Courtney joined Crossover to lead its communication efforts, both externally for consumers, clients, and the media, and internally for our fast-growing team. Her career has taken her to both the client and agency sides of healthcare, and her personal mission is to ensure that through the right stories, the unique difference of Crossover is understood, and our passion to change healthcare becomes palpable.
Tell us a bit about your background, your career path, and how you ended up in healthcare?
I’m from Eastern Pennsylvania, just north of Philly and west of NYC, and as I always joke, “I was born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth!” I went to Ursinus College, a liberal arts school outside of Philly to study Mass Media. My parents were always avid consumers of the news—print and broadcast—and so from an early age I was intent on a career in broadcast journalism. I ended up doing internships with CBS news in New York, and then with a station in Philadelphia. After experiencing the negative that came with covering the news, I switched to PR where I could pitch positive stories. After short stints at an insurance company and the US Tennis Association, I landed in healthcare and have been here ever since. It was when I was with Fujifilm Medical Systems where I was shown how a team committed to improving healthcare could really have an impact. As part of the digital transformation of that industry, and that unique point in both consumer and healthcare markets, we were launching digital mammography. We devoted significant efforts to awareness of the importance of early detection, partnering with the great people at the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and launching some of the first-ever educational campaigns around digital mammography. It was an unbelievable experience to introduce to the general public a new intervention, a new technology, and the new possibilities that could really impact health.
What then took you to your communication leadership role at Teladoc?
After Fuji, I moved literally a mile north in Stamford to the other side of I-95 and worked on integrated campaigns with clients exclusively in the health technology space, including some that were in telehealth. Teladoc was located just about 10 miles down the road, but even though they were in my backyard, I had never heard of them. In 2016, a recruiter contacted me about a position with them, and I saw a real opportunity. I could do something like I did at Fujifilm—introduce a new intervention in telehealth, which was evolving into a new technology platform, and of course, there would be new possibilities to impact health for the entire country. It was a bit of deja vu so I took the leap and I had an incredible experience during some explosive growth years. When I was ready to move to the next opportunity and met Crossover, I felt the same excitement—like I was about to jump onto a new stage and go really big.
How have telemedicine and virtual care changed from your first experiences in 2016 to now in 2021?
It’s like any new innovation, whether it’s the smartphone or virtual care or electric cars. There are always going to be early adopters, and there will always be those who are leery of adopting the technology. And in healthcare, you can anticipate the layers of legislation, reimbursement, and regulation attempting to slow the transition down even further as the incumbents try to hold onto the status quo. In the case of telemedicine, it was quite an experience to live through something encountering such resistance and opposition at the start, then moving to “Oh, there’s a pandemic,” and now, legislation is going to fully support and embrace telemedicine, change reimbursement, and bend the rules a little bit on some of the privacy concerns because people had no other way to get care. I mean, it was so unprecedented and so unexpected, but to literally be in the middle of that 180 degree shift was surreal.
What have been your key takeaways from working with dozens of healthcare companies all trying to “cross the chasm” to adoption?
When I think about any company that I’ve worked with—from agency side to corporate—they all have the same struggle. They know what they want to say and they know how they want to sell, but does that translate to what people want to hear? Does it translate to what the media understands? Is it interesting enough to break through the noise? For me, it’s always been about educating leaders who are passionate about their products and innovations in order to find that fine line between what they want to say and what people want to hear and can understand. It’s a matter of clarity, repetition, and taking the time to reach all the right audiences. Whether it’s the latest innovation in virtual diabetic retinopathy detection, new patient engagement technologies to empower individuals of all ages during their hospital stay, or virtual care, you need to keep building your messages just as you would build your sales pipeline. Everyone is at different phases and stages, so you have to understand how to progress their understanding with what you communicate.
How does this relate to your work at Crossover?
When you look at the virtual care market and Teladoc specifically, it was all about access to care at the beginning. It started as virtual urgent care in markets where there was no access to physicians, and it took ten years to evolve to where it is today. And here we are, with Crossover on the same path, at the same 10-year mark. That’s what happens in healthcare. You’re not usually an overnight success, because there is so much friction with policy, with changes in reimbursement, with adoption, and with a slow-moving status quo. It always seems to be a decade-long march up the adoption curve. It all comes down to time in market, a dogged decade of persistence across every facet of the business, and of course, some serendipity along the way to make the alchemy work. I am really excited to be part of this exact stage in a company’s life and want to be part of the Crossover Rocketship really taking off.
What is it about healthcare that’s compelling as a sector to work in, as opposed to some other sectors which also seem very vibrant and exciting?
What really resonates is the people who get into healthcare to truly make a difference, to make it better, like Scott. One of these altruistic people was a client, Michael O’Neil, who started GetWellNetwork. His personal experience as a cancer patient and what he went through in the hospital glaringly showed how terrible the patient experience really was. which led to the founding of his company. Or look at my Fuji experience. We were working on digital mammography, partnering with leaders like the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and Fuji donated a huge amount of money to all the partnerships we had. And I remember when we took a van into Harlem, stopped outside an elementary school and had the cafeteria workers—who had no healthcare benefits—coming out and getting mammograms right there on the street. That was their only access point to healthcare. Seeing people committed to creatively breaking down barriers in order to provide quality care to as many people as possible really kept me personally motivated and still does today!
What was attractive about Crossover?
After four years at Teladoc, seeing it grow from a relatively unknown to a leading name in healthcare , go through six or seven acquisitions, then going global, the whole nine yards, it was time for something new. As part of my exploratory process, a consultant reminded me of Crossover, which I had previously come across while researching virtual primary care. However, I was also ready to move past just telemedicine and think more broadly about healthcare. I thought Crossover was going to be just another Teladoc, another Amwell, another Doctor on Demand virtual company doing the same thing, so at that time, I wasn’t really interested.
