Indianapolis, IN — Last year it looked like pharmaceutical companies might be left behind in the wave of innovation changing healthcare experience. Now, more and more of our industry leaders are getting in the game.

Accelerating experience innovation

The industry that’s long-invested in early biotech innovation is now in the market for early experience innovation. In 2014, Abbott, Boehringer Ingelheim, Genentech and GE partnered with Rock Health, a leading funder of healthcare technology startups.

In Germany, Bayer went even farther evolving their Grants4Apps crowdsourcing initiative into a true digital health accelerator. Each of five startups will receive 50,000€ and 3.5 months in-house at Bayer for less than 10% equity. The accelerator’s first investments included wearable health sensors, a smart pill bottle, and home monitoring systems. (VentureBeat, 2014)

Bridging medicine and experience

The biggest surge of experience innovation this year will continue to be product design that blurs the lines between healthcare and technology evolution.

In 2014, Novartis led that field. What started as simple licensing of Google’s passive glucose-sensing contact lens quickly became a pipeline of product possibilities on the platform, including an autofocus feature for people living with presbyopia.

Boehringer Ingelheim partnered with Propeller Health to attach a smart sensor to the back of its inhaler. They’ll be passively collecting information to uncover new insights into nonadherence. Insights that can be solved with more innovations in digital health.

UCB is one we’ll be watching in 2015. They recently partnered with MC10 to find new uses for their stretchable, electronic BioStamp technology. It’s like a temporary tattoo that can track biometrics, muscle strength, motion, etc. Currently MC10’s major partner is Reebok. They’re working together to create a mesh cap that fits under a sports helmet to detect concussions and monitor impacts. At UCB, the possibilities become even bigger, dramatically changing what we can learn in clinical trials and how we can support patients on therapy.

(Finally) co-creating with our customers

In 2015, we predict market research budgets will start to decline as co-creation becomes more and more central to how pharma creates new experiences.

Genentech was one of the biggest first movers, working actively with patient communities from PatientsLikeMe to Crohnology to Mediguard to improve their clinical trials.

Sanofi has a really compelling program for nurses that is focused on listening to how its customers solve their own challenges. The Connecting Nurses website has brought together 14 million nurses from over 130 countries to share their ideas on how to bridge the gaps in healthcare and resources that happen around the world.

And we have a new, intriguing opportunity to listen to those customers with the latest Rx rating and review site launching in mind 2014. For Wired editor Thomas Goetx created Iodine to crowdsource effectiveness data of drugs and guide consumers about drug purchasing decisions.

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.