15 min read

The Changing Role of the CMO: A Conversation With Sitecore

The role of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) in healthcare is undergoing significant evolution, especially as organizations increasingly prioritize patient care and omnichannel engagement. Traditionally focused on brand management and market penetration, the CMOs are now integral to the strategic alignment of patient-centric goals across the healthcare institution, fostering cross-functional collaboration, working closely with IT, clinicians, and patient services to ensure a seamless patient experience. 

This collaboration often involves integrating digital tools that enhance patient engagement and satisfaction, such as telehealth services and patient portals, which facilitate convenient, timely, and continuous care.

To better understand the evolution of the CMO role, we’ve connected with Adeline Ashley, Director of Customer Engagement, Sitecore, on the latest episode of The Health/Tech Edge. Adeline joined Productive Edge’s Raheel Retiwalla, Chief Strategy Officer, and Mike Moore, VP of Partnerships, to share her journey through digital transformation in healthcare systems and offer a peek into how today’s tech integrates to enhance patient engagement and streamline care.

Watch the full conversation or read the summarized transcript below to explore the evolving role of the CMO, navigate the critical changes shaping healthcare organizations to better meet consumer expectations in a digital age, and uncover the strategies that are making healthcare more responsive and patient-centered than ever before.

Adeline Ashley YT

Mike Moore: Welcome to The Health/Tech Edge, where we talk with industry experts about the latest topics in healthcare technology. I'm your host, Mike Moore. Our weekly panelist, Raheel Retiwalla, Chief Strategy Officer of Productive Edge, joins us today. And our featured guest is Adeline Ashley, Director of Customer Engagement at Sitecore.

We bring on guests from the industry, customers, partners, experts, and we're fortunate to have you with us today, Adeline. I went to the team that we work with at Sitecore and asked who they have that has a healthcare background and really can help us understand Sitecore's point of view, and you were the first name that they came up with. You really have a great background in healthcare, as a customer before going over to the vendor side and the work that you do with psych or so we'll get to that in a moment.

Why don't you share with our audience your background, what led you to this point in your career, and how you've worked through the healthcare system. 

Adeline Ashley: I've been involved with digital transformation on websites and experiences, most recently with Anthem and with ProMedica and when I was at ProMedica, I was charged to really innovate and get together the senior care system, the insurance and the hospital healthcare system all under one roof for a digital experience. So that led me to looking underneath the hood and looking at what is the MarTech stack and then eventually evaluating the content management system, which led me to look at Sitecore, Adobe, and others.

I chose Sitecore and now I'm on this side and I'm able to share my experiences with customers. I never talk about product but I really help them with getting their their needs to reach the right digital experience for their customers, or their patients in this case.

Mike Moore: Certainly makes it easier when you've walked more than a mile in your customers’ shoes and can relate to the challenges that they face, especially in today's healthcare environment. Let's pivot into that part of the discussion. For a long time, everyone who carries a smartphone has these expectations that every company, business, and organization they interact with is going to deliver these elegant digital experiences for them.

But as all of us know here, healthcare has been behind the rest of the world. A lot of it, I think, Raheel, you talk about this quite a bit, the complexity of healthcare, right? The systems, processes, tools, and bureaucracy - there's a lot to it. Let's think about the changing role of healthcare and why is this transformation starting to affect healthcare organizations and their ability to be more responsive to the needs of consumers? What's your perspective on that, Adeline?  

Adeline Ashley: My perspective is that the role of the CMO is changing and the business is changing. Before, people were looking inwards and they are now looking to the doctors to help guide that relationship.

But as you had mentioned, Mike, the patient and customer-centricity is really important. Recognizing that you'd have to start building different teams, start looking at how to reach that and then help guide that conversation, I think is the pivotal moment. What do you think, Raheel? 

Raheel Retiwalla: I agree with you, Adeline. I think when you look at the evolution of customer centricity and the pivot that many industries have made over the many last years and the application of digital technologies to drive that pivot, it has been challenging in healthcare because if you look at the investments that organizations had to make in the digitization in healthcare, that was a big phase, right? The focus on value based care and the business model, that was a big phase. Then, when you got to step back out and ask “Where are we heading with all of this?” there's a clear demand from the consumer, the patients, and members, around their participation in their own health.

Their transparency and clarity as to what healthcare they're receiving, what it costs, and more importantly, how do they keep themselves healthy and continue to do so, that's when healthcare organizations have really started to think about the consumer and making sure that the investments we make and the things we think about  are catering to the needs of the consumer. Who carries the baton within the healthcare organization to think about this and then do all the things necessary?

And with your experience working on the marketing team, I’m curious as to what you've seen as to who's carrying the baton, how they're going about doing it.  

