Consumer Health Engagement: It’s Personal
Episode 542

Kathleen Ellmore, Co-founder and Managing Director at Engagys LLC

Consumer Health Engagement: It’s Personal

In this podcast, Kathleen Ellmore, managing director at Engagys, discusses what they’re doing to drive a consumer-centric ecosystem to drive consumers back into care. Engagys is a healthcare consumer engagement expertise, and its team has collective experience in consumer marketing and research. Kathleen shares funny stories on applying marketing stories in healthcare, including fantastic principles that yield improvement in patient engagement, thoughts on the impact of COVID on healthcare, and more. This is one great conversation you don’t want to miss! Please tune in for my full interview with Kathleen Ellmore.

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Consumer Health Engagement: It’s Personal

Episode 542

About Kathleen Ellmore

Kathleen is the managing director at Engagys. She is one of the earliest pioneers in bringing the best of consumer marketing and data-driven methodologies to health care.

Kathleen previously led the Consumer Engagement Consulting Practice for Well Talk Formally SilverLink for 12 years, leveraging its data repository of over a billion consumer health interactions, the best of behavioral economics, and the latest in clinical research to create evidence-based communications on what works to drive consumer health care behavior, leading better outcomes and lower costs. She is often quoted in the trade and national press and as a regular speaker on the national stage. Having spent the first 20 years of her career in brand marketing at leading consumer marketing organizations including General Mills, Procter and Gamble and others. Additionally, she was vice president at Digitas, a leading direct marketing firm. Recently, she was selected as consultant member of the first ever FDA Patient Engagement and Advisory Committee.

 

Consumer Health Engagement: It’s Personal with Kathleen Ellmore, Co-founder and Managing Director at Engagys LLC transcript powered by Sonix—easily convert your audio to text with Sonix.

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Intro:
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Saul Marquez:
Welcome back to the Outcomes Rocket. Saul Marquez here and today I have the privilege of hosting Kathleen Ellmore. She is the managing director at Engagys. She is one of the earliest pioneers in bringing the best of consumer marketing and data-driven methodologies to health care. Instead of getting you to eat when you’re not hungry and buy things when you don’t need them, we could finally use the same strategies to instead change the health equation in America. Kathleen previously led the Consumer Engagement Consulting Practice for Well Talk Formally SilverLink for 12 years, leveraging its data repository of over a billion consumer health interactions, the best of behavioral economics, and the latest in clinical research to create evidence-based communications on what works to drive consumer health care behavior, leading better outcomes and lower costs. She is often quoted in the trade and national press and as a regular speaker on the national stage. Having spent the first 20 years of her career in brand marketing at leading consumer marketing organizations including General Mills, Procter and Gamble and others. Additionally, she was vice president at Digitas, a leading direct marketing firm. Recently, she was selected as consultant member of the first ever FDA Patient Engagement and Advisory Committee. The work that is being done to merge the consumer health industry with the traditional health industry is extraordinary, and the outcomes that could be derived by this type of work is pretty outstanding. And so I’m excited to dive into some of the work being done that Engagys. And so I’m really grateful, Kathleen, that that you could join us today.

Kathleen Ellmore:
Thank you, Saul. Thank you for having me.

Saul Marquez:
Absolutely. And so before we go through the work and strategy and technology that you guys employed to increase consumer engagement and health care, I’d really love to learn more about you, Kathleen. And what inspires your work and health care.

