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Pharma Value Chain Innovation
Episode

Amy West, head of US Digital Transformation and Innovation at Novo Nordisk

Pharma Value Chain Innovation

In this episode, I have the privilege of hosting the outstanding Amy West, Head of US Digital Health & Innovation Strategy at Novo Nordisk. Amy discusses what her company is doing is helping add value to the ecosystem. We talk about pharma chain innovation, consumerism of health care, and merging science with technology to ease the burden on the individual and improve self-management and medication, adherence, compliance, engagement. Amy also shares her insights on patient empowerment, easier health access, creating opportunities to go beyond the traditional biomarker, evolving patient experience, and more. If you are thinking about your customers’ problems or want to make a difference, this podcast is an opportunity for you to learn more and improve outcomes, so please tune in!

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Pharma Value Chain Innovation

About Amy West

Amy is the head of US Digital Transformation and Innovation at Novo Nordisk. She leads this team in the US in identifying transformational digital opportunities and breakthrough innovations that enhance patient health care experiences and ultimately outcomes. Amy oversees opportunity, exploration, testing and market validation through Novo Nordisk internal incubator, as well as with partnerships including startups, entrepreneurs, and third party accelerator incubators to test pilots and scale viable solutions. Amy has over twenty-five years of strategic marketing and business development experience, including work in both the client and agency environments across a broad range of disciplines. She’s a winner of many, many awards, two of which I’ll highlight. In 2018, the M and M, that is the Medical Marketing and Media top 40 health care transformer. And before that, she was awarded the PM 360 PM for Pharma Marketing three-sixty Trailblazer Award winner in the diabetes metabolic disease category. 

Outcomes Rockets Podcast_Amy West.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

Outcomes Rockets Podcast_Amy West.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Saul Marquez:
Hey everybody, Saul Marquez here and welcome back to the Outcomes Rocket. Today, I have the privilege of hosting the outstanding Amy West. She is the head of US Digital Transformation and Innovation at Novo Nordisk. She leads this team in the US in identifying transformational digital opportunities and breakthrough innovations that enhance patient health care experiences and ultimately outcomes. Amy oversees opportunity, exploration, testing and market validation through Novo Nordisk internal incubator, as well as with partnerships including startups, entrepreneurs and third party accelerator incubators to test pilots and scale viable solutions. Amy has over twenty-five years of strategic marketing and business development experience, including work in both the client and agency environments across a broad range of disciplines. She’s a winner of many, many awards, two of which I’ll highlight. In 2018, the M and M, that is the Medical Marketing and Media top 40 health care transformer. And before that she was awarded the PM 360 PM for Pharma Marketing three-sixty Trailblazer Award winner in the diabetes metabolic disease category. Just a thought leader in the field of transformation and innovation within the pharma space. And with that, just want to welcome you to the podcast. Amy, so glad you could join today.

Amy West:
Thanks a lot. So that was a great, I appreciate that introduction very much and I’m really excited to be here and to get a chance to talk with you.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, likewise. Likewise, Amy. And, you know, one of the things that we love to do is, is to sort of get to know the leaders. So can you share why and what inspires you to work in health care?

Amy West:
Absolutely. I would say that I am personally very passionate about the patient side of health care because I am one. I am a patient along with my family and friends. And I get it like we all have to engage in this health care ecosystem. And I understand the benefits, but I also experience the frustrations. And I strongly believe that getting access to pharmacotherapy and traditional health interventions is critical. But medication alone just isn’t enough. And sometimes it can be very hard to get timely, coordinated care. You’re convenient. Access is a real challenge. I think that’s only been exacerbated by the covid pandemic that we’ve seen. But this is why I’m so excited to be working in the health care, digital and tech space because I believe this is an area of innovation that can enable the ability to go beyond the pill or the proverbial pill and deliver experiences and create the convenient access that positively influences patients understanding their behavior, their engagement and the health decision making in a very personalized and relevant way. And digital innovation gives us the opportunity to better understand patients as people first human being, and use technology to enable a more individualized and relevant solution or support, along with medication or the traditional interventions to achieve a better quality of life and overall improved outcomes. It’s truly an exciting yet also challenging time to be working in health care. But that’s what inspires me.

Saul Marquez:
I love it. Yeah, you know, and there’s so much more than just the proverbial pill or the insulin medication in this in this instance with Novo and just access and being able to to figure out how to improve adherence. There’s a lot of challenges Right. and challenges are very personal and they’re very real. Talk to us a little bit about how you and sort of the work that you’re doing is helping add value to the ecosystem.

