"Balance is really the key when you're talking about modern health care, communications and marketing," MWW Health senior VP and managing director Ryan Lilly tells Doug Simon.

"Health care absolutely is complex. It's highly regulated. It requires specialization to sort of understand and all the nuance, all the pitfalls," Lilly says. However, he also stresses that "you have to let some creativity in as well."

That requires communicators to have "the ability to get in the weeds and speak the language" while also avoiding the "because we've always done it that way methodology" and reaching a point where "you can still push the creative envelope a little bit."

The early phases of building a health practice at an agency, Lilly says, "are going to be spent doing more pursuit, doing more outreach, going to more conferences, shaking hands, kind of some of that old school prospecting." But he also says "it's absolutely critical that you do brand building."

The discussion also addresses how recent shifts in health care have affected the communications function. "We are moving increasingly towards value-based reimbursement, value based outcomes. You saw mass adoption of telehealth. We saw digital therapeutics become mainstream." Because of these changes, Lilly says that "bars have been reset in terms of what stakeholders expect."

Lilly also offers pointers on executing effective healthcare communications in a risk-averse environment. "The risk aversion is in many ways warranted," he says. "The stakes are high."

To keep those concerns in focus, while maintaining innovation and creativitiy, Lilly emphasizes making "protecting the patient and privacy" a primary goal. "I think no matter what, do no harm, protect the patient, protect the people has to be sort of the North Star for any health care comes from."

He also says communicators have to be careful not lose sight of the end result. "If you look at almost any health care brand, you can connect the dots to the end result, which is hopefully improving quality of care and taking care of patients. And I think by doing that, it forces us again to sort of get out of the weeds, drop some of the lingo. Let's talk, let's dumb this down and tell a story that is really meaningful to a larger audience, not just a handful of admins and hospitals and health systems."

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