Healthy Competition

Jon Headlee may not have M.D. behind his name, but he has spent enough time in hospitals to know health care is about more than just treating people when they are sick.

As president of Evansville-based Ten Adams — one of the nation’s leading healthcare marketing and advertising agencies — Headlee and his team help hospitals, doctors, and clinics survive and thrive in the midst of healthy competition.

“In the past, providers had a healthy respect for each other, and they had this gentleman’s agreement that they each had their own geographic areas of service,” says Headlee. “Those days are all gone, and it is about providing the best care, but it also is about growth and survival.”

Community hospitals and independent physicians once adhered to an unspoken rule of staying within their own city and county lines when treating patients. Now, smaller hospitals and private practices are becoming a thing of the past, opting instead to consolidate with larger healthcare systems — locally, Deaconess and St. Mary’s hospitals — that have greater resources, impact, and brand recognition.

“They used to not go into each other’s territory. Now when they do, it’s because community hospitals can’t offer those same levels of service,” says Headlee. “There’s an initiative to work together. For example, when a small hospital in Illinois has a patient who needs something they can’t offer, they will send them to Deaconess or St. Mary’s with the understanding that when that care is done, they send the patient back.”

The focus has shifted from respect and camaraderie to one of competition and collaboration. That shift is good not only for caregivers, but also for the consumer.
“There are all kinds of additional places where people can receive their care or have their procedures done, and that has created new competition,” says Headlee. “It’s created options and alternatives for the consumer, which is why the role of healthcare marketers is more and more important.”

Change has been fueled in part by technology. Hospitals now also utilize technology — email, apps, and websites — to educate, schedule appointments, and create relationships before care is needed.

“Today, they want to begin a relationship long before you’re sick and you have to decide to go to the hospital, and if so, which one,” says Headlee. “Of course, if you develop relationships with patients before they’re sick, and try to keep them healthier longer — which is how the government is looking to pay healthcare organizations, not a fee for service — then when they do need emergent care, they already have their preferred provider.”

Ten Adams’ objective is to make its clients the clear choice for patients. Using its 5D marketing process — discover, devise, develop, deploy, and discipline — Ten Adams highlights successes already happening within
the organization.

“What we do is help connect the people in the community with, most of the time, the great things already happening inside the hospitals,” says Headlee.

But hospitals can’t provide great care without great people. An additional task for Ten Adams is to help recruit and retain great caregivers. That means he and his team not only learn about hospitals and clinics, but also the communities where they are located to entice professionals to relocate there. Because there is a shortage of doctors and nurses, Headlee and his team want their clients’ communities to shine.

“We’ve got to stand out among not just our competitor across the street for patients, but the competitor across the state or across the country for that orthopedic surgeon, or that cardiothoracic surgeon — those folks are in high demand,” says Headlee. “They’re selling their community, they’re selling their features, their benefits, why doctors should come to this healthcare organization as opposed to the other five they’re talking to.”

Headlee can’t help others build an all-star team if he doesn’t have his own. Touting a team that is half logic, half imagination, and 100-percent brainpower, Headlee recruits team members to balance a combined left-brain (analytical) and right-brain (creative) approach. While technology has changed since Ten Adams began almost 30 years ago, its focus on people has not.

“Building on that foundation of great people, great work, and great clients, that’s still what makes us who we are today,” says Headlee, who in 2000 realigned Ten Adams to focus solely on healthcare advertising. “It’s a little cliché, but you’re only as good as the team you’ve got. And I’ve worked hard to build my team. As we’ve been growing and evolving, that’s been a critical component to our success.”

The success and quality of work at Ten Adams has attracted professionals from around the country. While two of the 25 employees work remotely, the rest reside in the Tri-State, with many having relocated here — proof that Evansville and surrounding communities have a lot to offer.

“I think people are attracted to a smaller organization — the high performers — because they want to get in and contribute and make a difference. It’s not that you can’t do that in a large organization, but I think your impact is felt more significantly in a smaller organization like Ten Adams,” he says.

Headlee’s diverse team provides quality work to a growing list of 16 clients — ranging from academic medical centers, regional health systems, and children’s and community hospitals — in eight states. Among those is Evansville’s St. Mary’s Health, a Ten Adams client since 2009. Ten Adams’ representation of St. Mary’s will end January 2017 because the hospital’s parent company Ascension Health is aligning its healthcare divisions’ brands at a national system level.

Competition between St. Mary’s and Deaconess hospitals ultimately has raised the bar for health care in the Tri-State.

“We are blessed to have both of them in Evansville. They both have a strong commitment to doing what is best for patients and not just their bottom lines,” he says. “I’ve been in other organizations that say that, but maybe their actions or business practices don’t support it like I’ve seen it in Evansville.

“It’s an interesting time to be in both the healthcare and the marketing and advertising industries,” says Headlee. “If the next 20 years are anything like the last 20 years, it will be exciting to see where healthy competition leads us.” 

For more information about Ten Adams, visit

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