CMO Talks: Consumer Healthcare Marketing Trends From Medecision’s Ellen Donahue-Dalton


Today, we have Ellen Donahue-Dalton, the head of marketing at Medecision. Ellen is speaks on consumer healthcare marketing and related marketing trends.

Ellen is passionate about supporting innovation and entrepreneurs. With more than 20 years of marketing leadership, she has helped transform everything from organizational culture to user experience and from strategy to leveraging technology in new ways.

More about this Healthcare Marketing talk, the CMO Talks, as well as the full transcript are below.

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5 Predictions For The Consumer Healthcare Marketing Experience: What They Might Mean For Your Life… And Death

* Brian: Like me, you have worked on both the brand side of things and the agency side of things. Can you tell me a little bit about that and how it might have helped you in your career.

* Ellen: Right, so very different. When you’re working on the brand side you are moving very quickly trying to get the right balance of internal and external resources and for the cost structure to be able to drive the right marketing investment and get the right ROI for what you can do in the marketplace. Where as on the agency side you tend to be able to need to be a little more thoughtful and spend more time thinking and creating about what it is that that client needs. In my business role, I feel sometimes that I don’t get to take that creative time but that just means that I need to find the best people who I know are going be provocative and thoughtful and brilliant, and not be afraid to come forward with the kinds of campaigns and concepts that we need to stand out.

* Brian: Can you tell us a little bit about your transition from the agency side of things into the brand side. Is there anything that really stood out or challenges that you faced as you changed roles?

* Ellen: For me it was easy because I was playing an outsourced CMO role even in the agency setting so it was a little easier for me to make the transition in. When I did transition back into a business role, I was able to go back into a management team with whom I had worked so there was a lot of knowledge and expertise around the market and what the management team was trying to do. It was maybe a little easier for me but I think that the main thing for me was the ever present need to drive revenue and to make sure that I’m managing the spend against that. Things can get away from you very quickly if you have a slow Q1, you’re not going to make your annual revenues. Just that shift and thinking away from the quality of the program, if you will, to the responsibility for the revenue and investment for the enterprise. That was probably the biggest shift I had to make.

* Brian: Medecision is a pretty large company, it’s in the healthcare technology space. Can you tell us a little bit more about the company and marketing at Medecision, the things that you guys are focused on.

* Ellen: Yeah, Medecision’s almost a 30 year company now so it’s been around for a long time and for many years it was a pioneer of automation software. For all the years that health plans were trying to take care of their members, they were using Medecision software. When I joined about 5 years ago we realized that we needed to shift from a single product, single market company into a multi-market platform solution services apps company. Huge shift, every kind of shift. The way that we did business, the way that we operated, the business model, how we sold, how we marketed. Really for that last 5 years I have [00:04:00] focused on refreshing and then extending the brand into new market segments as well as doing a lot of the work to complete the turnaround, if you will, from sort of the old style company. We had to change our employee culture, we had to change as I mentioned the way that we communicated with clients.

* Ellen: We are a technology company so we had been a slow, pretty custom, enterprise software company and now fast forward to where we are today, we’re almost a full sass company, quarterly releases, customers that take little bitty releases just like they do from salesforce.com or something like that instead of the big, massive, highly customized release. The other thing that has really changed is that Medecision use to be only a B to B company and we are starting to move into the definition and development of products for consumers. We’ll be talking about that today but that’s been an enormous change in how we innovate products, how we test and develop them and how we work with our clients to embrace those products for their own marketing efforts.

* Brian: That’s fascinating, it sounds like a huge transformation both culturally but also in terms of your audience, who you’re marketing to, all those things. There is a lot happening in healthcare and healthcare marketing in that space there’s so much changing. Can you tell us, are there certain things you see changing or things that people need to be aware of and embrace as marketers and as healthcare professionals.

* Ellen: Let me address it from the marketing standpoint first. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that the healthcare stakeholders, to which you must market, are enormously stressed by the change and transformation that is going on in the industry. If you’re a marketer trying to sell to a big insurer or to sell to a hospital system or other kind of care delivery organization, it’s really important to understand that there is cataclysmic change going on inside those organizations. It impacts your sales cycle, it impacts their ability to pay attention to new ideas. Many of the care delivery organizations are coming off of years of very big investment in their EMR platforms, they’ve been sold a lot of technology and they’re really struggling now to understand, “What did that technology do for me and why should I buy anymore?” Just from a technology marketing standpoint that’s going on.

* Ellen: The other thing is that as we enter this world of consumer marketing from the care delivery standpoint, boy that’s brand new. The temptation might be to go slow, go for some of the tried and true tools out there and I think what’s going to happen is that the consumers expectations for their relationship with their hospitals or doctors or whatever is going to quickly out pace their own marketing plans. That’s kind of a crazy and transformative time as well. In terms of how the healthcare industry is thinking about it, I have to say that the mindset, whether it’s in the insurance part of the industry or the care deliver part, I think the mindset is still behind where most big industries think about consumerism. They are not quite there. They talk about it and they are starting to think about it but in terms of starting to buy agency partners or starting to augment their marketing organizations internally, I think it’s just the beginning. I think it’s the golden age for marketing in healthcare, I really do.

* Brian: Nice, I like that. I’ve worked in healthcare and marketing before and I can definitely see how that industry, like many in the past, is a little bit slower. There’s many more things to account for as they embrace that change so I can definitely see what you’re saying. Are there any other key takeaways or things that you think somebody in the marketing healthcare space should really be thinking about today?

* Ellen: I think there’s great opportunity in this space for marketers, for people who think about how consumers engage with products and services, for people who think about how consumers use the tools that help them engage and choose, there’s enormous opportunity. I would say to any to any marketing agency or professional, “Get in it. There’s a lot to learn. It’s a complex and confusing space.” I only have experience in the health plan and care delivery side but there are whole other facets of it. There’s the pharmaceuticals, medical devices, consumer goods that are related to fitness, wellness, health so it’s an enormous industry. One of the things I’m going to talk about today is the fact that we have reached over 3 trillion dollars in national healthcare expenditure. Which means that you and I will spend about $10,000 a year on healthcare every year and the rate of acceleration of our personal investment is just going through the roof. Either as consumers or as marketers who want to participate in that ecosystem, great opportunities but a complex, complicated business.

* Brian: Wow, that’s a lot to think about. I appreciate your time today, thank you so much.

* Ellen: Absolutely, it’s great to be here. Thank you for having me.

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About Brian Regienczuk

Brian Regienczuk is the CEO and Co-Founder of Agency Spotter. With over 19 years experience both at top brands and helping grow agencies, Brian writes and speaks on topics related to finding and selecting great marketing, design and research partners, and on how the future of marketing demands that brand marketers and agencies work smarter together.