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Attention healthcare: Take these lessons from Hollywood

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At first glance, the worlds of healthcare and Hollywood couldn’t be more different. One brings to mind images of stethoscopes, hospital beds and doctors in white coats. The other is reminiscent of the Walk of Fame, blockbuster movies and famous celebrities.

But upon closer inspection, the two sectors may not be so dissimilar after all. In fact, healthcare could learn a few lessons from the film industry.

Ed Saxon is an Academy Award-winning producer who’s been making films for 25 years. He’s produced well-known movies such as The Silence of the LambsPhiladelphia and Mandela.

In addition to his work at his own independent production company, Saxon is a speaker who teaches businesses how to connect with their customers through the use of storytelling. He will be bringing his insight to the MedCity ENGAGE conference in San Diego on November 6-7.

Saxon is no stranger to the world of healthcare. His sister is Dr. Leslie Saxon, an interventional cardiologist and the executive director of the USC Center for Body Computing. She’ll also be speaking at ENGAGE next month.

In a phone interview, Ed Saxon explained what healthcare can learn from Hollywood.


Attend MedCity ENGAGE to hear from experts like Ed Saxon and Dr. Leslie Saxon. Save an additional $50 using the MCN50 code. Register now.


The first lesson is to prepare for disruption. The digital revolution has altered the way people go about their daily lives. The arrival of new technologies has already disrupted the film industry, Saxon said. No one buys DVDs anymore — instead, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon have taken over.

The disruption is taking a bit longer to hit the medical industry, largely because it’s a heavily regulated field. But in time, it will happen.

“You’d better be where the puck is going,” Saxon advised. “And where it’s going is toward disruption.”

The second lesson Hollywood has for healthcare is to tell a better story.

People traditionally tend to think of physicians and nurses as the antagonist in the story, Saxon noted. After all, a visit to the doctor often means you’re sick or something is wrong. Plus, our ancestors were bled to death and poisoned by doctors who were using the wrong methods in an attempt to help.

The key is to flip the script and change the way we view medical experts. The historical paradigm was that physicians poked and prodded patients. But the new paradigm is that with the help of digital tools, the doctor and patient can work together.

“There’s a shared story around what we’re doing together as caregiver and patient,” Saxon said.

Moreover, it’s crucial for physicians to do more than spew numbers and test scores at patients.

“Engage people emotionally,” Saxon suggested. Doing so will encourage patient compliance. Just as the best movies inspire viewers by pulling them in on an emotional level, a successful patient story includes emotional engagement and investment.

Photo: choness, Getty Images

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