Making a smarter bet on digital health

Aligning customer needs with business goals.


A global pharmaceutical company wanted to identify solutions for supporting patients “beyond the pill.” The company’s multidisciplinary group of executives believed new technologies might be part of solutions to help patients living with an advanced stage of cancer. Which digital health solutions — if any — would best support patients’ daily lives, including complex and personal decision-making processes? How could they get to the heart of the problem — the intersection between a business need and a patient need? How could they generate viable solutions and win internal support for the next round of investment?


Pharmaceutical companies currently face a number of challenges; the move to value-based care, the patent cliff, and a shift to precision medicine and rare diseases require new ways of working. Some see digital health solutions as a new opportunity area to complement existing products and better serve patients, but it’s still early days. How would the internal team differentiate shiny objects from real solutions based on real problems?


New technologies offer endless possibilities; advancing to a targeted set of high-potential ideas required a relentless focus on understanding and defining the problem.

We began by conducting desk research and global patient interviews to explore important questions: What are the patients’ mindsets and key behaviors? What are the areas of greatest need and opportunity? Where does it make sense for pharma to engage, and does the company have permission to play? Should the company explore new partnerships?

We designed and facilitated a workshop for key stakeholders. Small groups familiarized themselves with patient mindsets through empathy exercises and persona development, then drafted problem statements to align with patient needs. The group narrowed a large number of problem statements to the areas of greatest need and opportunity, generated new concepts for solutions, and assessed patient and business impact.

In a limited amount of time, we surfaced new insights the client hadn’t considered. Workshop attendees connected deeply with patient stories and recognized opportunities to improve care. After the workshop, we consolidated concepts into two major themes and outlined concrete next steps for prototyping and validating one or more concepts.