Why Thought Leadership Matters In Healthcare

Dec 22, 2021

To be successful in business, you have to come up with a viable idea, develop it, bring it to market, and sell it to customers. That may be an oversimplified version of the formula but the basic principles are there: craft a product or service and then spend most of your time selling it far and wide.

As with so many things in healthcare, this process is more complicated than usual. Caring for patients is always the top priority but then there are also so many different stakeholders and revenue streams that muddle how a company should explore expansion.

Ultimately, healthcare executives are the guiding force that can bring an organization to the next level by embodying the mission statement, promoting value to the market, and winning over skeptics.

But in an era where the playing field is so flat, where new markets emerge only to experience a sudden rush of competitive saturation, companies have to stand out. The most obvious answer to an executive might be to rely on standard business strategies to address these challenges.

However, I would argue that the best way to differentiate yourself as a company and secure necessary industry credibility is to operate above the fray.Optics matter, so leaders must recognize that opportunities to interface with the media and stakeholders as a vendor-neutral voice of reason are an effective, proven way to better serve the business.

Casting yourself as an industry authority or subject matter expert pays dividends down the line because outsiders can look at you and realize you have more to say than simply reciting the same sales pitch over and over.

In the years I spent as a healthcare reporter, some of my most valuable contacts in the industry were accomplished executives that could speak to specific events or general trends in a vendor-neutral way.

Neither me nor my audience needed to know about how their RCM company was the best at streamlining the financial experience for patients or how their virtual care service was going to be the Holy Grail of care access. Quality journalists aren’t there to hand out superlatives or write puff pieces about executives and the companies that they run; rehashing a press release isn’t why reporters do what they do.

However, soliciting the opinions of healthcare’s movers and shakers never goes out of style. For example, if there’s a significant policy announcement affecting payers and I can get an insurance executive on the phone to talk about ramifications without reminding me that they were the first to offer certain benefits to members, then that’s a source I can reliably turn to again down the line.

Subtlety, rather than outright salesmanship, is the best way to position your organization for maximum opportunity.

Getting your name in print, on industry panels, or invited to deliver keynotes should always be the goal because then you build a natural rapport with the audiences you’re most seeking to connect with. Everybody wants what they say to have merit and thought leadership is the ideal exercise to make that happen.

Perhaps most importantly to note, you and your company don’t have to be the star of the story; you just have to be in the story.

Since the initial outbreak of COVID-19, healthcare innovation has enjoyed prime media coverage, the likes of which hadn’t been seen before. Whether it was telehealth, remote patient monitoring, or vaccine research, there were thousands of stories printed about fast-moving developments in an industry that has historically been averse to change.

In each of the stories that ran on television, in print media, or on podcasts, there were ample opportunities for leaders to chime in about the future of healthcare. Many participated, but I implore those who didn’t to reconsider their approach to promoting their brand.

If there’s an outlet or reporter asking to associate your name with a trending story or a noteworthy event, even one that likely will not give you the sole spotlight, you’re better off accepting that invitation because now you’re linked to it.

I know there’s a strong inclination to use any and every media appearance to preach the company’s gospel, but there’s an even stronger value in looking at the world from a 30,000-foot view. If you can step outside yourself and speak to topics that are not simply related to your company’s latest announcement, you will gain invaluable industry credibility and media contacts that will return to you without hesitation.

Thought leadership is not just a pie-in-the-sky buzzword for the most outgoing executives in healthcare, it’s a useful strategy to expand brand awareness that every leader and their communications teams should be pursuing if they haven’t done so already.

Jack O'Brien

Jack O'Brien is Content and Account Director at Amendola Communications, based out of New York City. Most recently, Jack served as Content Team Lead and Finance Editor at HealthLeaders Magazine, where he authored the weekly HealthLeaders Finance eNewsletter and hosted the monthly HealthLeaders Finance Podcast. Beyond his work as a reporter, Jack recruited hospital and health system executives for HealthLeaders roundtable events, led high-level discussions related to healthcare finance and thought leadership, and moderated sponsored webinars. Jack also served as a founding member of the company's internal wellness committee and led the design team for creating the group's logo. Jack has served as a guest moderator for digital health programs hosted by Columbia Business School and served as the keynote speaker at the 2021 Toolkit for Independence conference. Additionally, Jack started his career at InsideSources, writing for NH Journal, where he produced a daily morning eNewsletter comprising a feature story and aggregated headlines from around the state and reported on the legislature in Concord. In addition to his work at HealthLeaders and NH Journal, Jack has been published in The Washington Examiner, The Altamont Enterprise and Albany County Post, The Williston Times, Red Alert Politics, The Legislative Gazette, The New Paltz Oracle, and The Little Rebellion. Jack has a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism, along with a double minor in political science and law, from the State University of New York at New Paltz.