Cannes, France – In healthcare, we talk a lot about adherence and compliance. But, as brands, our role is really helping support change: How do we help people act on the health decisions they’ve made for themselves? How do we empower them be more resilient to try and try again?

We've all made those commitments – to talk to a doctor, change a diet, or stick with a new routine. But, too often, life gets in the way and those commitments are left behind. Our brands that take the blame – we're not effective, not easy, not useful.

inVentiv Health wanted to understand more about why. So, we followed 30 families for 2 years to understand how they lived with and dealt with acute and chronic medical issues from diabetes and mental illness to infertility and cancer.

At Lions Health, Kathleen Starr, PhD, head of inVentiv Behavioral Insights, and Susan Perlbachs, EVP, Executive Director at GSW, shared the findings and explained how they should change the way we think about creativity.

As an industry, we need to shift from individual, patient-centric support to wider, more social-centric change.


The way people make healthcare decisions is impacted by every ring of that circle. Starr shared a ton of great insights, many of which you can find in her whitepaper. Here are a few highlights:

  • 'Patient' isn't an identity people have for themselves. They see themselves as wife, mother, volunteer, friend, etc. Even seriously ill patients attach to the emotional roles in their lives; the ones that connect them to other people.
  • Families work in a "patient of the day" mentality. We respond to daily upheaval more than we are guided by careful planning. In many circumstances, the flu can beat cancer in terms of immediate priority.
  • In most households, there's a "one basket" budget. Diabetes treatments, asthma medicine, and new hockey sticks come out of the same fund with shifting priorities of which is paid for first.
  • Our healthcare system is expanding. People say they're overwhelmed by their engagements with the core healthcare system but they add onto it, asking a massage therapist about their headaches, a pharmacist about their allergies, and Dr Oz about everything else. That's right, Dr Oz is part of the "patient journey" for many Americans.
  • This proliferation of counsel is about a clear conflict. We’ve lost trust. But we want to trust.
  • In our society, temptation is culture. To succeed, people have to avoid all the bad. Avoidance is a difficult behavior to maintain. 

The Role of Creatives

Perlbachs stepped up to help the world-class creative leads in the room understand our role in applying this knowledge. She said, today, creative has to work in each person's system. It can't influence the individual alone.

Toward that end, she's long been influenced by this quote from another Lions stage:

Four key social-centric levers that will help creative’s drive more “life-changing creativity”:

  1. Translate Key Health Concepts Into Real-World Context: The language is never going to change, but the (personal) meaning has to.
  2. Unite Patient and Family: The participation of family is “make or break” in healthcare success.
  3. Resolve Conflict to Show a Clear Path: People are drowning in opinions but starving for wisdom—what’s right for them, really?
  4. Create Cultural Relevance: Is culture a barrier or a boost? We need to be part of the culture they want to thrive in.

Perlbachs shared examples of each lever and then challenged the creatives in the room to identify the most powerful and compelling examples of social creativity from across the industry. The results will be published next week at beyondpatientcentricity.com/cannes

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for shaping the company’s perspective on the next era of healthcare marketing. Through thought leadership, strategic innovation workshops and new products and capabilities, Leigh focuses on identifying marketing approaches that will fuel that new era and generate significant growth for clients. Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for over 17 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 had several leadership roles at one of our agencies, 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. Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice, 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.