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Executive Q&A with Aubrey Hinkson, VP of Marketing, Augusta University Health

Consumer demand is pushing the entire healthcare industry to evolve. For the most part, patients have seen tremendous benefits from this evolution, as they now enjoy unprecedented access and choice for healthcare services. For health organizations, however, the adjustment is far from easy. They must continuously offer ever more convenience, ease, and transparency as the industry shifts to accommodate consumerism’s pressures.

Augusta University Health is no stranger to the struggle. In this installment of Executive Q&A, Aubrey Hinkson, Augusta’s VP of Marketing, discusses how healthcare leadership should embrace a responsive approach to consumer needs.


NRC Health’s research has found that 80% of consumers are willing to switch providers for ‘convenience factors’ alone. Are you doing enough to cultivate that convenience? Click here to learn more.

  1. Why is patient loyalty so important in the current healthcare landscape?

We know consumers are less loyal to healthcare brands today than ever before. Consumers are making their choices based on convenience. We all know that oftentimes our services fall short on the convenience scale. It is critical to make our differentiators speak to patients and meet them where they are before their search for care, during their encounter with our systems, and afterward in follow-up.

  1. What are some of the forces that are making people look at consumer loyalty?

Thanks to consumer reliance on social media and other digital resources, reputation management is a critical component of any marketing strategy. Word of mouth has unprecedented power in marketing, as consumers share their every thought and experience with a click of a button. Marketers have to be prepared to respond to experiences good and bad to ensure we’re retaining patients and ultimately turning them into brand advocates and champions. Thanks to our digital world, each exchange is public, and the actions we take with our existing consumers can help us attract new patients or turn them off of our brands completely.

  1. How is your organization preparing for and responding to Millennial consumers?

A key target segment for us is the Millennial mom. She is often the decision-maker in the household for herself, her children, and her aging parents, and in some cases she may also be an influencer amongst her peers. The purchasing savvy and buying power of this generation is greater than with any previous. We are working to better understand this segment and the ways they prefer to interact with their healthcare providers by engaging with them through our patient portal, blogs, online health-risk assessments, and more.

  1. Why is it important for healthcare providers and executives to embrace transparency?

Consumers are empowered more than ever to make decisions to receive the highest-quality product for a fair price. Consumers are also risk-averse in any service, so it is critical for healthcare providers to embrace transparency of costs, wait times, appointment availability, etc., so we can consistently exceed customer expectations. It is critical that we make the customer experience before, during, and after their healthcare exchange seamless.

  1. What is one piece of advice you can share with health-system boards or leaders to get them started down a path to make their care delivery more customer-centric?

Consider how services have evolved to meet customer needs outside of healthcare. From transportation apps like Uber to online banking, consumers are accustomed to convenience and transparency. When it comes to healthcare, they expect more consistency in service delivery because one values one’s health above all. We have to willing to think differently about the best service processes to implement for our empowered consumers who have expectations for consistency higher than with any other service industry.


Aubrey is frank about a crucial fact that health leaders must come to terms with: “We know that consumers are less loyal to health brands today than they’ve ever been before.” That’s an inevitable consequence of healthcare’s consumerist revolution. The days of patients defaulting to hospital loyalty are behind us.

But Aubrey also makes clear that organizations can choose how to respond to this challenge. By embracing the idea of the empowered patient, and by giving them—especially Millennial moms—the experience they expect, organizations can generate the enthusiasm that keeps patients coming back, and drives them to recommend institutions to their loved ones.

Has your organization found an effective strategy to sustain patient loyalty? How has your leadership approached today’s consumerist challenges? We want to hear from you! Reach out to us at mcharko@nrchealth.com to schedule your interview.

And be on the lookout for more Executive Q&As, coming in 2019!