Irvington, New York — A few weeks ago, Seth Godin wrote a fairly-hilarious post about what organizations can learn from airports. “I realized that I don’t dislike flying,” he said. “I dislike airports. There are so many things we can learn from what they do wrong.” No matter how technology or society or resources change, airports still do things exactly the same. They create enduring bad experiences like these:

#7 The ad hoc is forbidden. Imagine an airplane employee bringing in an extension cord and a power strip to deal with the daily occurrence of travelers hunched in the corner around a single outlet. Impossible. There is a bias toward permanent and improved, not quick and effective.

#9 There are plenty of potential bad surprises, but no good ones. You can have a flight be cancelled, be strip searched or even go to the wrong airport. But all possibility for delight has been removed. It wouldn’t take much to completely transform the experience from a chore to a delight.

That’s what’s different in healthcare. Sure, we have things in common with airports – big, hard-to-move organizations; cultures that don’t inspire innovation; and a seemingly endless stream of customers in need. But, the ad hoc is celebrated here and there is always the potential for a good surprise – not just a bad one – in health.

Here are a few examples of how embracing the changes and technology and culture are creating delightful new experiences in healthcare:

#1 Consumer tools make healthcare feel more familiar. At Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) use Facetime to let new moms see their premature or sick babies. Depending on the type of delivery, it can take moms 2 – 3 days to recover before they can go to the NICU to see their babies. The team at Cedars-Sinai wants to cut that down to 2 – 3 hours. The unmodified iPads they use are so familiar that they take away the stigma of serious medicine to put new parents at ease.

#2 Costs are fostering new kinds of creativity. Dr. Eric Topol is frustrated with the billions of dollars spent each year on the wrong screening and the wrong drugs. He calls the numbers and waste astounding. So, he’s re-imagining his practice with wireless medicine — performing echocardiograms and ultrasounds on his iPhone and prescribing more apps than drugs to his patients.

#3 Interactions are less sterile, more human. Around 40% of physicians email or text with patients. Millions of veterans have access to their doctors via video chat. These more human, connected forms of communication are changing the relationship between doctor and patient. In a a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Joseph C. Kvedar says that’s important to better outcomes because “A number of studies have shown that a trusting, caring provider/patient relationship makes it more likely that a patient will follow a doctor’s advice, resulting in a better outcome. And what’s the most critical feature of a trusting, caring relationship? Robust, clear and frequent communication.”

#4 Experimentation is being celebrated – and funded. There are tons of health incubators popping up around the world. One of our favorites is GE Healthcare, a long-time leader in healthcare innovation, now reaching beyond its walls for the next big idea in consumer health. GE recently announced its first innovation class of 13 companies that could benefit from mentorship and support. They’ll each be participating in a 3-year program, funded through GE’s $6 billion healthyimagination initiative.

#5 New “patient” behaviors are changing how doctors practice. According to Manhattan Research’s latest date, over 70% of doctors have at least one patient who’s into self tracking. Those patients are bringing real world health data to the exam room in a form that doctors can use to make behavior an increasingly important element of both diagnostics and recommendations.

Posted by: Leigh Householder

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation and Insights for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for building and scaling a global team of healthcare experts who together help life science leaders better understand the complex lives, influences and expectations of their customers. Specifically, they uncover actionable insights that fuel empathy and creativity; lead co-creation events that let marketers learn from peers, trends, and new possibilities; and help clients identify the most valuable and useful new customer experiences to create.

Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for nearly 20 years.She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she held several leadership roles at our largest agency, GSW.  There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business.

Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes.

A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. This year, she led over 250 experts to experts to focus on the most important changes in the commercial, consumer, marketing, digital and healthcare landscapes. (See reports at

Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice and Top 10 Innovation Catalysts of 2017 by MM&M, Leigh also was recognized  as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.