Disruption in Healthcare and Life Sciences 2021
Healthcare Payers & Providers

Disruption in Healthcare and Life Sciences 2021

The fourth annual survey of healthcare and life sciences leaders shows a desire for stability and an accelerated shift toward business models that will help take their products to their customers in a digital-first world.
Heidrick & Struggles

Heidrick & Struggles conducted an online survey of 146 senior-level executives in the healthcare and life sciences sector in order to understand how organizations are preparing for and responding to market disruption. Regionally, 58% of respondents were from the United States and Canada, 25% from Europe, 11% from Asia Pacific and the Middle East, and 6% from Latin America. Thirty-three percent of respondents were CEOs, 8% other C-suite executives, 20% general managers or other business leaders, and a further 22% were board members; others were leaders of functions including commercial, finance, HR, and R&D. Fifty-five percent of respondents had more than 25 years of experience in the healthcare and life sciences industry. Twenty-five percent of respondents were at companies with more than $5 billion in annual revenue, and a further 22% at companies with annual revenue between $1 billion and $5 billion. Those surveyed come from companies in medical technologies (30%), pharmaceuticals (18%), healthcare systems and services (21%), and biotech (13%), with small shares of respondents in other sectors. This survey builds on previous Heidrick & Struggles research, including our work on accelerating performance—an in-depth examination of how the world’s largest companies build and sustain performance at the leader, team, and organization levels.

Executive summary

The healthcare industry has been in the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic, with every aspect of companies’ response scrutinized in detail by both governments and the public. The scrutiny has prompted a significant shift in the way healthcare leaders think about their business models, influenced by a new understanding of what is possible when it comes to digitizing both ways of working and sales channels.

Our fourth annual disruption survey provides a snapshot of leaders’ current views on how their organizations have managed 2020’s disruption and how they are planning to approach the new year’s challenges and opportunities. The survey shows that healthcare and life sciences leaders are looking for stability in 2021—they want to prepare for the future rather than keep firefighting. Their key areas of focus and investment will be digitizing their channels to get their products to customers more efficiently and helping their workforces continue to adjust to working in a more hybrid manner. Conversely, compared with 2020, leaders are less likely to make changes and invest in areas such as talent, leadership, and culture. And, coupled with higher levels of confidence in their companies’ ability to face marketplace disruptions, leaders are signaling that they are ready to progress their organizations’ digital transformation toward a more customer-centric business model.

In this context, it’s encouraging that a higher share of executives think their companies move fast enough: 42% in 2021, compared to 33% in 2020. There is no doubt that the pressure created by the COVID-19 crisis has opened up new possibilities for the way organizations operate today. Those that retain and build on their new strengths will have the best chance to succeed.

To read the full report, flip through the interactive version above or click the download button for the PDF.

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