Amy West:
Sure. So obviously, we’ve seen and heard the problems of our health care system related to access to care, the associated costs and all the things that you mentioned. You’re less suboptimal outcomes, complicated coordination, all, all of that, again, being exacerbated by global pandemic. A lot of challenges and the value is being questioned. And in the face of this, you know what, Novo Nordisk, we strive to improve customer health care experiences for those people with chronic Medvale diseases and improve their outcomes, which could include medications or cures for conditions like diabetes or preventative interventions for support. But to do this, we need innovation that’s going to transform the current health care paradigm we really need. And we’re trying to embrace this rising consumerism of health care, which again, is all about the person’s experience that’s been left out of this equation for a long time and improve the overall experience of health care, including with medications and non-pharmacotherapeutic interventions. It’s got to be a little bit of both. So we’re looking to marry the science, which is our foundation as a pharmaceutical manufacturer with the human being there, everyday behavior and be where they are and really understand that experience, we got to marry those two things individuals, people who you and me, we don’t identify as being a patient, that we’re moms and dads and teachers and firemen. We’re balancing work with raising families. It’s tax season. So we’re focusing on getting that taken care of and living our day-to-day lives. Health care is very important, but it’s inconvenient and it’s not a great experience for the most part. I mean, I think I certainly have had challenges at times. And when you talk with many people or most people about when they’re having to engage in a health care clinic setting, there’s a bit of a groan in an and because it’s so complex and again, the experience just is not great.

Amy West:
And I think that, again, trying to embrace this human side of things. And Mariotte, with the science, there’s really interesting data from the Institute for Clinical Systems, and it shows that for the average person managing chronic health conditions, only 20 percent of what influences the health of a person is related to access and quality meeting, getting to the clinic and getting meds. The other 80 percent of influencers, which is, you know, significantly bigger, are found in behaviors, socioeconomics, motivations, basically aspects of day to day living, which are challenging to address in a clinical setting in health care. We’re really only focused on that smaller proportion, that 20 percent, which is all about that clinic medication access. So it’s critical that if we’re going to marry these things that we understand the 80 percent of daily living and by working with resources like technology that goes beyond the clinical walls or medication, this will be a key to treating these complex health problems and can enable more effective engagement. So, for example, this idea of pervasive or portable health embedding support through technology where the person is via this ecosystem of connected location, independent health care services and solutions that’s accessible wherever and however patients decide it can help ease the burden on the individual and improve self-management and medication, adherence, compliance, engagement. This can be a combination of active and ambient connectivity that AIDS and convenience and an overall better experience. So we’re really looking to try to marry up that science piece with the human being by leveraging the technology, not connectivity.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, and that’s well said, Amy. There is a shift happening and you called out that shift, the shift to the experience of the consumer. They’ve been left out. We have been left out for for so long of the equation. It’s been a payer-provider industry game. And so we have an opportunity right now to hone in to this. And interestingly, I was in the Clubhouse around diabetes innovation. It was super interesting. One of the things that I left that one-hour meeting with was kind of the influence that passive data technology can have on this experience that you’re talking about. Can you speak to that at all? I’m curious.

Amy West:
Sure. I mean, I think, you know, again, when we think about the experience of the individual, it’s got to be about convenience and ease. Easy button. And just as a side note, I think that’s why we’re seeing the encroachment of the non-traditional players, like the big guys, like Amazon and Google, because they understand what people want. They understand convenience, they understand make it easy for me. They understand you almost know what I want before I know what I want. They make it easy and then they pull that through my retail settings and the same thing in health care. And that’s why when we think about how technology has transformed, just about every other industry in health care has been the last. Like we like to think about financial services or travel and leisure retail. It’s really changed that experience. And, you know, health care is the last sort of frontier because it’s so complex for a variety of reasons, regulation and data privacy and PIPA and all those things. But we’re seeing it happen now. And it’s also being driven by this rise in consumerism that has its by virtue of experiencing having good experiences in these other industries. Why can’t I have that in my health care? This is probably one of the most important things for me. And yet it is so cumbersome and difficult and frustrating.

