Thought Leaders in Tech Marketing & Communications: Interview with John Hallock
It is with great pride that I introduce today’s guest. I’ve known John Hallock for over 10 years…back when it felt like we were the only two people in the free world working in health IT marketing and communications. Today, John is vice president of corporate communications for Imprivata. For those of you who know John, you know that he has a natural gift for storytelling. As we were both waiting to fly back on the red eye from last week’s HIMSS, I seized the opportunity to hit him up with questions. He didn’t disappoint. Read on…
What does your company do?
Imprivata is one of the largest health IT security companies in the world. We serve 1,500 healthcare organizations across the globe. Our technology allows providers to securely access, communicate, and transact patient information securely. As we see it, digital health is at an inflection point: It is no longer about driving EHR adoption, but about how we connect those EHRs and allow information to follow the patient. As more and more healthcare moves online, we are a vital ingredient.
Describe the role that you and your team play in advancing the company mission.
I oversee all corporate communications, which includes media relations, government affairs, analyst relations and some internal communications along with HR of course. It’s an exciting time. We went public 18 months ago. There is a lot of growth and the organization is scaling quickly. Communications – both external and internal – is critical for keeping everyone on the same page, setting expectations and explaining how we innovate and launch new products.
What is your biggest success in the last year and why does this make you proud?
I joined the firm about a year ago. The company wanted to increase focus on business media and national media and I had a lot of experience doing that at athenahealth and CareCloud. Over my career, I’ve primarily worked with healthcare technology companies. Unless it’s Apple or some wildly successful online service, you need to very quickly figure out how you can tie the company’s products to the issues that matter most to clients and the public at large. With most companies, you’re lucky if you have one or two products that can do that. Early on at athenahealth we had to work hard just to get people to realize how big of an issue medical billing was. At Imprivata, I am lucky to have three.
For example and right out of the gate, I focused on electronic prescribing for controlled substances. Why? Because our solution is designed to address a high profile and important issue – addiction to prescription painkillers, which has become a nationwide epidemic. Imprivata sells the security technology that allows physicians to securely send electronic prescriptions for controlled substances to a pharmacy. Replacing paper prescriptions with electronic prescriptions is seen by experts as a big step in preventing doctor shopping and drug diversion – i.e., when people with addiction problems go from doctor to doctor collecting prescriptions for painkillers and other controlled substances. We saw immediate national press and the opportunity for real thought leadership that educated audiences on the issue and made the case for change.
We are about to take a similar, but more lighthearted approach to helping rid the medical profession of pagers. We also have a great deal to say about patient identification with our new Palm-Vein biometric patient ID platform. It plays directly into the interoperability discussion underway across the industry right now.
How many years have you been going to HIMSS and what’s changed the most?
This was my 12th. In terms of what’s changed the most, two things come to mind. First, security has become a leading topic. That was overdue and I’d like to think Imprivata has had something to do with getting people talking about it. And second, I would have to say…Allscripts’ colors. Every year I look forward to seeing what Allscripts’ new corporate colors are going to be as they pretty have much covered the spectrum at this point.
Outside of work, what are your favorite things to do?
I played golf in college and recently got back into it. One thing I can’t quite figure out is…based on the way most technology folks swing a club, it is a mystery as to why they would ever want to go near a golf course, much less sponsor the sport. Mind you, that’s not a commentary on my boss or CEO – they hit em straight every time (chuckle).
When I’m not on the golf course, I’m evaluating talent for the upcoming NFL draft. Belechick and Tom have me on retainer so this time of year I’m either breaking down film or I’ve got a stop watch and clipboard in hand. I’m only half joking – I do these things, but the Coach knows nothing about it. Also, I am proud to report that I no longer get into Brady/Manning debates with strangers at airport bars.
How do you empower and motivate your employees to do their best possible work?
Early in my career, I worked at a few big agencies — writing, doing media relations…the usual stuff. If you’re lucky, you get exposed to some bosses that show you how to be part of a team. It’s always great to be singled out as a top performer, but your impact will always be limited if you don’t learn how to collaborate with all the folks on your team. When I went to athenahealth, I tried to build and run a team that gave everyone the support they needed and allowed them to do their best work – and I had some success and failures on that front for sure. We are doing the same here at Imprivata. Once you become a manager, your job is to set others up to be successful. That can take some people a long time to learn — it certainly didn’t happen overnight for me. Of course, I still like picking up the damn phone and calling a reporter or producer and getting the big hit as well.
If a PR/Marketing God exists, what would you like to hear that God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? (my spin on James Lipton’s famous last question from Inside the Actor’s Studio)
If I can get there, and that’s very much up for debate, I would want to hear…”Listen, you did really well for a kid who never really learned to type. You told some stories that changed the healthcare system and impacted peoples’ lives. Kid from Worcester, so all things considered, ya done good.” Something like that. I am still working on my book “Travels with Johnny.” You are in it Rob, but don’t worry…I left out the shenanigans at HIMSS’08 (smile and chuckle).