at Transform, “Healthcare in 2032: From COVID to Consumerism,” click here.
(The following interview has been edited and condensed.)
Marc Iskowitz, editor-at-large, MM+M: Why has healthcare marketing not kept pace?
Dr. Stephen Klasko: To a large extent, it’s because we’ve been allowed to not keep pace. Part of the problem is that healthcare does not exist in a market-driven system. If we did, we’d have a lot of hospitals closing that are expensive. And I think it’s a lot easier to put up a billboard. The Onion did a satire on healthcare marketing where they had a little girl with a flower, a serious surgeon with Google glasses and something like, “First-class healthcare in a first-class manner.” That billboard probably cost $50,000. I don’t think anybody that found out they had breast cancer is gonna go, “Oh, I want to go to that hospital.” But that’s easier to do than to try to do some of the consumer-segmentation work that Amazon or Google or others have to do.
That’s easier to do than to figure out, “How do I get to somebody that doesn’t have good broadband in an underserved area?” or “How do I do it in a language that makes sense to get people to come to our system?” We’ve been able to mail it in. That’s true equally among payers, providers and pharma. Pharma does the, “Do you have stage-four lung cancer? You know, you should tell your doctor to prescribe this $400,000 drug.” That’s easy, but why? And does everybody need that $400,000 drug? So we need an extreme makeover, if you will, of healthcare delivery – A – and B, of healthcare marketing of that different healthcare delivery system.
MM+M: How has the healthcare delivery system changed after two years of pandemic living?
Klasko: First of all, I take exception a little bit to folks who say, “Oh my God, everything changed after the pandemic.” No, everything got accelerated. And I look at everything as BC, DC and KAC – Before COVID, During COVID and Kinda After COVID. This way, you don’t have to get into the politics of whether or not COVID is over.
We’re at the KAC phase. And KAC, what we’re finding is, our entire employee situation is different. The number-one thing for any healthcare system CEO now is employee retention and recruitment. And a lot of that is internal marketing. Literally, employees want to know that the place where they’re working cares about them and has some kind of social mission.
The second thing that’s changed is that we can’t deny anymore that our system has failed in being equitable in healthcare. At the end of the day, we had folks that – in Philadelphia, which happens to be the home of Comcast – in zip codes in which 48% of people didn’t have broadband. All they knew from watching CNN was, “Don’t go to the hospital in May 2020 because of the pandemic.” But they didn’t have access to telehealth. So all those folks died in their beds because they were afraid to go to the hospital but didn’t know what to do.
The third thing – and I think this is important for anybody that’s interested in healthcare marketing – is that in the future, we have to get away from the easy things, like “telehealth.” I don’t think any of you get up in the morning and say, “You know, I think I’ll telebank today.” It’s just that banking went from being 90% inconveniently in the bank to 90% at home.
I’m a distinguished fellow of the World Economic Forum, and I had a cup of coffee with one of the CEOs of our major global finance firms. This was at the last Davos, by the way, which was January 20, 2020. (There were a couple of little lectures about how there was this weird virus going on in China.) Anyhow, what he was saying was, “Forty years ago, the two sectors that escaped the consumer revolution were banking and healthcare.” Then he took a sip of his coffee and said, “Now you’re alone.”
And I thought about that when the pandemic hit a month later, because if you’re my age (at 68), 40 years ago, we would’ve been talking about how people can’t line up at the bank to deposit our checks on Friday. We would’ve had to come, but you don’t have to worry about that. And it’s not just the technology. So we should stop talking about telehealth.
At Jefferson, I stopped talking about telehealth. I talked about healthcare at any address. Because there might be 20 technologies I use to get folks to get their healthcare at any address. It might be virtual reality, telehealth, predictive analytics, drone delivery. All those things are realities that are going to happen. All of those kinds of things were necessary to get banking to be something I can do on an iPhone.
So if you’re a healthcare marketing person, you have to think about consumer segmentation. How are you going to get me as a 68-year-old that has two Apple Watches and an Oura ring and who counts steps vs. a 30-year-old disconnected person vs. a 78-year-old person with cancer? Those are very different things. Amazon views all three of us very differently. If you’re working for a traditional healthcare system or payer or pharma, you have to start to think about that. And then you have to start to think about the different vehicles for transmission of your message.
