Episode #108: How Marketing Saves Lives, with David Feinberg

Really. Today I talk with David Feinberg, Senior VP and CMO for the Mount Sinai Health System, about the role of marketing in healthcare, where helping people get access to the care they need can literally be lifesaving. It’s a remarkable look at the power of a marketing mission.

David Feinberg is a senior marketing professional with a proven record of performance and innovation. He has deep experience in healthcare, across hospital, biotech and pharma, built on a foundation in acquisitions, new products and packaged goods.

See all CXM Experience podcasts
The CXM Experience on Apple Podcasts

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Grad
All right, welcome to this CXM Experience. And as always, I am your host, Grad Conn, CXO, chief experience officer at Sprinklr. And today is going to be a really, really, really awesome show because I have an old friend, and someone who I have not talked to that much the last couple of years, even though ironically, we both live in the same city now. I saw David so many times more when I lived in Seattle than when I actually moved to New York. But I want to welcome today, David Feinberg. And David is the Senior VP and the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for the Mount Sinai Health System. And I knew David, when we were both working together at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. I was on the vendor side at Microsoft, building up the Connect system. And David was CMO at NYPH. And if you ever wonder why NewYork-Presbyterian has got the word New York kind of together, crammed together with a hyphen, that’s David’s fault.

David Feinberg
I think I can explain that.

Grad
You know what, it doesn’t matter. It’s in the past, they can’t change it now. They can’t change it now. I go to Columbia Doctors, and I see NYPH stuff all the time, and can still interact with a lot of systems that we built. And I get a small chuckle every time I see that stuff. Anyway, welcome. You’ve been a healthcare marketing executive for a lot of your career, although you were actually at Procter & Gamble earlier in your career. We share that in common. But I don’t really want to talk about where we work as much. I really want to talk about your theories of marketing. People get good nuggets of advice. A lot of new-in-career people are listening. They’re always wondering, what does it take to become a CMO? I always tell them, before you ask for something, make sure you really want it.

David Feinberg
That’s for sure.

Grad
Because you… I’m not going to get into this today. But you’ve had some of the craziest experiences I have ever heard. The abuse that you’ve taken from doctors is just extraordinary. You are. You are one tough…

David Feinberg
Thank you, Grad. That’s very flattering.

Grad
You are super tough. Anyway, let me let me start just as an icebreaker. One of my favorite things about marketing, is that… I am going to ask this question, which is, how do you define marketing? Okay. And one of my favorite things about marketing is, I’m pretty sure that I’ve never heard the same answer to this question ever. And I can take a room of 50 people and ask them to define marketing, and I’ll have 50 different replies. So everyone’s got a slightly different take on it, which is part of what makes it complicated. Let’s start with that. Because I know you’ve got kind of a pretty well thought out definition of it. And take me through how you define marketing.

David Feinberg
Funny you should ask. We just went through an exploration on this myself, I went to an exploration on this. I was asked to give a lecture up at — and I’ll drop a name — up at Harvard School of Public Health.

Grad
Oh, Excuse me.

David Feinberg
Yeah. I’m a Harvard lecturer.

Grad
Can you still do this podcast? Or do you have to go to Harvard right now?

David Feinberg
For sure. I’m not official faculty. And a good friend of mine asked me to speak to this class of healthcare executives. And she gave me the very broad: tell them what you do. They’re going to love to hear what you do. And then I had to actually think about it. And define it. And part of that is defining what is the role of marketing? And these are mostly doctors. And so, as you alluded to, I’ve had a lot of interesting interactions with physicians, because the concepts of marketing…  and there may be something here in Myers Briggs or whatever, but they have trouble thinking about marketing as anything other than sales. And they don’t really understand the difference. So I’ve spent a lot of time in my career, working with these incredibly smart people. You know, somebody said to me, you’re talking to people… there’s nobody who’s gotten a crooked letter on their transcript, when you’re dealing with places like Mount Sinai, or Columbia, or Cornell, or Harvard, all these fancy places.

