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The Future of Healthcare: “We need to move from tactical fixes to a holistic experience strategy” with Jeff Gourdji, of Prophet

…moving from tactical fixes to a holistic experience strategy. Healthcare organizations often start enhancing consumer experiences in one-off initiatives (e.g., reducing waiting-room times). By executing on a holistic experience, however, they can move to the next level of consumer centricity. When Piedmont Healthcare established and rolled out “The Piedmont Way”, they set an organizational blueprint […]

…moving from tactical fixes to a holistic experience strategy. Healthcare organizations often start enhancing consumer experiences in one-off initiatives (e.g., reducing waiting-room times). By executing on a holistic experience, however, they can move to the next level of consumer centricity. When Piedmont Healthcare established and rolled out “The Piedmont Way”, they set an organizational blueprint for change in how the experience was conceived and delivered and put metrics in place to support it.


Asa part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview Jeff Gourdji, Partner, Healthcare Practice Leader at Prophet, a growth and digital transformation firm. With over 20 years of leading high-impact marketing & strategy projects, Jeff brings a breadth of experience that comes from working across many industries, as marketing practitioner, management consultant and political strategist. Jeff has worked in extensively in health care, including payers, providers, pharmaceuticals, and health care service provider organizations. Additionally, Jeff has worked in food, beverage, agriculture, pet care, for-profit education, energy, and in several industrial settings. Jeff joined Prophet in March of 2008. Prior to joining Prophet, Jeff worked for the Zyman Group for 5 years, Kraft Foods for 4 years, and as a political & legislative strategist for 3 years. Jeff’s expertise includes customer insight, brand strategy, customer experience, go-to-market strategy design and organizational design and capability enhancement. Jeff is a leader of Prophet’s health care industry practice. He is the author of several articles, including “A Healthcare Experience Is Not Enough: Why You Need a Brand Experience” and “Marketing Middleware: The Glue Connecting Business Strategy & Marketing Execution.” Jeff’s first book, “Making the Healthcare Shift: The Transformation to Consumer-Centricity” was published in March 2019. Jeff received his B.A. from the University of Michigan and his M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.


Thank you so much for joining us Jeff. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Sometimes things just work out. As a senior in college, I was the President of the University of Michigan College Democrats. During that time, I worked with the College Democrats of America to explain and drum up support for what was then known as Hillary-care, which became the unsuccessful Clinton Administration effort at reform. I’ve been interested in the macroeconomic, public policy and political aspects of healthcare ever since. My interest in healthcare took a bit of a backseat while I received my MBA at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. From there I worked in consumer packaged goods marketing and then 16 years ago, became a management consultant. Nine years ago, I had the opportunity of a lifetime: to form and lead Prophet’s first industry practice, focused on healthcare.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Prophet is a growth and digital transformation firm that helps our clients drive uncommon growth. We work across industries, but healthcare represents an important portion of our business. We bring a unique combination of strategists, data scientists, and creative and user experience designers to attack problems of “what does our customer want, and how can we best deliver on it in way that will driver our growth?” A recent example — we partnered with the company now known as Encompass Health (formerly HealthSouth) to establish their differentiating proposition, develop the brand and customer experience strategy to support it, engage their employee based around the change and stand up an entire department responsible for ongoing management of the new strategy. Quite a combination of capabilities in service of driving their growth!

What advice would you give to other healthcare leaders to help their team to thrive?

I forgot what celebrity said this: “what got you here, ain’t gonna get you there”. It may have been Yogi Berra… and I may be paraphrasing but that is the advice I’d give. Healthcare organizations that do not transform themselves, which may require disrupting themselves, are unlikely to exist in the future. In healthcare, there typically is “the culture of a lab” — test, retest, and test again before making any changes. This makes sense when it comes to medicines that go in people’s bodies. However, when it comes to experience innovation the “culture of a startup” is often more appropriate. Leaders that can find the right balance are the ones that will create thriving teams and organizations.

You are a “healthcare insider”. If you had the power to make a change, can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.

In research that led to a book my colleague Scott Davis and I recently published called “Making the Healthcare Shift: The Transformation to Consumer-Centricity”, we outline 5 shifts that the healthcare system should make to be more consumer-centric. This will, in turn, drive down costs, improve access and lead to better consumer experiences.

The first shift is moving from tactical fixes to a holistic experience strategy. Healthcare organizations often start enhancing consumer experiences in one-off initiatives (e.g., reducing waiting-room times). By executing on a holistic experience, however, they can move to the next level of consumer centricity. When Piedmont Healthcare established and rolled out “The Piedmont Way”, they set an organizational blueprint for change in how the experience was conceived and delivered and put metrics in place to support it.

The second shift is moving from fragmented care to connected ecosystems. While we consistently hear about new partnerships, the healthcare journey remains fragmented for most consumers, causing frustration and inefficiencies. When healthcare organizations operate in a connected, integrated ecosystem rather than as stand-alone entities, they can better engage consumers and deliver the triple aim. Mount Sinai Health System partnered with Anthem and a local union to develop a holistic solution to help consumers needing orthopedic procedures. By doing so, they saved money, reduced absenteeism and had high consumer satisfaction.

The third required shift is moving from “population-centric” to “person-centered.” Healthcare organizations often focus on creating products, services and experiences for groups of similar consumers, such as those who have the same condition or those who fall into the same demographic. They need to create products, services and experiences for consumers based on their individual needs. The key is having a customer data value exchange that encourages consumers to share relevant information. PatientsLikeMe’s “data for good” value exchange proposition is transparent and compelling.

The fourth shift is moving from incremental improvements to pervasive innovation. Healthcare organizations often settle for small, time-consuming improvements to established systems and processes that were never designed with the consumer in mind. Organizations can consistently adopt both an innovative and a minimally viable product mindset, using a portfolio of approaches to spark wholesale, enterprise-wide change. Advocate Aurora Health’s same day mammogram program was a great example of rolling out a “minimally viable product” before testing it and evolving it over time, rather than delaying launch until it was complete.

The fifth shift we describe is moving from “Insights as a Department” to a “Culture of Consumer Obsession.” Establishing insights as a function is critical to gathering intelligence, but it’s not enough. Healthcare organizations can go further by creating a culture of consumer obsession, where everyone in the organization always keeps the consumer front and center. Aetna restructured their Insights team and embedded it in the business units, so it can better inform holistic decision making, not just issue research reports.

Ok, its very nice to suggest changes, but what concrete steps would have to be done to actually manifest these changes? What can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do to help?

Great question. In the last chapter of our book, we describe three archetypes for beginning to galvanize transformation. In short, executives can orchestrate a “top down transformation” by articulating a comprehensive strategy and then tying metrics to it. Functional leaders of marketing and CX departments can begin transformation by creating new insight into what it takes to win and piloting small improvements based on their results. Grassroots leaders within organizations need to start with small wins and build coalitions. None of it is easy, but our research shows that consumer-centric transformation is taking shape, at least in pockets, and in many shapes and forms.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?

I love this question! I just wrote a blog on this, reflecting on my path to becoming an author. In it, I spoke to several books that inspired have me. Among the healthcare books, I specifically out “The Innovator’s Prescription: A Disruptive Solution for Health Care” by Clayton M. Christensen and Jason Hwang. It is 10 years old and still incredibly insightful and relevant. The other part of being a “healthcare leader” is the “leader” part. And in that, I still think about the lessons I read about in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” and how he built coalitions, shared credit and found a balance between principle and compromise. I think they all apply to leading teams and organizations.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter @JeffGourdji

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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