"The most important aspect in healthcare transformation is that we have to get much closer to the patient experience," Blake McEvoy, head of US corporate affairs for respiratory & immunology, vaccines & immune therapies at AstraZeneca, tells Doug Simon.

Technology and data can be key to achieveing that goal, McEvoy says, but but they can lack "some of the color and connective tissue that we all like to have as a human experience." To bring in that human element takes "more connected conversations," he tells Simon. "We need to create a space for communities in which we work to be able to have them feel comfortable enough sharing where they would like us to better support them in the healthcare ecosystem, and equally be ready to receive some tough input and action upon it." In addition, forming those closer relationships with patients requires "a huge amount of collaboration with health systems, payers and also from a science and R&D perspective."

Communicators, McEvoy says, are playing a big part in those initiatives."How that's come to bear is really working closely, day one, with our market and insights teams so that we can take the data, translate it into actionable insights for how patients would like to see and hear us reflect their experience in our communications channels."

To put that across, you need the right people. McEvoy stresses "making sure we cultivate a talent pipeline of communicators in the pharmaceutical or healthcare sector that can bring to bear all of the great science and patient voice and to future work."

Simon and McEvoy also discuss the shift toward a "people / planet / society focus" on the part of the health care industry. "When you think about healthcare ecosystems, we do have a play into what that means for communities and how that impacts communities."

The challenges of getting C-suite executives on board with that emphasis on community are addressed as well. The role communicators play in that effort, McEvoy says, is pivotal. "When we do communicate effectively, when we show that our investments and our values match our actions or what we're intending to do, then we do see greater opportunity."

He also pinpoints several essentials for communicators working in the healthcare sector. "Always be problem solving and helping see the road ahead, as well as reacting to the immediate needs of the business. Don't get caught up in the reactive. Try to be as attuned to the business and the landscape as possible, so you're truly bringing insights that may not come to bear for several years, but you're bringing them now so that the business is ready to act on them in the immediate future."

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