The Importance of a Connected Hospital | npENGAGE

The Importance of a Connected Hospital

By on Jul 9, 2018


“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it’s not open” Frank Zappa 

OK, we know it’s hard to listen to someone who names their child Moonbeam but go with us on this for a few minutes and we think you will understand our concept… 

In May, we were lucky enough to help curate a healthcare marketing summit at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Hospital marketing and philanthropy teams from across Southern California gathered to explore the concept of the connected hospital and to learn why healthcare organizations should foster connectivity. It was a chance to have an open conversation on the technological, social, demographic, and marketplace changes coming fast and furious to the healthcare sector – and apply them to the healthcare marketing space.

Some of our main takeaways and areas for your consideration are: 

1. The connected hospital is completely designed around patients and their preferences. While it’s not uncommon to hear stories of siloed hospital marketing and foundation teams, we do come across the benefits of these teams working together. Sharing consumer data can help both marketing and foundation teams learn more about key consumers, and enables both teams to develop cohesive strategies for patient and donor acquisition, using prescriptive and predictive analytics. With cohesive campaigns and brand strategies, the connected hospital can increase patient engagement and maximize support. 

2. Artificial intelligence is not something out of a Terminator Movie! It’s clear in many fields of endeavour – from defence to retail to energy to healthcare – the rise of immense computing power is on the verge of changing much of what humans do. We were lucky enough to listen to the ‘two Nathans’ at City of Hope, who shared how they’ve jumped right into what they properly call ‘machine learning’ and have begun to create machine learning applications to create what they call predictive philanthropy. There’s no doubt that we’ve created a problem in the social impact marketing space – lists. Big lists of lots of supporters who may or may not have the potential to give much more. Traditionally, we’ve done data audits or analysis that are handed over to our staff. The analysis lays out giving potential that is dated from the moment it’s received. For City of Hope – and other organizations that are exploring the predictive philanthropy that comes from machine learning – they will have an ever-learning partner to give them new predictive opportunities that they can act upon (e.g. visit/call). It’s a big new world with machine learning, , so let’s jump in together. 

3. Mobile Phones are our intimate partners in life. It’s a sad but powerful reality that the powerful computing machines in our hands influence so much of who we are and what we do – and it’s growingly important in philanthropy and in healthcare. For some Scandinavian countries, over 50% of all healthcare consultations (e.g. biometric readings) are done through someone’s mobile phone – not in a doctor’s office. And did you know that when you go to sleep at night and leave your phone on to charge, marketing organizations are using the stillness of your phone for multiple hours to tell them where you live and apply marketing techniques with that information. This may now make you turn your phone off at night but it should also remind you that healthcare marketers need to open their minds to the powerful opportunities that the mobile phone gives us to our healthcare consumers and donors. 

4. Healthcare brands are now performance brands. It’s not just NIKE or Adidas or an NBA team that project brands that make the hair on the back of your neck stand out. For healthcare institutions to stand out – to find new patients or to find new donors – they’re changing how they are talking to their market about themselves. They’re not asking people to give or sign up, they are asking them to join a movement.  

5. Personalization is key as consumerism plays a larger role in healthcare. Many trends are driving big data in healthcare – evolving payment models, emerging healthcare technologies, and care delivery improvements – to name a few. The resulting landscape of consumerism is a powerful force, and now healthcare providers need to compete for consumers. These consumers are smart, mobile, and savvy. Healthcare organizations must efficiently use big data to embrace consumerism, enhance patient relationships, and drive sophisticated intelligence into patient acquisition. They must also provide unrivaled insights into the vast array of social determinants to assist in population health strategies.  Implementing healthcare consumer analytics solutions gives a personalized, comprehensive view of the targeted consumers, making the marketing reach more effective. On the consumer side, predictive and prescriptive analytics can give the who/where/why to segment and target key groups that fit an organization’s unique profile, makeup and service lines. On the patient side, big data can uncover the socioeconomic factors that contribute to 80% of a patient’s overall health, as well as give insight on how or when to contact them and what messaging to use. On the fundraising side, data can be used to predict which donors and prospects are likely to give and how much. This connectivity helps complete the healthcare lifecycle of consumer to patient to donor.  

