In Articles, Expert Insights

Companies and executives working in today’s healthcare environment face challenges in many areas. Unanticipated government requirements and mandates can be difficult to meet. Meanwhile, managing new technologies, such as electronic health records and the absolute explosion of accessible data is no easy task. And the rising costs of pharmaceuticals continues to burden the entire system.

In an industry where health technology systems are constantly evolving and gut-wrenching shifts in the market, in care, and in payment models happen almost daily, it makes sense for healthcare organizations to turn to third-party consultants. Knowing when to call in the experts and what to expect can ensure a positive experience for everyone involved.

Healthcare consultant Mathew Singer gave us an insider’s look at the industry and his experience working closely with clients.  

Q | Tell us about your background. What makes you an expert in the life sciences and healthcare industry?

A | I’ve worked 13 years in life sciences, including 9 years in life sciences consulting where I worked with over 50 companies. I’ve led commercial functions at both a pharmaceutical and a medical device company. As a healthcare consultant, I help companies improve their profitable revenue growth. I focus on pharmaceutical, medical device and diagnostics suppliers to healthcare and specifically on the commercial side of the business, such as sales, marketing and market access. I’ve worked across the full commercial continuum, from upstream marketing like opportunity assessment and portfolio strategy through new product development, new product launch and on-market commercial effectiveness.

Q | What do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges for life sciences organizations today?

A | It’s important to take a look at the industry as a whole. The healthcare industry can be divided into three main categories:

  • Providers: Deliver patient care (hospitals, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, psychiatric care facilities).
  • Payers: Responsible for paying for care (government agencies, insurance companies).
  • Suppliers: Provide goods or services to other healthcare companies (pharmaceutical companies, medical device suppliers, diagnostic organization, capital equipment producers, commodities).

The biggest challenges involve navigating evolving customer expectations. Many life sciences organizations need help developing a value proposition for how they solve an important problem for the customer in a way that their competitors do not. Sounds like a bunch of consultant-speak, doesn’t it? What I mean is really understanding customers’ needs and how to address those needs in a better way than other options, which could be competitors or just the status quo.

Q | What kinds of challenges are you brought in to solve? Can you tell us about a specific project?

A | I am laser-focused on increasing revenues or lowering costs for my clients. Because I focus on healthcare suppliers and the commercial side of business, I am often brought in to solve important business problems. I often see the same issue play out several times across several companies, so I’m well positioned to offer advice about what works. Sometimes clients want a strategy. Other times it’s a business process transformation or organizational change that will help. Still other times, it’s establishing best practices and benchmarks.  

One specific project I worked on concerned maximizing launch success for a client’s first product. Day one, I performed a diagnostic of the current launch status and identified key areas to prioritize based on interviews with the team, review of materials and my expertise. Next, I put together my recommendations and reviewed them with the C-suite. Having established instant rapport during this meeting, the CEO and COO requested I put together a launch strategy and tactical plan and work with the team to implement a custom approach based on my recommendations. With the success of this project under our belts, the client later asked me to build out a pricing strategy, define the yearly marketing plan and manage the launch itself. As a result of my work with the above client, the product launch was a wild success and the company’s stock price has risen 1000% since we started working together.

Q | How do you approach business needs differently than big consulting firms like Bain or McKinsey?

A | I’ve worked both as a consultant and a functional leader in two corporations. So, having actually been on the client side, I bring a much more practical approach to my consulting. That means that the recommendations and deliverables I bring are grounded in pragmatism and focused on implementation. Organizations often prefer to work closely with experienced consultants who can fit within their own internal teams and explore what is practical and optimal from all angles. This is where boutique firms like mine really shine. Therefore, the client gets something they can use and not just a trophy that sits on the shelf.

Q | How do you anticipate changes in the US healthcare system, specifically around policies that may replace the ACA, may affect how life sciences companies conduct their work?

A | In the healthcare supplier space where I spend most of my time and energy, the main customer is the healthcare provider, for instance, hospitals. There’s no doubt that potential healthcare policy changes in Washington could affect hospitals’ needs. In this case, the biggest change will revolve around how customers are reimbursed. So, this is also something suppliers need to prepare for.

Hospitals have mainly adapted to the quality metrics put in place by the original ACA, which I don’t expect to change even if the ACA is replaced. I expect any policy changes to instead impact the insurance side of the law, which could increase the number of uninsured patients. If this happens, hospitals will have even more pressure on their bottom lines making it even more essential that suppliers and hospitals stay focused on value.

When to Hire a Healthcare Consultant

The primary reason why organizations hire healthcare consultants is that they are in need of best practices and external perspectives that they do not have access to within the walls of their company. They may also come across a proposed project that is temporary in nature and executives don’t want to invest in full-time employees to get the job done. Another reason to bring in a healthcare consultant would be to get a “gut check” on vital decisions, such as planning an acquisition or a major capital expenditure. External consultants can also bring expertise to staff productivity issues and operational inefficiencies. Organizations often work closely with experienced consultants who can fit within their own internal teams and explore what is practical and optimal from all angles.

If you are considering hiring an external healthcare consultant, you are not alone. According to a recent poll of U.S. healthcare industry executives and thought leaders, healthcare policy reform was among the top 10 concerns for 2018.

The Impact of On-Demand Talent

If you’ve never worked with a consultant before, you may be surprised at the benefits an expert can bring to the table. An external perspective can be especially helpful providing clarity to a long-standing issue or getting beyond the kind of siloed thinking that can impede progress and growth. Even a short engagement has helped companies get unstuck.

Not only are Singer’s problem-solving skills versatile, he’s also flexible when it comes to timeframe. This is one of the biggest advantages an agile consultancy, like those available through an online talent marketplace, offers its clients. External experts offer the flexibility and custom experience many healthcare companies expect from their preferred vendors.

Is your healthcare company looking for a consultant to help navigate the challenges and opportunities in this dynamic industry? Find one on Catalant’s on-demand talent platform.