News & Insights

News & Insights


When it comes to healthcare marketing, collaboration with peers is vital to success — especially as healthcare organizations are facing mounting, unknown challenges. It’s more important than ever for healthcare marketers to get together and brainstorm solutions to these challenges. The Society of Healthcare Strategy and Marketing Development (SHSMD) holds an annual conference where that is the sole purpose. Recently, BPD team had the pleasure of attending—and sponsoring—the annual SHSMD conference, an event that creates opportunities for health care strategists, marketers, communication professionals, and everything in between. Our team divided and conquered the sessions and shared these key five takeaways from the event.

1. Get back to brand

Health systems got out of the habit of building their brands during the pandemic, and since then, have been focused on crisis after crisis. It’s time to get back to brand. Whether you’re heads down on recruitment, patient acquisition, or even M&A, all roads lead back to brand. Holly Sullivan, VP System Brand & Marketing at Corewell Health highlighted how they took a merger between Spectrum Health and Beaumont to create a new brand: We Can. And you can too.

2. Learn to speak finance

MarComms teams speak in impressions, engagements, CTRs, and conversions. That language doesn’t translate at the C-Suite or to finance teams. To actually show the value of marketing (in a time where health systems are cutting cost), marketers need to speak finance: EBIDTA, revenue, volume, contribution margin, according to Sharon Line Clary, VP Marketing & Communications at AdventHealth. For example—do you need to highlight the importance of primary care, or behavioral health? Build your business case. Tom Klatt, Executive Director, Behavioral Health Network at WakeMed shared how his team proved that a new behavioral health facility would save the health system money and open up ED access. Follow the data, and the support will come.

3. Different paths to growth

M&A activity has been increasing among health systems to facilitate growth and alleviate cost pressures. But mergers and acquisitions aren’t the only answer—partnerships are also critical. Gregory Calosso, Senior Director Business Initiatives & Alliances at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, highlighted how they used Joint Operating Agreements and Brand Licensing Agreements to scale without the operational challenges that come with a traditional M&A. They saw a 19% increase in top-line revenue and no decrease in revenue nor losses due to Covid as a result of these relationships. The deal processes are 2-3x more difficult and time intensive in the upfront, but worth exploring, especially for service lines. For example, when CalvertHealth was looking to help improve their cancer program, they looked to all sorts of potential partnerships, both near and far.  Being in the Northeast, there was a plethora of options, especially being close to DC. However, in their extensive search they found that Duke Cancer Network would be the best fit for their sought-after affiliation. While the process was standard for securing an affiliation, it’s important to find the right fit, not just one close to home.

4. Data-informed growth plans

Health systems are facing rising costs, inflation, and staffing challenges. Marketers continue to live in uncertain times and need to efficiently build precise strategic growth plans. The panel from Hackensack Meridian Health and OhioHealth discussed how they use market and patient insights (leveraging claims data as their guide) to accelerate growth and strengthen marketing plans—all to combat emerging disruptors in their markets. They shared best practices and lessons learned for growing market share, driving referral volume, improving network integrity, and optimizing patient flow. Their big theme? Start with data. That data then gives them the “in” to partner with SL leaders and operations for critical, strategic decision. Heading into 2024, data is still the watchword that healthcare marketers are hungry for—because it’s the fuel for service line marketing and organizational growth plans. Patient data gives marketers the window into how patients are making choices—which leads to clear volume-building and patient acquisition opportunities.

5. The old service line is not the new service line

Service line strategies are changing. With changes in site of care, payment models, consumer demands, competition for physician talent, and disrupters in the industry, it’s time to rethink your approach to service line growth. Amanda Trask, SVP Clinical Institutes & Service Lines at CommonSpirit Health, shared her service line growth approach. It starts with patient data—who are your service line patients; what do they need; what other services have they had; and what will they need next? Then, think beyond direct competitors. Who are the disruptors emerging in this space. How can you design a data-led experience that will beat even the hottest new entrants?

Along with these top takeaways, one overall theme at SHSMD was that healthcare marketers are being pulled so many different directions right now. It’s a tough time to secure enough budget and resources to tackle everything—and it’s even tougher to decide where to put your focus. If you want to hear how others are handling this difficult environment or need to identify solutions to your top challenges—reach out to our team at


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