So, what I tried to do is break it down and make it very simple. As you know, there are some really complicated marketing models. I tried to say, look, what you’re trying to do with marketing is to identify a target audience, and help them interact with you in ways that are helpful to them and to your business or brand. And to manage that interaction. I know that’s maybe overly simplistic, but it’s how I like to think about it. So who are you talking to? What is it that you want to do, either for them or with them? And then how do you manage the relationship so as to achieve that goal. And that’s marketing.

Grad
That’s a nice definition.

David Feinberg
And then you break it down into its little pieces. But think about it broadly in its grander scope, that’s what it is and that’s how I like to think about it. It helps me focus our activities to make sure we’re doing things that are productive. I’m always asking my team what are we doing to advance that relationship?

Grad
I love that.

David Feinberg
And how are we thinking about it?

Grad
How do you measure the relationship?

David Feinberg
It gets back to what is it you’re trying to do? Let’s talk about the easiest thing and the one that people gravitate to immediately. We want more transactions. That could be downloading a piece of information we have. It could be coming in for an appointment, making an appointment. In the case of healthcare systems that seems to be a big driver. How many different types of procedures are we doing, what have you. Then you’re measuring volume. But you’re also measuring leakage. You’re measuring the flow of patients. How often do patients have to interact with you to see… so you’re trying to just measure the number of interactions. And that’s relatively simple.

What’s harder is to measure why. And that’s important too. What is it that’s driving that interaction? Why are they coming to you? And here you get into all sorts of thoughts about segmentation. Some people come to you because it’s convenient. Some people come to you because you’re on their insurance plan. Other times, and not to get too complicated, but it varies in terms of the type of procedure you’re trying to have in the case of healthcare. The more serious it is, the more tendency people have to shop. And do they have a choice? Sometimes people have a choice, sometimes they don’t. So, there’s a lot of things that affect that.

And then, on a broader basis, when we talk about attitudes and beliefs, we do the usual… I try to keep it simple. But we do the usual versions of net promoter score, which frankly I got a kick out of that when that came about, because we’ve always thought about that. But then somebody put a name to it and then somebody branded it and somebody wanted the specific definition. Basically it’s: will people recommend you and will they come back to you? And how does that vary across the people you’re trying to talk about. And again it depends on the type of interaction you’re talking about. Again, these are types of things you can measure with pretty traditional research, I think.

Grad
And you’re looking at customer feedback as a core measure of the relationship. There’s NPS, that’s one. There’s also in healthcare, there’s a unique thing which is this Press Ganey score.

David Feinberg
Yes. We measure that.

Grad
And the HCAHPS score which has got a pretty big impact on hospital revenue. What kind of sense of responsibility do you have around the HCAHPS score and how do you look at it?

David Feinberg
We do look at it. It’s more of a measure than it is something we’re responsible for I would say. Because it relates to the patient experience, which we get involved with and we try to drive it and we try to improve it. But I don’t control it. I don’t really control what happens at the bedside. But we’re very much involved with that group because my ultimate job here is to build the brand. And the brand can’t get better than the product. So we really look very closely at that interaction and see what we can do to improve that given what product we’re putting out there. And mostly it’s good. And sometimes it’s fabulous.

Grad
Well, Mount Sinai, yeah.

David Feinberg
We have our issues, we really do. We’re working on them. There’s a lot of EMR integration. Way too many people are filling out paperwork way too often, for example. I was on the phone yesterday with our head… we have a new head of IT, new chief information officer, and she and I are hell bent for leather to solve those problems so that we can really give a much better customer experience and therefore build the brand.

Grad
That’s cool. And that partnership with IT is something you’ve always been really good at actually.

David Feinberg
Thank you. I believe in it. It’s critical.

Grad
I think you’ve always gone further towards the product than I see a lot of marketers. I get your point about marketing can’t be better than the product, although many times it is.

David Feinberg
Ultimately yeah.

