Powerful Content Marketing Needs Empathy for Customer Workflow

(Screenshot of DM from @jslentzclifton included here by permission!)

[This post was written in preparation for Healthcare Content Creation for the Audience Economy #HITsm Chat with @jslentzclifton, @sarahbennight, and @shimcode.]

The opposite of empathy is apathy:

“By definition, empathy is the opposite of apathy. Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another” — within + feeling or inside + suffering. Apathy is defined as “a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern” — not + feeling or without + suffering.” (On Empathy and Apathy)

The opposite of useful is useless (I don’t think you need a quote!)

Now comparing the following possible combinations:

1. Empathic but useless
2. Useful but apathetic
3. Apathetic and useless
4. Empathic and useful

Which combination do you think is the most attractive and relevant to marketing health IT? Of course: Empathy and usefulness!

Now, empathy and usefulness do seem kinda, sorta, almost at odds. I don’t mean they are contradictory. What I mean is that the kind of content that establishes empathic connection is very different to the kind of content typically used to establish the utilitarian goal of illustrating usefulness. Think: romantic novel versus technical manual.

What if I told you there is a foolproof way to create content that is both empathic and useful? Yes, you know where I am going: workflow!

At this point, rather than repeat myself in great detail, see my 2015 post Marketing Workflow Is An Incredible Opportunity To Differentiate Health IT Products, And You!

But I will summarize that post:

Everyone is an expert on their own workflow. If you can vividly and credibly show ME, an expert on MY workflow, that your product fits perfectly into my workflow, I’m yours! There is no more intimate AND utilitarian act than to truly understand someone’s workflow in terms of how your product can make their lives better. This is why I so often tweet and write about “empathic workflow.”

Today’s #HITsm tweet chat pivots off last week’s ultra successful #HITMC (Health IT Marketing & PR Conference). The questions really resonate for me. I like to think of myself as a healthcare workflow SME (Subject Matter Expert), but the real SMEs are the folks who use health IT every day to do their work and live their lives. These people are actually, literally, embedded in their healthcare workflows. Forget pretty computer GUI screens. The true user interface between people and technology is the workflow of those people and that technology. Health IT marketing SMEs need to partner with healthcare workflow SMEs to tell their workflow stories, in all their warts and glories. (Many thanks to @sarahbennight for reminding me that the HITMC crowd are also SMEs themselves!) Tell that story! All the way from the programmers who create the software that partially determines workflow, to the users who partially determine workflow, to the dance between software and users that completely determines workflow.

Whew! I enjoyed writing that.

Emphasize your customers workflow and make your content both empathic and useful!

I look forward to enjoying this weeks #HITsm tweetchat about #HITMC!

In order to optimize my workflow during the tweetchat, I’ve written drafts of tweeted responses to each other topics (plus the de rigueur introductory tweet). See you there!

Chuck, #cbus (but in #DC), workflow! I’m a workflow SME (Subject Matter Expert). Workflow posts, tweets, webinars, white papers, videos: LOTS! #HITsm #HITMC #HITMCworkflow

T1: What are some of the ways content & messages can be made inspirational and humanized? #HITsm

Stories = workflows. No, really! Linguists analyze narrative using workflow like systems of notation. I studied this! #HITsm #HITMC #HITMCworkflow

T2: What are characteristics of a ‘good’ SME and how do you identify SME’s in your organization, tribe, circle of associates? #HITsm

Great question! Whoever is most systematically kept AWAY from marketing folks, that’s the most valuable subject matter expert. #HITsm #HITMC #HITMCworkflow

T3: What are most effective types of ‘personalized content’ to share w/ a buyer & at what point in their journey? #HITsm

Whenever you can describe YOUR product in terms of THEIR (detailed!) workflow, that is the most powerful way to communicate your value. #HITsm #HITMC #HITMCworkflow

T4: What are some of the ways video can be used to market and support healthcare products/services? #HITsm

My favorite? #Periscope a story/workflow behind the scenes. Group video chat (#Blab #Firetalk) w/Subject Matter Experts #HITsm #HITMC #HITMCworkflow

T5: What’s not going to change in Healthcare in the next 10 years and how will content remain the same as it is today? #HITsm

Respect for expertise. That is what will not change over the next 10 years. You’ve got to get to and cultivate your Subject Matter Experts: they are gold #HITsm #HITMC #HITMCworkflow

Bonus: What are some of the best content marketing tips you learned at the HITMC? Or would like to share if you didn’t attend? #HITsm

I had some excellent feedback re my #HITMCworkflow Top Ten at the 2017 Health IT Marketing and PR Conference post. Basically, you’ll see more-and-more workflow at future #HITMC conferences!

