Nick Ragone on Healthcare Marketing in the “Everywhere Care” Era

by | Mar 26, 2019 | Healthcare Industry Insights

Nick Ragone from Ascension offers a model for meeting consumers where they live and work.

If you’ve worked in hos­pi­tal or health sys­tem mar­ket­ing for more than five years, you’ve like­ly observed a sig­nif­i­cant shift in the patient jour­ney. Thanks to online shop­ping fea­tures like Ama­zon’s 1‑click order­ing and price-com­par­i­son tools across the web, the mod­ern health­care con­sumer is con­di­tioned to expect a high­er degree of access and con­ve­nience when mak­ing pur­chase decisions.

A few recent stud­ies illus­trate this shift:

More than sev­en in 10 con­sumers run a search before sched­ul­ing a physi­cian or sur­gi­cal appoint­ment, and 69 per­cent con­duct a search before select­ing a hos­pi­tal (DialogTech).

The num­ber of con­sumers track­ing their health data with wear­ables has more than dou­bled since 2013 and many are also will­ing to share their data to improve their health or the device’s per­for­mance (Mod­ern Health­care).

In the Advi­so­ry Board’s 2017 Vir­tu­al Vis­its Con­sumer Choice Sur­vey, 77 per­cent of respon­dents said they would see a doc­tor virtually—and near­ly one in five already had.

Mil­len­ni­als are more like­ly to vis­it a free­stand­ing emer­gency depart­ment (ED) than a tra­di­tion­al hos­pi­tal ED set­ting (Tam­pa Bay Times).

At the Forefront: Ascension’s Transformation

Under the lead­er­ship of Nick Ragone, senior vice pres­i­dent and chief mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions offi­cer, Ascen­sion is evolv­ing to address these real­i­ties and facil­i­tate the shift to “every­where care.”

Since 2014 when he joined Ascen­sion, one of the nation’s lead­ing non­prof­it and Catholic health sys­tems, Ragone has trans­formed the organization’s mar­ket­ing func­tion from a local and decen­tral­ized com­mu­ni­ty to an inte­grat­ed, enter­prise-wide team to sup­port its 2,600 sites of care and more than 150 hos­pi­tals in 21 states and the Dis­trict of Columbia.

“Con­sumers want a dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ence from their health­care providers,” Ragone says. “They want it to be con­nect­ed, seam­less, con­ve­nient and to work on their behalf. Hav­ing a sin­gle, uni­fied brand has allowed us to begin focus­ing on an excep­tion­al con­sumer expe­ri­ence across all our sites of care.”

This trans­for­ma­tion has allowed the sys­tem to rebrand all its hos­pi­tals, ambu­la­to­ry sites and physi­cian prac­tices as Ascension—the largest such under­tak­ing ever in the provider space—as well as cre­ate a more strate­gic, data-dri­ven, direct-to-con­sumer mar­ket­ing approach and con­sumer expe­ri­ence. Ragone said this uni­fied brand has made it eas­i­er for con­sumers to con­nect the dots across the system’s con­tin­u­um of care, whether it’s in the acute care set­ting, urgent care, senior liv­ing, a physi­cian office or even home care.

Content as the Competitive Advantage

In this era of increas­ing com­pe­ti­tion, Ragone cites brand sto­ry­telling as a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of any mar­ket­ing strategy.

“We know that con­sumers are mak­ing more and more of their health­care choic­es through online search—and it’s not just to find the clos­est urgent care or a new pri­ma­ry care doc­tor,” Ragone says. “It includes going online to find spe­cial­ists or ref­er­ence-check a physi­cian referral.”

With that being the case, Ragone says cre­at­ing your own brand­ed con­tent that’s share­able and inter­est­ing is becom­ing increas­ing­ly impor­tant to grow “share of voice” online as con­sumers are doing their research and mak­ing choic­es. He points to owned and orig­i­nal con­tent as being crit­i­cal to online opti­miza­tion, both paid and organ­ic, so con­sumers can find your con­tent and shop your ser­vices. Addi­tion­al­ly, great con­tent posi­tions you as a trust­ed author­i­ty so that when poten­tial patients have ques­tions, they will turn to you for answers—both online and in your ser­vice lines.

Accord­ing to Ragone, con­tent needs to be:

  • Find­able
  • Digestible
  • Share­able

“Just like any oth­er con­sumer-focused prod­uct or ser­vice, con­sumers want to know that they are mak­ing the best choice when it comes to their health care,” Ragone says. “That process begins with search. When mak­ing choic­es and rec­om­men­da­tions, pro­files of care, per­son­al tes­ti­mo­ni­als and suc­cess sto­ries are sup­port­ing provider endorse­ment and referral—particularly in online com­mu­ni­ties and social sharing.”

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