Patient Activation with Mark Stinson

Reading Time: 17 Minutes

In this interview with Mark Stinson, we discuss how you can activate patients, and help them move beyond inaction due to lack of resources. Patient activation is a fully integrated system that moves patients from awareness to action. 

About Mark Stinson

Mark Stinson is a strategist for brand innovation – an experienced marketer, creative group facilitator, and venture catalyst. He is the founder of Bioscience Bridge and the author of five books on branding and creativity in health, science, and technology marketing. Mark is a frequent speaker, trainer, and facilitator for sales meetings, advisory boards, and strategy workshops. He has received the Brand Leadership Award from the Asia Brand Congress for global marketing efforts, and he is included in PharmaVoice’s 100 Most Inspiring People in the Life-Sciences Industry Mark and his wife, Jenny, have five children and a golden retriever. They live in Garden City, Idaho.

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This transcript was auto-generated from the original video recording using Otter Voice Meeting Notes. While the transcript has not been human edited, we hope it will still help you to quickly find or reference useful information from the interview


Hey deliberate leaders, I’m your host Jen Drean, Executive Business Coach at Deliberate Directions, where we’re dedicated to helping leaders build strong, thriving businesses. And each episode here on the Deliberate Leaders Podcast, we bring inspiring interviews, like the one we have today to help you on your leadership journey. Today, I’m interviewing Mark Stinson. Mark is that a very diverse background. But he talks about himself as a healthcare brand innovator. And specifically, we’ll be talking today about his book patient activation. And he also does a lot of branding, advertising marketing strategy, specifically in the fields of health science and technology. Welcome, Mark. It’s great to be here, Jen. Thanks a lot. You bet. So you have like I said, just a super diverse background. You’re author of several books that looks like worked on everything related to branding and marketing that seems like you could get into. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your history?


Well, branding, and marketing, for sure. And then I think the second half of that is what you were describing the focus on healthcare, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, all sorts of health care procedures. And I think the combination of those two is, is really a personal mission, to really raise the awareness for new medical treatments, but also maybe accelerate for the company’s their ability to get those treatments out. And let more people take advantage of them.


Yeah, I think it’s such an important topic. And you know, one of the big reasons I wanted to invite you here today was to talk about that. As you know, I am an optometrist, and I own private practices. And so, but I’m also a health coach that specializes in health care, and helping doctors run their practices better. And I’m sure you can remember from your background, there was actually a lot of years where he was illegal for health care practices, and healthcare industries to market. And so now that we’ve kind of gotten to the point where we’re allowed to do that, and none of us know how we don’t have training, we don’t have background and we’re expected to operate like businesses, but still healthcare. And there’s different dynamics that go into marketing and branding that for sure,


For sure. And just like anything, yeah, the pendulum swings back and forth a little bit. But we’re certainly in the era where you can really think of us as healthcare consumers. And you know, some healthcare professionals might bristle at that and say, I don’t really want to have consumer or customer experience or service, you know, I want to treat patients and so forth. But really, when you think about it, treating the patient, right, is a customer experience. And that’s really the kind of message we wanted to get for both sides for patients, and for the healthcare professional, in this book, patient activation to really help everybody communicate better.


Yeah, I think that’s a great idea. I’m glad you’ve written a book on it. So kind of based on that what, you know, based on your title, what do you what does it mean to you to be an activated patient?


Yeah. So Bob Bowers is the CEO of this company at Three Bar, and he’s my coauthor on this book. And he and I collaborated on this term patient activation, that it’s not simply maybe patient awareness, or patient education, or even patient engagement. These are well known terms. Yeah, in the healthcare fields, especially in practice building. But we really wanted to think of it from the patient’s point of view, and say, it’s one thing to be aware of a new treatment. And certainly you see a commercial on TV every night, for a drug or a treatment or some new procedure. There’s no lack of awareness, you know, if you just kind of read about these things, but we really wanted to say past awareness, what’s going to make you get up off the couch, you know, click a button on the internet, or make a phone call the next morning, to actually learn about something and be educated about it, and then take the next step to get a doctor’s appointment. And of course, again, many people who deal with medical practices know that getting the appointment is sometimes the biggest hurdle. You know, if you have something that’s really on your mind, you want to take care of it right then and there. And so when you’re motivated, that’s when we said, well, let’s activate and try to, you know, bring the deal together, get the patient into the office and let the two meet.