6. Design Thinking is here to stay. The commercial sector quickly applied the discipline and thoroughness of CX Design Thinking to their customer’s journeys. Places like the Stanford Design School’s approaches to journey mapping were adopted by companies like Oracle and Microsoft and this ‘structured empathy’ approach make incredible improvements to the customer journey. It’s only now that this approach is being adopted by the healthcare marketing sector to improve patient journeys and supporter journeys. We’re five years behind and it’s time to catch up! 

These key concepts were covered in our webinar Introduction: The Connected Hospital.” Watch the recording and become that parachute for your healthcare institution! 


Natalie ScarellaManager, Healthcare Analytics, is dedicated to supporting the Blackbaud Healthcare Solutions sales team by connecting clients to consumer and patient marketing analytics solutions. With a background in nonprofit and healthcare solutions, Natalie specializes in data analytics, CRM, and marketing platforms. With her extensive experience in healthcare and philanthropy, Natalie brings her real-world perspective to Blackbaud’s Healthcare Solutions Group, committed to achieving the best possible outcomes for her clients. 

Michael Johnston is President and Co-Founder of HJC New Media. He is the author of four books on innovation and marketing in the social impact sector. With 30+ years in nonprofit consulting, Michael has worked with over 150 healthcare institutions in more than ten countries, specializing in helping healthcare foundations and hospital marketing partner to further health systems’ missions.” 


Comments (14)

  • Veronica Adams says:

    Good info!

    I hope our hospital will get caught up with the times. we are very slow to implement new ideas. We are still using Lotus Notes as our email! That is supposed to change soon.

    It is hard to get our hospital on board. We are a bigger healthcare network in Upstate NY but still in the scheme of things smaller then a lot of big city healthcare networks. A lot of the ideas are “foreign” to our higher ups.

    PS – Isn’t Frank Zappa’s child named Moon Unit?

  • Lauren Short says:

    Personalization is key- couldn’t agree more! This is especially important to remember in healthcare fundraising.

  • Heather says:

    We are working with our marketing folks to help us become more connected, and our hospital is also working towards this goal. All good stuff!

  • B Melloh says:

    Great Article Natalie & Michael!

  • Karina says:

    Great article. I also saw the webinar and it was a lot of good information.

  • Angie Stumpo says:

    Love the tip about communications and development working closely together. Makes sense!

  • Brent Troth says:

    Great information as a new hospital foundation data employee this article was helpful in helping to orient me to the world of healthcare philanthropy.

  • Lauren Fardella says:

    I am glad to see Blackbaud making progress to explore fundraising in healthcare

  • Lindsay D. says:

    As a Hospital Foundation in Canada, some of these do not apply. For instance, we’ll never get patient (“consumer”) info due to confidentiality, so anything connected to their data is unavailable to us.

    We’re also the only hospital in quite a large area, so we’re not trying to attract patients to use us. Our marketing asks for donations to support equipment at the hospital nearly all of our donors have used or will use.

    However, some of the tips do apply! We could certainly work more closely with the marketing team from the Hospital. It’s something we’re striving for, but that needs more work. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Sage says:

    Cross department communication is the key!

  • Joanne says:

    Being a Federally Qualified Community Health Center, some of what you are saying applies to us. Part does not as we do not have people staying at the center, say after an operation, but having a better handle on our patients and coordinating that with our fundraising efforts is something we struggle with. Mainly because of the roadblocks from the providers (HIPAA being the main line of defense). Would love to hear more about strategies folks have used to overcome some of these roadblocks.

  • Jennifer says:

    Connecting people to their healthcare in a way that is meaningful and sustainable should be the goal of every organization. As healthcare continues to move in the direction of value and of true population health; faster, more economical, easier and more consistent methods of interaction can only improve care. Great piece.

  • MK says:

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Iris Smith says:

    Thank you for mentioning that the connected hospital was created entirely with patients’ wishes in mind. As a hospital employee, I wholeheartedly concur that healthcare institutions should promote connectedness. I think having organizations like community organizations will contribute to raising hospital connectivity awareness.

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