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Key Technologies Impacting the Patient Journey


Welcome to the first episode of the We Are Marketing Happy – a healthcare marketing podcast, hosted by Jenny Bristow. Jenny is the Founder and CEO of Hedy and Hopp, a healthcare marketing agency based in the Midwest. Today, Jenny welcomes Annie Haarmann, Head of Consumer Experience, North America at Reputation. 

On this episode, Annie breaks down how different health systems are responding to technology advancements in order to improve patient’s access to care. She outlines technology that is changing patient’s journey such as Google’s knowledge panel and local three-pack to natural language processing and artificial intelligence to determine emotions such as fear, optimism and anger. 

We also talk about how health systems have been regrouping after many marketing budgets were slashed during Covid and the long-term impact to the growth of virtual care. 

Annie discusses the importance of real relationship building with vendors, being brutally honest about your own weaknesses, talking about things that are broken, and using metrics that matter.

Watch their discussion below or listen to the podcast, We Are Marketing Happy – a healthcare marketing podcast.

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Full Transcript:

Hi friends. Welcome to We Are Marketing Happy – a healthcare marketing podcast, where we talk about the technology and innovation that are improving patient’s access to care. I am super excited to have with us today, one of my long time friends, Annie Haarmann, Annie is the head of Consumer Experience North America at Reputation.

Welcome Annie. Thanks Jenny. I’m so glad to be here and glad to be one of your long time friends. [00:01:00] Same. So we have so many different directions and things that we can talk about. You have been such an innovator in healthcare the entire time that I’ve known you. I’d love to start off talking a little bit about technology.

So, I know that in the past you were actually working at a healthcare system, and now you are at a technology vendor. So you’ve seen a lot from both sides of the spectrum. What technology have you seen that you think has most improved patients access to care?

Yeah, I think that there’s no way to have a conversation about care access without talking about the big elephant in the room, Google. As you know, it’s the single biggest technology that has impacted the customer journey, What we now call doctor Google or the idea that, you know, we’re all as consumers seeking answers to questions about our medical conditions.

And, uh, I remember hearing from, from [00:02:00] Google recently that the percentage of healthcare related search related to symptoms is 81%. So, 81% of healthcare searches is just a consumer, trying to figure out their symptoms, whether it’s, you know, what is a wrist sprain versus a broken bone or COVID symptoms, are taking them through what we used to call a marketing funnel.

And now we just kind of call that a consumer journey. And I can search my symptoms. I can understand my treatment options. I could even look at reviews from other people who have my same symptoms or conditions and have seen that provider. I can select a provider based on their feedback and it’s all right there within the Google ecosystem right there in the knowledge panel or that local three pack.

And, you know, we used to have these debates. I’m sure you [00:03:00] remember was what are we gonna put on our homepage? What’s the right thing to feature on that homepage of the website. and that page doesn’t ever matter if you can’t get the consumer to come to it. And increasingly Google is going to intercept those patients.

They want them scheduling right there within the Google results. And why would a consumer ever go to your website if they can get everything for right there? And this idea of zero click conversion is not just a nice to have anymore. It’s the standard. And if you are not optimizing for that, then you’re missing out on the single best access point for your patients.

I remember it was in 2019. You were speaking at HCIC and I remember sitting in the audience and you actually walked through a patient experience. The experience was your own cause you weren’t feeling well, you had to go urgent care or something. And so I remember you actually screenshotted and documented how, what the query you [00:04:00] did, the search results that you received, the way that you were able to book an appointment.

And it was such a great, true representation. How easy it is to find care whenever providers and systems do it correctly. Yeah. I vaguely recall that. I think that was my data science experiment with an N of one but it’s, it’s true that as consumers of healthcare, we care what that experience is going to be like for other consumers of healthcare.

It’s the only product or service that. Truly, every person is going to have some kind of experience with it. And if we don’t make that better, then we’re not doing a service to society as a whole. Something that makes me really excited about – the idea of making access easier is that it’s not just a marketing thing.

It’s really about treating humans the way that they wanna be treated and make it [00:05:00] easy for them to get the care that they need in the time that they need it. 

I totally share that same passion, as you know. So what do you think is next? What next technology innovation or platform or tool is going to be next?

