Podcast #110

Converting Leads to Loyal Patients: Strategies for Patient-Centric Healthcare Marketing with Cailean Contini

Discover how AI and word-of-mouth are revolutionizing healthcare marketing in our latest Ignite podcast. Learn from Cardinal’s CEO, Alex Membrillo, and industry expert, Cailean Contini, about leveraging AI for brainstorming and idea generation, while understanding the critical role of patient experience in converting leads to loyal patients. Dive into the importance of personal stories, strategic upselling, and the power of nano influencers in social media marketing. Tune in for tactical and impactful healthcare marketing strategies that prioritize patients from clicks to care.

Episode Highlights:

Cailean Contini: With healthcare, you have to first think about how long the lag time is to get an appointment. The person answering the phone, are they friendly? The front desk staff when you go in there, are they friendly? How long is the wait time? Amount of time with a physician? It’s so many components. My friends and I, and other people, we all talk about these experiences. It’s a lot harder in the healthcare space to have a great experience, but it’s so important. That’s why also when I partnered with the operations team, it was great to make sure they have availability because we don’t want someone to rush and then complain to their friends about it.”

Episode Overview

The latest episode of Ignite features an insightful conversation between Alex Membrillo, CEO of Cardinal, and Cailean Contini, an experienced marketer in the healthcare industry. Cailean shares her journey from volunteering in healthcare at a young age to her transition into marketing, driven by a passion for making a difference in the healthcare space. Our hosts discuss various aspects of healthcare marketing, including the use of AI, the importance of patient experience, and the power of word-of-mouth marketing.

Cailean highlights her experience leveraging AI, particularly ChatGPT, as a brainstorming tool to generate ideas and enhance copywriting. She emphasizes the critical role of personal stories, strategic upselling, and the influence of nano influencers in social media marketing within the healthcare sector. 

A key theme throughout the conversation is the importance of patient-centric healthcare marketing strategies. Cailean shares her proud initiatives, such as implementing email campaigns to upsell patients to additional specialists, while ensuring alignment with operational capabilities and quality goals. 

Our hosts also touch on emerging trends in healthcare marketing, including the shift towards ethical marketing practices and the growing influence of environmental and social considerations on consumer behavior. Cailean and Alex discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by privacy regulations and the increasing emphasis on transparency and sustainability in consumer decision-making.

Related Resources

Announcer: Welcome to the Ignite Podcast, the only healthcare marketing podcast that digs into the digital strategies and tactics that help you accelerate growth. Each week, Cardinal’s experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of Ignite.

Alex Membrillo: Okay, guys, welcome to Ignite. This is going to be so fun, so fun. We’ve got an experienced agency and hospital marketer with us. Cailean, tell them where you’re at.

Cailean Contini: Sure. Thanks so much for having me, Alex. First of all, I’m so appreciative and amazed at your work. I am a marketing director with significant experience leading both the strategic side and implementing multi-channel campaigns, so that includes everything from the traditional side to digital, including programmatic, social, search engine, marketing, email, direct mail, collaborative solutions, et cetera. Primarily in the healthcare space, quick background, I always wanted to be in healthcare. I volunteered from a very young age in middle school. My mom took me to a nursing facility that housed children that either had HIV or AIDS or their parents did or could not care for them. I was shocked and just knew from then on I wanted to be in healthcare in some capacity. I went to Georgetown for healthcare administration, and then after graduating, I actually pretty quickly fell into the marketing side and loved it, stayed with it ever since, want to stay in it. It’s fun. It’s ever-changing. It’s creative. I almost minored or I started to minor in Georgetown in art, but quickly learned I was not as talented as everyone else.

Whenever I’m on either the agency or the client side and reviewing agency work, I am always so impressed and floored by the creative direction. Right now, I’m currently in a career transition phase. New York Presbyterian had a significant workforce reduction in the marketing and communications department. I was there for four and a half years, loved it, but I’m now excited for a new opportunity and I want to do something a little bit different again and continue learning something new.

