(US) 1.800.388.4264 | (CANADA) 1.866.771.8231

Executive Q&A with Rob Birgfeld, Chief Digital Marketing Officer at Inova Health

As it stands today, the healthcare industry is ripe for disruption. Healthcare organizations, start-ups, and even governments are constantly experimenting with new approaches. It can be disorienting.

But in this installment of Executive Q&A, Rob Birgfeld, Chief Digital Marketing Officer at Inova Health, argues that organizations should step into the innovation going on around them. It’s the best way to thrive in today’s marketplace—and tomorrow’s.


  1. What are you doing to strengthen your relationship with patients in today’s consumer-driven economy?

It’s easy to say you are putting the patient at the center of your strategy, but if your organization (and its infrastructure) operates as a federation of disparate businesses and experiences, it is impossible to do so. The promise of integrated health systems can only be achieved if we model our experiences against how the patient engages across the continuum of care—hopping from service lines into various care settings and through a wide variety of channels. Inova is redesigning our infrastructure and approach to meet patients where they are, when they need us, and with aligned and consistent value.

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

Millennial consumers represent the first movers on expectation around access and technology, so we are actively building to their needs. Not because that’s an exclusive target demographic, but because their expectations around low friction and personalization create superior experiences with all audiences.

  1. How does your organization capitalize on the opportunity to break down silos within traditional healthcare?

We have created various cross-functional groups that charge senior leaders with resourcing and pushing forward necessary innovation and development for the enterprise.

  1. In what areas do you feel your organization—and your patients—could most benefit from innovation?

I’m a big believer in voice-enabled search and commands, and have seen firsthand how it can create patient value with younger and older populations alike. Because we are in the early(ish) stages of these experiences, and they can create immediate business value across the enterprise, it’s an area we have circled for development.

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

Quite simply, because with the ever-growing list of resources and tools, patients will find the information they are seeking whether you’re playing along or not. We have the opportunity to showcase accurate and valuable information, aligned with opportunities to engage and connect. That’s an advantage health systems have over the rest of the ecosystem.

  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?

Resource the experience function beyond analysis and care-quality improvement, for service recovery and product development and innovation. It’s where many of us fall short.


Rob’s comments underscore the inevitability of progress: “Patients will find the information they are seeking whether you’re playing along or not.” Transparency is just one area in which technology is upending traditional approaches in the healthcare industry. But as Rob points out, the most constructive attitude is to view these disruptions as opportunities.

What do you see coming in healthcare’s future? If you have an opinion to share, we want to hear it. Please connect with us at  mcharko@nrchealth.com to set up a time to talk!