One thing you’ll hear over and over from KPI agency is the emphasis on people. Yes, we’re a marketing rescue agency. The reason we’re a driving force in healthcare branding and digital marketing always circles back to our passion for patients and the people that work tirelessly to provide their healthcare.
In healthcare marketing, we’re seeing a long overdue shift towards products and services that empower patients to take a proactive role in their health. One startup that’s excelling in this environment is TytoCare.
Chad Childress, KPI Agency’s Global President recently had the opportunity to sit down with Colleen Sellers, VP of Marketing at TytoCare. Not only does she have a fascinating backstory to her healthcare marketing career, but she’s passionate about fixing the structural problems with making healthcare accessible to everyone—and using technology to do so.
In a MedCityNews article at the beginning of July, Adam Sabloff wrote about the proactive healthcare movement that’s been ignited by COVID-19. “The most successful organizations have recognized that the only solution is to partner with healthcare technology partners that enable intelligent automation.” Doing so allows healthcare providers to provide the right care at the right time, in partnership with patients who are engaged in their healthcare.
Tyto uses a device controlled by the patient or their caregiver to allow a remote healthcare provider to conduct an examination of the heart, lungs, throat, ears, abdomen, and vital signs to diagnose and treat.
The applications are potentially very far reaching. Right now, the University of Miami is using Tyto Care’s TytoHome kits to carefully monitor returning student-athletes for coronavirus without requiring visits to clinics or contact with healthcare providers. It’s giving peace of mind and state-of-the-art healthcare to students, their families, and healthcare providers.
This type of innovation is exactly what Bertalan Meskó writes about in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, “In the next decade, it is believed that most patients will become empowered and proactive in their care, using sensors to obtain data, and using the information they find online as well as algorithms to understand this health data.” That article was published in November 2019. Our interview with Colleen shows that we’ve made a massive leap into the future this year.
We hope you enjoy the following conversation as much as we did.
Chad: So, do I understand correctly that you started your career at the Federal Reserve Bank?
Colleen: That’s right! I went to Smith College in Massachusetts and I absolutely loved economics and the stats around econometrics. So after college, I got a job as a research assistant at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. Best first job ever!
Chad: How do you go from the fed to this amazing position in telehealth and home diagnostics at Tyto Healthcare?
Colleen: I realized that while I loved economics and public policy, I was also an adrenaline junkie, and I needed a faster pace at work.
Chad: You definitely got that fast pace!
Colleen: Exactly! I had set up some nonprofits while I was in New York, and that led to a decision to go to business school at Kellogg, and then I interned at the Boston Consulting Group in San Francisco, which was really like finishing school for business. Again, it was a great place to be, but my husband was in a job he loved in Philadelphia, so I showed how much I loved him by moving from San Francisco to Philadelphia.
Chad: It had to be true love to make that move!
Colleen: It was. And then I was in a position where I didn’t have enough business experience to be an executive director of a non-profit, so I was looking for the next step. I interviewed with Johnson and Johnson, really loved the culture, and started in their skincare division. About two years later I transferred to the OTC department.
Chad: How did that fit with your schooling and passion?
Colleen: It was a great fit. OTC was a perfect mix of science, data, and marketing. From 2007 to 2015 I worked with brands in decline, using my specialist skill set to take declining brands and drive them back to growth through repositioning and rebranding—usually with some pretty competitive positioning. I did this for eight years, and I got to really see big growth and turnaround in brands like Zyrtec, Tylenol Cold and Benadryl.
Chad: According to my notes, you were also in Asia. That doesn’t leave much time.
Colleen: The time went really quickly, for sure. My husband and I took the chance to fulfill our dream of living abroad with our children when I got an opportunity to lead the Neutrogena business in Singapore for the AsiaPac region.
We came back in 2017, and I led the Global Tylenol and Motrin business. During that time I was in talks with R&D. We knew that patients were using a pill as part of their pain care, but they were doing other things, too. Like icing their knees, or walking, or physical therapy, or stretching or yoga. And we agreed that we needed a project.
Chad: Those words, ‘we need a project’ can be the beginning of something great or the end of your sanity. I’m guessing it was the beginning of something great?
