all insights

Looking ahead in healthcare and life sciences

Q&A: Slalom’s senior experts in life sciences and healthcare shine a spotlight on the future of these deeply intertwined industries.

Amy Loftus, general manager of Slalom’s Philadelphia office, has been working in life sciences as a consultant and executive for over 25 years. And Emily Borlik, [former] managing director of Slalom’s cross-market healthcare practice, has been a healthcare consultant for nearly 20 years. Together, this cross-industry dream team hosted our webinar, Bracing for disruption: Building agility in life sciences and healthcare. In anticipation, we asked Loftus and Borlik to offer a big picture perspective on the current and future state of their respective industries.

What are you hearing most from your clients right now? What are their top-of-mind challenges?

Loftus: In the life sciences, increasing regulatory and pricing pressures are a big challenge, as is the ever-greater need to drive collaboration and novel partnerships both within and outside of the life sciences community. Many organizations are working on their ability to absorb new data and quickly apply it to their business. There’s also an increasing need and pressure to provide more support to patients on their journeys toward health and disease management.

Borlik: Meeting the Triple Aim is still paramount for healthcare leaders. We need to continue to find ways to create value and improve outcomes at a lower cost. Healthcare leaders recognize that their patients or members are actually consumers. We’re all trying to get closer to them to understand the 360-view of the patient—meaning not just their health, but also their needs and preferences. There’s significant information trapped within our systems and interactions at the clinical level, but how do we surface that in a secure and usable way? Finally, we need to address “access and continuum of care,” particularly our relationships with our clinicians and finding new ways and technologies to do more with less.

What do you see on the horizon that leaders in life sciences and healthcare need to be thinking about more?

Loftus: There continues to be a need to bring together the various stakeholders across healthcare and life sciences to better improve outcomes for patients. Often stakeholders are looking at complex problems through a single lens. For example, they may be considering how to better support patients, but not considering how providers are included in the equation or how payers may have reimbursement challenges.

Truly personalizing healthcare also means understanding and addressing the challenges that are unique to each patient.

Traditionally, there was a view that medicines didn’t reach the intended audience only because of access and affordability challenges. We’re now starting to realize that there are many other barriers impacting positive outcomes that need to be part of the dialogue and patient experience—including culture, social norms, and education. Truly personalizing healthcare also means understanding and addressing the challenges that are unique to each patient.

To get therapies to the patients that need them, we need to provide access to data across the value chain, while respecting privacy, and break down barriers between development, commercial, and paying organizations. I would also note the emergence of new technologies that combine services for patients with medications and other health interventions to improve outcomes.

How would you describe the current state of technology adoption in these industries? What do you see as the most important next steps?

Loftus: All healthcare and life sciences organizations are making substantive investments in technology. These include better data mining and discovery capabilities, as well as technologies geared to drive patient engagement and interaction.

What’s important for every player in the sector to understand is not just what value needs to be derived today, but also what needs to exist to enable larger, differentiated data sets and patients that will expect 1:1 engagement on therapies targeted uniquely to the individual. The mindset of thinking about a population or a patient segment will radically change. We’ll need a lot more flexibility and scale to support new ways of interacting and evaluating success.

What about communication and collaboration? How well are organizations doing at breaking down siloes—both internally and between organizations?

Loftus: In all sectors, traditional barriers and lines are breaking down and blurring more than ever. What remains to break down, however, is the patient journey between various healthcare players and new technologies and services intended to help. Often these can be perceived as being in conflict to get to the right therapy for a patient and not addressing the patient’s real needs beyond treating the disease.

The journey to better outcomes requires us to prioritize information and present it to clinicians and staff, so they know how and when to guide and coach patients.

Borlik: As providers, we haven’t always looked at post-acute care and all the complexities of managing after discharge. The journey to better outcomes requires us to prioritize information and present it to clinicians and staff, so they know how and when to guide and coach patients. Again, this is adding value and using information, and it’s key to changing reimbursement models and penalties. We need to promote “health” and not just “fix sick.”

What are you most excited about seeing in your industry over the next 3-5 years?

Loftus: While the landscape is uncertain, especially with anticipated changes to health care legislation, what is certain is that the emergence of new ways to evaluate data, bring products to market, and leverage new technologies is accelerating. The promise of new technologies to find the pathway to cures for common diseases is for certain within our lifetimes. The question is, are we going to be prepared to harness what the new technologies will offer?

If we consider the availability of cloud at scale, many industries were slower to adopt and are now behind the curve in gaining learnings and value. Paving the way now with more modern capabilities and architectures is imperative to future success.

Borlik: I completely agree. And while cost is and will always be a consideration, I believe new delivery models should be driven by investigation of value-driven care and expecting better outcomes within the ever-increasing complexity of illness. We have a unique challenge ahead of us—deliver differently. And that is a combination of better, quicker, and more efficient ways to discover health needs, connecting at an individual level, and inserting a more personalized care protocol with proper incentives to clinicians. The exciting thing is that we aren’t talking about change—we’re talking about complete transformation.

Emily Borlik is no longer with Slalom.