Building teams and navigating the healthcare ecosystem: An interview with Kaushik Bhaumik, EY Americas Health Technology Leader
Health Tech

Building teams and navigating the healthcare ecosystem: An interview with Kaushik Bhaumik, EY Americas Health Technology Leader

EY Americas Health Technology Leader Kaushik Bhaumik shares his perspective on the future of the health tech sector
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In this next episode of The Heidrick & Struggles Leadership Podcast, Heidrick & Struggles’ Josh Clarke speaks to Kaushik Bhaumik, EY Americas health technology leader. Bhaumik, who earned his PhD in electrical engineering and then became a consultant at McKinsey before moving into healthcare, shares what attracted him to the support of healthcare clients and offers advice to other executives who are looking to transition their careers. He also shares what leadership skills are most transferable across large multinationals and early-stage start-ups, as well as both public companies and private investor-backed companies. Bhaumik then discusses his approach to building teams, balancing the needs for industry expertise and functional best athletes, and building and leading diverse teams inclusively. Finally, he shares his thoughts about collaboration within healthcare and health tech specifically and how he sees partnerships between tech companies, healthcare payers, providers, and researchers driving innovation, as well as his perspective on the future of health tech—the most exciting possibilities on the horizon, as well as the most significant hurdles for the sector.

Below is a full transcript of the episode, which has been edited for clarity.

Welcome to The Heidrick & Struggles Leadership Podcast. Heidrick is the premier global provider of senior-level executive search and leadership consulting services. Diversity and inclusion, leading through tumultuous times, and building thriving teams and organizations are among the core issues we talk with leaders about every day, including in our podcasts. Thank you for joining the conversation. 

Josh Clarke: Welcome to The Heidrick & Struggles Leadership Podcast. Hi, I'm Josh Clarke, a partner in Heidrick & Struggles’ Boston office and global leader of our Health Tech Practice. Today, I'm thrilled to be joined by Kaushik Bhaumik. Kaushik is the Americas health technology leader at EY. In this role, he leads the EY technology consulting business for healthcare clients across the Americas. Before EY, Kaushik was a key member of the executive management team of a Fortune 200 IT services company. During his 16-year tenure, he built practices and business units that contributed to that firm's industry-leading growth. Additionally, he was co-founder and CEO of a company that developed an artificial intelligence platform to prevent healthcare claims denials.

Kaushik, thank you for joining us today. 

Kaushik Bhaumik: Pleasure to be with you, Josh. 

Josh Clarke: So, let's jump in. I'll rewind the clock here, Kaushik: after you earned your PhD in electrical engineering, you shifted professional gears, becoming a consultant at McKinsey. What drew you into the field of strategy consulting, and how has that foundational experience impacted your career since then?

Kaushik Bhaumik: Thank you, Josh. It was a big shift, but not all too challenging, in the sense that I had always been interested in business. So, even as I was pursuing my science and engineering PhD, I had always had a keen eye on the practical applications of technology and how, in particular, businesses adopted technology.

I was the type of person who always picked up the Wall Street Journal and tried to follow what was going on in business—particularly around technology companies, and semiconductors at the time—to find out where the business was headed and the implications of all these technology advances towards business and society more broadly.

And so, when I had the opportunity to join McKinsey, I thought it was a terrific way to get that deep grounding in business and how business approaches technology in the premier firm that's got global and world-renowned capabilities. I thought it would be an incredible extension of my education, if you will, in real-world business.

So, that's why I jumped at the chance to join McKinsey. I had a wonderful time there. I spent eight years getting exposed to all kinds of real-world problems, starting from strategy and going all the way towards how to implement those strategies and technology and operation and organizational changes.

Josh Clarke: That's great. Since 2017, you've focused on serving the healthcare ecosystem during your time with Cognizant, as well as Glide Health, and now EY. What was it that initially attracted you to supporting healthcare clients, and what has kept you engaged over the past six-plus years? 

Kaushik Bhaumik: It’s actually been even longer than six years! Earlier, in my Cognizant career, when I ran BPO & Consulting, a lot of the clients that I was working with were in healthcare, both payers and providers. I was always fascinated by the fact that it's a massive industry that has obviously very real-world impacts. All of us have to deal with the healthcare system in one way, shape, or form at some point in our lives. So clearly, the impacts were incredible. It's massive. 