Yeah. You know, it’s, it’s funny, there’s a lot of advancement that has happened in the last couple of years in digital. And we’ve seen certain platforms like virtual care that used to be this loss leader that healthcare systems didn’t really know what to do with, or put it over in the innovation corner.

And all of a sudden we had a need to scale all of that and make it actionable immediately. People who couldn’t leave the house. And so I do think that it’s a really exciting time to see the shift from this idea of healthcare access as a marketing thing, to healthcare access as a consumer experience [00:06:00] thing and, and driving those access points.

You know the best thing that I have seen come out of healthcare innovation is really what we’re bringing in from other industries. So if you take a concept like healthcare consumerism, other industries have already nailed consumerism, they didn’t have the same kind of challenges that we did in healthcare.

And they were able to really hone in on some of those things that we’re now just catching up to. The thing that comes to mind for me as the future is natural language processing or NLP. When we talk about AI and healthcare, we’re always focused on clinical uses. But there are also a lot of non-clinical uses for AI in marketing and you know, years ago, you probably remember it was so exciting just to see on our social media reports, that we could get a percentage of how many positive [00:07:00] comments, how many negative comments.

And then there was the neutral comments, which was, you know, sort of silly because it was the biggest of, of all the groupings. But now, NLP has gotten so advanced. It learns over time that we can start to pull out emotional components, like fear and anger and trust or optimism.

And those are really important emotions to understand when you are trying to change behavior. How are you going to motivate someone to take action, to schedule that mammogram when, most of the conversation around that topic is fearful? How can you allay those fears with the marketing that you’re doing?

How can you eliminate some of the barriers that cause anger and and make it easier for them to access the care and to do the follow up care that they need. So it’s not just about what is [00:08:00] the story we tell it’s what is the story we tell that will drive someone to action and we can do that by paying more attention to the natural language processing technology that is available to us.

How far out do you think we are from mass adoption? 

Ooh, that’s hard to say. I see that a lot of my clients are very excited about it and they say, oh, that’s so great. I want that. I wanna see it, but we haven’t reached the point of fully actioning that information. So a lot of them are just starting to wake up to the fact that we can even provide this kind of information and you know, realizing they can drill down to that level and see, even based on a service line or an individual provider or a region of our service area. And so I think right now we’re at the awareness stage [00:09:00] of things. 

It’s funny you bring this up because this is something we talk to a lot of our clients about. There are laggards who are sort of just coming onto some of the digital marketing things that we would probably consider standard in other industries. There’s the middle of the pack, which is the ones who are understanding the information, but maybe actioning on part of it. And the leaders, which I would say is a smaller elite group of health systems have really figured out how to action this information.

They are drilling into the data, not just a, oh, it’s nice to know this thing. It’s oh, here’s the action we’re going to take. Because of this thing that we learned, and here’s what we expect the result to be. And they’re testing that and they are building marketing campaigns with that in mind. And it’s really exciting to see some of the, the, [00:10:00] the changes that it is resulting in for my clients. 

So you and I we’ve been in this industry for a long time. Right. Things change every month. How do you stay abreast of new technology? Are there any trainings or any resources that you’ve found or used over the last year that have been really helpful?

Yeah. I read everything. I listen to all of the podcasts. I am a digital hoard. I’ve got probably. 40 episodes of various podcasts that are downloaded into my phone. And when I get on a plane and I won’t have wifi access, I just plug in and just learn as much as I can. And the way that I learn about what’s going on, isn’t so much from a technology stand.

I wanna hear what healthcare system executives are [00:11:00] saying. I wanna hear from that medical group leader, I wanna hear from that chief nursing officer if iit matters not what the latest tech is, or if it doesn’t. Actually get to the heart of what is causing pain for healthcare system leaders. And I tried to always put that at the center of my conversations with them and ultimately the healthcare consumer at the center of what they need from me.

And so what I would recommend is – don’t worry about the latest technology podcast or signing up for a technology, event or subscription. What you should really listen to is what are those executives talking about? And you can find that through, you know, all of the, the trade publications, you can subscribe to the podcast versions of [00:12:00] those and just listen. When you hear the same challenges repeated over and over, because that’s what has to come first.

It’s not the technology. It’s the problem. Absolutely. Oh, I love that answer. I love it. So something that I really wanted to dig in with you is talking about budgeting in marketing. I feel like it has been well, I know it has been a, quite a rocky couple of years for healthcare providers. A lot of their budgets were slashed to nothing during COVID and now everybody’s rebounding.

