Jennifer Scanlon is the Assistant Vice President, Pharma Ventures at Northwell Health. New York based Northwell Health is one of the largest integrated health systems in the U.S. with 23 hospitals and over 800 ambulatory locations. Northwell is New York’s largest healthcare provider and private employer with over 77,000 employees. As a Limerick person it gives me great pride to work for an organization, led by Limerick man Michael Dowling, that demonstrated such amazing leadership during the early days of the COVID crisis in New York.
You can visit the Northwell Health website here
What are your main priorities and goals in your role?
Pharma Ventures is responsible for ensuring that Northwell Health is positioned as a leading health system for industry collaboration and innovation. In my role I am responsible for establishing and building our enterprise relationships with the pharmaceutical industry, finding opportunities for collaboration across the pharma value chain that meets the needs of my internal stakeholders. This can range from clinical trials, pharmacy access, value-based care and digital collaborations. Our group also oversees our International Program where we have alliances with international trade agencies as a streamlined channel for access to innovation from other countries. I feel fortunate to have such a varied role that allows me to interact with so many areas of the health system – no two days are the same which is great!
What are your biggest challenges?
Healthcare in the U.S. is complex, margins are so small and the asks on our healthcare providers continue to increase so managing the expectations of external companies and partners with the realities of the health system needs and priorities is one of the ongoing challenges I deal with. Pharmaceutical products treat individual conditions and as healthcare providers we treat the whole patient so it’s important that any opportunities I present to my internal colleagues have a value add for patients and the health system. And for smaller companies coming through the international program they all want to land a big reference site in the U.S. but the sales cycle can be very long so making sure they understand that sales cycle is important for both parties.
What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?
The healthcare industry, particularly hospitals and healthcare providers, are under huge financial pressure. The initial COVID surge forced all usual healthcare procedures to be suspended so the massive loss in reimbursement revenue from that period combined with the increased costs associated with treating and managing COVID has left many providers very much in the red. We learned a lot through the initial wave so the immediate task is to ensure that we can be ready to handle additional COVID waves while being able to continue to provide usual care for non-COVID patients. Also about 50% of the population in the U.S get their healthcare coverage through employer-sponsored health insurance so when you consider the huge unemployment figures as a result of COVID that creates another issue in terms of larger numbers of people being without insurance and delaying seeking care resulting in more, potentially avoidable, complex health issues.
What new trends are emerging in your industry?
One of the positive trends to emerge from COVID has been the rapid adoption of telehealth. Telehealth has been around for years but adoption at the physician-patient level has been very slow. COVID forced that to change – at Northwell during the height of the initial surge we were doing about 5,000 telehealth visits a day…..it would have taken years to see that level of adoption. Of course some care requires an in-person visit but we are facing a shortage of providers in the U.S. so I am excited for the potential that telehealth offers to optimize capacity in the healthcare industry and open up access to top quality healthcare for people that might otherwise not be able to get that care. The sustained ongoing utilization of telehealth will invariably be tied somewhat to the level of reimbursement that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and commercial payers provide for telehealth but it is a consumer-driven economy and consumers want convenience, choice and ease of access so I’m hopeful!
Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?
As a consumer of healthcare I would like to see more transparency around costs – procedures and medications cost different amounts depending on where you go and it’s often hard to figure out what the cost is to the consumer / patient. Too often it’s after the fact that you learn what the cost is and the sticker price shock can be big! Healthcare needs to catch up with other industries…..after all, you’d never fly somewhere and have the airline tell you how much it cost once you get off at your destination?! And as an employee within health I would like to see greater interoperability of systems and data quality. There is so much opportunity to be gained from data in healthcare – both clinically and economically.
Are you finding any skills gaps in the market?
I would love to see more data analysts, engineers and developers be focused in the healthcare space. Tech and social media companies have figured out how to make their platforms indispensable in so many people’s lives – wouldn’t it be great if we could use those same skills in engaging people in better managing their own health, in prevention over cure.
How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?
Although I work on the business side of healthcare success is knowing that what I am doing is driving value for the health system and ultimately our consumers / patients – it is very rewarding to know that I’ve played a role in getting a cutting edge clinical trial placed at Northwell so that one of our patients can access potentially lifesaving treatment. Or integrating a technology that makes a process more efficient or impactful for a provider or patient. The foundation of that success is built on the relationships that I build so that I understand the needs and motivations of my internal and external clients and am in a better position to create opportunities of mutual benefit.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?
You have two ears and one mouth – use them in that proportion!
What have been your highlights in business over the past year?
In the initial days of COVID in New York many of the normal business processes broke down, like supply chain issues getting access to increased drug supply for certain medications. Relationships we have developed over recent years helped Northwell to work with valued partners to remove barriers and ensure our patients got access to much needed medications. And again, although I’m not on the frontlines of healthcare delivery itself I have had a front row seat to watch how my colleagues have handled the COVID crisis and I couldn’t be prouder. The sacrifices they’ve made and the suffering they’ve witnessed is hard to take and yet they continue to show up. It was so encouraging to see how the world stopped and recognized just what these everyday heroes do especially the nurses who really do such unbelievable work in the care and compassion they provide to patients and their families. On that note, an initiative I’m proud to be involved with is a new campaign called ‘Nurse Heroes’ – it’s a campaign to raise funds for nursing education and related initiatives but also has a free international art contest. Drawing, painting ,photography and poetry for all ages so I would encourage everyone (at least anyone that is more artistic than me!!) to check it out and submit your art at www.nurseheroes.org. There will be monthly winners and their submissions will be broadcast on the billboards in Times Square and there will a Thanksgiving Day concert with celebrities and artists that you will all know!
What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2020/21?
My role in Pharma Ventures is to build and manage our strategic external relationships. COVID has obviously impacted our ability to grow and develop existing and new relationships but I also believe it presents an opportunity to reimagine how we engage with partners, bring more efficiency to that process and accelerate the timelines related to identifying and integrating new technologies and solutions into Northwell.
Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?
This time next year I hope that successful vaccines have been tested, developed, FDA-approved and administered to the people that need it most in a fair and equitable way. I am confident that Northwell, as it has done in dealing with COVID to date, will be a leader in this area and will be a health system of choice for both our consumers / patients and our partners.