HIMSS: CIOs need to embrace marketing

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LAS VEGAS—Marketing is not a dirty word, Steven R. Bennett, MA, vice president at Kirby Partners in Heathrow, Fla., said during “Marketing the Healthcare IT Project”; a Feb. 21 session at the 2012 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual conference.

Health IT has evolved from a back office support function to a strategic driver of growth in the last 25 years, and current health IT projects such as EMRs will likely be the focus of consumer marketing programs. This enhanced role requires IT departments to embrace marketing strategies and tactics, said Bennett.

Bennett outlined the basics of marketing, explaining that every marketing plan is based on the five Ws—who, what, where, when and why.

The audiences of a health IT marketing program are varied and include IT staff, end users, department directors, executive management, board of directors, vendors and partners.

Another key player, said Bennett, is the hospital marketing department, which can help market IT projects and may be able to share its budget, especially with projects that will be marketed to consumers in the future. “Involve the marketing department early.”

Health IT marketing is a multi-faceted undertaking, said Bennett. Departments need to market each IT project, which includes marketing plan development, audience differentiation and branding. A true marketing plan requires a list of project champions, timelines, distribution methods, strategies, details and a budget.

Successful marketing strategies are varied and can be economical. They include town hall meetings, websites, booths at health system events, department meetings, contests and employee orientation. “The numbers of ways you can market are only limited by your imagination,” Bennett said.

Charles E. Christian, CIO of Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, Ind., said, “Advertising does not have to cost a great deal of money.” He recommended that CIOs use marketing to show, rather than tell, people about IT projects, and this can be accomplished via videos, charts and posters. Videos can be used to engage stakeholders by involving them in the creative process and also show the impact of a project.

Some strategies are superior to others. While Bennett advised CIOs or their delegates to create a slogan for each project, techno-speak should be avoided.

Christian concluded with two final pieces of advice. “Marketing need not be feared; CIOs need not be experts to develop a successful program. Advertising does not stop after go-live.”