Consumer Communications Leader in Health Care

BENJAMIN BREIER, MBA ’95
PRESIDENT AND CEO, KINDRED HEALTHCARE, LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY

BY KIRA LEWIS

As President and CEO of the largest provider of post-acute health care in the nation, Benjamin Breier (MBA ’95) understands the emotional challenges that patients and family members experience when making health care decisions.

Breier joined Kindred in 2005 and was named chief operating officer in 2010, president in 2012, then president and CEO in March of 2015. Kindred, which is the largest home health care provider and the largest operator of rehabilitation services in the U.S., also operates transitional care hospitals, nursing centers and hospice services in 46 states. With more than 100,000 employees, its 2015 revenue was $7.05 billion.

Breier, whom Modern Healthcare named to its list of the “100 Most Influential People in Healthcare” last year, has emphasized the importance of developing relationships with patients and with the families who are often responsible for making home health and post-acute care decisions. He’s looked for ways to make those decisions easier, which has led to consumer communication-focused efforts, including the 1.866.Kindred Contact Center and a variety of social media communications.

The contact center, staffed by registered nurses, helps callers from anywhere navigate insurance, Medicare, care for aging parents, rehabilitative services after an illness or surgery, home care and more, guiding callers to services local to them. “For those of us that have had family members recently discharged from a hospital in this age category, it’s confusing. It’s scary,” Breier says. “You don’t really know as a consumer what to do.”

Today, consumers have more input in and ask more questions about their health care and the care of their loved ones. Breier has pushed Kindred to evolve to meet those demands. “It wasn’t always so consumer-driven,” says Breier, who also has a certificate in health care administration from the School. “It used to be more doctorfocused or just what others told you to do. It has changed with the ability to access information and decide on the best way to care for mom and dad.”

Another important way that Kindred connects with health care consumers is via social media, Breier says, noting that it plays an important role in how people get information and how they communicate their likes, dislikes and opinions. “Kindred dove in headfirst many years ago as social media was taking off,” he says. The company has maintained a dominant presence across social media channels, with a dedicated department that actively responds to posts, tweets and comments. “If someone is interacting with us on social media, we want to capture that and make sure we are reaching out and building a relationship with that person,” Breier says.

In tweets, blogs, Facebook posts and videos, the company shares everything from general health care information to success stories and interviews with Kindred employees. “It’s not enough to just listen – you have to be putting out really good content,” Breier explains.

At the heart of Kindred’s online strategy is Breier’s vision to make a complicated company handling a complicated societal issue less overwhelming for the consumer. “It’s about taking a population who has to manage a complex set of questions and giving them the support and information they need each step along the way,” he says. Increasingly, that first step is taken on social media, and Breier believes this is the case no matter what industry a company is in. “This is true, whether you are talking about health care or making widgets,” he says. For companies that have yet to claim their share of voice in the online space, he says, “You are way, way behind if you aren’t doing it. You better start and catch up pretty fast.”

Breier comes from a proud ’Canes family: His father, Robert G. Breier (JD ’69), is a graduate of the School of Law, and his late mother, Eileen G. Breier (B.Ed. ’66, M.ED. ’75, JD ’88) earned degrees from both the education and law schools.

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