Alex: Hospitals have had it tough because reimbursements [unintelligible 00:02:23], wages are though. It’s like, oh my God, they got the brunt of it. They saved the world in COVID and we’re repaying them by making life very difficult for them. That’s not cool. Well, we’re excited to have you, and you’ve got a few years of agency experience also under your belt. All right. Just tell me, you can be honest. There’s only five listeners to this anyways, which one do you like better, client or agency side? Just one. Which one is better?

Cailean: Actually, no one asked me that question. I love them both for different ways. I love the agency side because it is so much fun. You’re entrenched with all the creatives and brainstorming more with them. On the client side, I do a lot of brainstorming strategy, but I’m not in the room when they’re all doing the brainstorming and strategy. You being on the agency side, the late nights, I had a daughter six years ago, and after I had my baby, six years old now, I couldn’t be there till midnight every night. I was mostly on the pharma side. When the FDA launches a drug, you’re there until midnight every night. I went to the client side. I like I’d say more work-life balance. I am a workaholic, so I put in more hours than most people do. It’s hard. I like them both for different ways. I’ll see where the next role takes me. I’m just excited to continue to do both strategy and some implementing. We’ll see what company wows me and I’ll let you know which way I take it.

Alex: Six-year-old is still your baby, by the way, always going to be. Still [unintelligible 00:03:56] [chuckles], I’ve had them for a bunch of years, these things, and still a baby at 14. Definitely the six-year-old is still cute and a baby, and [inaudible 00:04:03] [crosstalk] [unintelligible 00:04:04] is cool, so many different ideas and you get to bounce from one thing to the next and I think slightly more innovation because you get to see all of the pitfalls of other companies and then apply them somewhere else, but certainly there is no work-life balance. Let’s talk, the big hot topic right now is AI, Cailean. I’m thinking I’m going to do a live stream in May because our team is starting to use it pretty innovatively and different persona-based research and the ways that they’re running some of the media and content, but you have an interesting thing. How have you used AI and the stuff that you were doing recently in New York Pres or in any marketing stuff?

Cailean: We at New York Presbyterian, I wasn’t involved, we didn’t do too much AI, except I proactively went into ChatGPT, and if you haven’t used it, for those few listeners, it’s so much fun. When I was writing, say for different projects, whether email, direct mail, et cetera, I want to say it helped me with copywriting, but it really just helped me brainstorm ideas because by the time I finished a project, it had completely different copies. For example, I would research different facts for one of my projects that I’m most passionate about were these customer emails. I would research some awareness months. I asked GPT to modify some of the copy that I wrote. It provided it so quickly. It felt like it was almost like another coworker to me. Then, I gave it to a copywriter who I informed I used chat GPT, so rewrite it completely. She wrote every word, my manager edited more. It really was almost like a friend slash someone to brainstorm with me and give me some more ideas. That’s what I used– [crosstalk]

Alex: That’s one of the best uses I’ve seen as well. It’s like a brainstorm buddy. The copies, it sounds like a robot. With the emoji that puts in there, I’m like, okay, I don’t sound like– but it’s like a great brainstorm buddy. I’ve used it the same way, like, Hey, I need recruitment ideas for DVMs. It’s like a veterinarian, right. It’s like, Hey, launch a podcast, go do this kind of thing. I’m like, Oh, these are actually good ideas. I know you just skimmed the internet, but it [inaudible 00:06:09] [crosstalk]-

Cailean: Right.

Alex: – the idea. Good. Then, count on changing all the copy.

Cailean: Yes. Exactly.

Alex: Good. Good. Cailean, it’s more of what I thought it was. It’s like an amplifier of our effort, brainstorm buddy but it’s not doing the strategic work and some of the tactical can’t yet do– It’s like this thing’s going to take over the world, but it’s so far from it. We can tell it will, but it’s still five years away from being super impactful like that. I don’t know. It’s like the invention of the internet, but it’s still slow and it’s still problematic. No. All right. Every marketer has different stuff that they’re really proud of. Tell me. I love that you come from healthcare and it matters so much to your personal story. I do too. All of us [unintelligible 00:06:48]. I just want to point out that was cool when you told that story because that’s what we find in healthcare marketers, is that a lot of us are mission driven. It’s like e-comm is different. E-comm marketers probably mostly there to generate sales, and do they really care about selling more shoes? No. I love that you’ve come from this and this matters. Medical marketing is marketing that matters. I love it.

