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Editor’s note: This article is part of a three-part series that includes an article explaining why Consumer science is an opportunity for bolstering engagement in health care and a video explaining what CEOs should understand about the future of consumer science for health systems, health plans and life sciences companies. 

Justin Dearborn joined PatientBond as CEO in January 2021. Prior to PatientBond, Dearborn served as CEO of Merge Healthcare culminating in acquisition by IBM for $1 billion. Following the sale to IBM, Dearborn spent three years as CEO and then CEO and Chairman of Tribune Publishing.

As unlikely it might seem that a background in publishing would be applicable to health care, the time spent focusing on digitally activating readers informs the way he leads PatientBond in engaging patients.

Health Evolution interviewed Dearborn about why he joined the company, what he has learned about leadership throughout his career, the potential for the emerging field of applying psychographics, a consumer science, to healthcare, where PatientBond will be in 18-24 months and more.

What inspired you join PatientBond as CEO?
I learned about PatientBond by way of their chairman, Jon Phillips, whom I’ve known for more than a decade. I have a lot of respect for not only his ability to pick and back winning companies, but also his ethical and strategic characteristics. I got to know Jon through his involvement with Merge Healthcare. My initial review of PatientBond was solely as a potential investor in PatientBond’s Series C round. I met the then-current CEO Anurag Juneja, who has a PhD from Yale and could not be more of a humble person, and we got to know each other. Since then, joining the business has exceeded my expectations and really taken off.

You mentioned PatientBond Chairman Jon Phillips. When the company announced you as CEO, he likened you joining PatientBond to the transformation that took place at Merge, which IBM acquired. How do you plan to do that or something similar with PatientBond?
When I did some initial due diligence, I found a wonderful team and a very unique solution, but the only thing holding them back was funding and a very conservative go to market approach, which I also have historically shared, but in this environment that is not necessarily the way to operate. For instance, when I joined, we had two quota carrying reps. We now have nine and will be expanding to 11 by year end. We also increased the marketing spend threefold. So, it was really as simple as raising awareness of the company and the phenomenal results we deliver. We’re already seeing these investments start to pay off and are facing the same labor shortage issue as many other high growth companies.

After Merge Healthcare, you served as CEO and then CEO and Chairman of Tribune publishing company. How does that experience inform the way you develop growth strategies at PatientBond?
A large percentage of the value we deliver resides in the digital marketing and healthy patient activation. I focused the majority of my time on the digital side of our business at Tribune. At Tribune, we grew to 100 million unique website visitors a month. I really did not think it would apply in health care but it’s a perfect fit at PatientBond with the big difference being, at PatientBond we are engaging and activating positive and healthy behaviors such as medication adherence and care paths designed to reduce readmissions.

What are some of the leadership lessons you’ve learned in your career and from other thought leaders that you are now applying at PatientBond?
Dearborn: If I could identify just one lesson, it would be to “take care of your clients.” I know it’s kind of tried and true, but we have an 83 Net Promoter Score, which is really incredible for a health care technology company. Health care still is a reference sale. It’s still basically word of mouth or referral in some respects and we have an incredible customer success team that really delights customers and drives our 83 NPS, which is the most important thing in this business.

Now, looking to the future, what is your vision for PatientBond?
Our vision is really to be the industry leader in activating positive and desired health care consumer behaviors using our combination of proprietary psychographic insights and our innovative technology solutions. It’s really that simple.

Psychographics is a term that health care CEOs may not be as familiar with as perhaps you are. At a high level, what should people know about psychographics that they perhaps do not?
I was not familiar with the term either prior to January of this year. We use consumer science known as psychographic segmentation to personalize engagement, according to health care consumers’ motivations and communication preferences. Our technology is flexible and powerful enough to handle multiple waves of two-way digital communication with different channel mixes and frequency of communication tailored to the consumer’s preference based on their psychographic profile. We have a proven method of doing this and it works across marketing and clinical and actually in conjunction with some revenue cycle applications as well. We can send the data and all of the patient engagement information to a central digital dashboard, and we can serve as a standalone platform or as an enhancement to existing technology investments, such as a CRM or EHR.

Building on that, what are the elements that differentiate PatientBond from its competitors?
We continue to create the most innovative and engaging digital experiences for health care consumers in the context of personalized journeys and, at the same time, deliver value in our speed to market for clients. We’ve been working for years on creating pre-packaged programs and engagement workflows for a variety of conditions and care paths. This enables deployments in weeks — not months or years. And we will continue to invest in our primary market research, which is a key differentiator. This allows us to collect relevant and timely consumer insights that can be sliced by psychographic segmentation, health condition, or socioeconomic attribute. It’s unique in the market.

What should existing and prospective clients expect from PatientBond in the next 18-24 months? Dearborn: Existing customers should expect continued investment in our platform and world class support. We will continue to offer pre-built workflows around care paths and condition-specific messaging, which again allows for very rapid deployment. We’re also growing our indirect channel as we go to market through partners to become a piece of a broader solution in a health system or with a life sciences company. We think in the very near future consumers will be responsible for 50 percent of the cost of their care, which will continue to drive consumer expectations that mirror to some extent the experience we all receive with Apple, Amazon and Netflix. We’re still not quite there yet. There’s a lot of discussion, a lot of investment in it, but truly personalized dynamic workflows have not really hit the main street market yet. Lastly, as health systems take on more value-based contracts, they will require even better patient engagement methodologies to drive behavior change because patient activation is a very large share of the economics of those contracts.