Amy West:
And so we have to figure out a way to embrace it because there’s a shift in control now, the old model of health care said. The systems, the providers being the locus of control, is shifting to the patient, and that’s where this idea of this passive is portable, pervasive health idea of passive data collection. I want to be able to engage in my health and wellness when, where and how I want to in my smart, connected home, in my smart car, in my smart city and my smart working environment, which right now is my home. So voice technology, environmental sensors, wearables make it easy for me to know if I’m on track with my health and wellness and let my doctor know or my care team without me having to like, make an appointment that is about experience, that is about making it easy and connecting what’s happening in a way that I don’t have to think about it all the time. And that’s what we’re talking about here. And certainly it’s not it’s we’re nowhere near mastering that yet, but it’s on its way. And that’s going to make, I think, the access more democratized and equitable and hopefully enable people to have better health outcomes as a result and have better quality of life.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, that’s fantastic. And then there’s the community element to Right. like I feel like there’s power and community and you can see how other people are doing like, oh wow, you know, their agency is down like I got to do better. Any elements of that too.

Amy West:
Yeah. I mean, community and social, it’s really important. It can also it’s kind of a double-edged sword because I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there as well. Yeah. So you have to really be careful with that. And we’re kind of in this age of like Faigenbaum, so we have to be really careful. But, you know, it’s also empowering for people to share their stories because again, that’s the human piece. And I also think that when we talk about certain diseases, whether it’s diabetes or other ones, that, you know, the standard of care, there’s a clinical standard of care and there’s a good reason for it because it’s how we measure, monitor and evaluate. But I think with technology, it’s also creating opportunities to go beyond the traditional clinical biomarkers that, you know, in the case of like diabetes, let’s say obviously the standard of care is understanding, monitoring, measuring a one, see the time and range that you are in, in a healthy zone versus an unhealthy zone relative to your blood sugar levels. Those are these are the things that the clinical settings you use to monitor and measure and evaluate Right.. But the reality is, you know, the average person with diabetes, you’re supposed to get you’re able to see like maybe two to three times a year that you go to the doctor. It’s an invasive process. It’s a blood draw. And in between there, you’re supposed to be doing your finger sticks to monitor your blood sugar. But the reality is that’s not happening because it’s really hard to get in to see the doctor for a variety of reasons, whether you’re trying and not able to or you just you’re putting it off.

Amy West:
It’s a very, very complex situation. And so those clinical biomarkers that we are using as the standard of care, we’re missing them and the patient isn’t is not necessarily motivated enough to take action sometimes. But when you’re living day-to-day life, there are other things that are happening that you might be noticing, that you’re just not necessarily making the connection to your disease state. So things like changes in urine changes and saliva changes and dexterity changes and eyesight, you’re not necessarily making the connection that it’s tied to unmanaged or uncontrolled diabetes, but there are things you’re noticing every single day. But we’re not talking about them because we haven’t necessarily clinically validated all those things. But if we’re able to start to make the connection and people are able to see, oh, this is tied to something health-related, I need to start paying attention to it in a different way or I need to go talk to my doctor about it. And these are things that I might be able to track with wearables or sensors on a daily basis. We can start to move the needle in a way that we haven’t been able to move before because every everything, all the motivations in the activity was tied to those invasive biomarkers, the one seeing the blood draw. So that’s an opportunity to yeah, there’s an opportunity there to think about it differently from the end-user, the patient point of view. This is how I live my life. I’m noticing these things. I’m not getting an agency every day.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah. And that is so fascinating. Yeah. And a great example, honing into this sort of evolution that’s happening along with consumerism is sort of care at the home rather than waiting for those, you know, episodic visits. You’re getting remote patient care, this continuity of care. Are those metrics I mean, I really envisioned kind of something grand. I’m sure you’re thinking about this, Amy, where there are those markers that you just mentioned that could be measured and just things can be done before a situation gets exacerbated. So I’m excited about this conversation if you can tell.

Amy West:
Yeah, no, I love talking about this. Just a note on that to how you get to those types of alternative opportunities. It’s because you start with what is the pain point for the end-user first? Yes. It’s not about how do I discover a way to position my invention. It’s how do I build the project intervention based on a problem to solve for the person living life every day.

Saul Marquez:
Yes, yeah. No, I love it. Great. Great point. And so let’s dive in a little bit here, Amy. So improved outcomes. We love touching on this. Making business better is another thing that we care about a lot here on the podcast. And our listeners love hearing stories about how this is being done. Can you give us an example of how these approaches have improved outcomes?