In that vein, what are you most proud of? What kind of initiative have you launched in the last few years? Because our listeners like to listen to that and they’re [unintelligible 00:07:14]. Tell us. Spill the beans.

Cailean: Yes. I think I just quickly mentioned earlier. I think the email campaign comes to me most readily. Specifically, I initiated an email campaign that was sent to current patients to upsell them to additional specialists. What I want to note is what I’m also most proud about this tactic and other tactics when I was at New York Presbyterian is I worked so closely with the operations team. We had a new VP of operations for the physician services department, which is what I managed is the physician offices, not necessarily the hospital. She was great at bringing me into meetings and thinking about the strategy before creating a campaign or launching a campaign to make sure I was upselling to specialists that have availability and help meet their quality goals, such as they had certain cancer screening goals for breast cancer, colon cancer, making sure that diversity methods were met. The way I started this is when I first started at New York Presbyterian, I created a newsletter that was more of a loyalty tactic and it gave something above and beyond their visit, but it had a lot of content.

It was mostly like a newsletter. It had a few different articles. It was very time consuming, interviewing a few providers, writing articles, editing them, making sure– [crosstalk]

Alex: Not broken out by service line, just like general– Not broken out by condition or service line. Generally, all patients get to find out about the– [crosstalk]

Cailean: Yes.

Alex: Got it. Okay.

Cailean: Exactly. Then, Fast forward, we had a new SVP join the marketing and communications team, a wonderful SVP. Then, she wanted to make sure we sent this to all patients. Not just the medical group patients. I didn’t want to have two newsletters, obviously. I was thinking, I still have access to this database. Instead of just this loyalty tactic, now I had time to try to create something that was an upsell. I was wondering if another email would be fine. Would people still click on another email? We had good open rates with the newsletter around 50%. I tried it, and yes, people continued to click. We even had a higher open rate than the new newsletter. What I did, I didn’t want to just do a cold upsell, get these amazing new specialists. I thought of the monthly health observed months, so like breast cancer, colon cancer month, et cetera. I researched those and then partnered with the operations team, so Leslie Smalls, the VP, wonderful team. Collaborated with them on what made sense for each location.

We oversaw over 120 offices in Brooklyn, Queens, Westchester, and Putnam. They all had different specialists and different availability. I made sure it made sense that they had availability. Then, we tested different things, which was so much fun with email. I had a new email counterpart. We tested everything. I brainstormed with them to think of different types of subject lines, pre-headers, images, whether a image with a doctor or just a lifestyle image with only a patient worked better. If a male or a female photo worked better, depending on who we sent it to. Everything. That was a lot of fun. I think I’m very passionate about it for the fact that I was doing this one thing and the newsletter, and then it changed, I wasn’t able to do that anymore, but instead I thought of something, instead of just this loyalty tactic, a way to upsell. My partnership with the operations team I feel like made sure that we had the highest conversion rate as possible.

Alex: I love it. Thank you just for calling it upsell. I think we tried to beat around the bush in healthcare marketing. We want to educate them on the potential care and make sure they follow their plan of care and all that. Come on, it’s an upsell. We’re trying to get patients back in, and yes, we want to make sure they keep healthy, and that’s so important for preventative. They got to come in for screening, but it’s an upsell. Come on, marketers, let’s just call it what it is and catch up with the other industries. It’s okay. It doesn’t diminish that we’re loving people and making sure they get healthy. Okay, I love that. Walk me through it a little bit more. The second thing I heard, we talk about it mops all the time, marketing and ops align. My friend Teresa told me and I just won’t stop running with it. You made sure that the operational, there was the capacity there and desire probably, hey, you guys can actually pick up the phone when I start driving screenings in April, I guess is probably part of the conversation, right? Walk me through that.

What is the indicator? They’ve come in, they’re cardiology patients. We see they’re turning 50, we want to test them for AFib. This is not a good example, but they’re turning 40 and we know they’ve got to come in for prostate check. What were the indicators and how did you funnel that through?