Yeah, absolutely. Do you think that activation can be defined or measured in a specific way?


Well, what we were interested to find it was not just an attitude, you know, you didn’t just feel the activated There were actually metrics and they’re called Pam Thirteen’s, patient activation measures. And there’s 13 statements. And to the degree you, you know, agree or disagree with these statements is what makes you or defined you and measures you as an activated patient. So things like, do you feel personally responsible? Or do you feel like you can talk to your doctor? Or do you feel like your doctor has your best interest in mind? And so all of these questions, give a scale, you know, and give a measurement to how activated you are and how you feel as a patient.


And in terms of the kind of that measurement, do you suggest that practices? implement those surveys on their own? Or do you feel like there is a way to do that on a higher scale through outside companies?


No, I think if you want it to start at the very beginning and say, we’re going to have our antenna up to listen for these kinds of things, you know, that’s a good start. But if you want it to go all the way, like many practices in many larger health systems do is that we’re really going to measure how educated, aware, activated and how, you know, much implementation of our recommendations patients actually take because as you know, again, compliance and following the doctor’s instruction is a big hurdle. So you know, how much is the patient actually using this doctor advice and following the prescriptions and so forth? So, yes, they can be implemented in a very formal way. But we should all start in at least say, Let’s ask the question, and let’s listen to each other.


I think this is a fantastic measurement tool in terms of, you know, what it’s measuring and the impact that it could have on the healthcare industry in general, right. So we’ve got all these measurement systems now, like MIPS, I think, is the most current one, right. And really, what they’re doing is they’re measuring the quality of the care, but they’re measuring the quality of care based off of metrics within practice management software’s and reporting of doctors, and it’s not based on patient experience and patient activation, right. And I think that when we look at how we can help patients, which is the purpose of what we’re doing, right, getting their feedback is the most important part, it’s not just about the doctor’s feedback, and what tests we ran or didn’t ran, it’s, it’s really, if we only got them to do one thing. And that would be the most impactful for their life and their quality of life, their health care, you know, what would that be? So I can definitely understand why having patient activation and measuring that in really specific ways, more valuable than some of these other measurements, maybe that the government and the industries are required.


And you’re saying, you know, how well is the health care being delivered? And that’s obviously important. Sure, that’s also how well is the brand, you know, is represented. And so we often use analogies, like retail, or restaurants. And there’s basically two questions that you can ask a, would you do it again? You know, would you buy from us again? And then two? Would you recommend us to a friend, look, even at your local coffee shop, they will ask you a survey half Do you go or your oil change? or what have you that says, how satisfied Were you with the service? And would you recommend us to a friend or family? And those two metrics have been proven to be very, you know, instrumental, or projectable, even as to how your experience was?


How does this system of measurement relate to what is considered a good NPS score or the net promoter score?


Well, and that NPS is exactly what I was describing, is that, you know, how well was your experience delivered? And then how likely are you to refer to a friend and those metrics and so you could put your medical practice, you could put your, you know, pharmaceutical program, next to retail restaurants, car service, you know, right on down the line, and say, where do we fit in?


Yeah, absolutely. Do you find that the health care industry has different scores for these metrics then other industries? Or are we kind of shooting for the same type of metric? Or that same level? Right?


