Digital health has grown and evolved rapidly in the past decade—spurred by exciting developments in accessing and manipulating large quantities of data through AI, machine learning, and the internet of things (IoT), alongside nearly ubiquitous adoption of smartphones and other digital tools. Like so many tech advancements, this was greatly accelerated by the COVID pandemic, when shifting to a remote model became immediate and imperative.
As digital health capabilities evolve, they have the potential to dramatically improve patient outcomes, manage chronic diseases, increase accessibility, and slow rising healthcare costs for both patients and providers. Additionally, by putting outcomes front and center, digital tools support the ongoing shift to value-based care.
Innovation is happening on all fronts, and healthcare and life science leaders are finding new ways to communicate with patients and manage diseases; digitize fundamental operations; develop, test, and launch digital and pharmaceutical products; and utilize and improve data.
We conceptualize the digital health space in five interconnected components:
- Digital Health Strategy
- Digital in Clinical and R&D
- Connected Health
- Digital Commercialization
- Data Management and Improvement
The digital health space is broad—spanning the healthcare system and the pharmaceutical drug development cycle. It includes patient- and provider-facing and internal initiatives, as well as the strategy, technology, and data supporting them. Digital health touches nearly every area of the organization, which creates a challenge for leaders when it comes to devising a holistic strategy, understanding the complete digital journey, executing across teams, thinking through implications for the entire organization, aligning incentives, and creating and owning partnerships.
On-demand talent is not only proving to be a flexible source of skills and insight in this fast-paced digital environment, but experienced independent life science consultants are a valuable resource for leaders who must bridge the many parts of the organization that fall under the umbrella of digital health. And with widespread adoption of remote work arrangements, companies are no longer limited by geographic proximity when it comes to accessing the highly skilled digital health talent they need.
How independent executives and experts are supporting teams across the digital health space
Digital health innovations are critical to clinical, commercial, and market access teams, as well as healthcare and strategy leaders more broadly. Let’s look at five key ways skilled independent talent are stepping in to support these teams:
1. Strategizing and executing digital health initiatives
In digital health, as anywhere else, new technology alone does not ensure success. Unlocking the true value of these powerful solutions comes down to informed strategy and tactical execution. On-demand life science experts have experience executing digital health initiatives and working cross-functionally—and they are equipped and ready to hit the ground running at an organization and integrate with teams to ensure that initiatives are implemented.
They are a tremendous source of knowledge and insight when it comes to:
- Overcoming organizational siloes in order to realize the potential of digital innovations
- Identifying and understanding underlying problems and matching them to the right solutions
- Bridging the gap between technical teams and senior, cross-functional stakeholders
- Devising portfolio strategies with a lens specific to therapeutic areas
- Project management of technology implementations including internal and external alignment and communication
- Assessing feasibility and conducting market landscapes
The innovation and business acceleration group of an F200 pharmaceutical company was preparing to launch a new cardiovascular device with an accompanying digital therapeutic product and needed a commercial strategy leader to own the commercial plan development, project timeline, and marketing plan for the digital product. BTG provided a seasoned life science executive who had previously led the financing, development, approval, and launch of multiple innovative life science products, including cardiovascular digital therapies. The consultant conducted a competitive assessment, determined the appropriate commercial (payment and reimbursement) model for the product, outlined the digital patient journey, developed both upstream and downstream marketing plans, and created a go-to-market launch plan.
Case Study: Digital Health Strategy Refresh
An F200 pharma company wanted to implement next generation digital health technologies, which required a thorough review of the existing strategy across three therapeutic areas and a roadmap for moving forward. BTG provided a healthcare expert (who was both a physician and former McKinsey consultant) with expertise in life sciences commercial strategy, business development, and digital health, as well as deep insights on digital health success factors, barriers, and commercialization models. He assembled an overview of digital capacity and capabilities, conducted market and opportunity assessments, delivered feedback on how to align internal and external communications to key stakeholder personas, and suggested prioritization of areas for further development.
2. Identifying and implementing virtual tools and platforms for patients and HCPs
Patient-facing products and initiatives like smartphone apps and virtual care are gaining widespread adoption, and they are part of the most visible aspect of the digital health space: Connected Health. Patients are using apps for everything from broad wellness and fitness activities to management of specific diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and mental health conditions.
Connected Health also includes wearable devices, such as fitness trackers, blood pressure monitors, and ECG monitors, as well as a newer category of devices, biosensors—which come in the form of gloves, clothing, bandages, and implants. Also in this arena are electronic health and medical records (EHR/EMR), digital care platforms, and digital diagnostics and therapeutics.
Telehealth use rates tripled from January to July of 2020, and 71% of US adults say they’d be willing to use telehealth post-pandemic. This presents a tremendous opportunity for healthcare and pharmaceutical leaders alike to identify and harness new tools and platforms for virtual care, but these exciting, new tools require many elements of the life science ecosystem to come together in order to make them real for patients and providers.
As teams sprint to develop and advance these products, independent experts offer fast and flexible insight—from market and opportunity assessment through product strategy and launch. Combining hands-on operating experience, traditional consulting backgrounds, and a strong understanding of the space, independent digital health talent can develop practical, implementable solutions that can stand alone or be added into the onboarding and adherence processes of pharmaceutical druges.