Adeline Ashley: From what I’ve seen working with the many healthcare companies that Sitecore has the privilege of working with, it's the CMO. They're the ones that are making those decisions and gathering the band of folks underneath them, from the IT to the marketing departments, to digital departments, to all working together in concert so that they meet the demands. It's no longer a situation where I can just do my own work and pass it over to somebody else and they pick it up from there. We all have to work together. There's that need to break down the silos. That's absolutely pivotal. And then all working towards that North Star vision. 

Raheel Retiwalla: Exactly. Similarly, we see that all the time. From a CMO’s perspective, that's sort of the first mile experience with the consumer.  It's very natural to say, “How do we think about acquisition?”, “How do we think about the entire journey now?”, and “How do we think about  participation of the various business functions and their technologies that may be already in place?”

How do they manifest themselves throughout that journey? How do we then think about personalization? How do we think about proactive engagement? How do we think about brand loyalty as well? The CMO certainly is the role that is taking that.

What we've seen is that the CMO then has other team members that they've built to support that need. So whether you have a digital function underneath that, maybe you have an experience function underneath that, and in some cases, you also have a data science function that is starting to support more of the emerging advanced use cases as well.

Adeline Ashley: I guess this would be a good time to share how we try to get those things orchestrated here at Sitecore. One of the things that my team does is that we don't talk about product. We have the salespeople and the solution engineers and you guys, partners, to talk about that.

At my team, we try to work with the companies and be their trusted advisors and we offer services like a roadmapping workshop in which we gather all the different stakeholders, those who touch the digital experience in some shape or manner, and we get them in a room and we do fun exercises, kind of like a therapy session, figuring out what's working for them and what's not working for them.

And then, what is their dream state? There's a lot of revelation that happens there. There's a lot of magic and great nuggets of information. Then at the end of the day, what my team does is we distill all those things. It's not just about presenting “here's the tech stack that you need to do this”, it's really about thinking about the strategy. What is the objective that they had? And then coming up with the people, the process, and the technology and other important aspects that all work in concert so that they can accomplish what they're looking for. That's the stuff that we like to do here at Sitecore.

Raheel Retiwalla: Adeline, I'm curious, how do your customers then go from that view to the execution? Have you found challenges in getting started? And if so, what have you seen work from those roadmap sessions and that high level visibility?

Adeline Ashley: I think it's really important to have partners and work closely with them. Many times we include the partners in these roadmapping sessions because it's very valuable for them to see that as well. We all work together in concert and then the partner has a role to communicate and put their stamp on it as well, so that we're all working from the same book. And then what happens is we start the process of figuring out what it takes to get the low hanging fruit going.

Because it's a roadmap of  maybe two years out, we have a constant checkpoint with them, whether it's every two months, every four or six months, whatever the cadence is. Things happen, like COVID, so it's important to check back and see how they are doing. 

Mike Moore: Raheel, with the work that you've done with healthcare organizations in this, where do they start as a first phase? Going through imagining the state of the future and how wonderful things can be is great but then you have to chunk it out and figure out what are some milestones, what are some deliverables we can achieve that start to show value?

Because ultimately  the healthcare system is a commercial entity. They've got finances and  need to make numbers happen. So where are the organizations that you've worked with starting out in this process? 

Raheel Retiwalla: I think the effectiveness of a tech stack largely depends on its maturity. Key components include CRM, data strategy, customer and provider 360 strategies. Without these, surfacing timely insights amidst digital investments can be challenging. There’s also an experience strategy component.

An omnichannel strategy ties everything together, focusing on self-service enablement, digital augmentation of staff for efficiency, and process optimization through automation. The combination of these elements shapes the roadmap. Some clients may have robust CRM systems but lack a mature data strategy, which affects their capability in areas like omnichannel personalization.

The roadmap's evolution depends on strategic goals. If the goal is to enhance customer acquisition and ease access to caregivers, the necessary tech stack and processes are distinct from those needed to manage chronic conditions, where the focus would be on proactive engagement of high-risk populations. Each strategic focus requires tailored approaches.

Adeline Ashley: There's so much to choose from, right? We have to make sure when we're in those roadmapping sessions, we pick one or two so that we don't boil the ocean. Then we can go back and optimize from there.

Raheel Retiwalla: A simple one, for example, as a payer or insurer, how can I understand why you came to the website?  Are you someone who is interested in Medicare? If so, am I able to on your next visit give you the right pieces of content? Am I able to understand how you are engaging with that piece of content? And am I able to then convert you to a customer? That’s a very simple use case but how many customers are able to do that effectively?

Mike Moore: I think that's ultimately delivering those patient and member experiences, whether we're talking about providers or payers. Going back to those consumer examples, that are very elegant. We've all been through the call router where you put in your information and then you get somebody live on the phone and they ask you for your name, date of birth, or phone number, all those things all over again. We know that healthcare is capable of more because other industries and other experiences are doing it. Adeline, I think you have a story that you'd like to tell about how it unfortunately hit home for you and your family and kind of the expectations versus the reality of the healthcare system and a bit of surprise.

