When McCann Health promoted Sandra Carey from global president, McCann Health Pharmacy Marketing to global president, expert audiences, it might initially have been perceived as one of those executive adjustments primarily of interest to those who follow the inside baseball of healthcare marketing. In reality, the move reflects fundamental shifts that COVID has brought to the industry.
In her expanded role, Carey will direct McCann Health’s intensified focus on healthcare extenders — the nurses, doctor’s assistants, dieticians, pharmacists and others who constitute the “expert audiences” in her title and who play crucial, if often underappreciated, roles in treatment plans. If they have long been essential in the delivery of healthcare, they have become even more so in the time of COVID.
“If you look at the health system and some of the changes that we are seeing, we have a health system that is under stress. We had physicians who were the core of engagements with patients, but now, given everything with COVID, everyone has had to step up,” Carey explained. “It’s interesting because health extenders are often the professionals who best understand a patient’s reluctance to start or stay on a treatment, because they have a different sort of engagement. We are seeing that they are having more conversations with patients.”
If many of these changes were prompted by COVID, then the question becomes why McCann Health chose to create a new role to address a situation that may pass. Carey responded by noting that she and her McCann Health peers believe some of those changes are here to stay.
“Personally, I don’t think that things will return to exactly the way they were before. Some things will, but one thing the pandemic has done is help us see gaps in our healthcare system,” she said. “We have been pushed and things have accelerated. The use of technology, for example – if you had asked me a year ago if we would be where we are now in terms of technology, I would have said no.”
Carey sees a new slate of responsibilities and opportunities emerging in the wake of the changes. Chief among them is an expanded role for healthcare extenders – assuming they’re provided the information and tools they need.
“There are a lot of things falling through the cracks right now, so we need to have healthcare extenders, who have the skills and education, step in and operate at a higher level,” she said. “They’re all doing things they haven’t traditionally done, because they have been tasked with new responsibilities and the need is at hand. They are playing a pivotal role in healthcare delivery, conducting activities and interventions in disease prevention and health promotion.”
Carey’s advocacy for these expert audiences might be traced to her bio: She has been a practicing pharmacist for most of her career. As a result, she has long sought to look across the full spectrum of healthcare in order to help people step into new roles.
“We are at one of the most teachable moments in healthcare,” Carey explained. “If we reimagine it across the board, then healthcare extenders can become powerful agents of change. The places where care is happening are changing.”