@wareFLO On Periscope!


Why Do Most Current EHRs Suck? How to Fix? Hint: Workflow!

Yesterday I was quoted in Healthcare IT News. (Thank you!) I was asked three questions. Are EHRs getting better? What would make them better? Would physicians prefer to go back to paper medical records? My answer to the first question was quoted. For the record, I herein include my answers to all three questions.

My questions:

1. In your view, are EHRs getting better? If yes, how? If no, why not?

(Quoted in Doctors Demand Extreme EHR Makeover … Right Now)

Yes, EHRs are getting better, but not fast enough and there are fundamental limits to how much they can be improved. The workflow of even workflow-oblivious systems can be tweaked and made marginally better. However, at some point, the effort and cost of straining toward more automatic, transparent, and flexible workflow within systems not specifically designed to make that possible, will be greater than the resulting improvements.

2. What would make EHRs better?

A time machine? To go back and design EHRs on top of workflow platforms instead of database platforms? Current EHR technology is essentially “pinned”, by the combined legacy of Meaningful Use and current MACRA incentive-driven mandates. Healthcare’s boil-the-ocean approach to healthcare data and physician micromanagement needs to stop. Stop directly incenting outcome measures. By all means measure outcomes. But, to paraphrase Goodhart’s Law (please Google it), “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”

We are unfortunately quite limited in our ability to improve the current installed base of EHRs. Instead, we need to implement a new layer of workflow technology atop the current existing layer of workflow-oblivious databases with lousy user interfaces. This is happening. Every year I search every website of every HIMSS conference exhibitor. I’ve seen workflow thinking and workflow technology essentially go from almost non-existence to large minority of vendors. Technologies not called Electronic Health Records will increasingly encroach on the original vision of EHRs, and supply the seamless and intelligent workflow current EHRs cannot deliver.

3. I know docs had to document before EHRs came along (remember all those manila folders?). Was that easier?

Your bipartite timeline should be a tripartite timeline:

1. Pre-EHR
2. EHR pre-MU
3. EHR post MU

Most physicians today would not go back to pre-EHR days. However, many who had EHRs before MU, would definitely go back to pre-MU days. Those physicians and hospitals loved their EHRs. Medical centers who self-developed their EHRs had staff who loved their EHRs. In the ambulatory medical practice world, some physicians wrote personal checks for their EHRs. They wouldn’t have done so if their EHRs sucked. After MU came along, EHR user satisfaction dropped. In many cases, EHRs that were designed pre-MU, and originally had high user satisfaction, were redesigned to obtain MU subsidies. Subsequently user satisfaction dropped.

Thank you! I’m eager to see your answers.

You are welcome! Viva la workflow! Onward Workflowistas!

The #HITMCworkflow Top Ten at the 2017 Health IT Marketing and PR Conference

I’m like a truffle hound when it comes to sniffing out workflow. Yes, I know there is another animal that likes truffles. And I do have a big appetite for workflow and can be a bit of a bore on the subject… But that’s not important! I just spent two days searching every tweet and associated websites of the more than speakers at the 2017 Health IT Marketing and PR Conference. Here is the Twitter list if you’d like to subscribe or follow some or all the 67+ HITMC speakers and/or speaker organization (in some cases).


I am impressed! First of all, John and Shahid are to be congratulated. What an impressive collection of speakers and attendees! And what variety!

I shouldn’t have been surprised (about the workflow). Health IT Marketing professionals are workflow savvy for at least three reasons. First, marketers increasingly leverage IT to manage marketing workflows. Marketing automation is a prime example (See Marketing Automation for Healthcare IT and Marketing Automation Software: Are You Using it Right? on HITMC.com). Second, marketers increasingly represent products and services that are themselves great examples of workflow technology. Third, HIT marketers increasingly focus on patient experience in an experience economy, and patient journeys are most usefully described as complex workflows. When I took my three credit undergraduate marketing course decades ago, its spine was the Marketing Mix, four Ps standing for Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. Since then, a fifth P was added: Process! Other lists of marketing concerns now exist, such as the four or seven Cs, and they all include or imply workflow and process ideas.

In other words, workflow is becoming an important and powerful health IT marketing meme!

Here are The Workflow Top Ten at the 2017 Health IT Marketing and PR Conference , in no particular order (except for that @burtrosen guy!)….


