Behind every brand delivering simpler experiences for customers is a leader who recognizes the inherent value in keeping things simple. In Simplifiers, Margaret Molloy interviews business leaders who put simplicity to work.
Here, Margaret speaks with Melanie Marcus, Chief Marketing Officer, Surescripts. Since 2001, Surescripts has been building an industrial-strength health information network designed to increase patient safety, lower costs and improve quality of care.
MM: What is Surescripts?
MM: Surescripts is a health information technology company. We operate a nationwide network that connects the healthcare ecosystem to enhance the prescribing process and inform care decisions.
MM: And what does Surescripts stand for?
MM: Surescripts is a purpose-driven company. We connect almost every clinician, electronic health record, hospital, payer, technology vendor, and pharmacy, across the healthcare marketplace. We then partner across the Surescripts Network Alliance to bring critical information to the point of care to help increase patient safety, lower costs, and ensure quality care.
MM: How do you deliver on that promise every day?
MM: There are many ways we deliver on that promise. We automate more than three-quarters of the prescriptions in the country today. Beyond that, we provide prescription cost information as well as patient medication and clinical history to providers to help inform and streamline decision making. Ultimately, we help lower costs, improve quality and increase safety.
MM: What role does simplicity play in that promise?
MM: Almost everything we do makes healthcare simpler for patients and providers.
Let me give you an example. When I moved to Washington DC, I went to pick up a refill for a medicine that I had taken for years. This time with a new health plan, a new doctor and a new pharmacy. At the pharmacy, I was met with an extremely high bill, which sparked a two-week long process where I called my doctor and health plan and visited the pharmacy numerous times. Finally, I picked up my medication at a reasonable price, but it wasn’t my original prescription—it was a therapeutic alternative that my plan covered. This type of complexity should not happen.
Surescripts’ technology overcomes that hurdle at the point of prescribing. Your physician can know what the cost will be and see what alternatives might be available, so you obtain the correct prescription at an affordable price which increases the likelihood that you’ll pick it up and take it according to instructions. Many patients wouldn’t go through the arduous process I went through which can delay treatment and potentially mean that the patient will actually avoid treatment altogether, either because the medicine is too expensive, or the patient did not want to go through the trouble.
MM: What benefits has Surescripts experienced from simplifying within your organization or messaging?
MM: In a network business, keeping it simple can seem impossible. But if we lean on the power of the Surescripts Network Alliance and focus on the patient as the focal point of everything we do, things get simpler. For example, we convene hundreds of organizations from across the Surescripts Network Alliance several times a year to focus on ways to improve the work we’re all doing together. Assembling people who represent different parts of the healthcare marketplace is incredibly powerful and has enabled us to improve the accuracy of electronic prescriptions. That means less times a pharmacist needs to call the physician to clarify the prescription before it’s filled.
MM: As a marketing leader, how do you keep things “simple” for your team?
MM: One of my early mentors wrote the words, “Make complicated things simple” on my whiteboard, and I kept it there for ten years. It was always front and center when I walked into my office because it spoke volumes, not only about what we do in marketing but also what we do in healthcare technology.
We’re in a business that is changing at warp speed, and to lead in this world, it’s vital that I sift through the myriad of “we shoulds” to get to a simple list of “we must,” all connected to how our customers are engaging the patient.
MM: Personally speaking, what’s the most recent simple customer experience that inspired or impressed you?
MM: As someone with a busy lifestyle, I have come to appreciate experiences that simplify life and allow you to focus on what’s important. My big discovery last year was a local retailer called From the Farmer. Their message is “The Farmer’s Market Delivered”–enough said. It’s an indulgence that I just love. They deliver farm-fresh produce sourced from local producers right to my front door. It’s incredibly simple to swap items you don’t like with more of what you love and even skip your box for a week. From the Farmer ensures that I am not driving to the grocery store after a long day at the office.
MM: What are some of the biggest mistakes that brands make with regards to simplifying?
MM: They do it from the inside out, instead of the outside in. For example, they might have an entire portfolio of widgets, and they work hard to tell customers why their widgets are superior. That’s inside out and not simple. You’re going to end up with a lot of your own company’s jargon. Versus starting with the customer and their needs, in their language and then demonstrating how your company can help.
MM: Any recent examples of a difficult decision that you made at Surescripts, for the sake of simplicity?
MM: We have a portfolio of wonderful products that make meaningful differences in people’s lives, and each product has a set of goals, and a set of needs, and a set of messages that could go out to the marketplace. However, about a year and a half ago, we decided to approach this from the market’s perspective and streamline our messaging completely. We’re not going to talk about every single product all by itself—we’re going to point to our portfolio, and at the most significant issues in the marketplace Surescripts is helping address. That was a major tradeoff, and a great deal of customer feedback and organizational trust was required to get there.
MM: What does “simplicity” mean to you?
MM: Relevant, accessible, understandable and relatable.
MM: What advice would you give other brands trying to simplify?
MM: Listen to your customers. That’s numbers one, two and three. If it feels like you’re forcing it, stop, go back and listen to your customers again.
MM: Anything else?
MM: I am optimistic about this generation of healthcare technology and that it will begin to have a serious impact on the way we all experience healthcare. We’ll get a better result as patients. The fact that doctors can see the price of a prescription when they’re making the prescription is indeed a significant advancement, so I’m hopeful that soon, everyone will have an improved—and simplified—experience.
MM: Thank you, Melanie.