Yeah, well, interestingly enough, and this is a whole chapter in the book. Bob likes to call it the priming of the patients. But amazon prime has changed the way we all think, you know, and so if you go into a retail store and say, Sorry, we’re out of that. Well, I can buy it online. And I’ll have it not in a Week, not in two days, I might have it That afternoon, depending on where I live, right? Yeah. Or I can go back to the store. And I find that very interesting that you go to a store and they say we don’t have it, but I could order it online, come back to the same store and pick it up tomorrow. But that that conversation isn’t happening. So we said, Look, in that context, if you tell a patient who wants to have a, you know, an I’ll just pick a specialty, I want to see a rheumatologist. I want to see a gastroenterologist or any medical specialty. And they look at the calendar and they say, we can see you on October 17. Yeah, it’s like, I don’t want to wait 12 weeks for something that I’ve got on my mind right now. Or if you ask how much is this MRI going to cost? And it’s like, What do you mean, we’re not used to thinking about the cost of particular health care services? And so while many things do have a price tag, a lot of times it’s like, Well, it depends on your insurance, what does it really, you know, the MRI costs, what it costs. Yeah, so how much you have to pay for it out of your pocket might be variable. But so these things that are kind of a black box and healthcare that we’ve let go, the premise of the book is that patients now are more empowered, and are more activated. And we should be ready for those kinds of questions.


I think the impact it can have on some of the, you know, huge negatives, you know, you mentioned like the wait time just to get into see a provider right now, because of the shortage of providers or barriers that we have, right. And in healthcare, and I think that, you know, using these metrics as a tool to implement change into the healthcare system, I think could be pretty powerful, too. I definitely see from, you know, perception of branding and marketing, but also, you know, just implementing change in the in the healthcare industry as a whole. Could be pretty powerful.


Absolutely. And I think we’ve seen, you know, if all of a sudden out of a pandemic, we know what telehealth really is. I mean, it was there, but it wasn’t really there. And so now, you would have to ask, Well, why would I be driving downtown to the University Medical Center, when I could talk to you right here, I don’t have to leave my house, it’ll cost probably half as much. Now, of course, if I have to have a test, if had blood drawn or have a diagnostic procedure, but then that’s not going to fly. But you know, I could have the pre I could have the post, I could do a lot of things. And this is what Bob and his team at 83 bar that we document in this book is that telehealth has now really changed the game, you know, the conversations, the access, the availability, the comfort level, because now all of a sudden, I’m not an hospital gown sitting in a strange environment, you know, with my blood pressure up, because I was waiting in the waiting room, I’m at my home, you know, we’re sort of equals now, the box on the zoom is the same size, we’re having a conversation is equals. And I think that again, gives the patient more empowerment, to have a meaningful conversation with the doctor. And hopefully, it gives the doctor a chance to be more, you know, relatable. Yeah, absolutely. And this is the same with nurses. And they’re more call centers, more telehealth nurses, again, have been a empathetic, you know, kind of conversation and caring a lot more.


Well, I think using this as a tool for you, like you said, that telehealth has been big. And I think that’s one of the great things that’s come out of the health of the pandemic is having some of these changes come up, right, and knowing what those boundaries are. But I think that, like you said, like, a lot of these services have been offered for a long time. But I know we enacted laws in Idaho, which is where we’re at, you know, like, five years ago on telehealth, and they’re just, you know, they really haven’t really been pursued by the general public. I think mostly for lack of awareness. And so getting the word out in these ways is fantastic. So


you can’t say, Okay, everybody has high speed internet now. And everybody has a zoom camera and everything, but it is a lot more universal than ever before. Absolutely. And so you can’t say, you know, this is like, all of a sudden, you realize you could order your groceries and go pick them up, or you could do that, you know, 20 years ago, let alone 10. But now these things are a lot more accessible and a lot more just everyday product.


Yeah. So you mentioned that you co authored this with someone from 83 bar. And what is the process that 83 bar uses?


Yeah, and I think one of the things we were trying to document in this book together was that there’s a four step, you know, first you have to locate the patients and connect with them then searching online, you’re searching for them? How do you get together? And then there’s the education step. And so you’re not just aware that there’s a new treatment, or even in some cases, a new clinical trial, how many people know about clinical trials as an option? So there is a lot more, you know, available to more and more people. And so that’s another level of education. And then I think the third step is the navigation part. Can you get me an appointment? What doctors in my area? Should I go to and provide a choice? Again, you could do this with the zip code, you know, are there three practices in your area that you might want to consider? And then all of a sudden, you say, Well, yes, I do. I have a sister who goes to that practice, maybe I should try them too. And then the fourth step is to really advocate for the patients, and then let the patient’s advocate for themselves. Again, in the age of Yelp, I’m making all these connections to all these other tools that we use on an everyday basis. Yeah, but you know, the yelping of healthcare practices is something that, again, has been out there, but it will become more and more reality. So you know, how well you’re treated? Right down to? Did they have anything to look at in the waiting room? Or, you know, was it a timely visit? Or did I sit in the exam room for a half hour waiting? All of these things will come back?