Colleen: Definitely something great. I got excited about the future of pain management and the chance to drive forward this type of innovative vision. We started looking at how virtual reality goggles can help with chronic pain management, and we started doing some other beta tests and I fell in love with this space.
It was 2018, and it opened my eyes up to all of the amazing technologies in development that could dramatically improve the patient experience—the new consumer technology that’s empowering patients and transforming healthcare because all the things that you used to have to go to the doctor’s office for are becoming palm-sized. And I wanted to be part of bringing that to market.
I needed to find a New York-based startup, and when I met Dedi and TytoCare I was blown away. If I had that product as a new mom…
Chad: You’re talking about the home exam kit for diagnosing ear infections, right?
Colleen: That’s right. When I was a new mom living in Philadelphia, my daughter had eight ear infections in her first year of life. And I remember the pain of knowing your child’s sick, and both parents work and we need to figure out who’s going to miss a meeting and take time off work to get to the doctor’s office.
I can still tell you exactly how much time it took me to get from my city center house to the doctor’s office. How much parking cost. How long I’d wait in the waiting room. How we both felt as parents that we couldn’t win no matter what.
But with TytoCare, everyone wins, because you can do it at any time. No more waiting for the doctor’s office to open. So I joined in December 2019 as the VP of marketing.
Chad: Had they done much marketing when you stepped in?
Colleen: Not really. We were just building a team at that point, and wondering if we should do DTC or B2B and rely on health partners to do the marketing. Lots of strategic questions to work through.
And then COVID hit. And we didn’t even have an agency! Just a small B2B agency that helped with trade shows. With my brand manager experience, I knew that what I had once done with Target or Walmart or CVS, that’s what we needed to do with health systems.
Now we’re partnered with over 30 systems in the US and 10 globally, and we’re adding DTC. We launched on July 1st with DTC and got invited to be part of Google’s brand accelerator program and we’re just starting a new campaign.
That’s my story in a nutshell.
Chad: That’s fantastic! So, it turns out your time at Johnson and Johnson was a great trial for you, especially leading into the initial VR experience that led you to TytoCare. What differences or similarities do you see from OTC pharma marketing into this kind of hybrid medical device and telemedicine company?
Colleen: As a marketer, you’re always thinking about how to better understand and engage with your consumer. And quite honestly, that doesn’t change based on what channel you’re in or what you’re selling.
You have to know what your consumer is thinking and feeling, how your solution can make her life better, and how to talk to her authentically. That insight-based marketing works the same for a cosmetic, a device, or an OTC because it’s about understanding her heart and mind. What you can say and what you can’t say, that’s what changes, right?
So your RTBs change, but your method of getting to really deep insights doesn’t change. You’re still listening to better understand her lifestyle and helping her see how your product can be a solution for some of her challenges or worries.
Chad: Do you have an example of how that translates from Johnson and Johnson to a startup like TytoCare?
Colleen: Well, we had this really interesting thing on Zyrtec. We were the number two player in the space and a third player entered with a lot more money. We were becoming number three and were vastly outspent—this was back in 2013.
We decided to go into digital hard and win it. You know, when you’re on TV, you talk and you have one campaign. But it gets articulated one way on YouTube, and differently on Facebook, and differently on Tumblr. In every channel your campaign looks slightly different and you might be talking to a slightly different person.
For example, she might be a little bit of a different persona, but your campaign and your insight is universal. That prepared me best for this job because we have to change how we’re talking when we’re talking to a patient and a B2B client. We’re still talking about TytoCare, but there they care about how the platform works and how they get reimbursed.
We’re talking with their technical and medical team; and their marketing teams are juggling all their own different marketing campaigns while we’re figuring out how TytoCare fits under their umbrella.
And then we’re talking to moms and dads of young children. So there’s a lot of similarities around your media channel choices and how you intersect with these different targets and mindsets so you can be more specific to their needs.
Chad: I love what you said because marketing is marketing. Regardless of B2B or B2C, it’s about people and it’s about understanding what’s important to them and what they need, and then connecting that through storytelling, emotion, benefit, and positioning. It’s all kind of the same underlying principles.
Some of the ways we express that manifest very differently, but at the end of the day, it’s all about people, right?
Colleen: Yes, absolutely.