Kathleen Ellmore:
Sure. So two major things inspire my work in health care. One is we’re all consumers, right., and we’re all health care consumers. Even if we’re not at this moment, we will be in our lifetime. And so, as you think about the opportunity to really change behavior for the better, for not only collectively, you know, population health and the three trillion dollar deficit we have in America today around health care, we can change it for the individuals. And that’s what is so exciting. You talked a little bit about my background from the consumer marketing world. They were experts at driving personalization and scale and getting you to do things like, you know, eating snickers when you didn’t really need tailor buying something that either three on the shelf already. And so it was really exciting for me when I first came to health care in 2005 to take all of those proven methodologies, a B testing. They have economics and instead point them at good instead of evil. Getting folks to engage in their health, take their meds, get their screenings. And so I think with there’s a huge opportunity to drive behavior change for good and to really get consumers better engaged in their health. And I think we’re really still at our infancy in that area. The second thing that inspires me is I have a daughter that has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy from birth. And so I’d like to say that I’m not just a consumer engagement expert. I’m actually a health care consumer and somewhat of a frequent flyer up the system.

Saul Marquez:
And now that’s, you know, the inspiration. A I mean, you know, getting that inspiration from your child and also seeing the experience that you’ve had in the consumer engagement field outside of health care. I mean, this is powerful. So I understand why you’re so mission-driven, Kathleen. And you know why. Yeah. I appreciate that so much. And we are all touched by health care, whether we, you know, access health care in the acute setting, you know, or we are trying to get better with our wellness and our being proactive about it. We’re all engaged. And so as providers and companies seek to improve that engagement with the consumer. You know, I’m curious what you guys are doing here. Kathleen, tell us more about Engagys and how you guys are helping the ecosystem.

Kathleen Ellmore:
Sure. And I think you hit on the keyword, really Saul the health care ecosystem. You know, right after the ACA, there was this dramatic kind of change in focus that everyone was trying to understand the consumers better to walk in their shoes, see it from their perspective to craft the right messages. But what really happened is that all of that work was being done kind of like a content level. What they didn’t realize, you know, the industry as a whole is to truly become the Amazons, the Googles, you know, even Wal-Mart, you name it, is there’s this whole ecosystem of consumer centricity that needs to happen. And these are things like even being able to access the data in the same way so that when something happens in the kind of, you know, life cycle communications or interactions of consumers with their health, that that interaction can be fed and acted upon in a relevant way throughout the ecosystem. So that we’re really driving that holistic experience. And so our organization really does kind of the people process technology. True consulting, change management and infrastructure change. And that drives that new consumer-centric ecosystem. Everything from how to capture preferences of consumers so that we’re not just sending them a direct mail as our default. You know, I kind of was talking some plans the other day that direct mail during a pandemic feels like the Pony Express. Right. As things are changing so much. And so it’s talking to each individual consumer. You know, a scalable way to say, how should we best communicate with you? And then, you know, moving down that ecosystem of where you store those. How do you act upon those throughout all the different stakeholders? And what is that logical, technical, logical architecture that drives consumer centricity? How do we standardize data, all of those things? How do we pull in the provider and those interactions to make sure, again, we’re aligned? Are some of the things that we’re helping plants work on? And the biggest one, of course, now is building that ecosystem that we can get consumers back into care, which is a critical piece right now.

Saul Marquez:
And I think that’s super interesting, Kathleen. And, you know, as you mentioned, people process technology, getting their preferences rather than just doing this blanket campaign. You know, tell us a little bit more about what makes Engagys is different in your approach and your methodology.