A multinational pharma company was seeking to launch a healthcare provider (HCP) locator solution that would help patients identify a doctor for treatment. The team needed support in mapping and analyzing external physician locators and potential partners for development, as well as specific recommendations on how to set up such a tool across different markets. BTG provided a former Capgemini consultant with extensive experience driving customer engagement and digital transformations in life science. The consultant investigated competitors’ solutions and did a technical deep dive on required IT infrastructure, resource and technical capability requirements, and potential partners.
3. Unlocking opportunities within early-stage development and adapting to virtual clinical trials
One extremely powerful application of digital health is the potential to accelerate R&D—both in early stage development and to usher in shorter, faster clinical trials—ultimately resulting in better quality data and faster go-to-market times.
As companies work to shorten drug development cycles and improve onboarding and adherence, they are harnessing digital health solutions to achieve ambitious goals. Innovations here include process improvements and automation, expanded use of AI and machine learning in drug discovery, and the use of algorithms and advanced analytics in drug development. Digital tools to strengthen adherence and home monitoring include wearables, apps, and digital diagnostics.
Furthermore, decentralized clinical trials are proving to increase patient engagement, better assess drug efficacy, and enable clinical teams to boost recruitment, participant diversity, communication, data capturing, and patient monitoring.
Clinical solutions leaders are calling on independent experts to inform these initiatives and provide execution support, as well as to identify tools and techniques to enhance data governance and speed up drug development.
Case Study: Clinical Trial Technology Opportunity Assessment
A senior director in R&D at an F100 pharma company needed a landscape analysis of technology trends and innovation impacting Phase 3 clinical trials in immunology to improve speed, effectiveness, and the patient/provider experience. BTG delivered a digital health strategy consultant with 20+ years of diverse strategic advisory, market access, and competitive intelligence experience. The consultant identified key players and areas of opportunity, anticipated disruptive competitor developments, and pinpointed ways to achieve competitive advantage—informing the digital health strategy of the Immunology R&D team.
4. Supporting commercial teams with launch and promotional efforts
Digital health is becoming ever more vital to commercial leaders as they create personalized solutions for patients and providers and accelerate go-to-market strategies. These initiatives include:
- Digital brand strategy and execution (how a brand reaches patients and physicians)
- Telemedicine/telehealth and virtual care
- Digital product launches
- Digital promotion strategies for patients and HCPs
- Digital presence and search engine optimized websites
Commercial leaders, like clinical, rely on tools such as apps and wearables, as well as physician-facing tools and digital platforms to track patient adherence. On-demand talent can bring knowledge and experience not only to assist in developing innovative patient- and provider-facing tools, but also to help navigate the space, provide execution support for commercial teams, and bridge gaps between functions.
When the COVID pandemic hit, the marketing team at an F150 biopharma company needed to develop a digital-first education program strategy to remotely engage both HCPs and patients. BTG provided a strategic life science marketing executive who had previously worked at BMS, Merck, and Pfizer and had extensive experience in HCP and patient digital education and engagement. The consultant developed a two-year virtual education program strategy and roadmap.
Case Study: HCP Engagement Strategy
A multinational Fortune Global 500 pharma and life science company sought to develop a strategic approach to HCP engagement across its consumer health portfolio. Following a shift in focus that deprioritized its HCP engagement programs, the company’s efforts in this area had become fragmented and lacking in coordination across product categories. BTG delivered a seasoned pharmaceutical executive to provide strategic insights on how the company could better understand and address HCP needs, increase recommendations of their brands, and leverage digital platforms to improve HCP engagement. In addition to these insights, the talent developed a pilot plan and process blueprints for key markets and products.
5. Leveraging data, analytics, and AI
Effective data management is critical to support trial design, development of new and innovative therapies, commercial insights, and the gathering of real-world evidence (RWE). Real-world data (RWD) comes from a variety of sources, including EHRs, claims and billing activities, product and disease registries, and other sources, such as mobile and home medical devices.
The data collected from digital health tools provides valuable insights into things like patient monitoring, consumer preferences, treatment/product effectiveness, and demographics. And consumers are increasingly willing to share and utilize that data. According to a PEW study, 4 in 10 people said the pandemic made them more likely to support efforts that enable data-sharing among a patient’s providers and allow downloading of personal data from EHRs to apps on smartphones and other devices.
Well-maintained data means more personalization for patients, more insights for providers, better-informed clinical trials, and a faster pace of drug discovery and development. And new developments in analytical capabilities offer the potential to unlock even more value.
On-demand talent on the data side of digital health include data scientists, analysts, and translators with life science experience; interim IT and analytics leaders; project managers; data and IT strategists; and hands-on commercial analytics experts.
Case Study: Portfolio Reporting Lead and Data Translator
When a key member of the Global Portfolio Management team of an F100 consumer healthcare company embarked on parental leave in the midst of developing a portfolio framework, the team needed leadership and data translation expertise to keep the project moving forward. BTG deployed a former director of IT shared services and business intelligence, who was able to build and maintain actionable and insightful analysis, reports, and dashboards to enable transparent prioritization and optimization of the end-to-end project portfolio.
Independent Digital Health Expertise to Support Your Team or Project
As the digital health space continues to evolve, new considerations and opportunities for innovation continuously present themselves.
A faster, more flexible alternative to big consulting firms, independent life science experts are at the cutting edge of the marketplace, providing niche skills quickly, as needed. They bring lived experience executing digital health initiatives at leading organizations, and they are ready to jump in and become part of the team.