Live from Cannes Lions Health: That headline was one of the first comments in a panel on the world’s second largest healthcare market. It means: if something is wrong, they treat you; but you have to know something’s wrong. 

There isn’t a primary care infrastructure in China. If you don’t feel unwell, you don’t see a doctor. If you do feel unwell, you have to take steps to self-diagnose to identify which kind of specialist you might seek out. 

From there, Chinese healthcare consumers, can use digital search tools or chat to find and register with a nearby doctor. That doctor may or may not be the right specialist or well qualified. Of the 3 million doctors in China, only half have a college degree. 

Once diagnosed, access to interventions and hospitalization is high but follow-up care is almost non-existent.  

The good news is: in China, innovation is everywhere. From governments to entrepreneurs, the country is taking big steps to make care faster, more widely available, and cheaper. 

Jun Wu, Founder and Chairman of Cenova Ventures, and Claire Gillis, International CEO of WPP Health, see three key growth areas:

Data-driven care

Mobile and digital innovations are working to fill that care gap.  91% of people in China have adopted some kind of digital health. Without the conventional infrastructure, digital adoption is faster. People in China are very willing to share their data, especially when it has a clear impact for their health. One of the top growth areas may quickly become companies that mine multiple personal data sources to offer ongoing care, from follow-up to interventions to flags of health issues to proactively ask about. 

Data-driven insight

Data won’t be used just for individual health, it’s likely that integrated Chinese healthcare data will actually drive bold innovations in care around the world. It’s been said that if data were the new oil, China would be the new Saudi Arabia.

The challenge: getting access to it. Alibaba is a big player in healthcare data, so, too, are individuals and doctors. The challenge will be to align and connect that data while getting critical healthcare organizations, like hospitals, to systematically share their data. 

Private insurance 

As Chinese healthcare consumers get access to more and more innovative medicines and healthcare experiences, new companies will step in to help them access it. With a growing middle class, the country overall has money and wants to spend it on health, but the services and access aren’t available. The government spends about $700 / year / covered person. That budget level holds services and approval of new medicines back.

But growth in a private insurance market could change that. Our panelists predict that will be the path to allowing people to access more expensive treatments and services that they want, but the government can’t afford. 

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.