Kathleen Ellmore:
You got it. So what we hear from our clients, which we think is the best testimonial of all, is that two things. One is there’s nobody that brings the healthcare consumer engagement expertise to the table like we do. Most of us were formerly from a company that you mentioned where day in and day out we drove over a billion and a half interactions with consumers using a B testing. So finding out not just what works, but what worked for what specific populations to drive, what specific behaviors. I’d like to give you an example of, you know, when I was in my Elseworlds materials, I just had one goal. I needed people to just buy Cheerios, frankly, at any research age area. And then I had a very narrow target. I had absolute moms that either had brand new babies or husbands with bad cholesterol. So the things that I could the levers that I could use were very narrow and defined, the barriers I understood because it was so specific. Now, in healthcare, we have every demographic, every walk of life. And so there’s no way that you could ever do a one size fits all. And then to add to that. I need you to do many different things. So I need you to take your meds, get your screenings, get your well visits, you know, stay out of the hospital once you’ve been discharged. And so what happens is the leverage and barriers on all of those different types of behaviors are very different. And so I might be great at getting my screenings, but I’m terrible at med adherence. And so how you need to personalize has exponentially grown. If you want to be successful. And so, again, are firm, really. You know, we’ve been around for three years. But all of us worked really early on in this world of consumer healthcare engagement. And so we have a head start on everyone else. So our expertise is really advantage that we have over anyone else. But the second is we get into the weeds because we do this, this and day in, day out on the frontlines of consumers. We can roll up our sleeves and actually close that last mile with consumers. So we don’t just say, you know, you need to build a preference engine and here’s how you do it. We can write the copy that basically gets more members to digitally adopt than anyone else. We can actually close that cap on the screenings better than anyone because we know all of those levers to say, you know what, to say to Hispanic male over 50, to get him to colonoscopy to be versus what you say to a Medicare senior female to get her to get it and how that changes for Medicaid versus commercial. So lots of complexity. But again, that’s what we do every day. So that’s what we bring to the table.

Saul Marquez:
That’s awesome. I’d love to sit in on a meeting.

Kathleen Ellmore:
You know, it’s funny, as I was introduced to someone recently and I opened with the colonoscopy example and I said, you know, five of you here on a call, if I asked you why you were getting a colonoscopy, you’d actually even know your demographic. They look similar. You’d give me five different answers. And Saul if you said I don’t have time, you know, and someone else said, I really can’t stand the crap that Chucky liquid, if I said to you Saul that the liquid tastes better than it used to for you, that’s noise. And, you know, it really kind of brings to bear the importance of driving consumer behavior change on a personalized level. But the person thought that that was the funniest thing. And he said, you know, I’ve never opened introductions with colonoscopies. And he’s like, I’m going to use that example now for the rest of my life.

Saul Marquez:
But it’s a great example, Right.. And you know what might appear like the same demographic psychographic you got to day a couple layers deeper if you’re really going to get the the behaviors that you want.

Kathleen Ellmore:
So that’s absolutely spon on.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. Now, Kathleen, it’s so insightful and, you know, honestly, like from my perspective, I’ve been a student of marketing and sales and also copy, right.. And like, I mean, copy is tough. I’ve never been able to do it myself. I always end up hiring people. But it’s worth the manure because if you confuse, you lose. And Right., you know, there’s just there’s an opportunity to be clear. And so, OK. Tell us a little bit about how you guys have improved outcomes and made business better, Kathleen.

Kathleen Ellmore:
We take the best of the economics, and those are those little nudges that get consumers to act. The latest and kind of our research with the deep, deep insights that we bring to bear just from our collective expertise, as well as the best of these for the methodologies, the symbol of using for years and decades, really. And we bring that to bear. And each and every campaign, each and every program, each and every project around engagement strategy. And so, you know, over and over again, we feel left out. I’ll give you some of the more fun ones they have. Economics is pretty new to health care, but it’s been around forever. And these are things like fear of missing out social proof. Give an example of social proof. When your electric company shows you your neighbors bills and then gets you to change your behavior because you realize you’re the outlier, we do those same type of tactics in the health care world. And frankly, you know, if used correctly, because a lot of folks are saying they don’t work, but it’s knowing how to use them. They work beautifully. And I’ll give an example. If I call you Saul and say, hey, it’s time for your. Well, that’s it. We have a couple opening next week. Do you want to take them your first? That’s going to be you know what? Check my calendar and call you back. Well, do you ever call back? Never. Right. inertia. And so if I say to you, Saul, you know, I’ve got one opening next week. And it’s actually with the best provider in the practice. Kind of puts you in. Now you’re going to say, oh, gosh, OK, I’ll take it. Try this on Right.. Yeah, that’s right. It’s a little foul mouthed off sketchy. So lots of great things we do. But when we actually find us, we see wild swings of improvement. Because, again, we’re still at that early stages of really adopting the practices across the industry.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. Now, there’s some great examples, and it’s those small tweaks that we can make in our messaging, in our approach that can help us really with patient engagement, with, you know, helping us just achieve the goals that we’re looking for and and even, you know, enterprise as we have this discussion. Kathleen, I’m thinking how valuable this could also be on providers and employees. Do you guys do anything inward-facing?

