Posted: 17 Dec. 2019 6 min. read

Is 2020 the year life sciences companies push past their 20th century models?

By Mike DeLone, US life sciences leader, Deloitte LLP

As a technologist, I have been talking about the idea of interoperable data and service-oriented architectures for years, maybe decades. Even just a couple of years ago, we were still framing interoperability as being the wave of the future. I think the future has arrived on our doorstep, and 2020 could be the year that we finally cross the threshold. I also expect life sciences firms will be focusing even more attention on the patient experience next year. More about that later.

In just the last year or two, I have noticed a mental shift among many of our clients in the life sciences sector, and I expect that shift will move faster in the year ahead. Rather than talking with clients about why they need to move toward interoperability, I anticipate we will be spending more time exploring cloud platforms and other natively interoperable and API-based architectures that are needed to attain interoperability.

The anticipated federal regulations around interoperability were recently delayed, giving stakeholders some breathing room to comply. We are encouraging our health care and life sciences clients to continue to push forward next year so that they are prepared once the final regulations are released. From my perspective, interoperability is synonymous with the future of health. I see it as the foundation of our vision. When we think about interoperability, we are talking about processes, architecture, standards, stakeholders, insight, and culture. We are talking about information across every organization’s employees and functions. This includes information generated by regulators, customers, patients, doctors, and caregivers. It also includes data produced by wearable devices, sensors…even smart pills.

Deloitte’s vision for 2020—and the years ahead—goes beyond interoperability. We are predicting radical interoperability based on the sheer volume of data that could become available and analyzed in the future. It’s not far-fetched to think that the world could contain 100 billion connected devices 10 years from now or sooner. That means trillions of connected sensors that could lead to the development of new therapies or preventive measures specifically tailored for each individual. Personalized health data combined with artificial intelligence (AI) could also lead to the development of personalized electronic health-coaching advocates and fundamentally change not just the patient experience, but the human experience, too.

Expect to see even more focus on the patient experience in 2020

While the drive toward improved interoperability and other advances in technology could drive more efficiency in the year and years ahead, we are urging life sciences leaders to consider ways to increase value and meaning across the board—for patients and consumers. Which treatment/preventive measure is working? For whom? And at what cost? By answering these questions—and by taking a holistic approach to measuring the human experience—life sciences companies can improve the value they offer for all stakeholders. Our upcoming 2020 global life sciences sector outlook takes an in-depth look into why life sciences companies should consider a holistic approach.1

Why should life sciences firms focus on a holistic patient experience? It is important that we develop a better understanding about patients who are living with a specific disease or condition. By understanding, mapping, and learning from all the touchpoints a patient might experience along their journey, an empathic solution can be built to address the patient’s needs—from health to diagnosis to research to treatment and beyond.

Here are three more trends that I expect will have an impact on life sciences companies in 2020:

  1. Organizations from outside of health care will continue to enter this space: In 2020, we expect that consumer and technology companies will continue to enter the health sector—possibly at an even faster pace than in prior years. In some cases, they will enter this market with limited experience in health care…but absolutely no fear. They might create new internet-connected devices that haven’t previously been connected, and they will be attacking health from a completely different perspective. Some of these companies are already doing significant work using AI and interoperable data. They are building architectures and platforms where future data will live. Case in point: Last month, Amazon Web Services announced a new cloud based “AWS Data Exchange” service to help customers securely find, procure and consume data and information across all industries, including health care and life sciences. Several large health systems have announced plans to move their clinical data to cloud platforms operated by large technology companies. Cloud storage and cloud computing—combined with artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive analytics, and machine learning—will likely continue to accelerate the pace of medical research, which could lead to more precise treatments and cures.
  2. Clinical trials could become more inclusive: Also important to medical research is the advancement of clinical trials. To have statistical value, it is critical that clinical trials are representative of the patients who will eventually use a drug or therapy. A major challenge for the pharma sector is recruiting trial participants from important demographic groups that include racial and ethnic minorities, women, and the elderly.2 Life sciences companies should consider changing the way they think about the clinical-trial model. Case in point: Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical arm Janssen recently announced plans to launch a clinical trial that will allow 1,900 patients to participate virtually. The study intends to gather real world evidence to support a new cardiovascular indication for a new diabetes therapy.3 I believe we are at the dawn of the age of mobile health and will likely see more companies experiment with new clinical trial models in 2020. Organizations that successfully tap into this technology will reach populations that were once inaccessible. The ability to tap into larger and more diverse populations will only happen if companies reimagine the way that these trials are done.
  3. Behavioral science could play a bigger role: We talk a lot about using data to improve patient engagement. While data on its own tends to have a limited effect on behavior, combining data with an element of gamification or even competition can be highly effective. Case in point: Earlier this year, about 600 Deloitte employees (from 40 states) participated in a 36-week randomized clinical trial to determine if a wearable activity-tracker—combined with gamification—would increase physical activity among overweight and obese adults. The STEP UP study was led by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Participants who used a fitness tracker that was paired with an element of competition took an average of 1,166 more steps per day than participants who had a fitness tracker alone. What does that mean for life sciences companies? Along with pushing people to take more steps, life sciences companies might use behavioral science to improve medication adherence, for example. Behavioral science could have just as much impact on health as medical science. The promise of precision medicine, of wellness, of radical interoperability…none of it is possible if we can’t influence decisions a patient or consumer would have otherwise made. Behavioral science can offer the clues, and I expect life sciences companies will be paying closer attention to this in the year ahead.

We are moving closer to the promise of true precision medicine and a future of health where we learn from every radically interoperable data point in the context of every patient. When we look back 20 years from now, I expect 2020 will be seen as the year life sciences firms finally moved past their 20th-century models and stepped into a new era.

1. Measuring human relationships and experiences, Deloitte Insights, June 20, 2019
2. Why improving inclusion and diversity in clinical trials should be a research priority, UK Centre for Health Solutions, Deloitte Services LP, September 4, 2019
3. AHA: Janssen drops clinical sites for smartphones, wearables in 100 percent virtual Invokana study, FierceBiotech, November 16, 2019


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Meet Mike DeLone

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).