Some people are doing more than they were before as an attempt to be able to make up some lost ground. How have you, and how have your clients tackled budget planning post pandemic? 

Yeah, I, I work with clients of all sizes. Um, some that have very small budgets and some that have enormous budgets and it doesn’t matter what [00:13:00] the budget is.

You need to focus early on the value. You know, for a lot of health systems, they have finance processes or certain protocols where you go through an approval of whatever investment you wanna make. And you have to show the value of that, and you need to challenge your partners, or your vendors, if they aren’t a true partner, they’ll do this with you.

If they’re a vendor, they might but, challenge them to give you metrics that matter and your vendors don’t tell you what metrics matter. You tell them. I remember years ago when I was a customer, I was a purchaser of lots of technology. I was having a conversation with, with my boss about a [00:14:00] proposal that had just come through.

And our sentiment was they came in and tried to tell us what our problems were, but they didn’t ask us what our problems were. They just told us what they were. We know what our problems are and so we know the priorities. And so when you can tell your outside partners what those things are, and sometimes it can be difficult to do – a lot of marketing leaders don’t wanna share that level of detail with their outside partners, and it can only help you because then they know what matters.

They know what they need to track, and they know whether they are delivering value. And so create those deep relationships early – figure out what your processes are know what you need in order to show value to that budget. And then, challenge your partners, cuz at the end of the day, you know, if your agency isn’t reporting on real metrics, like incremental new [00:15:00] patient revenue on appointments scheduled, if there’s still leaning on views or impressions and, and that’s it, you know, that’s not gonna help you because all the impressions are not going to mean anything.

If you don’t get one appointment out of it and that one appointment means nothing. If you can’t then attribute that appointment to something that your marketing team did.

I love that answer. And I think that is early the foundation for the most successful relationships is candor. That’s candor honesty, some brutal real conversations. And, you know, we had a lot of candor when, when I was your client, I don’t know if you’re revealing that on this podcast, but, but yeah, that’s very, very important. And it is for you, I’m sure that you’ve had clients who didn’t tell you exactly what was going on or tell you all of the details you needed to know in order to add value. 

And it’s almost like, you know, you would come in with [00:16:00] your eyes closed to try to paint the picture for them, but you don’t know what’s important. And when you can be honest about that so you know if you’re off the target or you’re close to the target.

That’s the bullseye. You need that in any kind of relationship. And that’s what I consider to be the difference between a, a vendor, which is just, I pay you money and you give me the thing, versus a partnership, which is, I’m investing in you and we are mutually invested in the success of this outcome.

Completely agree. I think a lot of marketers early in their career feel like keeping some of that information close to the vest is a power play. And I think the opposite is the real power play. The more you can share to allow people to be your true partner and stand up and kind of push the limits of what’s possible because they know they’re actually going in the right direction for you is really when the magic happens.

[00:17:00] Totally agree. Well, Annie, thank you so much. This was such a fun conversation. I always love hearing your insights. Any final words for our listeners today? 

Yeah, I think it gets back to the candor thing. I mean, you know, me I love telling everybody what the problem is because the more people I tell about the challenge that I’m facing, the more likely it is that I’m gonna get a nice set of answers from a variety of people and what I would encourage any healthcare marketers to do is to talk about the things that are broken. Don’t be afraid to talk about those things, because guess what they’re probably broken for some other team too. And maybe it used to be broken and they fixed it, or maybe you have an idea that would help them. The point being, talk about these things, talk to, and talk to people who don’t have the same perspective as you.

I mean, [00:18:00] I learned so much from talking to other departments that were not marketing. And it put things in a better context for me to. To win for the whole organization. 

I love it. Well, Annie, thank you so much for joining. I’ll be linking to your LinkedIn in the show notes, if anybody would like to connect.

And for all of our listeners, thank you so much for tuning in. We’ll see you soon.



About the Author

Jenny Bristow is the CEO and Founder of Hedy & Hopp. Prior to starting Hedy & Hopp, Jenny launched, grew and sold a digital agency in Seattle and worked at Amazon. She was named one of St. Louis Business Journal’s 30 under 30, won a Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2018 and speaks regularly at healthcare marketing industry events.

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