“Episode 4: How Agencies Can Deliver Real Value with Dr. Leo Francis”
by Stacey Richter

Listen to the MP3 file directly by clicking here.

Leo P Francis, PHD – President, LPF Solutions

dr_leo_francis Leo Francis is an award-winning communications professional with a unique mix of commercial and scientific expertise and a proven record of success. He is a skilled communicator and visionary who is also operationally robust in translating scientific ideas into organizational value. He began his healthcare career in international clinical development at Gensia Europe Limited with a focus on the development of novel cardiovascular agents in surgery and arrhythmia diagnosis. Leo was instrumental in the preparation of the NDA for this unique device-drug combination.

Over the next several years, Leo moved into medical communications leadership positions at Adelphi Group (US), OCC Europe, Ltd (UK) and Gardiner-Caldwell Communications (UK) deploying his expertise with most major pharmaceutical manufacturers on all aspects of the prelaunch/launch commercialization process from clinical study design, market shaping and preparation, positioning, thought-leader development engagement, healthcare organizational alliances, value proposition development and tactical deployment of medical communication strategies at both the domestic and global level.

Since being US-based, Leo’s recent roles were within Publicis Healthcare Communications Group (PHCG) as President, Publicis Medical Education Group (PMEG), leading an eclectic group of six medical education agencies, following which he progressed to the role of Global Group President responsible for a portfolio of Global Advertising and Medical agencies (market research, market access, healthcare consulting & managed markets) and cross discipline skill centers (strategic planning, patient & consumer insights, data analytics & strategic services, medical insights/analysis).

In 2010 and 2012, Leo was honored in PharmaVoice 100 as one of the 100 most inspiring leaders in the life-sciences industry. Thereafter, Leo has been developing his Healthcare Consulting business, LPF Solutions LLC (lpfsolutionsllc.com; Twitter: #lpfsolutions) and has Pharmaceutical company and Healthcare agency clients across several business areas and therapeutic categories.

Leo holds a Ph.D. in Physiology and Pharmacology from the University of Central Lancashire, UK.


1:00 – The trajectory of Leo’s career. Biology, Pharmacology and English Literature. First job was working at a CRO and commercial incubator doing Phase I studies.

4:00 The power of language. The way we articulate can mean what we intend to communicate doesn’t match what the listener hears. Leo “places science in context” to derive meaning and relevance, and from this, you derive value. If not relevant, you merely convey information. There’s no value to the listener.

5:25 Next career step was working in the clinical research department of a biotech company, writing protocols and performing clinical investigations. Thereafter, having submitted the NDA, started to get involved in product support— help sales reps and product managers because of a deep understanding of the data. Found the commercial side incredibly interesting and from there was head-hunted into medical communications agency.

8:00 The value of both understanding the clinical, commercial aspects and also having the talent to “tell the value story.”

9:00 Going from business development in strategic publication planning to the President of the Med Ed division of Publicis Healthcare. Steps along the way included working with pharma manufacturers at a global level, and then supporting local markets in commercial development.
“The nexus of science and commerce.”

11:25 Leo’s current consulting engagements. Creating solutions to communicate and deliver value. Some of it is about expertise that Leo brings, or ways that he can aggregate expertise to solve a problem. More about solving problems and less about the discipline of a certain channel.

13:00 How has Leo’s task altered given the changes in the US healthcare landscape? Consolidation in the marketplace means that the nature of the customers and the stakeholders that pharma needs to work with are changing. There has always been a myopic focus on the prescriber, but now it’s about who are the aggregate group of stakeholders that we need to build relationships with and help deliver the best healthcare outcomes at the best price.

15:00 Collaboration is a tough thing to do even if though there’s a common view, about the patient at the core. “We’re here to serve the patient.” But all stakeholders come at this from a different direction and these different approaches can lead to challenges. Need to be authentic and share values and be able to clearly identify these commonalities.

