Jefferson Health’s Culture Shift: Adopting a Growth Mindset to Improve People’s Lives

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07/30/2019 in Blog

Jefferson Health’s Chief Growth and Marketing Officer Chuck Lewis sat down with Healthgrades co-founder John Neal at the recent HealthShare Symposium 2019 where he shared how marketers can get key leadership on board to shift marketing departments from one that is viewed as a cost center to one that is a value creator and seen as a true partner within your organization.

*The below interview has been edited for length and clarity*


John Neal: Throughout his professional career in healthcare and education, Chuck Lewis has been responsible for business development and strategy and all facets of marketing, communications and public relations. His approach to marketing and communications has always been driven through a growth lens. In your experience, can you explain a few of the biggest obstacles you have faced when shifting a large organization to a growth mindset?  

Chuck Lewis: When I started at Thomas Jefferson University, or Jefferson Health, in 2013, one of the biggest challenges that I faced is that my department was seen as a cost center. The harder we worked, the more that was expected. And then come budget season, we were constantly facing cuts and I just couldn't imagine why. We were working really hard; however, we were always required to submit more forms and more spreadsheets to quantify the value of our marketing efforts.

But one thing was consistent: it was never enough.

While budgets were shrinking, the expectations of my team grew. With that, back in the early 2000s, this cycle started to take its toll, not only for my team but for me personally. It's hard to be demoralized yourself and then lead others to victory. I said if I keep doing this, I’ve got to do something different. I needed to figure out a way to demonstrate value to the people who keep cutting my budget. Thus, began my journey looking for different ways to shift to a growth mindset to change our strategy and approach for marketing and communications.


John: How did you make the shift from a cost center to a value creator? And to that point, how can marketing teams be seen as a real partner within their organization?

Chuck: Historically, we had played what I call “whack-a-mole” marketing: i.e., funding a doctor’s program that might not see tangible value. That’s not really tied to a strategy focused on growth. And it doesn’t really move the needle in a way that is important for key leadership or your organization. So, I had to teach different stakeholders within our organization how to look at marketing in a new way and adopt a new philosophy other than to demand more marketing dollars.

We worked out an agreement with leadership to help meet our marketing goals – which historically had always been a limited resource – with two key priorities tied to profitable growth. Number one, we're going to support programs that drive this growth, and number two we're going to invest in building brand awareness.

In order to implement this new strategy, I went to each of the hospitals in our network and invited the Chief Medical Officer or the President of the hospital, the President of Jefferson Health and the President of the individual Jefferson medical group to join me. Every week we meet to discuss two things: are our programs driving profitable growth and are they helping to build brand awareness?

In turn, people within the organization who wanted to coopt our budgets were invited to come before the committee of these following leaders and pitch your idea. If the idea doesn’t drive profitable growth or drive brand awareness, then the program is not funded. And it is decided collectively by this key leadership team.

Assembling your group of key leaders within your health system, and making them owners of the process, is really important. This has led to what I would describe now as a different culture at Jefferson Health.


John: You have a very influential voice at Jefferson Health. Can you talk a little more about how you accomplished this distinct voice in the industry, as well as specific programs you are running to drive growth and brand awareness?

Chuck: Our mission statement at Jefferson Health is that we improve lives and this appeals to all 32,000 of our employees. No matter what they do, they do it because we improve lives. Everybody can repeat it. And it's interesting for me now, after we've been at this for a couple of years, to watch people explain what they do, who they are in terms of that mission statement. And everything that we do comes back to this mission statement – how can we improve lives?

The programs and partnerships, like our partnership with Healthgrades, help us build brand awareness, attract new patients, and ultimately improve lives. Our CRM and Patient Direct Connect programs, powered by Healthgrades, allow us to get right to the market immediately. By using 600 databases and predictive modeling, we can confidently predict who is most likely to need to visit our facilities in the next 6-12 months. With these partnerships, we can get information to the people who need that information the most, while also driving growth across the organization.

We also benchmark all of our branding campaigns. We know that when we kick off a campaign, we know what our goal is, so we can then look back and measure to determine if it was successful. And so, we have a level of accountability to measure and track the effectiveness of our campaigns.

We also got creative. We know that all impressions are not the same. We currently have a sports contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, but I get about 660,000 impressions from the 8-game season. Meanwhile, I have people who don't know how to get to my health system. I went to our local transportation system, which is called Septa, and worked with them to rename our local station. But, how does this impact our health system? Elderly patients who might have trouble getting to doctor’s appointments or have limited access to transportation can come to the Jefferson Station Septa and get on a shuttle that will pick you up. If you have your appointment card, they'll take you to wherever you need to go on the campuses of Jefferson. This took all the anxiety out of coming downtown for our older patient population. I get 1.3 to 1.6 million impressions per month from that engagement with Septa. And it's a quarter of the cost of my sports team.

My advice to health system marketers is to be creative. Look at your market and find new ways to engage with that market. Think differently.

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For more information on how Healthgrades partners with health systems, please visit partners.healthgrades.com.