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The awkward co-evolution of healthcare IT and marketing

Aligning healthcare IT and marketing groups for co-design and innovation will help organizations better drive digital transformation.
By admin
Apr 15, 2024, 10:05 AM

Among the most famous matchups, some of the fiercest battles in business have been fought between marketing and IT. As both specialties go through their respective digital transformations in healthcare there is no let-up to many of the tensions.

History tells me that with all their newfangled digital techniques, healthcare marketers are still referred to by IT as the “unguided missiles.” Because of their rightful caution and workforce challenges, healthcare IT became even more saddled with the moniker of “the land of slow and NO!”

I admittedly might be focusing on some of the extremes between the two fields in healthcare enterprises, but the co-evolution of marketing and IT has been uneven, and in many cases awkward.

Consumerization of healthcare hasn’t eased the tension. Marketers want their sites to operate like Amazon or Facebook. IT is obsessed with privacy and cybersecurity which can be at odds with a marketer’s genetic need for ‘customer’ insights. For this reason, many providers are hiring pedigreed executives coming from large consumer companies like Home Depot, Ritz Carlton, or Levi Strauss to replicate those experiences.

While this makes total sense, many of these IT and marketing pros suddenly realized that the oft-used term “healthcare is different” was actually under-exaggerated.

Complicating the problem even more is that if marketing can’t find like-minded IT team members, they will hire their own — “shadow IT” has been a challenge for decades, but marketing transformation has brought it to a new level,

Ironically, we’re seeing that turnabout is fair play. As such, many forward-thinking IT organizations are hiring “shadow marketers” to add that side of the brain to their organizations. However, finding the optimum profile for either shadow strategy is challenging.

I’ve worked with many organizations that recruit candidates with computer science degrees who have taken marketing courses. On the converse, marketing will recruit marketing majors with some information sciences courses.  Or worse, making the IT person with the most friends on social media be the liaison with marketing. All are better than no cross-fertilization of skills but none reflect the true nature of the ideal co-evolved candidate.

The analogy I use is that someone who takes college-level biology and physics is not a biophysicist. In the same way, someone who takes IT and marketing courses is not necessarily a marketing technologist. One will find out very quickly when this is the case with new hires.

In the previous century, this would not have been as much of an issue. But in a world of extreme AI, social media, cybersecurity, and patient experiences, the inseparable convergence of IT and marketing is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

So what can both departments do to go from co-evolution to purposeful and innovative co-design?

First, and you may not like the sounds of this, converged organizations operate much better outside the “general population” of typical enterprise organizational pillars. Both healthcare and marketing operate at an accelerated pace, unlike many other organizations in the enterprise. The need to be emancipated so that both IT and marketing can be creatively and safely unguided.

Many industries set this up as “studios” that are tasked with accelerated innovation and with a direct report to a non-aligned senior executive tasked with digital disruption (as opposed to transformation).

This will clearly be extreme for many healthcare enterprises, but it should be something to aspire to.

For those providers with less appetite for this extreme, there is a middle ground.

Start by bringing your IT person into the most mundane marketing meetings so they can take that “immersive language course.” You would guess that the inverse is to invite marketing into the most basic IT meetings so that they two can start to develop a proficiency in how tech people communicate.

Finally, have your marketing team help to better brand the IT department in the enterprise. I will be writing more in the future about “Building the Brand Called IT.” But as an intro, many IT departments have a brand image problem in the eyes of their internal customer base. Great pains need to be taken to elevate that image in much the same way the provider itself wants brand equity with patients.

Healthcare communications professionals on staff can help build the communications skills necessary to develop customer trust and satisfaction. For example, one of the most tangible areas where marketing can help IT is through the use of social media tailored to their internal constituents.

Do you have an example of how you’ve aligned marketing and IT for co-design and innovation and have avoided the instances of shadow IT?


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