Posted: 17 Sep. 2019 7 min. read

Can data, technology, and interoperability help life sciences companies reach beyond their own walls and transform?

Seven questions for Mike DeLone, Deloitte’s new US life sciences leader, Deloitte LLP

Early last month, Mike DeLone was named national sector leader for Deloitte’s US life sciences practice. He will lead the overall strategic direction of the life sciences practice as well as its go-to-market strategies and resources. Mike—a 22-year veteran of Deloitte—succeeds Greg Reh, who will continue to serve as the global life sciences sector leader and global life sciences and health care industry leader. The Health Care Current spoke with Mike about his new role and what he sees as some of the biggest challenges—and most significant opportunities—for the industry.

HCC: You were recently named national sector leader for life sciences. How are you approaching this new role and what sort of legacy do you want to leave?

Mike: First and foremost, we will be bringing our overall capabilities to bear—across audit, consulting, risk and financial, and tax services—to our clients across the sector. We are truly differentiated in nearly all regards when we bring our best thinking across our businesses. On a more specific area, we are working to orchestrate the exchange of information better than any organization in the world. I believe we have a real opportunity to be at the center of that ecosystem. I’m seeing a level of sophistication and readiness around information, evidence, and analytics. There is an acknowledgment in the industry that the ability to responsibly and securely manage and use the vast amounts of information being generated will lead to success [across all internal and external processes] in the future. The ability for life sciences companies to exchange information with patients and with other organizations within the health ecosystem will truly be the differentiator. I want to help make that happen. I want my legacy to be largely defined by how well we support this opportunity.

HCC: How should company leaders approach the future of health strategically?

Mike: Growth and margins based on volume-based products are declining in favor of more precise therapies and a payment system based on value. As more precise medicines are developed, biopharmaceutical and medical technology companies should form closer connections with patients, and they should demonstrate and commit to the value of these new therapies and products. This is no small task given the complexity—and in many aspects the inconsistency—of the information needed to demonstrate value. Where does it come from and who owns it? Is it interoperable? Is it trustworthy and secure? Do all stakeholders agree?

HCC: What role are life sciences companies likely to play in the future of health?

Mike: Some of the greatest science in the world continues to take place in the life sciences sector—in companies large and small. I believe these organizations will continue to lead the way [aided by] significant improvements and efficiencies from automation, digital, and artificial intelligence/cognitive platforms. We have said that in the future of health, there will be a greater focus on all areas of wellness/prevention and early detection. I believe the ability to diagnose and treat a disease will remain important, but it will no longer carry the day. Some biopharmaceutical companies are already beginning to partner with medtech and other technology organizations around early screening. Rather than looking at an illness alone, life sciences companies will need to consider an entire disease state. They will need to identify potential partners who will help them improve prevention, early detection, precision diagnoses, and treatment. These companies should also determine how to monitor a patient 10 or 20 years after a disease has been eliminated. From prevention to long-term health monitoring, there should be a commitment to looking at the entire lifecycle of a disease and health. Biopharma companies will likely need to partner with multiple players in this ecosystem to demonstrate, and commit to, value. This is what patients have already started to demand. It is what I hope for my family’s wellness/health, and we expect it will drive the future of health.

HCC: What hurdles do life sciences organizations face when it comes to transforming their business models?

Mike: The most successful organizations will likely be those that are willing to reach outside of their own walls to transform. But transformation won’t be easy. Some incumbent medtech and biopharmaceutical companies have millions, if not billions, of dollars invested in legacy infrastructure, outdated processes and organizational models, and often legacy skills. Many of these companies have been doing things the same way for so long, with success, that it’s extraordinarily difficult to change. But as more efficient automated digital solutions and processes mature, companies might need to break away from their past before real change can begin. Life sciences companies should embrace an emerging ecosystem where patient advocacy groups, payers, providers, regulators, and competitors—perhaps even financial services and technology companies—are all connected. Companies that are unable or unwilling to move and participate could find it difficult if not impossible to transform.

HCC: The biopharmaceutical sector is moving toward expensive but highly personalized and effective curative cell and gene therapies. How might this trend impact the sector?

Mike: Everything about curative therapies is different compared to more traditional pharmaceuticals. The sourcing, operations, and manufacturing process is different. Clinical trials are different. Pricing, reimbursement, and contracting are different. The landscape is changing quickly. While some pharmaceutical companies will likely continue to invest in existing high-volume products, they will also likely continue to pursue and invest in—organically or inorganically—the riskier curative therapies. The future of these medicines is incredibly exciting. Many clinical trials are taking place right now, and while some of them will be successful, some will inevitably fail. But the science and the movement are happening, and I do not see it slowing down.

HCC: Do you expect companies will continue to invest in curative therapies even if they might be financially risky?

Mike: As I mentioned earlier, I don’t think there is any turning back. Organizations small and large should continue to invest in curative therapies. But they could face some significant challenges in getting them to market, in demonstrating value, and in getting paid. Determining how to price these new therapies is a significant challenge, and it is front-and-center of the public/government debate and focus [on drug pricing]. While I expect value-based contracting will continue to accelerate, there are challenges in ensuring that it works as intended. As more personalized therapies become viable and available, there will likely be increased pressure to figure out how to pay for them. That might require more trust in the system which, to date, has been elusive. Biopharma companies, payers, patients, and clinicians all have to agree on, and trust, the complex methods used to demonstrate value. Not only do companies and other stakeholders need to agree on the most appropriate data, they also should agree on a definition of value. Until we reach that level of maturity, a level of distrust among stakeholders could continue. We are well positioned to help drive the industry in this direction.

HCC: What sorts of technologies are you most excited about?

Mike: I have been in life sciences for 22 years, but my background is in data and analytics. As a technologist, I’m seeing enormous potential in emerging technologies, but we are only in the infancy stage. Along with analytics and AI, I am also excited about the cloud, which changes the game entirely by expanding computing power, eliminating internal bottlenecks, and also by creating entirely new capabilities that organizations can, and are, harnessing. The cloud could open the door to radically interoperable data—a cornerstone for the future of health as we see it. I am also bullish on the use of blockchain to improve transparency, which has been a significant impediment to sharing data across an ecosystem. Technology could help us finally achieve many of the things we’ve been talking about for years. Technology has already advanced beyond our ability to harness it entirely…we now need to spend equal time, energy, and commitment to radical integration, standards, and interoperability. This is what the patient should and will demand.

 

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Mike DeLone

Mike DeLone

US Life Sciences Sector Leader

Mike, a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP, is the national sector leader for Deloitte’s Life Sciences practice. In this role, he leads a multi-disciplinary team who serves clients in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical technology, and consumer health care segments through consulting, advisory, audit, and tax services. Mike is responsible for the overall strategic direction of the life sciences practice as well as its go-to-market strategies and resources. He also serves in the role as life sciences consulting leader. With 20 years of experience dedicated to the life sciences sector, Mike has demonstrated exceptional leadership and practice development. He has led tech and information management teams as well as services at some of our largest biopharmaceutical and medical technology clients, helping them with the definition and implementation of technology and business strategies, related organizational and business alignment. His client work has been presented as examples of leading practices at prominent industry conferences.