Here's the audio version of this post:
Jim and I met years ago when he was the acting CEO for an addiction detox and treatment center on the East Coast. I was hired to help with the website design and marketing. After his contract ended, we stayed in touch and over the years we’ve collaborated on several projects. One we are mutually proud of is a non-profit organization Jim founded in 2014, The ECHO Foundation. He asked me to join the ECHO Board of Directors and act as the marketing lead.
Jim has extensive experience in the healthcare space and has overseen the development of Utilization Processes, Quality Assurance Guidelines, Marketing, Billing, Accounts Receivable and IT Tasks for dozens of organizations.
Today I am talking with my buddy Jim about what’s happening in healthcare and what providers need to be focused on when it comes to marketing their businesses in this challenging time.
Here is a copy of our conversation:
Jenny: Thanks for doing this interview with me Jim!
Jim: Absolutely Jenny, my pleasure.
Jenny: Above I touched on what you do, can you expand on that for us?
Jim: My goal is to help enhance, create systems and increase revenues allowing treatment providers the time to focus on their patients or clients. I work to create efficiencies and get true ROI on all of the systems a facility has in place. Healthcare businesses spend large sums of money on EHR, Billing Software and trying to create end to end RCM. And, in my experience they only get between 35% and 60% out of the value out of the various tools and systems they’ve purchased and tried to customize.
We want to maximize the ROI they can achieve from these investments and build profit centers that allow for growth and long term sustainability.
Jenny: What do you think are some of the biggest issue’s healthcare businesses are experiencing today?
Jim: The healthcare industry has really been a focus for everyone during this last year of COVID-19. For example, Telehealth is exploding. Insurance companies are seeing growing mental health costs and are actively pursuing solutions to contain costs and provide the necessary care for their members. I see a tremendous amount of money being spent in the private sector on digital health technology. The businesses that have not yet adapted really need to consider their services moving forward and the losses they can expect to competitors who have already implemented digital services.
Jenny: What advice would you give these business owners?
Jim: Providing the highest level of care and picking the right system to increase retention, evidence based results and solidifying relationships with MCOs and other payers seems to be the most efficient model for a successful business in this healthcare space. Full scale RCM, constantly updating and changing with trends along with real time analytics and reporting helps owners keep their fingers on the pulse of the organizational needs.
Jenny: How do you think the industry has influenced public perception around mental health and substance abuse recovery, specifically the stigma around getting treatment?
Jim: I have seen a significant focus and acceptance in the mainstream healthcare industry as well as overall empathy over the past few years. During this past year with record high overdose deaths, there has also been a rise in mental health challenges for everyday people, such as anxiety and depression. Many people are struggling while working from home during the pandemic and this has actually helped shift some of the stigma around the mainstream conceptualization.
Everyone has had their challenges and more people can appreciate the struggle for others, our children and how they work.
Jenny: Do you think marketers can play a bigger role when it comes to helping healthcare brands drive more awareness?
Jim: Absolutely. Bringing Mental Health awareness and wellness to the forefront and in a way normalizing how everyone can struggle with these challenges from time to time and for others who have been struggling for years with SUD and Mental Health issues. I really think with the COVID-19 pandemic, something that has affected every segment of our daily lives, has created a once in a lifetime opportunity for those of us in this industry to inform and educate others on the significance of the disease of SUD and Mental Health on a broader level.
Jenny: Have you found that most healthcare organizations are not taking full advantage of all digital marketing opportunities?
Jim: Without a doubt many organizations are not optimizing all that they can do to improve and enhance their “product” or services. Working in the healthcare industry over the past 25 years I have always looked at those who work in the industry as heroes and unbelievably exceptional people who lead with their hearts.
Being smart about their business plan and optimizing all aspects of their organization sometimes gets lost because the time it takes to provide the highest level of care with this population can sidetrack you from running the business side of the organization.
Jenny: So true. I think the same can be said for almost every business, however. Many business owners overlook important sales and marketing tasks because they are too busy managing other more pressing matters. What’s one big mistake you think new businesses make when it comes to marketing their brand?
Jim: Most new businesses have a tremendous amount of energy and ideas. However, as you mentioned, many do not have the time to execute on their ideas and think it’s too expensive to outsource. In my experience branding and marketing is an investment worth making if you intend to be successful. If you can’t dedicate the time to fulfilling the tasks yourself, hire a pro and trust the process. Without marketing your business will only go so far.
Jenny: As a healthcare professional, if you could go back in time and learn one thing earlier on, what would that be and why?
Jim: How important branding and marketing really are and how the right plan directly translates into an ROI for the business. So many organizations go light on marketing and branding believing that if they just work extremely hard everything will work out, that’s often not the case.
I wish I knew the true value earlier on as I would have not only hired a professional, but I would have invested even more into developing my own assets and organic marketing channels. Businesses who understood that the big payoff comes from long-term, residual ROI, invested early on and had patience as their brand visibility grew with time. Not surprisingly, these are the same businesses that are successful today.
Jenny: Do you have any other advice for professionals in the healthcare industry that need help growing and managing their business?
Jim: It’s important to lean on colleagues and peers within the same vertical that you work in. Trusting the people who have been in the industry for some time can help you learn and not repeat the same mistakes made as they built their own organizations.
Finding a colleague that can act as your mentor can help you achieve your goals.
Jenny: If anyone wants to chat with you, what’s the best way to reach out?
Jim: I’d love to hear from anyone who wants to talk with me in more detail about their business and marketing needs. I can be contacted here on my healthcare consulting website: Apogee System Consultants.
Jenny: Jim, thanks so much for sharing your wisdom and expertise with us today! It’s been a pleasure working with you and collaborating on projects that make an impact and give back. Thanks for all the work you do and the love you put into it.
The Future of Healthcare is Now
One thing that you can count on always being consistent, ironically, is change. With healthcare marketing that couldn’t be any more true. Addiction treatment centers, behavioral health facilities and other healthcare providers have to stay flexible and adaptable in order to thrive- especially now.
Investing into the right technologies and marketing strategies is key if you want to remain competitive. If COVID-19 taught us anything it’s that it’s no longer realistic to wait for the market to change and respond to the changes. You have to anticipate your patients needs and make plans in anticipation of their changing needs.
Before the pandemic forced us all inside, there was already a growing demand for easier ways to communicate digitally. Younger generations expect websites with chat agents and online booking systems. But, it’s not just millennials looking for convenience. Patients of every age want access to fast prescription refills, quick answers to health questions and the option to make or change an appointment without waiting on hold.
Healthcare businesses that offer telecommunications and other digital services signal patients that the organization cares about their time and is willing to invest into the right systems and tools to aid in their convenience.
Businesses that are not prepared to adapt are in for a lot of trouble. The internet changed everything. Updates that can permanently impact your organization can happen over night. This means dire consequences for the ill prepared.
Change can be scary, especially if you’ve had success for a long time with the same systems and strategies you’ve always had in place. But, for the organization that is well managed, responsive and nimble, rapid change can be just what the doctor ordered.
The status quo makes it tough for the new and smaller businesses to take on the established players. Rapid change levels the playing field and puts everything up for grabs.