Yeah, I think that’s one of the you know, being private practice owner and doctor, like, that’s one of the things that, you know, we’ve we send out surveys after every interaction with the patient. And when patients send us feedback, we respond to them. And they’re, you know, within a week is our procedure, we want to make sure that we follow up with them in a timely fashion. And we address their concerns and, and they’re always shocked that they’re getting called back at all. What you actually read this, like, it’s a doctor’s office, I know. And so they’re always really shocked, which I think really helps. But you’re right, like the, you know, I one of the metrics that we follow in our practice is actually how many Google reviews we have. And that’s just, you know, we hope they’re all great. We can’t be the perfect doctor for every patient. Right, but, but I think that, that having that awareness out there, people often come in and tell us that they came to see us because of our Google reviews. And so and they decided to schedule an appointment from Google. Yes, because of the Google reviews. And so I think that they can’t be ignored. I think a lot of healthcare practices, especially smaller independent practices are not paying attention to that as much as they should be for sure.


Yeah. And I think, you know, again, it’s like, surveys are so common, but I had done a program with Ritz Carlton many years ago. And people say, Oh, you take a survey. We got a seven. Yeah. Well, at Ritz Carlton, anything less than a 10 is practically a 911 emergency, you know, they didn’t give us a 10. So we need to address it. And the fact that you’re saying that your practice you call people, whether it’s a 987, you know, or we don’t wait for a one and a two where somebody is in a crisis, and had such a bad experience. They gave us a bad review. So yeah, talk and listen, and absorb it and make the changes necessary.


Yeah, absolutely. And I think that that’s the follow up, right, listening to what the patient’s say, Good or bad and responding to them. So they feel heard and empathize with and then and then implementing the change in your practice or your healthcare industry, right. And that’s really the biggest part is like, Okay, this is something we’ve heard, how can we implement change? To make sure that this doesn’t become feedback, we get repetitively, right, like, obviously, we did something, how can we do better next time? And so,


and you’re really underscored, and I thought I would just highlight what you said is like, I really feel heard. You know, you listened to me. And that was the thing in our market research. We’re following up on this book, hopefully, with another one very soon, based on market research of what you were talking about, how much do you feel heard? Because, you know, the average medical visitors like, I don’t know, seven minutes or something like that. And so how much communication and conversation can you have? So did the office staff Listen to me with my questions? Did the nurses listen to me? Did the doctor listen? And was there any follow up? You know, as you were talking about to see how I felt about it. So there’s a lot of listening that needs to be done. And I think what we hope to continue to pursue and the research with 83 bar team is how well people are listening.


Yep, absolutely. So how has the company changed over time, especially in response to the COVID pandemic with them 83 bar?


Yeah, well, one of the central things that we’ve just been talking about was the telehealth and a major offering of 83 bar was this contact center that was staffed by telehealth nurses to educate, you know, they’re not obviously, the patient’s nurse. So they’re not, you know, dispensing medical advice by any stretch of the imagination, but because they’re trained as nurses, but they also have, you know, empathy skills, soft skills, emotional intelligence, they can have meaningful conversations with the patients, and then say, hey, if this is something you want to pursue and move forward with, we can get an appointment for you. So almost concierge like, and so this, yeah, this company has really built a foundation. It’s a software data driven kind of company, with these empathy, people skills layered on top of it. So it’s been fascinating to watch the company move and grow.


Yeah, that’s interesting. I like the idea of having that concierge type service for that. Right. I think like you said, like, the average doctor’s visit anymore, healthcare provider visit is only seven minutes. Right. And, and so having that feeling even of having like that one on one, and that specialty service, I think is valuable to patients. And you know, as a, as a health care consumer myself, I know, that’s something that I look for when, when the medical industry goes above and beyond what I think it should be doing. I make sure to make it known because it’s not common. So it’s good to hear that there’s a blend there.


