For the past eight years, the Healthcare Internet Hall of Fame has been honoring and inducting Innovative Individuals, Providers and Product and Services during the annual Healthcare Internet Conference held every fall. Inductees have been selected by a board of judges made up of provider and vendor organizations from throughout the digital healthcare industry.
In 2016, Brian Gresh was one of two individuals inducted into that year’s class of Innovative Individuals. We recently spoke with Brian about his healthcare marketing journey.
HIHOF: How did you first get involved in healthcare marketing?
Brian Gresh (BG): I actually started my marketing career outside of the healthcare industry. A love of snowboarding and the outdoors led me to quit my job in Connecticut and move to Utah. I started searching for marketing roles in Salt Lake City, and while I didn’t have a strong interest in healthcare specifically, a position became available at the University of Utah hospital system’s marketing department. It sounded interesting, so I applied and was hired. That was the start of my healthcare marketing career.
HIHOF: You were inducted into the HIHOF Class of 2016 while working at the Cleveland Clinic as the Executive Director of Multi-Channel Content Marketing. You are now President at Loyal. What made you switch positions?
BG: When I first started at the University of Utah, it was a more traditional marketing role. I was lucky enough to be presented with an opportunity to be involved in the website and digital space very early on. Over 17 years at the University of Utah and 3 years at Cleveland Clinic, I learned a great deal, worked with amazing people, and really enjoyed the space.
One thing I’ve always been passionate about is user experience. I always felt that even though healthcare is unique, there is so much that we can learn from other industries and how they treat their customers. That led me to do some interesting things at both University of Utah and Cleveland Clinic as it relates to user experience and digital marketing, but when you work inside of a health system, you are always limited in terms of what you can implement and how fast you can move forward. Ultimately, I decided that working outside a health system would allow me to focus on what I am passionate about in the consumer experience space and move at a different pace.
Being at Loyal and learning from the incredible team we have has been amazing. I’m very excited about the work we’re doing with AI and how we can apply it to help healthcare consumers make better decisions.
HIHOF: What do you think are the key drivers in running a successful digital presence?
BG: First is understanding your audience – both your external and your internal audience. Next is the foundation – everything starts with the foundation. If your technology stack and your data are not organized or solid, everything you put on top of it will be a mess. The last key driver would be measurement – being able to measure as many things as you can. And then, coupled with all that is just a great team. You can’t build or implement anything without a phenomenal group of people around you. The digital space is too complex to think you can do it all yourself. You’ve got to have great teams.
HIHOF: How do you see digital changing in the healthcare space?
BG: I think more and more technology decisions are going to be driven less by the core IT group within health systems. IT has a role to play, but from a strategic standpoint and from a consumer experience standpoint - those decisions are less and less the responsibility of IT. I also think the healthcare website as we know it is going to change dramatically. What I mean by that is every healthcare website is [currently] the same – you go to it and there’s a find-a-doc, a location section and then a bunch of pages about services, basically. It’s an old, antiquated model and it’s not serving patients and consumers very well. That whole model is going to change.
HIHOF: How do you see that website model changing?
BG: Healthcare websites have to become more transactional, inventory-driven, and better aligned with the EHR. Physician search has traditionally just been this directory of physicians that you can’t actually do anything with. We serve up information about physicians that have closed practices or no availability for appointments. People want to be able to take action and the providers that figure that out and can provide an experience are going to win the space. It’s not necessarily going to be based on medical expertise – it’s going to be based on service and convenience. Not that medical expertise isn’t important – but we should be able to deliver on both.
HIHOF: What do you think are some of the biggest challenges and the biggest opportunities in the digital healthcare space?
BG: Interoperability and EHRs is huge. A lot of the transactional things I’m talking about are not easy to execute because of challenges with interoperability. Security is also going to be a continual challenge. Healthcare data is the most sought-after data - so you have to be very careful about the vendors you choose and the technology you implement. It’s absolutely paramount that you do the right thing when it comes to security.
The biggest opportunity is still creating a fully cohesive, exceptional digital patient experience: we have to stop piecemealing it. It can’t be little bits and spurts and silos where you have a little bit of scheduling over here and this virtual thing over there. It seems like every other industry has figured out how to create seamless customer experiences that have total views of their customers. In healthcare, it’s going to happen – it’s not a matter of if, it’s when.
HIHOF: What did induction into HIHOF mean to you?
BG: It meant that all the work I had done up to that point mattered. You have a feeling when your head’s down, doing it all, that it’s worth it - but being recognized by my peers was a true acknowledgment. I think what we do as healthcare marketers is really meaningful and we have more impact on people than we sometimes realize. For me, it can get monotonous and sometimes you feel like you’re just on the treadmill, so having my industry peers recognize me, express that my work was meaningful and had some impact – that meant a lot.
Brian is one of 13 members in the Innovative Individual category of the Healthcare Internet Hall of Fame who have been inducted since the first class of 2011. Nominations for the 2019 class are now open. If you know a deserving individual, organization and/or product or service please complete the online nomination form now!