San Francisco, CA — Gautam Gulati, Chief Medical and Innovation Officer at Physicians Interactive, was the only speaker at Digital Pharma West to start his slide deck with a burrito:

It’s a wonderful cuss-filled diatribe by Lucky Shirt, indicting an unfortunate burrito maker who stacked his beloved ingredients top to bottom rather than across. Instead of biting into a wonderful mix of ingredients, he fell into a (cuss, cuss) “cilantro cavern.”

It’s the perfect corollary for healthcare. We have all the pieces. But we don’t know how to put them together in the right way to create a positive experience.

Here’s what we’re really up against:

Mistakes that we make as a healthcare system – because we’re not delivering and optimizing the experience – are the leading cause of morbidity. That’s the equivalent of seven jumbo jets crashing every day. And, it’s the best we can do in this patched together system that has grown and evolved over time.

To change it, we have to challenge some of our assumptions, while keeping our oaths and commitments.

We’re on the precipice of that kind of change for healthcare.

Think about where we are in the history of digital change:

  • The first digital innovation we saw was foundational. The internet, broadband, storage, speed. The groundwork.
  • Then came incremental innovation. The apps, search, devices and software that changed our capabilities, but didn’t reinvent the industry.
  • That’s the next wave – transformative innovation that re-imagines the entire experience. We’ve seen that in adjacent market places. Everyone reading this probably consumes music differently than they did 5 years ago. The way we manage and track our money has been transformed. Even education has been fundamentally changed by MOOCs.

What will our larger transformation be?

Gulati believes 20th century innovation was born of products designed for problems.

21st century innovation is born of experiences designed for people.

Three principles will enable us to create that transformative innovation that is designed for people:

  1. Context: Make the technology invisible to the customer by understanding their workflow, eliminating friction and co-existing with technology (not competing)
  2. Simplicity: It’s best described by John Maeda “Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.”
  3. Motivation: Make your customers feel like superheroes. Create a sense if purpose and belonging and develop incentives and reward structures that are very personal.

One example Physicians Interactive has in progress is Omnio.

It makes it easier than ever to keep all your medical must-haves in one place.

That’s uniquely human because the half life of medical information is 3 – 5 years. (Meaning: doctors have to entirely replenish their medical knowledge at least twice a decade.) The apps designed for them are growing by 25% / year. And they have access to thousands of new publications every month. It’s not sustainable. That’s a meaningful human need.

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.