Grad
There’s a lot of examples where that’s true. But it shouldn’t be. Actually, really good marketing can kill a bad product faster, because people get excited and they try it and then, next thing you know, hilarity ensues. But I do think that you’ve always done a good job of trying to get close to that patient experience and wherever marketing can help that’s something you’ve always taken a lot of ownership on that. It is interesting because I’ve got the got the Press Ganey questionnaire — I just had knee surgery, I’m sure everybody’s sick and tired of hearing me talk about it. But I just had knee surgery and… I did it at HSS.. And Dr. Altchek did my knee, and it was a fantastic surgery. My knee feels amazing. I was literally out of pain as I was waking up Waking up and the pain was gone. And I just been in surgery. But there were a couple little things in the experience had nothing to do with Dr. Altchek. And they were all HSS customer throughput issues. I think I’m not going to do anything in the HCAHPS score. I’m just going to give them top scores all the way down because I don’t want to… but I have told them hey, you know, when you asked me if I had any allergies, and I said I had a peanut allergy, maybe you shouldn’t have given me peanuts when you discharged me. What are you trying to tell me? Are you trying to tell me, I know your knees feeling good, but you probably should take an early powder here.

David Feinberg
So, a little insight. A little inside baseball. I have tremendous admiration for HSS. They’re a specialty hospital. We’re a general hospital. We do that stuff, too, and many other things. But one of the things that you get into with specialty hospitals is: that’s not my job. For example, if you had an allergic reaction to the peanuts, they wouldn’t see you. You’d have to go someplace else.

Grad
Good point. That would have been hilarious.

David Feinberg
It would not have been hilarious. You would have had to go next door to my old stomping ground.

Grad
Be wheeled into another hospital. But I do feel like marketing could have been part of that. Hey, patient exit package, it was essentially a little gift package, a little bag with tissue in it. It’s really kind of cool. It just included ingredients that would kill me. But besides that the intent of it was really cool. And the package is really nice. But that seemed almost like marketing. That was like, way past the patient experience part. And again, my knee is almost fully recovered now. And it’s been amazing. In fact, it’s been such a great experience, that my right knee which I injured,,, actually Kevin O’Brien injured it. A bastard named Kevin O’Brien, who went to Magee high school with me. And if you’re listening, Kevin, do not relax. Okay? You’re still on my list. And, he hit me from behind in the last week of school and rotated me 180 degrees on my knee and destroyed my right knee. And it’s never been right.

David Feinberg
And that’s why you’re not running back. Right? That’s why you never had an NFL career.

Grad
That’s the reason. Yeah, yes. That wasn’t necessary. I thought you liked me, that was kind of mean.

David Feinberg
I do like you.

Grad
Anyway, every time the technology for knees, because it kept advancing, right. And every time it was like, maybe now I could get it fixed properly, because it’s really terrible, very loose. And now I don’t have an ACL on my right knee. It’s not quite there, or I’m too old or whatever. I’m never quite… until now. And so Dr. Altchek when he was going through everything, and this is a good upsell technique too. He does this amazing job on my left knee and the whole thing went fairly well. And he took me through it all. And then and he’s like, so about that right knee? What do you mean? We should fix that. Because you’re going to roll over on it at some point. And then you’re going to be back in here for more meniscus repair. But we really need to fix that ACL. And so I’m going in for an MRI tomorrow. And we’re getting geared up to do the right knee.

David Feinberg
Fantastic. I’ve had ACL repair myself, it’s great.

Grad
They changed it. They used to do a cadaver tendon. They don’t do that anymore. What they do is… this is way off topic. There’s a vestigial hamstring in our legs that we don’t use. It’s on the inside of the thigh. And so they remove that. And then they put that in your knee as your ACL. Isn’t that cool?

David Feinberg
I don’t know, I had one done. I’ll be honest with you. I think they did that, this was years ago. This was 20 years ago. And I don’t remember them talking about a cadaver. They said we’re going to take something and we’re going to reuse it and it’s going to be fine. And it has been.

