Forbes – The Act Of Convergence: How Marketing And Technology Are Connecting The Dots In Healthcare Today

As published on Forbes by Patrick Spenner – I enjoyed my discussion with Patrick as we discussed the transformation in healthcare at the intersection of marketing, technology and data; bringing a fundamental shift from volume of care to value of care. Here is a transcript, take a read:

I recently sat down with Mayur Gupta, SVP and Head of Digital at Healthgrades, and a marketing maven in his own right, to better understand how marketing technology is being applied to the healthcare space.

Mayur Gupta

Pat Spenner: You previously focused on marketing technology in the consumer packaged goods sector. What have you found yourself applying most in the healthcare space now, based on that experience?

Mayur Gupta: After about three years at one of the largest Consumer Packaged Goods companies in the world, I learned so many valuable things, but if I had to narrow it down, I would say there are three key takeaways:

First, as marketers we must never lose sight of the role the human element plays in everything we do. Agnostic of the role I played, whether it was head of digital or chief marketing technologist, I’ve found the one constant is the need to really understand human behavior – both emotional and functional needs. We must have a thorough understanding of the human behavior in order to effectively build and apply data, technology and communication to deliver the most immersive, relevant and contextual experience for the customer. Sometimes we get caught up in the innovation part of the equation and lose sight of the role the human element plays, but it’s so very critical in any industry today

Second, I believe the ability to connect the dots and break down silos – on a macro and micro level – is essential for organizations and leaders to be successful. This is what I call “the act of convergence” and, for me, it’s the foundation of modern marketing. I define it as this:

Always putting the consumer at the center, both in strategy and execution. Convergence is needed at all levels to overcome the challenges of fragmentation and silos and of course the 2 channel agnostic pillars of a seamless experience – content and context that if done right, will organically drive a commercial behavior.

While we like to talk about seamless, frictionless and omnichannel experiences, we’re operating on a massively broken and fragmented ecosystem that is largely centered on channels or technologies, and not the consumer. And, the fragmentation exists at all levels; from organization structures and operating models to data, technology and experience planning. The brands that can connect the dots and break down these silos are the ones who are truly able to drive immersive experiences that inspire behavioral change.

Lastly, in today’s world where the consumer is at the center and things are evolving very quickly, the need for speed from an organizational level is extremely high. You have to become an agile organization that is “always-on,” continuously testing, learning and moving forward.

Spenner: Driving convergence, as you just mentioned, feels like a daunting task. How do you get started as one healthcare player in the larger system?

Gupta: It’s daunting no doubt, but no more daunting than what it would have been 10 years back in retail finance and travel. Who would’ve thought we would be able to hail an S-Class Mercedes for $20 to go across the city, like we do with Uber now?

The emergence of these new business models and systems is driving innovation and disrupting the system, and we’re seeing it happen all over the place. That’s true “digital transformation” for me; the art and science of operating, engaging and driving growth consistently in a complex digital world.

From my perspective, this can easily transfer to healthcare, barring the mindset shifts required. First, if you look at our target consumer – the everyday mom – she’s living and breathing a digital life today. The same mom who uses the Dash Button via Amazon to have a product delivered to her house within four hours wants to be able to find the best healthcare provider for her child with the same ease and convenience. This is a very technologically dependent consumer – a digital native, so to speak – and she expects and demands the same level of experience across all aspects of her life.

Secondly, and very importantly, the “bells and whistles” needed from an ecosystem (e.g. data, technology, devices, etc.) are already there. All we need is to apply the same principles and best practices to solve for a different problem. Healthcare doesn’t necessarily need new-to-world innovation or invention, it simply needs application of the same principles that have revolutionized how we shop, travel and study. For example, we should be able to use qualitative and quantitative data to find the right doctor/hospital/care, leveraging the same principles as Airbnb uses to find the best place for you on vacation. We shouldn’t have to rely on word-of-mouth referrals for healthcare anymore, but should be able to go online and see more than just the qualifications of a doctor or care provider. What is their mortality rate? How many surgeries have they done in the last six months and what was the success rate? How many had complications?

The disruptor here is going to be the consumer – her needs and her demand for choice and control will drive the application of these existing principles and best practices into the healthcare sector.

Spenner: To me, the AppleWatch’s (and wearables, more broadly) true breakout promise lies in transforming healthcare at the human level. What has to happen for wearables and individual-level biometrics to really start to drive change in healthcare?

Gupta: There is huge opportunity for wearables, however, these are still early days. Because healthcare is so personalized, we can’t apply the typical segmentation and look-a-like models to drive treatment. But, wearables provide that personalization and open the door for a whole new level of treatment for consumers. There has been a massive amount of investment put into this space over the last few years. And, we’ve found that capturing data beyond strictly healthcare – socioeconomic and other behavioral data – is critical for this to be successful. After all, 80% of our health is actually determined by non-medical factors (e.g. where you live, what you do for a living, your sleep patterns, what you eat, etc.) and only 20% is strictly individual biology and medical history.

Having said that, as it relates to wearables, we are only in Phase 1 where we’ve built the technology to collect, store and gather this data. Phase 2 is where we will really see this take off. That’s where we are able to connect the dots and synthesize the data and signals, and then transform the information into hypotheses, insights and action to drive better care.

Spenner: What role, if any, do you see chat bots playing in the healthcare experience?

Gupta: My view is that chat bots are a means to an end. It’s about solving the problem of accessibility. How do we get the right information, product or service to a consumer at a time, location and touchpoint of their choosing? Whether that is the best airline for a trip or the best doctor and care for your needs, chat bots are a data-driven, always on companion that can help get you the best service or product for your specific needs at that point in time.

The future in healthcare, as I mentioned earlier, will be the shift from volume to value, where we are always connected and owning our own health. The opportunity for chat bots and other concierge services is the ability to use personalized and contextual data to generate real time responses and diagnoses to consumers’ health questions. That said, it’s not just about giving consumers the right answer to their health questions, but also helping and inspiring consumers to ask the right questions from the start. Chat bots and concierge could be equally helpful on these kinds of “unasked” questions.

Spenner: Now, for a more personal question – that we ask all of our guests here – tell us what turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Gupta: Spiritually, I was introduced to Buddhism a few years back and that has really helped me to define who I am. It is a philosophy that believes in cause-and-effect, and that takes a lot of the ambiguity away from life. It says your present is a manifestation of what you’ve done in the past, and that has a huge impact on how you live your life, day-to-day. This approach to life has really helped me believe in myself and better understand how I not only make myself happy, but make everyone else around me happy with the actions I take.

Creatively speaking, I find myself constantly thinking about how to solve the next simple human problem. Not the most complex problem, but rather a simple problem that impacts peoples’ lives every day. The latest great ideas have all been around solving the most simple consumer problem – because those solutions are the ones that simplify life. Again, it’s all about connecting the dots among people, content, technology and data.

Spenner: Well, we’ll certainly be eager to see how you and Healthgrades continue to help consumers connect the dots in healthcare! Thanks again for taking the time and sharing your unique perspective on modern marketing and the impact it’s having in the healthcare space.