Amy West:
Well, I think that, again, the approaches that I’ve been talking about, innovation, space, they’re a bit unproven. But we’re going through an experimentation process now to see what will work, what will not work and what’s going to deliver a benefit and what is not. So it’s still very much in the experimental phase, but the hope is that if we can connect with the individual, starting with their problem to solve and come up with a solution or an intervention that delivers on that desirability and then we build out that solution, we have to make sure that it’s taking that desirability, viability, feasibility, that design thinking mindset. Start with the problem to solve what is going to connect with the individual need and then can we build it? Is there technology already out there that we can leverage to build that solution or do we need to build it from the ground up? Is it not already existing? And then from there, how do we make it viable? How can we actually bring that to market in a way that’s going to deliver the shared value for the end user, but also for the business? Because we have to be able to make it real in a way that is going to enable us to meet that need. And we’ve got to be able to build it and make it happen totally. And then and then from there, the hope is that it’s at the core of it in our philosophy is if we can meet the needs of the patient, we will be able to find a way to make it work for the organization. It’s kind of like from the old work, I guess, from the Merck Foundation. If you put the patient at the center and meet their needs, the business value and revenue will follow. It can’t be the other way around, though. Yeah, yeah. We’re still in that experiment phase now.

Saul Marquez:
That’s great. And I appreciate you painting the picture, Amy. And that’s that’s fantastic. You know, I think of why Under Armour bought my fitness pal. And so you’re in the clothing and shoe game, but you have all of these things that your consumers care about, their calories the miles are tracking. And so you back into it. And, oh, by the way, we have shoes, so. Well, you know, your eyes, your feet, all the things that happen with diabetes. Oh, and by the way, we also have insulin. So if you use ours, you have this whole platform, right? Yep. Yeah. I love the vision. I think it’s brilliant and I think it’s the future. And I’m excited that you guys are working on it as you embark on this mission to really transform. I think that’s the word transform. Yeah. We deliver this platform to people that need insulin. What would you say is the biggest setback you’ve experienced and a key learning that’s come out of it? Um.

Amy West:
Well, I think right now we can’t ignore the global pandemic. It literally, literally been one year of actually gosh, I guess we kind of went to remote. The remote work environment last month was in March, and we went to full work from home mode thinking at that time it would just be for two weeks, it was like, hey, two weeks. We’re going to give you an update for how we’re going to re-enter and all that. And I still can’t believe where we are today, and I’m sure I’m not alone on that exactly. But in light of that, I have to say there was a setback, but also tremendous growth, learning and leadership in the early days of this. No one who has had two main priorities, ensuring that our employees were safe and supported so that we could do our jobs, and which led into ensuring that we could get medication to our customers who needed it without disruption. And the company delivered on both. I mean, we are stronger than ever now, and it gives me a lot of pride to be able to talk about that, because that was the topic of every single conversation early on and making sure that as employees we have to be safe first, that we can ensure that we can deliver for our customers and the leadership with 100 percent focused on that. And I say also that as a part of that, we wanted to make sure that we were offering ensuring access for our customers. We wanted to afford options like my insulin, which also provided support to those who were going through job changes and potentially losing their jobs due to COVID there. There’s a lot of that. There still is. And those who were eligible could receive insulin free of charge for 90 days, our diabetes patients assistance program. But we really turned the shutdown, which is a huge setback into a positive because we were able to keep everything going remotely because the company focused on employee safety first and ensuring the safety of our customers and making sure that they were going to get the medication that they needed regardless of this global shutdown.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, I wasn’t aware of the diabetes insulin program is just this awesome and a testament to the power of focus Right.. I mean, this dual focus, because it could get complicated in times of challenge. And when you hone it down to, all right, we want our employees to be safe and we want our customers to have access boom to it.

Amy West:
It’s exactly. Exactly. Yeah, it was very clear.

Saul Marquez:
I love it. And so, Amy, how about let’s do some horizon view in here. What are you most excited about?

Amy West:
Well, there’s a lot personally right now. I’m just so excited that we have vaccines for COVID and it’s springtime. And it’s been a tough year. It’s a traumatic year in so many ways. So I’m really excited about a spring thaw and the hope of some level of normalcy coming back for everybody. People have been through a lot, but outside of that, I really like thinking about the pharma space and life sciences. I love how it’s pharma. And life sciences is evolving from inside the organization to take action to garner new outcomes, things like this new organizational mindset and cultural shifts to better understand our customers as people first and not patients and really focusing in on let’s solve their problems and build from there. And we’re doing a lot of work at Novo to infuse these new ways of working these innovative mindsets, these cultural shifts that are going to really help us sustain our current scientific model. But then again, Larry, the science with the human and build for new opportunities into the future. So, for example, design thinking methodologies to uncover the customer’s problem to solve and those root causes, R&D in commercial areas, working together in the discovery phase, no longer siloed at opposite ends of the development lifecycle, that that’s super exciting to be agile processes. We hear a lot about that. But using those to advance opportunity development more quickly so we can get the right interventions to our customers faster and really taking a really embedding that throughout the entire organization and across all business units and really making a muscle for the organization is going to be through these new ways of approaching understanding our customers that we can innovate solutions that will improve those health care experiences, the quality of life, the outcomes synergistically with or beyond pharmacotherapy. So that’s what’s super exciting to me. There’s like this sort of underlying revolutionary feel to all of it that is going to take us to the next level in health care.