Cailean: Sure. I wanted to reach the most number of patients as possible. There were a couple instances such as colon cancer where I narrowed it down to a certain age, I think 45 and above male patients and tried sending just to that one. For the ones such as breast cancer month and some of the others, I wanted to reach as many people as possible. I changed the language to not just speak to women, but for yourself or a loved one, make sure you get your breast cancer visits. For lung cancer, I knew it didn’t hit as many people as possible. A smaller number of people are affected with lung cancer, no less people about it. Instead, I would put a smaller call to action after these awareness month facts. I’d give them facts about lung cancer or breast cancer, motivating why it’s important to have your screenings. Then, for lung cancer, for example, I had a smaller call out that said like, or talk to your doctor aboutnget screenings for breast cancer, et cetera. It didn’t just speak to that one specific thing. In healthcare marketing, we want to make sure we don’t seem like we’re just reaching out to you for your one condition all the time.

It’s a little bit more of like big brother. We want to also relate to other people for not just their condition. Give them something additional as well as just that.

Alex: It’s more location based, “Hey, we know you live within 15 miles of Westchester. You’ve seen us in the last couple of years and I know you’re 40 years old, so you’re going to need to come in for a colon screening eventually in the next few years,” so location and age based, very important. As much as you’re comfortable, nitty gritty, I love to know what technology you used and how’d you track success?

Cailean: Sure. I wasn’t part of the digital team. I partnered with them. They did use Salesforce, and I’m not sure exactly what their methods were for tracking. I’m the one who they sent all their analytics to and I would see what performed best, what links performed best, et cetera. I would see the different tests that we did and what performed better and then made recommendations for the next one based on the performance.

Alex: Interesting how hospital marketing, it’s a little different than my typical client, which is a feedback provider group. It’s segmented out. You were overall campaign ideation, you’d come up with a copy to create of who we’re sending to and then send it over to digital team for execution. Then, there’s [unintelligible 00:14:39] [crosstalk], and all the digital peoples, they come back with results, open, click rates, all of that stuff, and, “Hey, this many more screenings came into our CRM or additional–” Yes. They’re tracked all the way through is what I hear there though. There was CRM action, which is cool. New York Pres must have been one of the first health systems to onboard a CRM because I’m not hearing about that nearly enough these days with the bigger group. Cool.

Cailean: Right. For me, I had the medical group database because it was a smaller group, and for some reason, they tracked more than I think the hospital side. I was a little bit lucky in being able to find those numbers.

Alex: They segmented out. It’s all the provider groups is a little different than the– [crosstalk]

Cailean: Exactly.

Alex: How many people were in marketing there? Is this like a 100-person team?

Cailean: Yes. When we had our last SVP, it was so small. It started with a few people before I joined, and then maybe it was 10 people or so when I joined. Then, once our new SVP joined, it grew. I think we had 90 people or it was expected to be 90 people. They were trying to grow to that amount. Then, of course, the budget cut happened, so they didn’t– [crosstalk]

Alex: Not 90 anymore. More like nine. All right. Very cool. I know you’re a mama and you are the most lucrative patient profiler that anybody goes after. Everybody wants a mama. All right. How has that changed how you look at finding care and how you think about marketing?

Cailean: Huge. You nailed on the head. When I was younger, before being a mom, I graduated school, moved to New York, I would just look online at my health insurance plan, see who was covered and which doctors were closest to me, gave a call. Once I had my daughter and then moved to the suburbs, bought a house where now I feel like we’re going to live through, at least until my daughter graduates high school, I wanted to find people who were really good, not just for her, but for my husband and I, not just doctors, trades people, because it impacts my family now. I think the way I find them now is word of mouth. I think I didn’t realize how many people do recommend, not just doctors, but trades people by word of mouth. Now I’m constantly hearing other people ask for recommendations and talk about their experiences. One thing I like to remind people is digital is great, I love the digital space, but we have to go back to basics and remember word of mouth because I think that’s what creates the most conversions. In the healthcare space, it’s harder. If it’s retail, you’re buying a shirt or a product and it makes you happy at first and it’s fine.

