Don’t Just Activate… ENGAGE Your Patients: A Conversation with Sondra Brown

November 15, 2022 |
November 15, 2022

You can create your own burrito in the metaverse these days—for real!—thanks to the Chipotle Burrito Builder in Roblox. Crazy, right? What’s more, in February 2022, CVS Health filed a trademark patent to sell healthcare services in the metaverse.

What’s this mean for your healthcare organization? Right now, probably not much. Because before you even think about what healthcare in the metaverse might look like, you face an urgent need to optimize your digital experience right now.

To help you keep both feet firmly planted on the ground, I struck up a conversation with our friend Sondra Brown. The founder and leader of MDRG (Marketing Dynamics Research Group), Sondra joined me on Episode 4 of our Healthcare: Simplified podcast. During our riveting discussion, she revealed insights from the 2022 Healthcare Experience Study and how they impact hospitals, health systems, and physician groups. Take it away, Sondra:


“What are disruptors getting right that we need to learn from?”


MDRG conducted 60-minute interviews with 10 very progressive health systems to find the answer. The results showed that digital health disruptors do these three things very well:

  • They align organizational priorities with their customer experience (CX) priorities
  • They ingrain the voice of the consumer into their DNA
  • They focus on forward-thinking metrics like engagement

“So many of those disruptors started with a problem—a challenge that their founder or someone they loved experienced,” Sondra says. “And their mission was to solve for that problem.” Along the way, they developed a hyper-focused not just on adoption, but engagement.


“[Customers’] experience in one realm inform their ratings and evaluation of all aspects of their interaction with your brand.”


Before you can understand the difference between adoption and engagement, Sondra says you must first define the difference between patients and consumers. When most healthcare professionals say the word “patient,” they think only about care, and in their mind, that care becomes the beginning and end of the patient experience. But when you expand your thinking to consider the term “consumers,” you change the conversation to include a much more cohesive journey.

“Consumers don’t think about their experience in a silo,” Sondra explains. “So, one could then assume that their experience scheduling an appointment is just as important as what happens in a physician’s office.” And while patient outcomes obviously have high importance to consumers, “we can’t ignore what happens before they’re a patient and after they’re a patient, to the exclusion of just the patient experience,” she says.


“Where we need to be is a seamless integration between digital and physical”


Sondra shares a funny story she heard from Jennifer Bollinger, the Senior Vice President and Chief Consumer Officer at Ochsner Health and Sondra’s co-presenter at the 2022 SHSMD Connections conference. Jennifer was just starting a consumer strategy group at Ochsner and wanted to use the term “phygital” to explain the integration of physical and digital consumer journeys. “Her CEO then said, ‘you can’t use that word. That’s too weird. It sounds like a condition we need to treat!’”

Since then, her CEO has had a big change of heart. The concept of “phygital” has its roots in other industries and is slowly but surely making its way to healthcare, too.

“Think about retail or financial services,” Sondra says. “They’re not thinking about e-commerce anymore. They’re not thinking about e-banking. They’ve already implemented those, optimized those, and checked them off their strategic plan. But in healthcare, we’re still thinking about how do we do that in an integrated way.”


Making healthcare easier for everyone

What Sondra said next was music to my ears. “We’re just now embracing this idea that it’s got to be easy for the consumer,” she said. “[But] it also has to be easy for the caregiver and the physician. And so, acknowledging that this experience has to be not only integrated, but easy to use and intuitive.”

Sondra had so many more brilliant things to say. Check out the entire Episode 4 and get her thoughts on the importance of user experience testing, learn what Noom can teach us about patient consumer engagement, and get her thoughts on how an Uber-type platform could solve the healthcare staffing crisis.

Listen now, and subscribe today to hear every podcast episode. If you want to learn how to make healthcare simpler for providers, consumers, and caregivers, let’s talk.