EHRs Get the Celebrity Treatment

Earlier this Summer, I came across news that Greenway Medical Technologies – a developer of electronic health records (EHRs) and practice management and interoperability healthcare IT solutions located just outside of Atlanta – had taken to endorsing pro golfer Jason Dufner. It came as no surprise to me that a healthcare IT company was seeking to increase its profile among the general public. There has been a noticeable shift in increasing the public’s awareness of the impact of healthcare IT solutions on the patient care they will one day inevitably receive. It’s been a smart move on the part of providers and vendors alike to acquaint people with the technology that our government has spent so much time and energy on promoting. I was surprised, however, that Greenway Medical had chosen the celebrity endorsement route. (Golf wasn’t surprising, though. Greenway Medical’s CEO goes by the name of Tee Green.) How much increased visibility, not to mention interest, could a spokesperson bring while swinging a club on the fairway?

His first sponsorship outing at the British Open garnered little fanfare, as Dufner didn’t advance very far. Greenway Medical’s luck changed, however, as Dufner’s skill – and Tiger Woods’ ultimate absence – led him to place second at the PGA Championship last week. Held in Atlanta, the event offered a good excuse for my some of my colleagues at Billian’s HealthDATA, Porter Research and to take a field trip to the Atlanta Athletic Club, where I suspect much of the local healthcare industry put in appearances over the tournament’s several days.

I’d have to agree with the Steve Campbell at, who offered congratulations to Dufner in a recent post “for a wonderful performance at the PGA and to whoever at Greenway made the decision to sponsor Mr. Dufner. The return on investment for that sponsorship just turned very positive.”

I’d also have to agree with one of the post’s commentators that “[r]egardless of his finish, Dufner and Greenway’s [credibility] rocketed this weekend with all of the primetime PGA coverage. Hours of it. And both Dufner and Greenway are classy and humble, in victory and defeat. Bottom line: EHR industry was another winner this weekend simply based on these associations.”

Perhaps Greg Fulton, Public and Media Relations Manager at Greenway Medical, puts it best: “Our main motivation was we felt it was time to continue to bring recognition to the entire health IT industry, now that initiatives like meaningful use are proving to be successful, and we have industry partners who have had good experiences being involved with the PGA TOUR.

“With Jason, we felt like we were partnering with a person first, a golfer second. He really does believe in the goals of innovative and sustainable care coordination that EHRs and healthcare IT can bring. He set up a foundation in his home state of Alabama following the tornado damage there to help people needing ongoing health services, for example.”

When I asked if Greenway Medical would consider entering into other celebrity endorsement deals sometime in the near future, Fulton explained the company’s celebrity strategy a bit further: “At HIMSS10 [in Atlanta], we did have Atlanta radio station deejay Melissa Carter, then of Q100, speak at a Greenway reception to her definite need for EHR data exchange and automated referrals, because she is a kidney transplant patient who needs that constant care coordination. And that’s what would make sense for what type, you ask, of celebrity or sports partnerships to undertake – ones that have a foundation in or can bring industry recognition and tell the story of the advancement of healthcare.”

Is it any wonder that Greenway Medical just announced its customers have secured more than $1 million in Meaningful Use incentives? How many more providers – many of whom are, it’s safe to say, avid golfers – are now aware of the company and will soon look into its products?

I’ll be interested to see what sort of healthcare IT celebrity endorsement pops up next, and where. NASCAR seems a likely candidate. I wonder if Danica Patrick has a coordinated care story to tell?

About the author

Jennifer Dennard

Jennifer Dennard

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.


  • Great post and Greenway made a nice choice of golfer. The branding he was wearing was really well executed too. We should add a picture to your post of it. I wonder if Greenway would send us one.

    I do still wonder why companies like Greenway spend amazing amounts of money on this type of sponsorship, but don’t sponsor a site like this which is much more targeted to EMR and EHR. I had this same thought a while back when I saw a major EHR vendor advertising their EMR on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. I asked them the question and long story short, now they are an advertiser on the site. So, maybe Greenway will come around as well.

    Nascar would be interesting. I expect that there are a number of drivers that have a healthcare IT story to tell. Danica might be too tied up with Godaddy.

  • Great article Jennifer, and thanks for linking to my post on the story.

    I don’t know about the NASCAR idea – I just don’t know how popular they are with the people that would make buying decisions on EMRs. There’s certainly no reason why the next celebrity endorsement couldn’t be another golfer but it’s hard to imagine anyone selecting as well as Greenway did with Jason Dufner.

    I’ll also chime in and agree with John – Sponsoring sites that are specifically targeted to people making actual purchase decisions on EMR technology would seem to be a more precise way to use some of that marketing budget. Celebrity endorsements are cool and fun, but how often do they work out as well as this one did?

  • Steve,
    Of course, we’re not considering something else that’s very important: Greenway golf perks. I’m sure there executives enjoy things like setups on the 18th greens of tournaments and things like that. It’s great for the executives and also is a great place to take someone who you’re trying to sell an EHR software to. So, it’s not just all about the visual ad I’m sure.

