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What’s love got to do with It? Insights on healthcare marketing

NRC Health’s Patient No Longer podcast dives deep to find out how healthcare systems can do marketing better

When it comes to bringing digital and human-centered care to life, executives at Allina Health look at the emotional spectrum of their consumers.

That’s right, emotions—specifically, love.

“When life gets tough, we work to surround the consumer with all the care they need in a way that makes them feel loved,” says Jeff Shoemate, Chief Marketing and Communication Officer at Allina Health. “We talk about love a lot, because at the end of the day, that sense of security is the ultimate delivery of what we are trying to do.”

Hosts: NRC Health’s Brian Wynne and Ryan Donohue
Format: Bi-weekly series, audio and video
Length: Approximately one hour
Premise: This series is tailored for healthcare leaders to learn how industry leaders have overcome challenges to create Human Understanding, one person at a time. 
Creating connections to drive organizational change, innovative strategies for patient retention, and digital technologies, among others.

NRC Health podcast hosts Brian Wynne and Ryan Donohue recently interviewed Shoemate to discuss insights in healthcare marketing and learned that Shoemate came to healthcare with a different lens on consumers than most, given his background in research, consumer packaged goods, and retail. This consumer focus helps him lead his organization at Allina Health, knowing that the healthcare journey for consumers is often a lackluster one, rife with confusion and frustration.

Hosts Wynne and Donohue wanted to know: What if a healthcare provider set out intentionally to ease pain and bring a sense of wholeness and understanding to the consumer experience, both online and offline? In the case of Allina Health, how does a

“At the experience level, we start with NPS—we start with how good the experience is, then we start to measure the differentiation,” Shoemate says. “In the differentiation point, [we ask,] what are those moments of truth, how does digital lay into it?

“We feel like the place to start is [making the consumer journey] more seamless. That comes down to getting our handoffs right. Do we make people feel abandoned in the journey because we don’t know what the next step is or don’t get a referral right? A lot of the digital stuff helps knit that experience together in a big way.”

Shoemate says the key to bringing digital and human-centered care to life is looking at the cost and fragmentation of a consumer’s experience.

“When you look at the emotional spectrum they are going through—and it really runs from routine frustrations of inconvenience all the way to fear—consumers are in a real place of fear with an initial diagnosis,” he says. “The way we think about what we want to stand for as a brand is definitively about whole-person care, but also about bringing the assets of that whole spectrum of care that we deliver.”

Shoemate admits they don’t have it all figured out. Still, he says, it’s about moving from measuring whenever a consumer sits before a provider to understanding the benefit in what they experience between those appointments. “It’s between the call center and trips to the website; those are times consumers may be the most in need emotionally,” he says. For example, a cancer patient may report between chemo appointments that their last appointment went fine—but still feel terrified and lost between their doctor visit and chemo appointment.

Shoemate wonders: As a marketer, how do we help them in those moments? How do we show up for them in those times, and really understand what they’re going through? How do we get the handoffs better?

“With brand building, we have to get the basics right to deliver our promise at a higher level,” he says. “Trust is the antidote to fear. It helps you get to the point of that feeling: This brand I trust has got me. Digital is a big enabler of that. This industry is way behind on being able to deliver that ability to communicate and personalize the communication in a relevant way.”


To learn how Allina Health addressed fear during the pandemic, what it was like being in the middle of the George Floyd conflict in Minneapolis, and some practical advice in the event that you’re a digital laggard stuck in an organization that should value consumers more, don’t miss this episode of Patient No Longer, featuring Jeff Shoemate.