Kathleen Ellmore:
Yes. That’s a great point. We are expanding. We have some provider projects that we’re working on and we see that as kind of the next frontier because the need to drive consumer behavior right now is critical. And so that part of our business is growing significantly. And then employers, you know, let’s face it, some of them are like health insurance plans and that they’re self-insured. And so they also need that engagement. So. Absolutely.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. You know, it’s just critical to be able to influence and having insightful ways to do it with a company like Engagys in, you know, the work that Kathy and her team do is something that we should all consider. The Web site is engagys.com. It’s engagys.com. Make sure to check them out. They have some fascinating work. They show their strategy, their research, design, technology and insights. It’s it’s a fascinating body of work that you guys are up to. What would you say is one of the biggest setbacks you’ve seen in the translation of, you know, consumer marketing in the healthcare? And how has that setback made you guys perform even better?

Kathleen Ellmore:
Sure. So when I first came to health care again in 2005, you know, I was all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to completely change the industry, to become consumer focused. And one of the first projects I had was they told me to go work on new solutions for disease management. And I go, oh, my heart disease management. You call this solution disease management. Consumers don’t want to think of themselves as disease. What a horrible label. And I thought it was the individual company and they’re like, too late. There’s already a multi-billion dollar industry built around disease management. Well, here we are now, 15 years later, finally. It’s the old kind of holdouts like that are starting to change. We now call it condition management. Funny things like, you know, high deductible plans. If I were Cheerios, I would be like saying it’s the bland cereal Right.. Like, I pick the worst feature of this plan and advertise it. We call it the high deductible instead of low premium. So I, I still laugh that there’s so many, you know, kind of just hangovers from having been kind of a business, a business employer, you know, industry for so long that we still need to keep pushing. And so I guess the set back is it’s slower than I would like, but I am seeing real change, which is exciting.

Saul Marquez:
That’s cool. No, I think that’s great. And, you know, it is slow and Covid is accelerating things. Have you seen anything around that, the impacts of Covid on the willingness to consider new things?

Kathleen Ellmore:
Absolutely. You know, right before Covid hit, I was calling this the year 2020, the transformation, because we really did have the wind up.

Saul Marquez:
You know, that actually was my what I decided for for our year is transformation. That’s so cool.

Kathleen Ellmore:
Same mind think alike.

Saul Marquez:
That’s right. That’s right. I love that.

Kathleen Ellmore:
You know, I feel like we finally had the wind at our back. And I’ll tell you why is that? Danny, we’ve got giants at the gate right now. Walmart centering. Hey, then the Amazon Berkshire Hathaway partnership is entering. Google is getting involved. Apple tried to get involved. So there was giants at the gate. Right. People that really understood consumer centricity, that were creating urgency in the current ecosystem to, you know, digital health investing, you know, eight billion a year to try to distract this industry through Right., you know, startups and venture capital. Then there was this whole investment in brand new plan that had the luxury of building from the ground up and really, you know, owning to control, as your say, and what was hampered by legacy systems and old infrastructure and things like that. And then finally, most importantly, consumers have changed. Recent studies have shown that consumers no longer compare us to experiences within healthcare. They compare us to their favorite brands until the bar is high. And so all of those impacts together, we’re really seeing true urgency, acceleration. You know, all the way through to actually action and then the pandemic hit. So that didn’t show them that they need things like sea level rise, governance and communication across silos. Right. So if you want to halt communications so that they don’t feel tone deaf in the time of covid, you have a system that you’re not sending out email at the time of pandemic where you don’t have to use all of the things. So it would accelerate it for us. And I think all of those factors are really going to keep the foot on the gas as we go forward and continue to see accelerated change.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, well said. Well said, Kathleen. The opportunities continue to grow. I wasn’t aware that Wal-Mart had joined that. May then I forget about that.