Grad
They have been doing that. And the thing is, I said, well, what’s my leg going to look like after they removed… there’ll be three little holes. And just two little holes in my knee. You’re not going to even know six months later. You’re not even going to be able to find it. That’s amazing. That is amazing. Anyway, let’s go back to marketing.

David Feinberg
I’ll drift off of this and back into topic. One of the things I do, and they’ve really accepted this maybe because they have to, but they’re very polite. So whenever I’m a customer, I come back and I tell them what’s going on. And it’s been a really great reaction. So I had a procedure. And I went through and I said here’s all the things that create touchpoint problems, that are changeable. Within the realm of the, why this? Or why this, and can we fix everything from you walk into some places, and there’s… one of the things that is worse in healthcare is over signage. And I’m also responsible for signage, right?

Grad
Way finding in the hospital.

David Feinberg
Yeah, way finding.

Grad
Over signage? What does that mean?

David Feinberg
Here’s a good example. You have that notice you have to stay six feet apart. So instead of putting on one prominent wall, they put them everywhere. Like, I get it, right. I’m walking, I’m seeing the same thing. Or, wash your hands. One office I went into and I counted within my eye shot of where I was sitting in the office, you can see the same notice six different times. And what it does, it creates clutter. And actually what it does is it doesn’t help the communication, because there’s so much noise you don’t see it anymore. It becomes background. Rather than having one good sign they got six crummy signs. Right? These are the kinds of things that we can… I have a team that helps with signs and they can go around, they can clean it up and, and fix it and improve that experience so that we’re creating a better branded experience. It’s more in keeping with the image we’re trying to project.

Grad
They’ve got NPS. You’ve got HCAHPS and Press Ganey. You’ve got your own secret shopper or not so secret shopper, I guess. I would assume you would have an excellent experience at any moment in time in Mount Sinai, hopefully. But maybe not. But they’re going to pay attention to you. But you’re still going to have feedback. How about comments out there? People are talking on forums, people on Facebook.

David Feinberg
We’re listening. We have a service we use to listen. I think we’re not as far ahead in reputation management as I’d like us to be, candidly. We want to do a better job. But we’re certainly always monitoring what people are saying about us.

Grad
Do you respond?

David Feinberg
On occasion. It depends on what the thing is. If it’s something medical, if somebody has a medical problem, we respond. We say, look, can we take it offline? Can we help you? We don’t want anybody to have it. If it’s just a general comment, we tend not to, but it’s something we’re thinking about. It’s also a matter of with us — I know a lot of people have scale — we’re not alone in that. But the sheer number of interactions that we have is mind blowing. So we have to make sure if we do respond, we can respond well. We have to make sure we have the scale to do what we need to do.

Grad
Well, this is just for a second. Dignity Health’s doing some incredible stuff. Like mind blowing stuff in this area. If you ever want to bounce some ideas off, we can connect you with them. And they can just tell you… they’ve literally written a whole book on how to do it. I’ve actually got it up on my screen right now. What’s it called?

David Feinberg
They’re very impressive.

Grad
The Reputation Community Management Manual.  And it’s a massive document that they’ve written. It’s an amazing piece of work. I cannot share it directly with you, because it’s confidential for them. But they are certainly… I know they would be delighted to talk to you in detail. I can connect you with the people.

David Feinberg
That’d be great. I have a lot of respect and admiration for that organization.

Grad
Well, Dignity is amazing because what they’ve done… I think they’ve done three things incredibly well. One is that they’ve taken a lot of disparate systems and they’re pulling them together. To be able to manage that across that many silos in healthcare, which is already complicated enough in a single system. Really impressive. Super impressive. The second thing they’ve done is they’ve pushed really hard on the human aspect of health care, from their advertising to the way they’re managing reputation to the way they interact with people. So they’ve taken this… in their marketing perspective, if you were to take your definition of creating a relationship, they’re basing their relationship on the emotional connection, and how healthcare changes your life. Well done, obviously. Poorly done it also changes your life, and not a good way. And the third thing that they’ve done, which I think is really amazing, is they built an incredibly stable financial foundation. That’s not to be scoffed at. Their financial management and financial controls, and the way they run it, gives them… there’s an old saying: no money, no mission. And so they’ve extended their ability to supply mission by being able to manage their money and it’s incredible, actually.

