Columbus, OH — The challenges we have to solve in healthcare are enormous: an epidemic of chronic disease, inequity in care, a rapidly aging population, the list goes on and on. The scale of the problems is overwhelming. Yet, a lot of our solutions tend to be underwhelming. They’re impersonal, hard to use, and full of complex language.

Maybe where we’re going wrong is trying to solve everyone’s problems all at once instead of understanding the incredibly personal experiences that happen along the way. Matt Mizer, one of our favorite collaborators, recently sent us this video about how the Cleveland Clinic is trying to understand the individual experiences that fill its corridors everyday:

It’s stories like those that inspired one of our go-to brainstorming tactics here. It’s called “think small” and it starts with two people: say a young family doctor and a middle-aged woman struggling with diabetes.

He recently moved from Washington, DC to Dayton, OH to join a practice. He’s training for his first marathon, considers himself a pretty excellent cook, and just started dating a real estate agent in town. She’s overweight, works as a receptionist, has teenage boys at home and an aging mother who needs a lot of attention and care. We give them names and stories and the natural tension that exists around two people trying to connect, trying to change a life.

The challenge then isn’t to solve the big problems of healthcare, it’s to make it a little easier for those two people. To understand the whole situation and create an incredible relevant and personal solution. From those ideas and answers come themes that can power bigger, more universal ideas.

Getting to know the people we ultimately serve has been made easier than ever by YouTube, blogs, and online communities. But, it’s still the actions of generous individuals that tend to give us the most powerful views into life on the real frontlines of healthcare in America. Here are two that changed our thinking:

1. When nurse Martha Keochareon began losing her battle with pancreatic cancer, she decided to share her last days with students who could learn from her experience dying:

2. Dese’Rae L. Stage just completed a first round of Kickstarter funding to bring the Live Through This project to life. It’s a collection of portraits and stories of suicide attempt survivors, as told by those survivors, and inspired by Stage’s own experience.

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.