Kathleen Ellmore:
No, no, they didn’t join. Sorry. Amazon. Berkshire Hathaway. No, Walmart. Qwest is doing kind of health care on its own.

Saul Marquez:
Oh, for sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. They kicked off their health care. I was like, oh my God. I didn’t know Wal-Mart joined that thing.

Kathleen Ellmore:
Oh sorry. Had talked so that.

Saul Marquez:
No, it’s okay. It’s okay. But yeah, the reality is there’s a lot of eyes on this and you know, it’s self-insured. Employers are putting in their stakes in this and saying we’re gonna make a difference. And and so we’ve gotta make sure that we’re doing what we can to stay ahead of it, because Covid has changed the front door to health care. And how you manage that is going to make or breaks your practice, your business. And and so fascinating work here. And as you think about this transformation, I love that that you’ve seen this here. What would you say you’re most excited about?

Kathleen Ellmore:
I don’t think that really there is acceleration of what I’m most excited about. I think we’re seeing real change. And I think the consumers are getting involved. They’re demanding accountability. They you know, even if they haven’t figured out how best to take care of their health, they’re aware that they also are part of the equation. And so I think they’re right to to drive the right behaviors for the right segments on this. You know, again, we’re kind of continuing to find out what’s meaningful to them and really talking to them on their terms. But I think, you know, I think you’re going to see real change. So that’s what I’m most excited about.

Saul Marquez:
I love it. I couldn’t agree more. So as we wind down our chat here, Kathleen, you know, I’m curious, any book recommendations that you give to our listeners?

Kathleen Ellmore:
Sure. Guns, Germs and Steel. It’s an older book. But of course, it couldn’t be more timely right now and this time of the pandemic. And it really talks about, again, you know, I’m all about consumer engagement. So it really talks about kind of the how, you know, germs spread. And just the impact that has on all of us. So I think it’s definitely worth a good rate.

Saul Marquez:
Timely, timely. Folks, you could go to outcomes rocket that health in the search bar, type in Engagys. You’ll find a full transcript of our discussion with Kathleen there, as well as links to the book that she’s recommended. Their website engagys.com and more. So, Kathleen, just want to say thank you for joining us today. Can you leave us with a closing thought? And then the best place that the listeners could continue the conversation with you and your team.

Kathleen Ellmore:
Sure. I always encourage anybody listening to it pick one thing that you’re going to solve for the consumers this year, whether it be adopting behavior, economics, gaining up the ability to do a B testing to get better and better at driving consumer behavior change and getting consumers engaged or continuing to build that ecosystem of capturing preferences, of being able to date data, a personalized all of those things are going to make a difference.

Saul Marquez:
And the great one is, if the listeners want to engage with you further, what would be the best way?

Kathleen Ellmore:
Sure. I love talking about consumer engagement, so I’m happy to feel that question, create some thought provoking discussions around it. I think, again, it’s always great to connect with others and just try to get new ideas on some of the older problems. So please feel free to reach out. kellmore@engagys.com.

Saul Marquez:
Love it. Well, Kathleen, this has been a ton of fun and certainly insightful. The work that you guys are doing is meaningful, and I’m confident it’s going to really transform a lot of health care practices, businesses and strategy. So I thank you again for jumping on and sharing with us.

Kathleen Ellmore:
Fantastic. Thank you for having me, Saul. This is terrific.

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Things You’ll Learn:

Everyone’s a health care consumer at one point or another in our lifetime.

There are plenty of opportunities to change behavior for the better collectively and individually.

Consumer marketing principles applied to healthcare will drive behavior change for good and get consumers better engaged in their health.

 

Reference:
https://www.engagys.com/