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

National Offering Portfolio Leader – Customer & Marketing | U.S. Deloitte Digital Leader

Mike, a principal at Deloitte Digital and the national Customer & Marketing (C&M) offering leader, leads multi-disciplinary teams driving customer-focused experience strategies and solutions across industries and sectors. Mike is responsible for the overall strategic direction of the C&M practice as well as its go-to-market strategies, priorities, investments, and resources. Mike and his team specialize in defining, building, and operating technology platforms that create differentiated experiences for every touchpoint along a customer journey – including product and customer strategy, innovation, pricing, brand strategy, marketing, commerce, sales, and customer service. For over 25 years, Mike has connected strategies to global information technology architecture and led transformation across industries – primarily data-driven commercial experiences for customers and patients. Prior to leading Deloitte Digital’s C&M team, Mike led Deloitte’s Life Sciences practice across Consulting, Advisory, Tax, and Audit businesses. Mike lives outside of Philadelphia with his wife of 25 years, Hillary, and their children, Lily, Zach, and Natalie. Mike and his family love to hang at the beach -- and really anywhere they can be together as a family. Mike is an avid runner, golfer, and musician … and a future professional surfer (in his dreams).