What can I say? I love workflow too. You can see the almost visceral marketing workflow connection. If you love marketing, and you love digital tools and platforms, you gotta love workflow and process too!


Jess, who tweets lots about workflow, nails it! #HITMCworkflow! Why didn’t I think of it!


Dodge Communications caught my eye four years ago.

Dodge tweets lots about workflow …

… and recently published a fantastic multimedia video animated introduction to marketing automation.

“Using marketing automation to find, engage, convert and keep customers this video shows how marketing automation works to find prospects, keep them engaged, convert them into customers and ultimately create advocates for your brand.”

Dodge Communications @DodgeComm is represented at HITMC especially well by Kelcie Chambers @kelciechambers and Michelle Morris @mmorris135, who also tweet about workflow!


Cool! HITMC has a speaker, Sonali Nigam, Director, Healthcare & LifeSciences, from Newgen Software, a BPM (Business Process Management) company! @newgensoftware has many hundreds (1000s?) of wonderful tweets about workflow and BPM and many about healthcare! From their Twitter profile: “Newgen Software is a leading global provider of #BPM, #ECM, #CCM, #DMS, #Workflow, #CaseManagement and #Process #Automation #Software.” Newgen Software has a great post explaining BPM: What is Business Process Management (BPM)? I am delighted to see a modern BPM company at HITMC!


Shereese said “workflow” a million times! w00T! @ShereesePubHlth, frequently tweets about workflow. Keep it up, Shereese!


Chris Slocumb, of Clarity Quest, shows what I mean when I said earlier that there are important connections among marketing workflows, health IT workflows, and marketing automation? To appreciate and understand any one of the three is already half way to doing so for any of the others!


Colin and I have lots of fun bouncing workflow ideas and memes off each other. I’ve found his (and @JoeBabaian) #HCLDR invaluable for forcing me to think about connections among workflow and a wide variety of healthcare subjects. Colin has tweeted about workflow at least 74 times since his first workflow tweet, in 2011. By the way, I just found out Colin is a certified professional (mechanical) engineer! In marketing! Engineers are systems thinkers who really “get” workflow. As workflow becomes more and more important in healthcare, marketing health IT, I think we’ll see more engineers move into health IT marketing positions.


It’s hard to believe, but Colin’s 74 tweets edged out John Lynn’s 73 tweets. However, @TechGuy has been tweeting about workflow since 2009. And there are over 2000 hits on just one of his many websites.

Aside from an enthusiastic curiosity about everything, I suspect that John’s early experience implementing and EHR, in combination with managing complex social media content marketing workflows, give him a unique perspective on just how truly important workflow is, in healthcare, in marketing, and life! In fact, I think I see a trend. I’m seeing John more and more address patient workflow! Also see Neil Versal below re this.

PS. I miss John’s almost weekly blabs about everything under the health IT sun!


The above tweet, from @shahidnshah way back in 2013, doesn’t specific mention workflow. I specifically recall his tweet because I agreed so emphatically, and had to search for it using “interoperability”. Healthcare “workflow thinking”, and workflow technology, will be essential to the practical systems integration to which Shahid refers. Shahid also said something nice about one of my blog posts about interoperability and workflow the next year.


What can I say? Flattery, especially about anything workflow, will get you everywhere, around me at least!

But then there’s this tweet, from 2012.

Screenshots and workflow diagrams? Been there. Done that. I can see that Sarah has indeed come up through the workflow trenches! BTW, Sarah was present at the birth of one of my favorite memes: Workflow-Man!


(OK, one more person than I promised! But I just had to squeeze Neil in. You’ll see why!)

Neil Versel, a journalist who has written many insightful articles about workflow and health IT tech over the years, tweets about healthcare workflow!

More about Neil…

HIT Journalist becomes patient advocate after seeing the danger of uncoordinated care and poorly designed workflows

I think patient workflow is, despite Neil being among the first to nibble at it, the next great uncovered health IT story. One usually thinks of workflows in hospitals and clinics, but all purposeful human activity involves workflow, even if you don’t call it workflow. Call it life-flow, journey maps, ritual, or just plane ol’ “flow,” understanding, facilitating, and empowering the series of steps/tasks/activities/experiences, consuming resources, achieving goals, is at the heart of the digital transformation of healthcare. And I am so glad Neil is writing about it!

Have a great Health IT Marketing and PR Conference! Next year I think HITMC should be held in my current home town, Columbus, Ohio. It’s a day’s drive from 60 percent of the population of the United States and just six hours to both Chicago and DC!

@wareFLO On Periscope!