    In fact, maybe I should be sponsoring a golfer. Sounds like fun to me.

  • John – That’s a great point and a great sales tool for those people that are already prospects. Website advertising is great for companies trying to get people in at the wide part of the marketing funnel – 18th green setups are for those people getting ready to pop out the bottom as customers. (Or for those that are already customers that you’d like to keep paying those annual renewal fees.)

  • Not so fast. One shouldn’t overlook the turd in the punchbowl.

    Yesterday, I mentioned that Rep. Renee Ellmers, (R-NC) has asked HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to consider studying the benefits, cost and safety of health I.T. systems, including electronic health records.

    I suggested that it took Rep. Ellmers a while to notice, but HITECH’s failure has finally attracted Congress’ attention. Privacy attorney Jim Pyles responds:
    RE: HHS gets Rep. Ellmers’ attention 8.16.11


    The bar has to be set higher than this. The HITECH Act was enacted based upon flawed interpretations by some (and they know who they are) that studies by the Institute of Medicine and the RAND Corp found that health IT would reduce deaths by 100,000 per year and reduce healthcare costs by $77 billion a year. Has it done that? Shouldn’t Congress ask whether that is happening since it was on that basis that the money was to be spent?

    There is a provision in the HITECH Act that some of us insisted be included which provides that “not later than 5 years after the date of enactment” the Government Accountability Office is to report to Congress and HHS on “the impact of any of the provisions of this Act on health insurance premiums, overall health care costs, adoption of electronic health records by providers, and reduction in medical errors and other quality improvements.” See HITECH Act at section 13424(e). So GAO could make that report NOW and later. The HIPAA Privacy Rule was estimated to cost $18 billion over the ten year period 2003-2012. 65 Fed. Reg. at 82,760/2. The incentives in the HITECH Act were estimated to cost $32.7 billion in Medicare and Medicaid dollars between 2009 and 2019. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, Congressional Research Service, p. 2 (Feb. 23, 2009). Both of these costs were to be offset by the “benefits” of HIT in terms of people seeking more preventive care and treatment and reduced errors. Did it, or have we simply diverted health care dollars we do not have from treatment to expedite implementation of an HIT system that is not ready for prime time?

    According to HHS, 11.5 million Americans have had their health information privacy breached in breaches involving 500 or more people between September 2009 and June of 2011. According to the Ponemon Institute, breaches are currently costing covered entities about $204 dollars per record. So, if my math is correct, health IT has added at least $2.3 billion in unexpected costs to the cost of health care in just two years and less than half of providers and even fewer practitioners have adopted such systems and even fewer of those systems are interoperable which, most agree, will render them even more likely to produce even more massive privacy breaches (and more costs). This does not count the thousands of electronic privacy breaches involving fewer than 500 individuals. Congress and the Congressional Budget Office work in 10 year budget horizons so it is likely that by 2019 we see breaches of the electronic health records of at least 58 million Americans adding at least $12 billion to the cost of health care. Since one’s health privacy cannot be restored once it is breached electronically (because one can get a different credit card or social security number but not different health care information), electronic breaches cause damage that is perpetual. So in just over 50 years, conservatively speaking, the health information privacy of every living American will have been breached electronically.

    This suggests that the HITECH Act was not really cost reduction legislation, rather, it was a jobs bill, and it has created more jobs in the IT industry, but at the expense of practitioners and patients.

    Hope this is helpful.


    James C. Pyles, Principal
    1501 M Street NW, Seventh Floor | Washington, DC 20005-1700

  • Darrell,
    I like a number of the questions that are posed in the first couple paragraphs. The government should be asking those questions and I’m glad that the legislation has some of those reviews built in. I’ll be interested to find out what they see when they do the analysis of the EHR stimulus spending.

    I do have an issue with Jim’s comments about the cost of HIT breaches and its costs to healthcare. Mostly because far too many people directly translate HIT to EHR (which is what the HITECH act stimulated). I’ve discussed this issue a few times in these 2 posts: and

    The point being that you can’t attribute all the costs of healthcare data breaches to EHR. In fact, the numbers seem to say that very little of the breach expense comes from EHR. Instead it’s coming from things like a laptop with a list of insurance patients and their personal info. I guess that’s healthcare IT, but it’s definitely not EHR.

    We can be sure that the cost of EHR breaches will increase over time. However, the data doesn’t indicate the enormous cost that he’s talking about.

    Hmmm…I’m not sure how this relates to the Greenway golf sponsorship. Anyone up for a round of golf?

  • I hear what you’re saying, John. But EHRs are inseperable from HITECH and the liability of data breaches. You can bet identity theft victims certainly don’t understand the distinction.

    HIPAA is failing.

  • I’m enjoying your comments folks, thanks for reading! Steve, I’m especially glad you chimed in. I couldn’t find your byline on the article I referenced above. I’m happy to add it.

    Having participated in one – yes, one! – HIMSS golf tournament here in Atlanta, I can say with authority that placard ads on the green are definitely a popular marketing tactic, though I’m not sure what kind of ROI they bring other than generating brand awareness.

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