Cannes, France – Healthcare truths are personal and can be really challenging to uncover. Especially sorting out the differences between what people say and what they do. DigitasLBi and AstraZeneca (AZ) got a deeper look at American healthcare truths in Galesburg, Illinois. Not new data, but new insights from the day-to-day experience of health in America to create 3 big ideas for patient support from AstraZeneca.

AZ and DigitasLBi work together in an accelerator called DIG. They’ve co-located their teams in an innovation center in London focused on human insights and supportive care.

But for 6 months, they lived together in Galesburg for project called The Turnout. Their goal was to uncover the stories behind the stories. To understand what the real health challenges are in a typical American town. They road tripped over 4000 miles to 17 different cities before settling on Galesburg, a city of 35,000, 250 miles southwest of Chicago. In many ways it’s a typical American city, devastated by globalization, struggling to reinvent itself.

As Hugo Manassei, DIG, and Elizabeth Egan, Global Digital Strategy & Innovation at AstraZeneca, introduced the people they met there, we heard familiar stories about good intentions, distractions and tradeoffs. A healthy life is not very important to people, they told us, but leading a good life is. What we value has more to do with family and finance than it does with health.

The team left with new insights (like people who have diabetes need to learn how to taste, not cook) and new ideas. They co-created a new type of hyper-local health service system with the community. It’s a project that they’re working with community members and the Clinton Foundation to roll out now.

Manassei and Egan also told us about two other projects AZ has invested in to make an impact for people:


After years of work in lung cancer treatments, AZ was left with a troubling question: What is the point of developing treatments for a quality of life not worth living? Lung cancer is one of the deadliest and it’s also lonely, isolating and debilitating. People assume it’s a smokers disease; that it is the patient’s fault. Many people won’t even tell close friends or relatives that they have lung cancer because they don’t want the stigma.

AZ decided they had an important role to play in embracing survivors as people not patients. Their LVNG With program creates community with a full system of education, resources and, more importantly, the support and validation of other survivors.

All of the content was co-created with patients. The content is written by patients and the photography is of their real lives.

Day By Day

Back to the road trips. The combined DIG team also traveled across America to spend time with 75 heart attack patients and their caregivers. They knew 40% of people who have a heart attack do not fill their prescriptions and they wanted to co-design a service to help people be more successful post-heart attack.

The numbers they were up against are huge. 700,000 Americans have a heart attack each year. And, because many of them don’t change their lifestyles or stick with their treatments, 200,000 will have a second heart attack.

Patients told AZ that they were quickly processed through the system – out of the hospital in as quick as 24 hours. They were scared but didn’t necessarily know what to do.

AZ worked with patients and cardiologists to give heart attack survivors a coach to go home with. The solution – called Day By Day – is an app and resource center, full of personally-tailored content. Users start by selecting a personal coach who will become their 1:1 contact and help customize their experience.

In the pilot, the app was loaded right at bedside and people spent an average of 20 minutes deciding which coach was right for them. The results are impressive to say the least:

  • An average of 40 interactions / user / week
  • 64% of users started new exercise routine
  • Estimated total 43% increase medication adherence

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.