Alright, let me let me ask you one more question. And this will be for folks who are thinking about going into marketing or are in marketing and wondering why they’re in marketing, or… there was an old expression about advertising. And this comes back from the 60s, which is… at one point advertising professionals were ranked very low in professions that people respected or trusted. I think they were just one tick above politicians.

David Feinberg
Okay and used car salesman.

Grad
Right, exactly. The bottom of the pile, right? And the joke was, please tell my mother that I work in advertising. Because I’d rather her be comforted by what she thinks I do. Well, what does she think you do? Well, I told her I play the piano in a whorehouse. And I’d rather her think that, than think that I’m in advertising. Things are going to get crazy if she finds out the truth. You’ve never heard that before?

David Feinberg
No, I haven’t

Grad
My mom wanted me to be a doctor so badly. She’s still holding out a little hope. Right? Every time I go into a hospital, I think she hopes I accidentally pick up a scalpel and demonstrate some kind of like… my hands are still really steady. She’s like you’ve still got steady hands. I remember telling her I was going into business school. And the look on her face was like I had destroyed all her dreams. It was a tough moment.

So, why did you go into marketing? There’s another thing that I also tell people, because I get asked all the time, hey, I want to go into marketing, I want to be in marketing. And I’m like, why would you want to do that? Can you do anything else? Is there anything else that you’ve ever demonstrated any competence for in any way? Like really good at video games or anything else that you can do that you could possibly think of potentially making some money at versus marketing? Because I think what makes marketing really challenging is that it is a difficult, challenging profession with a lot of moving parts. And you have to work across a lot of different silos. So super collaborative. And everybody thinks that they can do it. And everyone thinks they can do it better than you. And so it is a brutal job. Right? So, what made you decide to go into marketing? And what keeps you staying in marketing? What gets you up every morning? What makes you still keep the dream alive? What’s your secret there?

David Feinberg
That’s a great question. I’ll allude to the latter, and then I’ll start to the former and get back to the second part of your question. I still am amazed at how energized I get. After all these years, I still am interested, I have no interest in stopping. I still get jazzed by it. What made me go into marketing? It’s a combination of what I thought I could do and what I knew I couldn’t. I decided to go to business school, undergrad, really because I figured it’d be a good background for whatever it is I wanted to do. And eventually I wanted to go to law school. And at some point in the undergrad curriculum, you can take a marketing course. And I’m going, huh, this is really interesting. I didn’t even know what marketing was, to be honest with you. And I took the intro course. And I was fascinated by the definitions and what it could do. I just was drawn to it.

And on the other end was, I was not great at the other stuff. Counting, I was terrible. I’ll never forget statistics. I’m old enough to know when having a calculator was a big deal, right? And they weren’t cheap. And it was very controversial whether you could use a calculator or not. So when I took statistics… I had to take a year of statistics, the first semester I got a C, and then they let you use calculators and I got an A. Because it just didn’t work for me in finance. And so even though I had an economics degree, undergrad, the pure quantitative stuff that was just about numbers, I was not as suited for. But then when I took the management courses and the marketing courses, I did really well. So I said maybe I should do the things I’m good at. And also I was fundamentally fascinated about… Yeah, so it’s play to your strengths. Have you heard about Strength Finders? So, I backed into that. I said, let me play into my strength. So, that was part of it. And then also, I felt that with marketing you could be a generalist. You could do a lot of different things. Accounting to me was way too narrow. And even finance. So that was it. I was just drawn to it. So that was really why I did it.

