Behold the Digital Health Champions: The Individuals Driving Change in Life Sciences Companies

March 10, 2023 Piotr Sokolowski

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Behold the Digital Health Champions: The Individuals Driving Change in Life Sciences Companies

Connectivity and digital health solutions are the future of the life sciences industry, and both medtech and pharma companies need to respond or be left behind. But whenever a change comes along, life sciences companies can struggle to adapt and move in a new direction, when their traditional business model and portfolio of existing products are performing strongly for them. It takes someone with a mindset shift to embrace this change, identify new opportunities, and drive change inside the company to move it forward.

This is where we see ‘digital health champions’ emerge. Digital health champions recognize the value of digital health solutions; the personalized experience and improved outcomes they can offer to patients, the potential in the data they provide, and the impact they will have on how and where care is delivered in the future.

Life sciences companies need to identify their digital health champions. These are the people who have clear concepts of how to transform their device and drug offerings into digital health solutions that will revolutionize the impact of those therapies on healthcare. If medtech and pharma organizations do not support their digital health champions they will not only delay crucial digital health innovation, but they also risk losing these tenacious change agents, who will bring this innovation elsewhere.


Digital health champions have a clear vision for the future of healthcare

A digital health champion is passionate about the role of digital in healthcare. They recognize the potential of digital technology to provide patients with the more convenient and personalized experience they have in other areas of their lives, and how that can lead to improved patient outcomes and quality of life. They look at the digital transformation that other industries have gone through, including other regulated industries such as banking, and have a clear vision of the impact that digital health will have on the future of healthcare.

They are determined to challenge the status quo, realizing that this change in healthcare is coming whether their company acts on it or not, and are determined not to let the digital health revolution pass them by. Sometimes previous roles they have held in healthcare has helped them identify patient needs that can be met with digital health solutions. However, their passion is often derived from their own personal experiences, or that of friends and family with healthcare, which has led them to believe that there must be a better way. This motivates the digital health champion to educate themselves on how digital health advancements can be applied by medtech and pharma companies. This passion is what sustains them, even as they face resistance to change from many in the company, who do not see the need to pivot at a time of strong performance.


But how do they transform their concepts into successful digital health solutions?

A digital health champion is not always a digital health expert. They have the vision to come up with a digital health solution and the motivation to progress it in the organization, but that’s not enough. They may lack the necessary knowledge of market conditions in which their solution will operate, the understanding of how to design an optimal user experience for patients and clinicians, and the expertise of the complete technology stack required to create the solution.

What digital health champions may need most, especially in the early days of defining a digital health solution for their company, is a mental map to help them develop their digital health strategy. Such a map allows them to explore the business and technology areas that are key for successful development and roll-out of digital health solutions. Clearly defining these areas is essential to convincing senior stakeholders to focus on and invest in their idea. Digital health is a complex subject – which includes business models, cybersecurity and regulatory challenges – so it requires considering a broad set of key topics, as shown below.


Digital Health Champions Graphic - Logo

How can life sciences companies create an environment in which their digital health champions can succeed in creating impactful digital health solutions?

With such a wide skillset required to get a digital health solution from an idea to market, digital health champions need their company to understand that they need collaboration from across many departments and teams. We have seen digital health champions thrive in companies that adopt a twin approach of pragmatic innovation, and strategic digital health capability building.

Pragmatic innovation often starts with small pilot programs that attempt to solve specific challenges along the patient journey with a digital health solution. These may be related to therapy onboarding, device use and optimization, patient adherence, or overall patient education and empowerment. While these pilot programs identify true unmet needs and provide some technological means to resolve them, they often lack some important elements before they can be turned into viable business solutions including:

  • A holistic view of the patient journey, including adjacent therapy stages like diagnosis and rehabilitation and all relevant stakeholders; patients, caregivers, clinicians etc.
  • A clear business model that defines how value is exchanged and who pays for digital health services in specific healthcare systems.
  • End-to-end cybersecurity that protects both users and their personal data, as well as devices and other life sciences company assets.

This leads to the need for pilot programs to be integrated into strategic digital health activities, requiring input from multiple teams as the company navigates through:

  • Defining the place for digital health in the overall company strategy
  • Analyzing the digital health market landscape and identifying opportunities for digital health innovation around the company's medical devices and therapies.
  • Creating a digital health task force consisting of digital health champions, representatives from key business units in the company, and external consultants, if necessary.
  • Identifying the most impactful digital health projects, defining business models for these initiatives, planning a roadmap for implementation, and defining KPI’s for the project.
  • Analyzing the company's strengths that will be utilized and capabilities that will have to be built or acquired.
  • Supporting implementation, identifying reusable approaches and components, and building a company-wide platform offering, if possible.
  • Deriving lessons from implementation, codifying them, and disseminating them to business units and senior stakeholders.

While digital health champions typically come from the pragmatic innovation area, they also have long-term vision and deep interest in the digital health future which makes them valuable asset in the strategic activities. They can be utilized to manage key digital health programs or as advisors to stakeholders in strategy, marketing or innovation, and ultimately are well positioned to own the Head of Digital/Connected Health function.


Many successful digital health projects that we have worked on at S3 Connected Health, originated from a digital health champion within a company. They have a vision for a new technology, device or drug based digital health solution and how it can affect patient outcomes, and they are ready to drive change. But to get to market they often need to bring in digital health partners to help define and execute a digital health strategy and navigate the many internal and external barriers that may be in their way.

To talk to us about how we have worked with digital health champions in the past to help them advance their concepts get in touch.