Chad: With all the health systems driving telemedicine right now it’s super exciting, but it’s also daunting with all the misinformation, distractions, and options available. How do you cut a line through all that noise to drive your message home and really cut through all the clutter within the telemedicine space right now?
Colleen: That’s a great question. It’s really interesting because what we say internally is that if I looked at where we were in telemedicine in February I would have said we had very little unaided awareness of telemedicine. Like, when I told people what I was doing, they’d look at me like ‘telemedicine’? And I’d say, ‘like when Skype your doctor’. And they’d say, ‘Oh, I think I got a postcard about that’.
Because of COVID, awareness of telemedicine and use has been dramatically accelerated. Maybe we’ve jumped ahead two or even five years in terms of awareness. And then the question becomes, what does that mean? Telemedicine has so many advantages, like empowering patients to play a proactive role in their healthcare, additional care in situations where there are not enough providers, and optimizing providers as a health system.
You know, I talked before about how much time and anxiety I could have saved when my children were young going to the doctor, traveling, hours in waiting rooms—all of that. There are huge advantages to telemedicine. And now people have tried it and had mostly positive experiences.
I saw a statistic that about 50% of people who tried telemedicine said they would be repeat customers. Now even more people have tried it, thanks in part to some of the regulation changes made in response to COVID.
Chad: Like the reimbursement schedule for Medicare?
Colleen: Exactly. It wasn’t on par for telemedicine before, but now they’ll reimburse equally. Things like that really accelerated telemedicine use. But when you talk about clutter, at first the acceleration was so fast that people had huge waits, because suddenly everyone was trying to use a service that wasn’t built for that volume. So we’ve had to build out our services in the last four months.
At TytoCare we have to communicate that we’re different from other telemedicine. We have the examination tools that allow your doctor to examine you and get your vitals. And they call them vitals for a reason. You often need them to get the most accurate diagnosis. So we focus on the fact that TytoCare helps your doctor treat more things and take care of what you need.
Or, the fact that your doctor can see in the actual ear with TytoCare. We’re really focused on our differentiation and enhancing telemedicine. That’s how we cut through the clutter. But it’s still challenging. As an example of clutter, Verizon’s bidding on telemedicine on Google, it’s not like we can compete dollar for dollar as a small startup.
So one of the things we’re looking at is getting down the long tail a little bit more and doing more specific things where we can afford to be there.
Chad: Yeah, that seems to be a challenge across the board for telemedicine companies. Most are startups and up until earlier this year telemedicine had a lot of detractors. People think, ‘I can’t get my labs run’ or ‘I can’t get my temperature taken’. But those are things TytoCare can do right now. So, you’ve removed some of the big barriers to access.
It’s really cool to see companies like this coming out and starting to address both the barriers and change the perceptions about telemedicine. It really gives some teeth in terms of what you can actually do to diagnose and treat remotely. You are leading a transition from telemedicine being the tip of the spear, to a legitimate mechanism for meaningful healthcare access.
So, we’re making progress in terms of awareness, and rescuing some of the poor and old perceptions around telemedicine, so what else are we facing?
Colleen: Well, there’s behavior changes.
We see this in mental health space and the use of telemedicine. It’s skyrocketed and been super successful because you can get care when you need it. The same goes for the middle-of-the-night earache. People inherently know that healthcare needs can’t always be scheduled, so a product like Tytocare starts to be a really practical solution that also provides immediate emotional relief and peace of mind.
Instead of waiting until Tuesday at 2:00 PM, you can talk to someone Sunday night when you really need it. This helps with shortages of professionals, too. It creates more access points to patients, and telemedicine becomes the practical solution—one that patients can initiate.
Chad: Let’s talk about access. How do you bring Tyto to the masses, and what’s your perspective from a managed markets point of view? When you have a lot of insurers that already have certain telemedicine relationships or a formulary that they already prefer or cover, how do you plan to break into that market? You’ve got a model that has a consumer price point for a medical device to consider as well.
Colleen: So let me talk about the managed markets piece first. TytoCare is also a telemedicine platform—it’s not just a device. Our engineers have designed it in a way that integrates and we’ve been able to integrate with most health systems.
For instance, we integrate into Epic; we’re part of their app orchard. We integrate with American Well and Teladoc. And many of the telemedicine providers, with the doctor’s side we have active integrations with them. So what we’ve done is take the market where it is and make the product work for it.