And I say to my team, by the way, and we’re blessed to be in a… there’s no question about our mission, right? We don’t have to worry about do we have a mission. I say to my team, marketing saves lives. And the reason is that we are helping people discover the care that they need, and helping them get access to that care. So it’s a powerful outcome when we do it well. And we’ve seen this and we get this. And people find out about stuff. And I want them to have that sense of mission because when you’re in an organization like us, where people are actually doing the operations, like you had, how do you feel your role? How do you feel a part of that, as opposed to just putting out brochures or doing websites or whatever. And so we put it into that broader context.

What keeps me going, is that it’s ever changing. I’m old enough to remember when there were basically three channels. Right? You could buy a show…

Grad
Four channels, right? There was ABC, CBS, NBC, and public

David Feinberg
Oh, four, okay. And then eventually Fox. But I remember a time when you could buy a show on television and reach a third of the viewing public with one show. And with audience numbers in the 20 millions back when the country was two thirds the size it is now. And you were reaching 10 times as many people as are considered a good audience today with a single vehicle, right? And even then, we didn’t think it was simple, right? But now, with the plethora… so that fascinates me.

 And then I’ve moved around a fair amount, both voluntarily and sometimes involuntarily. And, now I think this is a great platform, being where I am, to use the accumulated skills I’ve had for an organization… Mount Sinai has not been a marketing oriented organization. So I’ve had actually a theme. When I came to NewYork-Presbyterian there was a merger, and I was their first marketing executive. And now here at Mount Sinai, even though they’ve had marketing executives before me, they’ve never had anybody with my background or experience. So I’m sort of reinventing it for Mount Sinai. Starting from scratch. So that’s exciting, too. Anyway, that’s a long-winded way of saying I love what I do.

Grad
That’s fantastic. Well, marketing saves lives.  What a great way to drive mission on the team. We’re going to close on that. I’m going to be in New York next week.

David Feinberg
Yeah,

Grad
I’m vaccinated. So you know…

David Feinberg
I am too. Double vaccinated.

Grad
Let’s wrap this up. But David, this was an amazing session. Marketing saves lives. I’m going to keep that with me all day and figure out how I can get my team to think that way too. A little bit of a longer road for us, but I’m sure there’s some way to get there. It really is a powerful idea. And I think it’s much better than “get the brochure out by Thursday.”

David Feinberg
Yeah. Right. Why is our NPS score too low. Well I loved to catch up. And this is great that we got connected. And also, I hope this was helpful to people. And if not, I hope it was. And I’d happy to do other sessions about other topics.

Grad
Well we often get comments. Right? Let’s do a part two when we get that feedback. Where a lot of the energy is these days is on this relationship idea that you talked about. There’s a lot of energy around, how do I measure that? How do I track that? How do I manage that? How do I look at the more formal research-based structured, solicited feedback, and how do I incorporate the less formal unstructured unsolicited feedback, which is out there as well. And then the other reputational and relationship issue is that no consumer sits alone anymore. I actually went to many, many different knee doctors before I found Dr. Altchek. And same thing, I just had face surgery, same thing. I went through a whole bunch of different people. And it wasn’t just the time I spent with the physician, it was all the things that I read about them from other people who’d seen them.

David Feinberg
He’s got about as good a reputation as you can get.

Grad
It was actually interesting to see how some of these other physicians had not managed their online reputation very well. And there was some brutal stuff. They’re just terrifying. That’s something I think we’ve got to all get locked into. And I have not yet met a marketer who’s not struggling with that. Do I create a reputation score? Where do I spend my money? Should I spend more here, more there, all that kind of stuff? We could dig into that. And I think you’re in the middle of a very interesting one, because there’s so many things like health grades and health scores and people giving feedback. There’s formal systems, informal systems, there’s a lot of that kind of measure going on and you’re in a very measured industry. I think you’ve got a lot to offer us there. So I’ll definitely hit you up for a part two, but that’s it for today.

David Feinberg
Love to do, I can talk to you anytime. Anyway, thank you for the opportunity. Appreciate it. Hope it was helpful and take care.

Grad
Well I want to thank David. David Feinberg, Senior VP and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for Mount Sinai Health System. And I am Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr. This has been the CXM Experience and we will talk to you… next time.