16:35 Don’t forget shareholders are patients. Pharma is also in the service business. The question to ask is “who do you serve” and if, for example, you think of the pharma brand as the centerpiece of a solution to deliver better patient health, this creates a commonality which stakeholders can align around.

18:00 The changing role of the pharma sales representatives. Some companies are further ahead of others. It is a dangerous place to go if regulation forces greater separation of pharma and prescribers. It’s not constructive to disentangle stakeholders who have an important relationship. We need to be transparent about the nature of the relationship, but having a relationship is fundamental to getting the best results.

19:40 Examples of when barriers to collaboration— regulation, limited authenticity— have limited collaboration. This can happen on the clinical development side or on the communication side. Institutions preclude their members from working with pharma— ultimately this will have a negative impact on the ultimate quality of health that can be delivered. We all need to challenge ourselves to figure out to make these relationships the best they can be. And transparency will be a big part of this.

22:00 Compromise could be construed as each party as giving something up to get to a better outcomes. Clearly defining what those objectives are, and being committed to those objectives means that you will freely do what it takes to get there. Also need to look at interactions longitudinally … if look at interactions as one & done, then there will be less understanding of the potential for the relationship and therefore less willingness to compromise in the short term for long term gains.

24:00 Ian Altman and Gary Vaynerchuk both have said in many different ways, “You have to give to get.” You have to stay true to your objective. This then defines decisions you’re going to make. You don’t then look at this as compromise because you’re committed to the objective. And if questions continue to arise, then we need to ask ourselves if we’re really committed to that objective. Are you authentic… are you talking about this commitment, or are you really committed?

25:00 Big network agencies these days are divided into smaller business units who are incentivized on their individual performance. Why don’t these individual units work together to best serve the customers? But it would take courageous leadership to make these changes.
“Staying the course is a continuous, every day, consideration.”

28:00 The segmentation between disciplines … advertising and med ed. More now than ever, these lines are becoming ambiguous. So need to be focused on solutions as opposed to selling the client a new initiative. But thinking at its core about what problem our clients have and trying to solve them. This means organizational and asset agility. It means being able to pull our resources together in order to quickly solve a problem for a client. So instead of having 10 people working on a piece of business for the next year and more about what disciplines are needed and organize them. Clients are willing to pay for solutions. Solutions have value.

30:50 The burning challenges, on commercial side of smaller pharma trying to have deeper interactions with healthcare providers and thought leaders. This is hard because of regulations, not just the Sunshine Act. But the very people that they need to help them, they can’t reach. It’s almost a false separation, because if thinking about a product, still trying to access the information whether through commercial lens or medical lens. But seems like over administration for what should be a pretty simple interaction.

32:00 Talking about GSK not paying physicians any longer. We need to find the way, even within this regulated environment, to enable legitimate, meaningful, appropriate interaction. Because of a few unfortunate incidents that were inappropriate, the regulation has probably gone a step too far. The normal pendulum will likely bring the regulation back to an appropriate place. But key question: should healthcare professionals be paid for their interactions with pharma? Perhaps that is not the right question. The right question might be, “what is the cost of not having physicians involved in these interactions?” The price is far greater in terms of how you ultimately help the patient.

34:00 Leo stays on top of industry trends by being invited to participate in thought leadership forums and also having a close proximity with clients and healthcare professionals in order to understand their emerging challenges and needs.

Ultimately, our jobs, when people talk about behavior change, is creating the competence and confidence in the audiences we engage with in order to create action.

37:00 As market continues to evolve, as regulations change, as dynamics internally and externally change … as agencies our focus needs to be about creating value. Not adding value. Creating it.

“The competitive advantage for an agency will reside in it’s ability to create clinical value.”

How you unlock the power of evidence to create and deliver value for both patients and for our clients.

38:00 Insights are needed to understand what is of value.

40:00 Leo talks about the future, creating value and orchestrating skill-sets and assets.

Tweet: Relentless health value podcast - Leo Francis