By Michelle Gross

“You have competition every day because you set such high standards for yourself that you have to go out every day and live up to that.” – Michael Jordan.

The best athletes aren’t just challenging themselves to be better than their peers or to excel in a competitive environment. When they’re at the top, they’re also constantly striving, pushing themselves to be better than yesterday so they can keep growing and excelling.

As health communicators, it’s already innate to think about the competitive landscape. How can we do things better? How can we do things differently? But to really move the needle with patients and physicians, we need to do more.

Our challenges are unique. We work in a very specific space, with lots of regulations, a wide variety of stakeholders and plenty of competing messages. The healthcare landscape is changing and our clients need new solutions each and every day. But every day we need to push the boundaries to make sure our programs are the best. We have to be smarter, stronger and more innovative.

So, amidst the changing landscape, how do we continue to grow and learn so that we can deliver more than our previous day’s best?

Here are the three things I think are key:

1. The industry is changing. So should our working model.

We now live in a world of constant information overload. Physicians are no longer the only ones with access to scientific information. Reporters are no longer the only ones who can report news as it happens in real-time.

Now more than ever, there’s a need to help make sure complex science is accessible – both in how it is translated and where it is made available. As a health communicator, we must spearhead this translation and ensure crucial health information is not just available, but is being accessed by the patients, caregivers and HCPs for which it’s intended.

To address this reality, we have realized an integrated model is key. Teams have to be composed of diverse viewpoints – scientists sitting next to graphic designers, sitting next to media buyers, sitting next to copywriters. We're all looking at the same client challenges, yet approaching them from vastly different perspectives. And this is not only what our clients are asking of us, but ultimately, it's what fosters the best communications programs.

2. Patients are in the driver’s seat. Our job is to power their GPS.

It’s no secret that there’s more medical information available at a patient’s fingertips than ever before. But the stats tell a pretty compelling tale:

Looking for health or medical information is the 3rd most popular online activity, behind emailing and pre-purchase product research. (Pew Research Center)

With 63% of consumers more likely to follow advice from medical professionals than other information sources on health and wellness actions, doctors and nurses are still the top influencers on health matters – but the dynamics are shifting. Millennials are far more likely than older generations to research symptoms before a medical visit (82%), bring lists of questions to a medical appointment (68%) and bring information found to a medical visit (53%). And, 41% of millennials are more likely to rely on social networks to influence health actions than the advice of health care professionals. (2016 Consumer Health Mindset™ Study, conducted by Aon)

And even the way patients are being treated is changing. Telemedicine is estimated to reach $113.1 billion by 2025. The wearables market is expected to double by 2021. The Internet of Things (IoT) now includes an “M” – the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT).

All of this means that we have to be on our game – delivering credible, easy to understand information to the right people, at the right time. That’s no small feat in an environment where fake news is pervasive and new channels crop up every day. Which leads me to #3…

3. Use data as the north star.

Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes isn’t easy. And yet, that’s what we’re challenged with most days. Figuring out what will really make a difference in breaking through to patients to change the way they think about the landscape around them, their health, their care and the management of their disease.

Data makes this easier. It gives us a unique window in, beyond what patients and clients and other stakeholders in the care continuum can, in many cases, even verbalize. The key is to not take that data at face value, but to search for insights that are just below the surface, the insights that take a little extra legwork to get. It’s with those precious gems of insight that we are able to develop the right strategy. They’re the keys to helping patients get the information they need, helping clients find the right patients and truly making a difference.


Elbert Hubbard said “Do your work with your whole heart, and you will succeed – there’s so little competition.” And I see my team working with their whole hearts every single day. But what I love most is when I see them challenging themselves in the spirit of elite athletes, going beyond the successes of yesterday to deliver the best of themselves for our clients and, most importantly, for patients.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Michelle Gross, Spectrum Managing Director. Michelle leads the biopharma practice with over 20 years of communications experience working with the top global pharma brands.