And then the last piece is, who’s your competitor? The ChenMeds, the One Medicals, the Oscar Healths, the Oak Street Heaths laugh their you-know-what’s off that, when I was at Jefferson, we viewed Penn as our competitor. To them, it was like Sears saying, “My only competitor is Penneys. I’m not worried about that Amazon stuff, or Target or Walmart. But I’m gonna beat the heck out of Penneys.” That’s how a lot of the folks in the world that I’m now in view the hospitals next door to each other, who say, “I gotta beat that guy.” No, you’ve got this tidal wave coming in. Don’t worry about the fact that your faucet isn’t working perfectly.
MM+M: I like how you said, if someone fails a cancer screen, they’re not going to pick a healthcare provider based on who has the cleverest roadside billboard. Can you talk about how healthcare can reframe itself?
Klasko: The thing that made Google come out of the many, many search engines – I remember AskJeeves and Compuserve and all those – was that they didn’t want to be a search engine. They wanted to be the first place you go on your computer. Similarly with Amazon, it wasn’t just, “We’re selling your books. We just always want you to get on Amazon.” If you came to my office before I left as CEO on December 31st, you would have seen a little sign that says, “When Elon Musk brings people from Mars to Philadelphia 10 years from now and asks, ‘Where’s Jefferson?’ I hope you can’t define that.”
I hope you’d say, “Well, do you mean Jefferson on my phone or Jefferson’s partnership with Comcast or Jefferson’s partnership with Novartis or Jefferson over at my barber shop or Jefferson and 12 micro hospitals? Oh, the place where really, really sick people go? I think that’s still at 10th and Walnut.” Think about how ridiculous it is that we define every health system in New York or Philadelphia or Los Angeles (or anyplace) by where we failed: “We are located at the place where we couldn’t prevent you from having cancer, and now you’re having surgery.” That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. What I tell folks in my marketing shop is, “I want to be Target and Walmart,” because when Amazon disrupted that industry, some folks said, “Oh my God, nobody’s ever going to a store again.”
CircuitCity went all “e,” but they couldn’t compete with Amazon. Then you had Sears and Penneys saying, “What a stupid fad. People love parking 10 miles away the day after Thanksgiving and fighting over Cabbage Patch dolls. So we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing.” But Target and Walmart said, “You know, we’re good at what we do, but we also have to be just as good at that.” So in one case, they bought an “e” company. In one case, they started one. That’s how I would get it.
When I was the CEO of Jefferson, we had one of the top pancreatic cancer surgeons in the country. If you have pancreatic cancer surgery, I don’t think you cared what our digital strategy was, how big our TV was or what the food was. You want to see that doctor. By the same token, I made a big deal to my faculty of, “Let’s not treat patients. Let’s go out to the 97% of people in Philadelphia that don’t wake up in the morning saying, ‘I’m a patient.’ You wake up in the morning saying, ‘I’m a person. I might have diabetes or cancer, but I’m a person that would love to be able to thrive without health getting in the way.’”
And my new world gets that very well. You think about Livongo that became an $18-and-a-half-billion-dollar company by just saying to diabetics, “Steve can only view you as a patient – ‘Come to my urgent care center, my office, my ER, my hospital.’ I’ll be your invisible friend at home. And if you need one of those folks, I’ll partner with Steve, but hopefully you won’t need that. I’ll just make it so easy for you to live with your diabetes.”
So what I would tell anybody – whether in the pharma space, the payer space – is, “Stop literally having those of us in places like General Catalyst create companies that literally you could do.” When you think about telehealth, we created American Well and Teladoc with our patients and our doctors, but they became $20-, $30 billion companies by creating the interface between our patients and our doctors. Why didn’t we hire somebody to be the interface between our patients and our doctors?
In order for us to survive, we’re going to have to take that Target and Walmart philosophy of “We want to take our brand out to any address.” That’s why I like healthcare at any address, Jefferson at any address. And by the way, I think that’s true for just about everything. I’m going to become the chair of the board for Philadelphia Opera. I’m talking about opera at any address. Why? Because not everybody has the money to get there, but they might want to enjoy opera.
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