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The Future of Healthcare: “In this country, we have a Walmart in every town, but some people must travel miles to gain access to healthcare” With Lyn Falconio, CMO of Publicis Health

The fundamental shift that needs to happen is that healthcare needs to be convenient and accessible for all. In this country, we have a Walmart in every town, but some people must travel miles to gain access to healthcare or the right medical specialist. As a caregiver for my family members, I can see firsthand […]

The fundamental shift that needs to happen is that healthcare needs to be convenient and accessible for all. In this country, we have a Walmart in every town, but some people must travel miles to gain access to healthcare or the right medical specialist. As a caregiver for my family members, I can see firsthand that having better access to simple, relevant information can be transformative to an individual’s care. I have had to deal with Medicaid and Medicare on behalf of some of my family, and you’d need a doctorate to navigate the convoluted system. I can only imagine what that experience is like for someone who is terminally ill or living with mental illness and trying to make heads or tails of the system. Gaining access to quality, affordable, and reliable healthcare shouldn’t be that hard. I also believe one of the fundamental things that needs to be changed is not trying to fix something that is broken, but instead to create something new and better. Instead of putting a band-aid on an old system, we need to completely rethink what easy, convenient and affordable care looks like — and make it happen.


Asa part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview Publicis Health Chief Marketing Officer, Lyn Falconio.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Like many industries, healthcare is undergoing massive change, and it’s tremendously exciting to work in a category that’s experiencing such rapid transformation. I’ve been fortunate to work at the intersections of science, healthcare, digital and business transformation. I am proud to have built my career as a healthcare strategist, business development leader, global client leader, and marketing executive. It’s given me a very diverse opportunity to build strengths across many facets of customer engagement, industry partnerships, technology, analytics, and new product development. I have been recognized for strategic leadership, a curiosity to solve problems, taking on challenges, and an unwavering focus on business results. I am a big believer that winning performance is the pursuit, but that only comes with leadership that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more, become more.

After graduating from college with a dual major in economics and international business, I moved from Washington, DC, to New York City, thinking I would pursue a career path in finance — or at least work in an industry that was global. Along the way, I had the very good fortune of meeting two men, Clive Lewis and Francis Gace, who were starting a healthcare agency at the time. They saw something in me, took a chance, and hired me as a research strategist. So, while I originally had ambitions to work on Wall Street, I found myself on Madison Avenue working in healthcare marketing — and I was hooked. At Lewis & Gace, we pitched and won a lot. The agency was on a roll and soon we were the “it” healthcare shop of the early 1990s. When you begin your career working with wonderful mentors and on blue-chip brands, it draws you in and makes you hungry for more. It also nurtured my creative side and my quest for learning. I’m a serial learner. I fell in love with creative teams, media planners, strategic planners — and the emotional inspiration they brought to solving business challenges. It was eye opening and changed my future course.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Because of the dynamic nature of healthcare and marketing, every day at work is a new day. There was a time when healthcare marketing fit into a very confined box, specifically focused on a tried-and-true push approach to pharmaceutical advertising. But cultural and social norms and expectations around healthcare have changed dramatically, and consumers don’t simply think about their health in moments of crisis or illness. And they don’t show up un-informed or simply ready to follow any instructions a healthcare provider may give them. Today, there is stronger and more active participation in healthcare decision making between patients and providers, and health and wellness in the broader sense is now integrally woven into our social fabric.

As a business category, healthcare is hot now, and I love telling people I work in healthcare. Nowadays, conversations about healthcare can spark completely different impressions in people’s minds than the traditional ideas of paternalistic care providers and obedient patients. There has been a shift toward greater partnership between HCPs and patients as well as collaboration with the various stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem — from system providers to pharma companies — all playing important roles. On the healthcare marketing front, we are innovating and producing cutting-edge work that directly and positively impacts how these conversations get started and how engagement unfolds to foster the best possible outcome.

What I find most fulfilling is that I get to mentor young, up-and-coming healthcare communicators and get to see the lightbulbs go off in their heads around science and data, and how we combine art and science to create the life-changing work we make for our clients. Right now, healthcare content development and education are incredibly exciting. We are impacting lives and bettering the world around us. What I also like about working in healthcare is that when you tell people what you do, it often prompts them to share personal stories of their own. It’s a way to start a connection with people, something that’s inherent to being in this field.

Can you tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the healthcare field?

I’ve had the privilege of working in healthcare marketing for more than 25 years. A lot has changed since I started my career, especially the emergence of digital technologies that have empowered consumers and transformed the media landscape. Having worked on the frontlines of digital transformation, it has been a privilege to witness first-hand how companies have dealt with their own digital coming of age in healthcare. I’ve had the opportunity to work across many therapeutic areas and come equipped with a deep understanding of what a healthcare journey looks like, and how today we must look at moments of intervention with a critical eye toward what’s changing, what’s ahead, and what the future of engagement looks like at that moment in the journey.

In healthcare marketing, I have worn many hats — from being a media planner, to account director, to working in tech start-ups, to global client services director, to now CMO — I have experienced so many facets of the business. This immersion in so many areas of our business and looking at it through so many lenses, has given me invaluable training and perspective. Most importantly, I’ve learned how to bring in the right expertise to build the right teams to tackle most any challenge.

What makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

For the more than 3,000 employees who work at Publicis Health companies across the globe, we are unified by a single purpose: to create a world where people are equipped and motivated to take control of their own health and well-being. We do this by transforming healthcare marketing and communications into healthcare engagement. Without engagement, any scientific discovery or great medicine is dead in its tracks. Our purpose isn’t simply words written on an office wall or a statement on our website. We fundamentally believe that healthcare marketing is healthcare, creating the type of engagement that leads to healthy conversations, healthy behaviors, and healthy people.

Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to and/or see in the healthcare industry? How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo? Which “pain point” is this trying to address?

There’s definitely an innovation arms race happening right now. Healthcare on demand and the rise of people’s expectations for quality care delivered on their own terms and in their own time is pushing new technologies to address these demands. Like never before, consumers are demanding that their healthcare is personalized, whether it’s delivered through concierge care or personalized prescription care or access to telemedicine. The “Amazon-ification” of healthcare means patients have high expectations for healthcare products and services to find them, know them, and help them. The real pain point in patient care is ensuring genuine patient centricity defines the experience for everyone.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

  1. Everyone thinks differently, especially in healthcare: Healthcare exists at the crossroads of many disciplines and on any given day I could be engaging with everyone from MDs to data engineers to creative directors — all of whom think and work differently. Collaborating with a wide variety of professionals makes my job fun and enriching, but working to drive consensus with a group of people wired completely differently is as rewarding as it is challenging. Some days I think I have earned a PhD in negotiation.
  2. The power of purpose: While this may be viewed as somewhat fundamental, I have learned there is no greater strength in delivering on performance than having a clear vision that everything hangs on. If you stay true to that, and embrace it as part of your culture and decision-making, then you win.
  3. Lean in: I openly admit that I was a little late to this point. I am so passionate in believing in the value each person brings to an organization. Don’t doubt, just do.
  4. Make challenging the norm a part of what you do: Traditionally, we think of healthcare — and healthcare communications — in the context of a hospital or a physician’s office, or the instructions for the medicine you take. But healthcare exists beyond the exam room. It’s our job to look at the whole person and to factor in every determinant that will impact their personal outcome. The question to ask is no longer, “What disease does the patient have?” but instead is, “What patient does the disease have?”
  5. There is a rationale and emotional formula to our business:Particularly in healthcare, there is a balance of art and science. We have to be as much about the heart as we are about the head. While data may drive many of the decisions, we can’t lose sight of the fact that healthcare at its best is all about making human, emotional connections.

Let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?

Healthcare is an easy target for highly charged points of view, and rightfully so. What’s more important than our health? I think at the root of the challenge today is our healthcare system was built for insurers and employers, not necessarily for consumers. There are many layers and complexities to our healthcare system. And while the industry is clamoring for transformation, they are trying to fix a broken system, versus trying to build a new system that meets today’s changing needs. Additionally, integrated and connected communication is a real problem in healthcare. While technology like electronic health records have helped, there often isn’t synchronicity between patients, payers, physicians, and the pharmaceutical industry. Finally, it’s a polarizing subject and in today’s politically charged environment that can cause more paralysis than acceleration.

You are a “healthcare insider”. Can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.

The fundamental shift that needs to happen is that healthcare needs to be convenient and accessible for all. In this country, we have a Walmart in every town, but some people must travel miles to gain access to healthcare or the right medical specialist. As a caregiver for my family members, I can see firsthand that having better access to simple, relevant information can be transformative to an individual’s care. I have had to deal with Medicaid and Medicare on behalf of some of my family, and you’d need a doctorate to navigate the convoluted system. I can only imagine what that experience is like for someone who is terminally ill or living with mental illness and trying to make heads or tails of the system. Gaining access to quality, affordable, and reliable healthcare shouldn’t be that hard. I also believe one of the fundamental things that needs to be changed is not trying to fix something that is broken, but instead to create something new and better. Instead of putting a band-aid on an old system, we need to completely rethink what easy, convenient and affordable care looks like — and make it happen.

Thank you! It’s great to suggest changes, but what specific steps would need to be taken to implement your ideas? What can individuals, corporations, communities and leaders do to help?

I was recently preparing for a panel that I moderated at the inaugural HealthFront. I started talking about my panel with my Uber driver that morning as we headed over to the venue. Unaided, and not knowing much about what I do for a living or what my panel topic was that day, my driver said to me, “My relationship with my healthcare is the worst relationship I have”. He then proceeded to tell me about the challenges he faced as he and his wife started their family. We live at a time when healthcare is neither affordable nor accessible for all. And people feel defeated. There also is a “setup” factor — people will accept not fightingfor something. I want to reemphasize that the care today is not designed with a consumer-centric perspective in mind. It functions with insurers and employers at the center.

So, the most important change is adopting a truly consumer-centric mindset and business approach to solving the problem. Adopting a consumer-centric approach is a rigorous discipline that means deeply understanding everything from personal beliefs, to personal data, to personal social determinants that can have an impact on how healthcare is accessed and consumed. Only then can we really pinpoint what has to change to create better, more affordable, more convenient, more predictable outcomes for all. People should be engaged and empowered to pursue solutions, to find and embrace the right treatments, with ease and confidence. Not with fear, uncertainty, and facing a daunting labyrinth at every turn.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?

An author that’s at the top of my reading list is Brené Brown. I find her to be so authentic, with her no-nonsense approach to leadership and empathy. Her bravery coupled with her guidance to leverage your vulnerability really speaks to me, and how she approaches tough conversations serves as great guidance.

I’m also a regular listener of the WSJ’s Future of Everything podcast, which consistently features amazing stories about what is possible in the world, from healthcare and beyond.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m active on my LinkedIn and use that as my professional platform to share what I’m learning, what I see happening in our business, and what others are doing who inspire me.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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