Impact Insights

Digital Lessons from Life Sciences

Tim Zoph

Our Commitment to Learn from Leading Industries and Clients

“Greater threats, greater risks, and greater rewards.”

In our advisory services practice, we are presented with opportunities, time and again, to work with clients beyond our core base of healthcare delivery systems. These are openings to gain insights from high-performing, fast-paced companies in related industries that are further along the path of technology or digital maturity. In the midst of the pandemic crisis, we worked in the life sciences and pharmaceutical industry, witnessing first-hand how cutting-edge competition drives clarity of technology enablement; moving slowly or falling behind in technology leadership may have direct consequences for an organization’s competitive market position.

This client work also gives us foresight into the healthcare industry’s trajectory for the future, most notably in Digital Health*. It stretches our thinking, challenges our preconceived notions, and brings fresh perspectives that are valuable to client engagements ahead. Although healthcare systems are a step or two behind life sciences and other service industries in terms of cutting-edge digital capabilities and customer engagement, we have a renewed sense of urgency in our clients to not be complacent, and to act decisively in a rapidly changing digital world.

In addition, when working with clients outside our core healthcare provider markets, we often discover greater parallels than differences in organizational strategies, as better outcomes for patients is a fundamental organizing principle across all healthcare-adjacent industries. For example, the life sciences industry is focused on enhanced patient data-sharing to advance knowledge discovery, including growing use of synthetic clinical trials, AI-driven precision medicine for therapeutics, use of AI-driven digital guidance/IoT for clinicians, and an overall desire to reach consumers directly with products and services. To accomplish these goals, healthcare organizations are being actively bridged and aligned with life sciences using digital architecture and platforms that enable the creation of a new ecosystem of partnerships and digital capabilities. Exciting times with more cross industry collaboration ahead!

Key Takeaways: Digital Health demands new decision-making structures, delivery methods and talents to be successful.

“Companies fail to innovate, because it means changing the focus from what’s working to something that’s unproven and risky.”

Although technology, or “shiny objects,” is often the early, visible, and talked about aspect of digital strategies, success is fundamentally linked to embracing new, more agile models of delivery that enable faster paces of execution and iteration of the customer experience. Often, the digital technology we need is already here or moving readily ahead with a boost in adoption from the recent pandemic. The challenge is more about orchestrating these solutions into a cohesive and scalable platform that enables exceptional experiences for our customers, patients, and providers. Being a student of other industries helps us understand how to plan for and manage through these early state transitions, leveraging the lessons learned and best practices of those organizations that have already made the digital leap.

As we have discovered, there are emerging capabilities associated with a Digital Operating Model (DOM) that serve as the foundation for meaningful execution of digital health strategies. These core DOM elements include:

  • Oversight/Decision-Making Structures. With the committed sponsorship of the CEO, bring together cross-functional leadership team members to prioritize and take shared accountability for the portfolio of digital initiatives that will comprise the future digital experience for patients and providers, including the chartering and funding of product teams responsible for early stage concept development.
  • Product Team Delivery. Designate trusted operating leaders to form high-performing, agile, multidisciplinary teams tasked with creating exceptional customer/patient/provider experiences.
  • Talent/Skills Development. Create a talent development model to harness and hold on to hard-to-recruit skills necessary for delivering on the digital portfolio (e.g., analytics, design-thinking, user experience design, mobile solution development, integration/API, cloud).
  • IT Organizational Changes. Begin shifting your traditional IT organizational structure to a consultative services model based on the lifecycle of solution delivery (i.e., from business strategy definition to solution design, development, proof-of-concept, and scaling/deployment).
  • The CIO as Change Agent. Active engagement by the CIO is shaping digital-enabled organizational strategies, stepping up the pace, driving greater organizational value, and enabling strategic partnership between business and technology leaders.

Actively Turning Our Lessons Learned into Practice

“The most difficult thing is a decision to act, the rest is tenacity.”

Overall, it is not an easy task to learn new industries and clients yet doing so makes us better. Our commitment to our healthcare provider clients is to be a conduit of leading practices, grounded in the practical and applied science of digital transformation. By learning from other industries, understanding what works, and evolving our approaches to digital strategy and execution, we can help shape ambitions and build confidence for our clients to boldly pursue a transformative vision for the future of digital healthcare.

*Digital Health defines the broad category of technology-enabled interactions or engagement with consumers/patients/providers in their journey of care. Starting with the initial online access to services through to home care/chronic disease management (i.e., the enabling the lifecycle or journey), digital is also being stretched to include next-generation technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and the architecture elements required (analytics, cloud, mobility, integration, etc.).