And we’re constantly adjusting. Sometimes we do have to change workflows to make sure we’re integrating well, but that’s part of who we are and we’re really happy to do that.
The second part about consumer access is multi-dimensional. The TytoCare device is available nationwide through Best Buy, and our website—we just launched our own eCommerce about a month ago. It’s also sold within our health systems, which sell the product to their patients for use. And then for example they’re in the Ochsner Anywhere Care Network, which gives access to all of their providers and specialties. So that’s the consumer access point.
What’s also exciting is to think about the broader access to healthcare. You know we have some very underserved populations in the US. How do we help them? How can we use Tyto to increase access to health care? That’s where my non-profit purpose-driven life comes in. One of the reasons I love TytoCare is that we have a lot of programs with school-based healthcare.
There are so many school districts in the country that no longer have funding for school nurses—even elementary schools. We have a product called Tyto Clinic which provides access. Tyto was built for anyone to use, so if a child is sick they can go to anyone, even an administrator, who can take the child through Tyto Clinic and provide care within the school.
What we see with some of our partners is amazing health outcomes for these children. One of our partners said that normally they don’t have a primary care relationship with some of these children. And because they don’t have insurance or have minimal insurance, school can become the point of giving primary care healthcare to these under-served populations in a way that actually delivers better healthcare.
It’s less expensive, and it’s easier for parents and the school. You know that if your child calls home sick, someone has to come get them, which often means leaving work, and can mean missing a paycheck. With TytoCare we can diagnose what’s wrong with the children nine times out of ten, and when the children aren’t contagious, they can go back to class.
So now we have the opportunity to provide more healthcare to more people and increase access.
Chad: That makes such a difference! You know, just last week we were talking about cause marketing. This fits in perfectly. What an amazing way to make a difference in an authentic and actionable way.
Colleen: Well, it’s one of the things I love about Tyto—it’s a real purpose-driven company at its core. We actually just did a new vision statement and purpose statement and it’s Empowering Health Within Everyone’s Reach.
So, really giving everyone access to the care they need and deserve. And it’s so cool to be part of an organization which has that in its fundamental DNA. We’re not making it up as a pithy marketing slogan. It’s real.
Chad: That ties really well into my next question. With all the craziness and bad news right now, what gets you excited and hopeful for the future?
Colleen: You know, I am really hopeful. Personally, I’m having these really important conversations with my kids about racism—conversations I never had at their age—and I’m watching my daughter become active in black lives matter. The bravery that I am seeing people show in having these difficult conversations, it brings me hope.
I’m a mom first, and I always tell my teammates that my priorities are really clear, first it’s family & friends, 2nd it’s my team, my colleagues, and 3rd it’s the business.
And then with COVID, seeing my kids be so careful about the health of their family and community, gives me hope and I don’t think it’s, fixed, but COVID is exposing the lack of deep conversations around chronic illness, holding leaders accountable, and we have massive under-served populations and COVID’s really exposing the lack of public health in the US.
It’s really, really hard, but it gives me hope that we’re going to make changes. This is such a crazy time and this is where you can get cynical or optimistic. Can we transform ourselves? Can we really transform ourselves versus just making some tweaks on the side? I’m hopeful that we can.
Chad: Yeah, same here. And when I think about what you’re doing with Tyto, it’s one of those scenarios where you’re taking a step forward from within. Making healthcare more accessible at a variety of levels.
There is a principle I often remind myself of that I call “lift where you stand” which means that just like with trying to move from one house to another, you can’t move all the boxes in the house at once. You have to start by lifting the box in front of you, one at a time. In driving the change we want to see in the world we have to start in our own families, our own communities, and lift where we stand.
Colleen: I love the idea of lift from where you’re standing. Everything going on can be really overwhelming, but when I think about the change you can make on your block, or in your own house, it’s something you have control over. And being able to work at a place that’s making a difference, that’s pretty incredible.
Chad: I want to thank you for your time today, and for the part you’re playing at TytoCare to make healthcare more accessible, and empower patients to play a proactive role in their healthcare. It’s amazing stuff, and you have been a pleasure to speak with.
Colleen: Thank you so much, it’s been great!