Kantar Health Blog

Balancing my role as CEO with my role as my family's CMO

by Lynnette Cooke | Apr 23, 2015
Lynnette Cooke

I recently heard a term that perfectly describes where I am in my life: Sandwich Generation. I’m raising my elementary-school-aged son and making sure he and my husband get regular checkups, eat healthful meals, exercise regularly and get the best care if they get sick. At the same time, I’m increasingly involved in making healthcare decisions for my elderly mother and my special needs sister, both living in different states than I am. I’m sandwiched between the older and younger generations and act as the Chief Medical Officer for both.

I’m hardly the only woman acting as her family’s CMO. According to a recent survey by the Center for Talent Innovation and sponsored by Kantar Health, 59 percent of all women and 94 percent of working moms in the surveyed countries of the United States, the UK, Germany, Japan and Brazil are making healthcare decisions for others. These women are the healthcare industry’s core consumer segment as they are choosing treatment regimens, dealing with doctors and insurance companies, and generally deciding the best way to keep their families healthy and well.

It’s a big and often frustrating job. When I speak with my mother’s or sister’s doctors, I find they’re sometimes reluctant to engage in a discussion about treatment options. If I question a treatment regimen, the doctor says, “Well, what would you like me to prescribe for her?” Because of my job I feel like I have access to better information than others, but at the same time I feel like the doctor is putting me in the position of the educated expert instead of the other way around. It’s a daunting task, and it’s hard to feel secure I’m making the right decisions.

It’s a strain felt by women who participated in CTI’s survey. Although 53 percent of women think they can get the best healthcare information online, only 31 percent of these women trust the information available. The lack of trust extends beyond their own research: 78 percent of women do not fully trust their insurance provider, and only 65 percent trust their physicians. These factors take a toll on CMOs’ confidence that they’re doing their job well. According to the survey, 58 percent of CMOs lack confidence in their decision making for others, making them less likely to engage with the healthcare industry as truly empowered decision makers.

The healthcare industry is moving more and more to a customer-centric model. The empowered patient model is gathering a head of steam driven by online resources and wearable medical technologies that are allowing patients to be more actively involved in their own health. And for us CMOs? A similar revolution needs to take place. Doctors, pharmacists, insurance companies and the pharma industry as a whole can win CMOs’ trust through clear and open dialogues that will empower women to make the best decisions for their families.


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