With healthcare, for the doctor visits, you have to first think about how long is a lag time to get an appointment? The person answering the phone, are they friendly? The front desk staff when you go in there, are they friendly? How long is the wait time? Amount of time with a physician? It’s so many components. My friends and I and other people, we all talk about these experiences. It’s a lot harder in the healthcare space to have a great experience, but it’s so important. That’s why also when I partnered with the operations team, it was great to make sure they have availability because we don’t want someone to rush and then complaining to their friends about it. Then, you lose this whole huge market where people have their kids and want lifelong doctors that are important to their kids and their family.

Alex: I love it. When I ask that question, I never hear word of mouth. I will say it’s very rare that we– because we’re going to be like PPC, man, PPC drives all the leads, right? Especially if they’re talking to me, they know what I want to hear. What you just mentioned, word of mouth, it is the hardest thing to get right because it’s not just what we do as air cover marketers. We make sure you know about the brand and you feel good about the brand, but then it’s all of the six steps of the patient experience. Did they pick up the phone? Did they say the right things? Were they warm and nurturing? Did they answer the payer questions correctly? When they came in, did anyone greet them? Was the office clean? Did the provider not take two hours to actually see them? Is the NP helpful? Holy smokes. As marketers, if we want to get it right, it’s the hardest thing to track. We don’t pay enough attention to it because it won’t go in our performance review because you can’t track how we did.

If we want to get it right, it’s like, I guess, Cailean, we’ve got to work with ops and we have to see like– I don’t even know.

Cailean: Exactly.

Alex: I don’t even know. It’s like back to basics. How do we track it? You work with ops, you go pretend to be a patient? How do we improve that? Surveys? I don’t know.

Cailean: Exactly. You hit the nail on the head, is the problem is people don’t think of word of mouth because you can’t track it or it’s really difficult to track. We opened up an office recently. With that one, the new VP, I think it was one of the first ones that she opened up at New York Presbyterian under her. I actually went there and spent some time listening to, and she did too, and her team did, to see and sneak, but really, they knew who we were, so it wasn’t really a secret shopper, but still, they forgot we were there. They talked to certain patients, they looked a certain way, and it was a very affluent town, Larchmont in Westchester. The VP said, you have to have people that Larchmont residents are used to seeing and make sure you dress to the nines and you put on this fancy makeup because that’s what people expect. Yes, again, it’s hard to track, but that’s what makes the most conversions.

Alex: Larchmont sounds like a place I need to go check out. Yes, it’s hard to track, and you’re going to secret shopper, not so secret shopper. Also your Google reviews. If you don’t have an active review management system, well, then you’re just going to collect all the negative answers, but you’re going to get a feel for where the issues– I’ve seen something that can help call and lead tracking systems that a lot of people are using. You can listen for the issues, why they didn’t book, is it the operator wasn’t asking the right questions? We don’t have the right payer partnerships there? Shouldn’t have been advertising because of no capacity? I think those technologies can help. At the end of the day, getting boots on the ground and visiting the office. Are they friendly? Are they paying attention? Is there capacity? All of that fun stuff. Patient experience all the way through, so important. I love that we talked about it because we’re too focused on driving leads and not focused enough on making sure that lead becomes a patient.

We need to think about from clicks to care and make sure that their part is happening and that they’re excited about it. Marketers are getting hit with like, why is our ad spend so inefficient? It’s not. Y’all just convert them and you’re not keeping them happy when I send them to you.

Cailean: Right. That was something I kept trying to reinforce, is if we are motivating patients, we’re creating these amazing programmatic ads, social ads, influencers, telling people to come to our offices, but then you go online and it’s a poor user experience to actually book an appointment, let alone find an appointment that is like four weeks or less, if we’re finally motivating people and spending all that money but then it’s like eight weeks to the appointment, we are motivating people to then find a different provider, go online, and then find someone who is available sooner. We lost a patient. Paying to lose patients.