Do you mind sharing that with the audience here? 

Adeline Ashley: I'm happy to share. My husband's an avid skier, and he went out to the West Coast to go ski by himself. I was here in Toledo and I found out that he had had a serious accident in which he shattered his C6 and C5. I had been talking to the emergency room and they told me they’re packing him up and taking him to a renowned hospital because he needs to have surgery.

I was in so much shock. But long story short, we had to wait three days before he could have surgery and once he was able to have his surgery, the nurses had said “You're so tired. You've been by his side. We will take care of you and make sure that you're informed all the way through.”

And I didn't believe it, there's no way, they're so busy. I need to be by his side. And they said, “You can't. Go and have some food and we promise we will keep you informed. And they lived up to their promise. It was almost like a Delta experience in which I'm getting notifications that my luggage has boarded the plane.

Similarly, I got the same notification that my husband is in pre-op, but he's fine. Then another one a couple of hours later that he is in the operating room, and he's fine. And then the next one said that he was out of the operating room, the doctor would call me. I could not believe that. I did not expect that experience. But because I love Delta and I love that experience, that is something that I now talk about. If they can bring those experiences that customers and patients experience every day into the healthcare system, that's going to delight them and make them be a loyal customer there. You can't ask for more than that. 

Raheel Retiwalla: I couldn't agree more. If you think about what it must have taken for that healthcare health system to go about and invest in that, above any other use cases and scenarios.

I can go show how the customer centricity must have hit home there, how they must have prioritized that particular use case, how they must have thought about the families and the caregivers, how they even thought about the omnichannel engagement and the notifications, it really required that broader thinking.

It required not just the marketing team, but clinical teams, the EHR team, all of those teams to come together and in the end build a solution that delights consumers and patients and families and caregivers. I think that healthcare is at a cusp of turning on a lot of these kinds of use cases through very intelligent engagement methods and modes. It can just be a great experience for everybody. 

Adeline Ashley: I couldn't agree more. We joke about healthcare being the last of everyone to do things. If healthcare continues to do things like this, I think they'll start becoming the forefront and leaders in that. 

Mike Moore: Thankfully, it's more than just a good story to tell. It had a good outcome for your family and for your husband specifically. It's always nice to know that your luggage got where it needed to go. It's even better to know your family member made it through one of the most challenging times in your lives. I think you told me before, too, that this wasn't known to you at the time, but that hospital actually happens to be a Sitecore customer. Is that right? 

Adeline Ashley: When that all happened, I was like “Wow, I have to go back and tell the folks at Sitecore that this communication is cool”. Then I looked up on sales terms and realized they were a Sitecore customer. So it was awesome.  

Mike Moore: I  think that the emphasis on what Raheel just talked about, to me, is a really important note for people to capture. It's not just about the tools. It's about putting together the framework and the use cases and how all of these tools can be used and deciding what's most important to our patients, their families, our health plan members, whoever the audience is, whoever the consumer is that has the dollars in hand that can shop with their feet. They can leave and go to another organization. By prioritizing some of these use cases about what people care about the most, and then selecting tools that enable that, and then connecting data that enables that, these are pieces that come in afterwards, but the planning upfront, this digital transformation and the strategy around that and the prioritization of use cases is really the key that drives the action that follows.

Adeline Ashely: Couldn't agree more. 

Mike Moore: So where do we go from here? What's next as far as Sitecore and healthcare, Adeline? Any sneak previews of things that are coming or related to healthcare that the audience would want to know? 

Adeline Ashley: I'm actually excited to share that we are this close to getting HIPAA compliance with CDP and Personalized that is coming up in the June - July timeframe. Then, closely at the heels of that, we will have XM Cloud and Content Hub at the end of the year.

So having that HIPAA compliance really strengthens the capabilities and the possibilities for healthcare to utilize our tools and achieve the digital experiences that they want to achieve with Sitecore. 

Raheel Retiwalla: That's great. I know for a fact, many clients are waiting for that. If you're listening and aren't aware of what Sitecore CDP and Personalize are, I highly recommend going in and doing a quick search and taking a look at it. Very powerful technologies that deliver context and personalization capabilities that are data-driven. Very exciting news. 

Mike Moore: Once, we were limited only by our imagination. All these tools are capable to deliver the experiences we want to deliver for patients and their families and the sky's the limit at that point. Then I think we can achieve the Holy Grail, Adeline, that you mentioned of healthcare starting to lead and demonstrate to other industries what is possible.That's all the time we have for today's episode of HealthTechEdge. We hope you'll come back and join us next time.

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