But recruiters put me on the phone with Scott and I heard that magical thread I always look for. He had a really fresh perspective on virtual health as an extension of a much broader and more impactful care model. And that gets back to the messaging. I feel that Crossover is fairly misunderstood and underappreciated by the market. It is clearly NOT similar to what’s out there. I have an opportunity to speak to that uniqueness and provide a consistent industry narrative to break through the market noise. We have such a powerful care model, we are focused on well care and prevention, along with digging into the fundamental determinants of health, and we are doing all of this outside the traditional fee-for-service system with all of its disincentives. And at its heart, Crossover is a medical group, not a technology company pushing their widget du jour. I also found it both startling and refreshing to learn that Scott’s perspective is that not everybody has to love what we’re doing. We’ll convert those who believe in our mission and see our vision and the rest are going to have to catch up later.
What specifically are your responsibilities at Crossover and how do you see your role evolving over time?
My mandate is to make sure that the solution we offer is understood by the masses. It’s a work in progress—and we are not there yet. Part of my role is bringing Scott’s vision to life, and another part is to bring forward the insights and voices from our Chief Medical Officer, Stephen Ezeji-Okoye, as well as other clinical leaders like our national Clinical Program Director, Dan Lord, DC, who runs our different guild service lines. We have so many more talented executives, clinical leaders, interesting people, and passionate transformers, and I can’t wait to give them all a voice. We need to ensure that people see that, unlike other players, we’re actually a medical group that can take the data and act on it right away, we are focused on outcomes and accountability, we are engaging our members proactively along both clinical and lifestyle dimensions, and we are going to be ready for the big time scale that is ahead. We will also have to compete in a new world where the competitors are not other medical groups or insurance companies, but instead large retailers and novel, digitally native consumer companies. Our DNA lives across that entire spectrum and it’s both our clinical foundation as well as our maverick spirit that will allow us to compete and win over the next five years.
We have a lot of great phrases and analogies that we use to describe what we do. But now we need to focus on breakthrough ways to bring our core ideas (like “Primary Health”) to life, and to explain how we’re moving away from transactional care, how your health is an asset to protect and grow, and what it means to have a relationship with a care team. All of these new concepts enable new types of care behavior and that leads to real change. That is why I am here!
How do you give value to the idea of care relationships?
I think it goes back to the elementary school notion of show and tell. One idea is to have people in the media become members for a day, let them have this experience and understand what it really means to have a care team. It’s more than words. We have to figure out ways to show people what Crossover means, by bringing the examples home, and getting the member stories out there that really help build interest in the community. You will see quite a bit of effort soon around the launch of “Be Well,” our unique and growing member community. We see health as a very social thing and building community is a big part of the movement—rallying others to get their friends, neighbors, and coworkers to really start paying attention to and participating in their own health. It’s all based on giving an answer to the simple question of, “What’s in it for me?” Whether we’re talking to the media or investors or potential clients or members, how do we make sure that they understand what they’re going to get out of it?
For other consumer relationships—whether it’s planning your IRA or joining Peloton—there always seems to be some positive end goal that is achieved. The general experience in healthcare is that there isn’t a positive end goal within the current system. How do you change perceptions and behavior?
Some of the answer goes back to our outcomes data, and the stories that can be developed from them. It’s hard to understand until you see the examples, like that prediabetic patient who never got diabetes, because they chose to intervene and avoid the negative consequences of going down the wrong path. The more we find those examples and bring them to life, the better people will see what makes us different. Here’s another example: At one of our facilities, the physical medicine team was taking the blood pressure of members when they came in, which is something that’s not traditionally done in PT. Our care teams were able to intervene based on the data that came out of that and the problems that were identified. Our integrated care team approach, by design, is able to monitor these issues out of the box. We are always thinking holistically about your health in every interaction with the team—undiagnosed cases of hypertension can be found by any member of the team, and then treated by a specific member of the team. The physical medicine provider was just there to focus on the member’s knee issue, but they saw them as a whole person, which allowed the provider to find an issue that could be addressed right then and there.
Switching gears a bit, how do you plan to leverage the surfer culture vibe in the future?
This touches on the fact that communication is not just external to potential clients, investors, media, and members, but also internal, to our rapidly growing employee base. Sure, we have people like Sally Larwood, our Chief Nursing Officer, who have been here from the beginning and get it, but we also have all these new care team members who we are quickly onboarding because of expansion. How do you get all these people at different life stages, in different geographies, and from different backgrounds to really understand the company culture? You want to tap on everyone’s shoulder and say, “What do we do and why do we do it that way?” and have everyone give you the exact same answer. And the surfer stories really help build this common understanding and link to our values. As a New Yorker, I questioned it at first. But when you truly understand the significance of it and hear Scott talk about team, family, and respect—which all come from and connect deeply to a surfing culture—it becomes crystal clear.
What might people like to know about you outside of Crossover?
I believe in living and experiencing life, and making memories, which can sometimes drive my daughters nuts. This past New Year’s Eve we got up early and were the first ones on the ice rink at Rockefeller Center, and because of COVID, we were the ONLY ones skating there for quite some time. And I love that my girls do interesting things. My younger daughter is a competitive ice hockey player and my older one plays the bass, the most massive instrument you can find. I had to buy a car big enough to stick it in. These two are just the joy of my life!
Many thanks to Peter Heywood (one of our long-standing brand advisors and business consultants) who helped conduct these interviews. You can search for Peter’s other Crossover Leader Series Interviews here.