Alex: You’re paying to lose patients. You know what? Y’all provide great care, or sorry, New York Pres provides great care. When you don’t do it, some other schmucko down the road is going to do it. That’s not cool because that patient is not going to get the care they deserve. One, two, you know what really ticked me off the other day? I sent an email. I’m trying to get this [unintelligible 00:22:31] around my eyes. It’s [unintelligible 00:22:32] deposits. Anyways, HIPAA, PHI violation myself. I reached out to a Durham office. No response. It’s been three days. Don’t have an email form if you can’t respond. That happens all the time with email forms. I don’t think provider groups are set up to really process that. It doesn’t go to a call, like don’t have email– Guys, user experience, like Cailean mentioned, user experience, make sure you can get an appointment really quickly. Make sure if you have an email form, you respond. Guys, it’s not simple being a marketer anymore. User experience matters. Patient experience matters.

Can’t just drive leads if they don’t get care.

Woo. Cailean, any trends you’re really excited about in ’24 with stuff you do more of or stuff you would stop [unintelligible 00:23:12]? My final question.

Cailean: Sure. Again, first, I think about digital, but I think, at first, programmatic I think is too invasive, right? Although it hits a lot of people and everyone will continue to do it, as a marketer, even myself, I see something pop up when I’m trying to read an article and I’m like, I am forced and I want to look at the creative, but then I sometimes exit out because I want to continue to watch, and people have ad blockers, et cetera, but everyone is on social media. I’d go to that next in my mind, but specifically influencers. The issue though, people are smart enough now to realize those mega influencers are– They’re just being paid. I’d say a little bit more about the maybe nano influencers, I think are a little more people find them genuine. Hopefully, they are genuine, but again, I think people are smart enough to realize that even these smaller influencers are getting paid. I would probably go to ethical marketing because people these days, they care about the environment, social issues, and I think with social media, it’s becoming so popular, and the younger generation, I even read something that people are choosing careers based on their DEI efforts and the ethics that they have and offer at the company.

My younger sister, she was buying a new car. They wanted an EV, an electronic vehicle. They didn’t want Elon Musk’s Tesla because they don’t like his labor practices, poor treatment of workers, of animals, et cetera, huge contributor to global wealth gap. Hopefully, he doesn’t hear me saying this, but instead she chose a company that didn’t even have any cars on the road yet, so Fisker, it was founded by a guy as a solution to ocean debris and emissions. Their car is called Fisker Ocean. Not just natural energy source, but they use sustainable materials to build the cars. Amazon, so many people are against Amazon, it’s a monopolistic behavior. Again, how do they treat their customers or their employees? Then, they had some really smart ads that I bet convinced people like myself that they showed how they help small businesses. It was really emotional one of the commercials I saw, and certain other companies are going that way. I think that’s the way you have to reach especially the newer generations [unintelligible 00:25:57] marketing. I’m excited to see where it goes.

Alex: The privacy thing, all of the HIPAA regulations that we’re all having to adjust to as part of it, going full on into privacy. I think it can be a USB, “Hey, we take your privacy so seriously, we’re not tracking any of your stuff. We’ll never micromarket you to where we know your condition or [unintelligible 00:26:17]. I’m not just going to hone in on someone’s condition. That’s good. I think that does matter. I think we are all looking at that. Fisker actually, he had failed before with a car. I think it was Karma something, my neighbor’s got one of them. Now he’s retooled it, reinvented, they went bankrupt, he’s redone it. Very good for him. That stuff does matter to all of us because we’re looking at our kids and we’re like, sorry, I hope you have the environment to live [unintelligible 00:26:41] [crosstalk].

Cailean: Exactly.

Alex: Let me do something to try– [crosstalk]

Cailean: Yes. It goes to show Fisker, they had not freighted or failed at a car in the past, but my sister and her husband didn’t care because he cared so much about the environment. That’s all that really mattered to them on picking a car. It wasn’t even price, that didn’t even matter to them.

Alex: Okay. I hope that works out for sister. All right. We’ll see. This has been a blast. Thank you for joining Ignite. I loved this. We got to talk some tactical stuff. We got to talk some impactful healthcare marketing stuff, some trends stuff, and how word of mouth matters more than any of the fancy stuff that we do. Caitlin, thanks for joining us on Ignite.

Cailean: Thank you so much for having me, Alex. I appreciate it and had so much fun too.


Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcast and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips, visit our blog at cardinaldigitalmarketing.com.

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