Video Quick Take: Syneos Health’s Larry Pickett on Using Data and Technology to Improve Patient Outcomes

Todd Pruzan, HBR

Welcome to the HBR Video Quick Take. I’m Todd Pruzan, senior editor for Research and Special Projects at Harvard Business Review. I’m with Larry Pickett, chief information and digital officer at Syneos Health.

We’re talking today about the company’s role in helping customers accelerate time to market for important therapies, and how the technology capabilities and solutions at Syneos Health create an “always on” innovation environment. Larry, thank you so much for being with us today.

Larry Pickett, Syneos Health

Thank you, Todd.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

Larry, can you describe how Syneos Health is helping customers accelerate time to market for important therapies?

Larry Pickett, Syneos Health

Sure. I am happy to say that Syneos Health helps biotech and pharmaceutical customers develop and bring new therapies to market while also engaging health care professionals to introduce new medicines directly to patients. So we deliver a full range of services ranging from clinical, to regulatory, and commercial medical affairs. This end-to-end capability is unique in the marketplace.

What’s also unique is our innovative approach to delivering these services. We deliver by embedding the very latest advanced data analytics and new technology into our processes.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

Can you tell us a bit more about how you do this?

Larry Pickett, Syneos Health

Sure, Todd. As part of our strategy to become a more data- and insights-driven company, we’re transforming into a digitally enabled business ecosystem with data and AI at the center. We call this ecosystem our Dynamic Assembly® network. And that network has two major elements: strategy on the front end and operational execution on the back end.

On the front end, the strategy is a combination of partnering, buying, and building new capabilities to help us accelerate clinical trials and product development for our customers. And we do that through acquisitions such as StudyKIK and RxDataScience, which bring talent and technology platforms that we can leverage on behalf of our customers. That’s on the front end.

On the back end, we’re able to accelerate delivery for our customers using standard data models, pre-built connectors, and automation, all running in the cloud on our Syneos Health data and technology integration platform. This enables us to digitize our business workflows in a highly repeatable and scalable way. This innovative platform runs on top of any cloud provider but is optimized for the Microsoft Azure technology stack.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

How does this dynamic assembly network help your biotechnology and pharmaceutical customers?

Larry Pickett, Syneos Health

Well, first and foremost, accelerating getting new therapies to market and to patients is key. Another thing we do is bring talent and different expertise to our customers. Deep therapeutic knowledge, data scientists, solution engineers, and customized digitized solutions allow us to meet our customers’ exact needs. And we’re able to leverage the data and technology integration platform to bring efficiencies from which our customers also benefit.

But we also think that the way we work and the way we leverage capabilities on behalf of our customers are critical. We bring them the latest data and technology in an agile, open, plug-and-play model. We constantly scan the market for new innovations, vet them, and bring the best to customers. Then, we leverage our technology platform to connect the data sources for our customers.

Our customers like having access to the latest tech and thinking while also having the flexibility to use the data and technology partners they prefer. This open architecture is in sharp contrast to forcing competitors onto a proprietary platform that locks them in and quickly becomes out of date due to rapid advances in the market.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

What are some examples of how the strategy helps patients?

Larry Pickett, Syneos Health

We use data AI and machine learning in many ways across the business. It helps us select and activate clinical trial sites, enroll patients, and optimize our resource allocation as we go about delivering trials and bringing new products to market.

For patients, getting enrolled in a trial and making it easy for them is critical. For this we use clinical trial diversity analytics. Our algorithms leverage real-world data, electronic medical records, demographic data, and our own internal data assets to identify underrepresented and disadvantaged patients and the physicians who treat them.

Through the acquisition of Illingworth Research Group, our nurse practitioners bring the clinical trials and medicines directly to patients’ homes. Patients are sometimes unable to travel due to their condition, or the distance is simply too far for them. This approach, called decentralized clinical trials, reduces patient burden while increasing diversity and access to trials.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

How do Syneos Health’s in-house solutions and capabilities provide an “always on” innovation environment?

Larry Pickett, Syneos Health

The best way to think about this is as a business transformation effort we have underway, which we call the Intelligent Enterprise. So the goal of the Intelligent Enterprise is to make data and insights available to every employee and customer so better decisions can be made along the way.

This is at all levels of the organization, such as CRAs, project managers, field representatives, medical science liaisons, and managers and executives. The Intelligent Enterprise is a business architecture consisting of four layers. Core business infrastructure is at the bottom. It consists of ERP and clinical and commercial systems.

The next layer up is analytics enablement. This is where the Dynamic Assembly® platform fits. There, we master our data, clean it and organize all data sources, both external and internal, making that data available to the organization for analysis.

Then comes the algorithms and models layer, where data scientists across the organization use data to build and deploy predictive models. These models allow us to more effectively activate clinical trial sites, enroll patients, engage health care professionals, and optimize many other activities across the organization.

On the top is the visualization and action layer. This is where employees and customers are proactively notified and provided with suggestions for the next best action based on the data. And this enables them to address any issues that may be occurring with their trial or project.

These suggestions are delivered by way of an intuitive dashboard or Intelligent Application. And our employees and customers use this data to quickly pivot and focus on areas that need attention to keep projects on track. Leveraging the Intelligent Enterprise end to end across the product development life cycle gives us the data, insights, and evidence we need to deliver outcomes-based contracts for our customers.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

So, wrapping up, what other elements of your technology strategy are making a difference at Syneos Health?

Larry Pickett, Syneos Health

Well, while the technology is very cool as it gets everyone’s attention, equally important, if not more so, is our talent and culture. We’ve created a collaborative culture where top talent works together as self-directed teams.

For example, the Intelligent Enterprise is supported by what we call our people architecture. That consists of employees, new hires, acquisitions such as StudyKIK and RxDataScience, and world-class partners such as Microsoft and McKinsey.

We blend these diverse skills and opinions into a cohesive high-performing team. As part of this, we’re instilling a culture of innovation, where we have rapid experimentation of new ideas, fail fast, and then succeed fast. We encourage out-of-the-box thinking where the best ideas win, so we think of this as an “always on” innovation culture.

And our DE&I efforts are also core to our talent strategy. We have an inclusive work environment, which impacts our employee recruiting and employee development, as well as promotions and succession planning. That’s not only the right thing to do, but it also makes us stronger as a company.

Finally, we think about how purpose fits—what greater good we’re serving when we come to work every day at Syneos Health. We come to work excited and motivated because we’re helping get new therapies and medicines to patients. These patients are family members, friends, neighbors, and members of our communities. This makes our work more meaningful. So DE&I, culture, talent, and serving a greater good as much as our leading-edge technology make Syneos Health a great company to partner with and to work for.

Todd Pruzan, HBR

Well, Larry, this has been a great discussion. Thank you so much for your time today.

Larry Pickett, Syneos Health

Thank you, Todd. I enjoyed it.


Learn more about how Syneos Health uses data and technology to drive patient outcomes. Visit Syneoshealth.com.

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