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ATLAS Pathfinders: Spotlight on John Englehart of Hospital for Special Surgery

Atlas Pathfinders

In the weeks leading up to our second annual ATLAS event, we will feature patient access and experience-related posts from some of the thought leaders and contributors to this year's content. 

John Englehart - Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS)

This week we spotlight John Englehart, Chief Marketing Officer at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), a world leader in orthopedics, rheumatology and rehabilitation. HSS is nationally ranked #1 in orthopedics, #3 in rheumatology and #7 in geriatrics by U.S. News & World Report. 

A revered marketing expert, John spent the first 20 years of his career at Ogilvy & Mather and other marketing firms, including 10 years based in Asia and five in Europe managing offices, regions, and service to a variety of prominent brands.  As President of an Omnicom-owned innovation firm, he originated the ‘Tribute in Light’ 9-11 memorial in New York City on behalf of Consolidated Edison, the electric utility company. 

During his session at ATLAS, "Reverent Irreverence: A Brand Experiment in Transforming Access",  John will explain how HSS successfully adopted a different, consumer-focused path to build preference and access by borrowing non-obvious lessons from brands as varied as American Express and Pepsi, evolving its brand from "what it does" to "what it means", and harnessing affinity and technology in unprecedented ways to build competitive advantage.

To get our attendees prepared for the tremendous marketing insight John will bring to ATLAS, we asked John 10 questions on how a health system's successful digital strategy translates into improved patient access, greater patient experiences, and ultimately - better care. 

1. As a digital strategist, how do you define patient access?
I define patient access as the degree to which a provider is available and accessible to those who may benefit from its care -- irrespective of their location, language, or preferred mode of communication.  "Available and accessible" includes emotional as well as practical considerations.

2. How - if at all - does your focus on, and approach to, access differ from other health system stakeholders?

I think our approach at HSS differs from some other providers because we are highly specialized, committed to remaining independent, are sometimes incorrectly perceived to serve only elite athletes, and are focused on a less common value proposition (ROI in episode of care, vs price per procedure or location).  And of course, as a provider of elective care a higher percentage of our patients -- 99.9% -- make the choice to come, through a deliberate and thoughtful process.

3. How do patient access and patient experience affect one another?

Patient experience validates (or invalidates) the promise made and expectations set through the access process.  As my former boss David Ogilvy famously said, "Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising!"  As 'word of mouth' increasingly influences consumer choices related to healthcare generally and elective care specifically, patient access will come to be recognized as integral to patient experience.

4. What measures of patient access and experience are the most valuable for health systems to track?

Currently we measure the basics, including (as best we can) what prompted the contact.  In terms of patient experience we find Press Gahney to be helpful, but there is no substitute for a staff that is thoroughly aligned and engaged in planning, delivering, monitoring and continuously improving the patient experience.  The HSS culture built up over many years is a huge asset: here, patient experience excellence really is a team sport.

5. How have recent trends in online consumer behavior affected digital strategies in healthcare?

They have substantially increased the opportunity.  The continuing collapse of public trust in institutions combined with the desire and digitally-enabled capacity for peer-to-peer influence adds accountability as well as potential to all marketers.  Healthcare is coming to this party late, and has special upside because of the importance, value and intimacy of the consumer relationship.

6. What is the greatest obstacle health systems face when aligning their digital strategies?

The shift to consumer-centrism -- from a focus on the institution or even on the patient experience alone.  It's an obstacle for several reasons: legacy skills and practices, but also a healthy conservatism.

7. If you could provide one piece of advice to providers or health systems hoping to "get found", what would it be?

Make the affinity of your happiest customers more visible to your potential future customers.

8. What about your job inspires you every day?

The privilege of serving a magnificent brand, the complexity of the challenge, and the abundance of opportunity.

9. What excites you about the future of healthcare?

The magnitude of the challenge, the caliber of engaged talent across the field, and the expectation that great things can and will happen -- for the quality of care, for public health, and for the fulfillment of all involved.

10. Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

My first marketing experience was at the age of 11, as a volunteer door-to-door canvasser for President Nixon's re-election campaign.  In Massachusetts.  Absolutely nothing about that ended well.


Like so many initiatives in healthcare, patient access resists a simple definition. It is a complex problem set with multiple points of leverage, risk, and opportunity. At the end of the day, however, it boils down to this: patients must be able to access the care they need, when they need it.

The second Annual Thought Leadership on Access Symposium (ATLAS) will examine every aspect of patient access and experience - from the clinical and cultural, to the operational and technical - and will give attendees a chance to sit side-by-side with their peers to learn strategies and best practices from some of the country's leading health organizations. Whether you are an executive, director, manager, or operator, you will walk away from ATLAS 2015 with a playbook that will give you the tools to take your organization to the next level of access and patient experience.  

Visit to learn more, view the agenda, receive future information, and register for ATLAS 2015 October 27th & 28th in the Ritz-Carlton Boston Common, Boston, MA.

Not finding what you need? Feel free to email with any questions. 


Topics: ATLAS Conference