Saul Marquez:
Yeah, yeah. That’s it’s the Mars shot. I feel like we talk about Moonshot. It’s a Mars shot and it’s going to happen.

Amy West:
I agree. And it’s really about evolving, evolving to well care versus care. Life sciences is always in many ways, our incentives are based on the sick care model. We really, really want to evolve to that well care model and make it a positive experience and not a frustrating experience.

Saul Marquez:
Totally, yeah. Super interesting. Amy, we’ve spent today talking about what could be and the work that you and your team at Novo are doing to make that reality happen. I’m confident it’s going to happen thanks to efforts like yours and your teams and the company and the leadership there. There’s the other piece, too, that we don’t have time to talk about today. But you touched on is the whole pharma value chain innovation and the opportunity there is just just a lot to be excited about. So I appreciate you sharing your vision and the work that you’re doing. Before we conclude, I’d love if you could just share a closing thoughts with our listeners today and maybe share the best way that they could get in touch with you or find out some of the work that might be of interest to them at Novo.

Amy West:
Sure. Absolutely. It’s been great talking with you. I love this opportunity and the closing thought something that comes to mind on a regular basis for me. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Singularity University executive program. And for those of you who are not familiar with Singularity University, it’s a global learning and innovation community using exponential technologies to tackle of the world’s biggest challenges. And they have there’s like 12 of them and build a better future for everyone. That’s what they’re focused on. It was just really super-intensive, week-long mind-blowing program. And I’m telling you, I still process it to this day. I think about it. I probably think about it at least once a week ever since I attended that. But Peter Diamandis, who is the co-founder and executive chairman, said something that I really I use every day. He said become enamored of the problem, not the solution. And in pharma, we’re very hyper-focused on getting our products in the hands of our customers to deliver a health benefit that we validated in clinical trials. And we’ve secured the FDA approval. We need to focus on hitting our numbers and achieving our optimal share of voice and all those other metrics that are focused on our products.

Amy West:
But they’re not focused on our customers problems all the time. So this is a solution-focused approach and it’s limited in its success, as evidenced by this rising rising health care costs and adherence rates and the need to substantially value in the real world setting won’t be met with this traditional pharma approach. We have got to become enamored of our customers problems. What we’ve done to date has worked. It’s worked well, but it isn’t working. It’s not going to get us into the future. So now we have to really kind of focus on our customers’ problems to solve, become enamored and passionate about that and build the solutions anchored into that and pull it through. So that’s what I would like to share with you guys become enamored of the problem, not the solution, and always happy to talk more. You can feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. And I love talking about the stuff that’s so exciting. We’re all trying to figure it out, but we’re going to have to figure it out together because we can’t do it alone.

Saul Marquez:
So thanks for this opportunity, Amy.

Amy West:
Thank you so much.

Saul Marquez:
You said it so well. And folks, I want to just have you reflect on this. Are you thinking about your customers’ problems? Are you enamored with them because thinking about them is different than being enamored, right? Amy, that’s Right. difference. If you’re not, this is an opportunity for you to go beyond that and really just hit a home run with the efforts that you’re striving for to improve outcomes. And so just want to give Amy a big thanks on behalf of all of us. Amy, thank you. And certainly looking forward to staying in touch.

Amy West:
Absolutely. My pleasure. Thank you so much. It was really fun. Thank you.

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Things You’ll Learn

  • Health care is the last sort of frontier because it’s so complex for a variety of reasons, regulation and data privacy and PIPA and all those things, but change is happening now. 
  • There is a shift of control in healthcare. The focus of control is now moving to the patient. 
  • It’s empowering for people to share their experiences. 
  • Become enamored of the problem, not the solution. 

 

  • We have got to become enamored of our customers problems.

 

Resources: 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amy-west-0b926714

Website: https://www.novonordisk.com/