Ask The CMO: How New York-Presbyterian Hospital Built A Patient-First Marketing Strategy

Digital Marketing Trends


We’ve talked a lot about the fact that the rise of digital, social, and mobile has changed how every organization engages with its constituents. Taking this a step further, one thing that’s clear after reading the latest from our Mashable “Ask the CMO” series is that there are some industries more than others whose marketing approach has experienced compounded change driven from other dimensions. Healthcare in the United States, for example, is fundamentally shifting before our very eyes. The advent of the internet, its impact on information availability, and finally the Affordable Care Act have dramatically shifted the nature of patient-provider interactions presenting a slew of new challenges for marketers in the field.

In this fascinating interview with David A. Feinberg, vice president of marketing and CMO of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, you’ll learn how one organization is reacting to and leading this shift from a provider perspective. He’s quick to point out that all this change has not only affected the structure of his marketing organization, but the very purpose of his strategies. It’s certainly been a big focus for us here at Marketo; how do we help marketers everywhere from Boston Children’s Hospital to the entire Kindred Healthcare system connect with patients in unprecedented ways that better serve their health?

From the rise of consumer power to industry consolidation, read on for key trends in healthcare marketing. And of course, have a very healthy and happy New Year!

The following interview originally appeared on Mashable.


Thanks to the Internet, we’re now able to instantly secure the information we need to make decisions in our lives. These can be mundane choices—like choosing a restaurant, or picking a gym to join to keep those New Year’s resolutions alive—or important determinations, like selecting a specific doctor or hospital to receive care from.

Today, hospitals, many of which have dozens of centers, thousands of employees and many more patients, know that access to healthcare information is one of the most important services they can provide.

To learn how hospitals are innovating and communicating with patients in the Information Age, we spoke to David A. Feinberg, the vice president of marketing and CMO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, the largest hospital by number of beds in the U.S., according to Becker’s Hospital Review. Feinberg discusses the biggest trends in hospital marketing, how the structure and purpose of marketing has changed in the past two decades and much more.

Q&A with David A. Feinberg, Vice President, Marketing and Chief Marketing Officer at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

1. If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self that pertains to your career in marketing, what would it be?

I would give the same piece of advice I received early on: Don’t be afraid to fail. Remember that everyone who you think is a success has also experienced failure. At the same time, learn from your mistakes, and don’t make the same mistake twice.

2. What’s the most unexpectedly important skill from your past that you’ve found plays into your success?

Growing up, my father ran a shoe store in a small town in Pennsylvania. One day he showed me, in detail, how to properly stock the shoes. There was a science to it. I should have been paying more attention to his instructions. When it came time for me to stock the shoes myself, I did it completely wrong.

The times when my father yelled were few and far between, so when he yelled at me for a job not-so-well-done, it made me realize the importance of listening carefully. The lesson has stayed with me. I always remember that how you do something—the process and attention to detail—is as important as doing the job.

3. What are the three biggest trends that you see in healthcare marketing today?

The first trend is the importance and influence of the consumer. Patients are taking charge of their healthcare in ways that we could not have imagined even a few years ago. We are challenged to adjust our systems to empower our patients while still providing the best care; we want to help them make choices that are both medically correct and right for their individual needs.

The second trend is the consolidation and expansion of healthcare institutions and the way organizations are coming together. Consolidation creates challenges and opportunities. Large organizations need to have a strong brand with a cohesive message that stands out.

The final trend is the variety of ways that patients get information. There was a time when the majority of information was physician-focused. Now, people get information from multiple sources, like the Internet and from friends and family. (Physicians, of course, are still a main resource).

Patients are able to drive their own healthcare through access to information on medications, procedures and their medical team. The challenge becomes making information useful to patients and helping them make the best decisions. It is incumbent on respected healthcare institutions to make sure people are able to decipher the information all around them and to provide accurate, timely and useful information for patients to utilize.

4. When CEO Steven Corwin took over at NewYork-Presbyterian, he announced his plans to put patients first. What does that mean, and how has the marketing department contributed to that effort?