Yeah, needs to be elevated. And I guess we always try to flip it on the other side, too, and say, What is the benefit to the doctor of having a more educated activated patient? Well, then you’re going to have a lot more productive conversation. I can’t blame the doctor for the seven minutes. I mean, that’s what I got. But if if you’re not having to go through the 700, meaning less questions from, you know, a Google search, I print, I printed out my Google and Yeah. Very busy doctor. No, so it makes it a more relevant and meaningful conversation. And so we think about it from the doctor’s point of view to we’re not just saying, can we create, you know, more powerful consumers to make the doctor’s life harder? No, quite the opposite.


I think that’s a great point. And I think that, um, you know, having patient activation, like you said, does do both of those things. I think the, you know, we talked about the health care industry, the number of doctors that are getting burnt out and, and, and stopping the practice and then leading to shortages and health care providers. And then a lot of that comes from those timeframes that we’re expected to see patients in and, and making sure that we do give them the perception that they’re being heard, and that they felt listened to, and that we’ve addressed their concerns, but there are a lot of ways that we can still do that in a really meaningful way. And, and because there’s paraprofessionals, like, nurses, and you know, all these other providers, utilizing them in a very powerful way to be heard, you know, through that, that way, the doctor skill set that only the doctor can do, is being addressed at the time with the patient. Yeah. And like you said, making it meaningful. So,


yeah, and you think about the last line of every one of those drug commercials that you’ll see on TV tonight is ask your doctor if it’s right for you. Yes. Well, if you’ve gone all the way to make the appointment, wait for the appointment, wait in the waiting room, wait in the exam room? And finally you say Is it right for me? And they say no? Well, you’ve wasted a lot of people’s time, including your own you. I mean, you’ve driven you’ve parked you made the appointment. But what if it’s not right for you? So why don’t we have the conversation with the nurse or with the telehealth professional before you get to the doctor being another benefit to the practice?


Yeah, absolutely. All right. Well, what is next up for you or you already kind of mentioned that it may be leading into another book or something here in the future?


Yes, well, based on the experience of patient activation, Bob and one of the other partners that at three bar su Hiram published two additional books, one on fibromyalgia, and one on pre diabetes, focusing on you know, what does it take to act via activated patient in these conditions. But as I also mentioned, we’re doing some additional market research to really understand the patient’s call it psychographics. You know, we can measure a lot about age and you know, other demographics, but what about the psychology of the patient and how they get to be more activated. So we hope to be completing that in the next few months. And then publishing a new book too.


Oh, fantastic. That actually sounds thrilling to me as being a background in psychology prior to my optometry career. I, I love the understanding why people do what they do, right. And one of the things that I learned going into being an entrepreneur was, you know, people buy things from and because of an emotion that they feel like they’re going to get from that, right. And so and that’s all psychographic. It’s not demographic, right? sure the demographics play a role, but understanding who you’re working with, and how they like to be motivated, and how like they like to be spoken to, is really going to help encourage that activation on I just a whole new level. So yeah,


and one of the biggest lessons learned not only in this healthcare field, but just in my branding and marketing and market research experience overall, is you can’t trust your own gut assumptions. Always. You know, you say, Well, people all love this. Just what? Because you like it, you know, it’s like, No, I think you’ll be surprised. So that’s why we want to do the market research. So, you know, based on I mean, 100 1000s of calls, that 83 bar has fielded over time. Well, what have we learned from all those phone calls? And if we could actually put some rigor behind measuring that and reporting on that. I think it will be a great report.


Yeah, absolutely. Well, great. Thank you so much for connecting today, Mark, and how can people connect with you online? What’s the best way?


Absolutely. Well, the book is called patient activation. And the subtitle is the four steps proven to move healthcare consumers from awareness to activation. It’s available on Amazon and other book resources too. And then the company is go 83 Okay, and what about you? Can they connect with you on LinkedIn? Absolutely. connect with me on LinkedIn. And I have a personal website, Mark hyphen,, where you’ll find all the other books that you were referencing at the beginning. Awesome. Great. Thank you so much for your time. Thanks for having me. I enjoyed it.

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