AZ at the Cannes Lions Health Festival – Digital innovation, moving beyond the pill


Meredith Hemler

30 June 2014

By John McCarthy, VP, global commercial excellence, AstraZeneca

The first ever Cannes Lions Health Festival held in Cannes, France, June 13-14, brought together healthcare communicators and brands to discuss the sector’s current state and collaboratively forge into the future.

I presented a seminar, along with our partner DigitasLBi, on advances in digital technology that are revolutionizing the wellbeing of patients, and minimizing strain for health service providers. I spoke to how AstraZeneca’s unique patient-centric approach is enabled by rapid product prototyping, testing and learning – the DIG model.

DIG stands for Digital Innovation Group and is a collaboration between DigitasLBi and AstraZeneca. We’re a team with a broad range of skills taken from two very different industries. We came together to take on and solve some of the big challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry, from improving the way healthcare professionals work, connect and learn, to finding new ways to put patients in the driver’s seat when it comes to decisions about their health and treatment options.

The DIG model is a completely different way of working and aims to create products and services that are sustainable and that make a real difference both to doctors and to patients. I know that as DIG delivers more results through the rest of this year, we’ll see physicians and patients benefiting from our work.

I shared with the audience at Cannes the three approaches that are fundamental to success in digital innovation:

  1. Be different. It’s real easy to say. But you’ve got to be in a space that’s uncomfortable, you’ve got to free yourselves from your organization. If you want a different result, you’d better be different from the beginning.
  2. Be humble. There is humility in creating a learning environment. You have to put aside what you know. You have to be willing to listen to somebody else that has a better insight, who is more in touch with the patient, the process, the physician.
  3. Be brave. We’re in an innovative space and we fail a lot. We’re focusing on some things that we think are pretty successful to date, but we could still fail. We have another 20-25 ideas that we’ve already put on the shelf. Failure is real and, if you are still thinking in the old way it can tear you down. Or it can make you stronger.

As we further our digital innovation, we know it requires us to think differently and move from selling products to creating services that are meaningful to patients and physicians, in other words, moving beyond the pill.

It was a tremendous experience to participate and present at this global conference, while proudly representing the innovative work that AstraZeneca and DigitasLBI are advancing. These initiatives speak to AstraZeneca’s values – we are committed to helping physicians with the demands in their practices and solving problems for patients. We must put patients first – they have to be at the center of what we do. If we do this, I’m confident our work can make a truly meaningful difference.