The meaning is simple: It means the driving force behind all of our activities is focused on patient needs. The patient and their loved ones come before the needs of the doctor and the institution. Dr. Corwin challenged us to think about what is right for the patient and that is where our success is.

Having that focus makes us better at what we do and allows us to provide the best care. From a marketing standpoint, we look at what we do and let the patient drive how we do it. In our ad campaign, the language is totally unscripted. All of the words come directly from the patient and really showcase what is meaningful to them. We hope they create a positive impression; we know they are inspiring and helpful to those who see them. People have connected with the ads, often giving themselves the courage to get the medical care they need. We’re very proud of that.

5. David, you’ve been with NYP for nearly 20 years. How is your marketing department structured today, and how has it evolved over the past two decades?

When I first joined NYP, there was a different vision for marketing. We were going to be a department that was hired out to various internal departments to help with individual projects. We quickly realized this model was not going to achieve our strategic objectives.

The job of the marketing team changed, becoming a more rounded department and creating an overall branding strategy that has become a driving force throughout the hospital. Over the years, the marketing department has expanded alongside the hospital. For example, we’ve created a coordinated branding effort that includes messaging, the hospital’s website and signage.

Most recently, we’ve been coordinating the branding as we expand our network and bring new hospitals into the NYP family. In order to keep everything cohesive, we (including the public affairs team, the social media team and the internal communications team) work as a team across the institution to achieve a common goal.

6. How does NYP use technology for its marketing initiatives? How does it measure ROI, and how has that changed since you first started your career in healthcare?

When I started, the measurements were very basic and included only transactions and reputation. Today, we are moving towards a more complete picture of how we impact the organization and the results we can achieve. I’d be exaggerating if I said we have it completely figured it out, but we are getting better. We are analyzing types of reputation and looking to link our marketing activities with patient volume and revenue.

7. Brand loyalty is extremely important in healthcare. Patients want to be able to trust and build a relationship with a hospital, whether they’re tapping into emergency services, specialists, preventative care, etc. How does NYP ensure that its communication with patients reflects their different needs, and how do you continue to build the relationship even after their treatment has ended?

We work hard to provide the information patients need in the way they need it. We just completed a video project that we’re proud of. It describes what it is like to have a child at our facility. It sounds basic, but knowing what to expect is so important for new parents.

When patients feel they are cared for—beyond their immediate medical health—it goes such a long way. In addition, we have a robust and well-developed system, a patient portal called myNYP, for patients to get their information digitally and in real time.

Patients can sign on and get all of the information they need about their medications, procedures, doctors and what to do when they leave the hospital. The information can be accessed any time and on any kind of device. One of the things that distinguishes NYP is our ability to provide complete care, meaning the care does not stop when the patient leaves the hospital; it continues beyond our walls.

8. With more people consuming health content and finding doctors on their mobile devices, health care professionals can no longer rely solely on word-of-mouth and traditional mediums. How does NYP make sure it has a digital presence? How do you make sure your conversations with current and potential patients are consistent across all channels—email, advertising, social, etc.

It’s a challenge across the board, so let me give you a few examples. We are in the process of re-imagining our website as an integrated digital platform built around patient needs, both current and future. Everything about the site is looked at through the eyes of our patients and families, and it will be device and platform agnostic. No matter how patients want access, it will adapt to their needs.

Additionally, we have a relationship with one of the largest providers of digital physician information, allowing us to make sure we have the most up-to-date data on our doctors. Patients can connect to their doctors, allowing them to get the care they need. This is a digital tool that can be used across all platforms.

9. The “Amazing Things” campaign was applauded by the medical and advertising community. Can you give an overview and talk about the immediate results of that campaign? What were the main things NewYork-Presbyterian learned from it?

Where do I begin! Of course we are very proud of the campaign. It is unique in that it is totally about the patients—unscripted and totally real.

We have gotten a tremendous response. When our caregivers tell people they work for NYP, the first thing they hear is how much other people love the advertisements. People may love the ads, but they really love what the ads say. They say so much in such a simple way; it is a reinforcement of something I learned long ago: The quality of the advertisement is the inverse of the complexity of its execution. Our campaign exemplifies this completely. It is so simple and so real, and that has proven to be very impactful.


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