And also, in the US, it's particularly complicated. It is a very complex ecosystem of payers and providers. Some people say it's this 4-trillion-dollar industry; while it is, it's actually composed of hundreds of smaller industries inside of that. 

And so, as I worked with clients in Cognizant—in terms of addressing their issues, in terms of cost efficiencies, effectiveness of technologies—I found myself drawn more and more towards it and the impacts it could have. Solving some of those issues can have profound impacts in terms of patient care, how the system works, and trying to reduce costs. It is a big part of our GDP as a nation, and so trying to find ways to make it more efficient and effective just drew me towards it. I thought it was a terrific way to anchor a big part of my career. 

Josh Clarke: Following up on that, having successfully led that transition for yourself and your own career into the healthcare sector, what advice do you have for other executives who are also interested in making a move? 

Kaushik Bhaumik: I would say first of all, appreciate that it is very large and brawny, and try to find the right anchor point for yourself.

If you are drawn toward healthcare and solving patient problems, or trying to address problems in the broader ecosystem, recognize that it's composed of hundreds of different industries, whether that's on the drug development side, the health insurance payer side, or the provider side. Even under those, you have to think about different specialties, and different technologies that support those specialties. So, try to find an anchor point that really excites you. You're drawn to it in terms of solving those problems and you have some capabilities and experiences that you think can really help. 

That takes some time to find out, right? To take a 4-trillion-dollar industry and find your anchor point may require some experimentation. You may find yourself trying different things before you find that are or that particular subset of problems where you can make a big contribution and difference. So, that takes some time, so prepare yourself for that.

And then, once you're in it, recognize that it is a complex ecosystem and that you will have to navigate lots of different parties, whether it's the payers, providers, the specialties, or drug companies. You need to have the patience to deal with that; this is a game of inches in solving healthcare problems.

People like to think they could take big swings, and they should. But recognize that better progress is achieved one-on-one, through the game of inches mentality. And so, I think if you go in with that mindset and approach, you can have a real impact in terms of improving the US healthcare system.

Josh Clarke: You've had experiences in large multinationals and early-stage startups. You worked within public and private investor-backed companies as well. What leadership skills do you think are most transferable across these different environments? 

Kaushik Bhaumik: I think it starts with understanding the big picture and strategy, right? If you're in an organization, where you want that organization to make an impact. What are the problems that you're going after, and what will your value-add or contribution be to that? 

Having a clear-cut strategy in terms of how you can make a difference, how you will win in the marketplace—it starts with that. That is regardless of whether you're dealing with a small firm or a large firm; I've had to employ that skill on both sides of that spectrum. And so, it starts there. 

The other key skill is taking that strategy and then translating it into an operational plan and executing it. Obviously, an operational plan for a Fortune 200 company is a lot more complex; there are a lot more people that you have to work with and influence and deal with, lots of different functional capabilities you have to build out.

But even at a small startup, it’s important to make sure that you have a product/market fit (which is some of the things we focused on early in the Glide story), and then identify the right set of initial customers to take it out to, customers who will be your partners in helping to develop the product and fine-tune it as well.

Having that muscle to go from developing a very well-articulated strategy to operationalizing that strategy are capabilities that you need right now. 

Josh Clarke: Kaushik, can you tell me more about your approach to building teams? How do you strike the right balance between industry expertise and functional best athletes, for example, and how do you lead and build diverse teams inclusively?

Kaushik Bhaumik: Well, I'd like to take the second part of that question first. I go out of my way to design a diverse team from the outset, recognizing that diversity is a positive influence and force in terms of building any strong organization. 

So, I think about going back to that strategy point I was raising earlier: what are the organizational capabilities and individuals that we will need to affect this strategy? Whether that's on the sales side, on the product side, or on the operational performance side of things. I try to identify the attributes of an individual or individuals that I'll need to help affect that strategy.

I start with that, the attributes, and then I go about trying to find the right kind of people against those attributes. Now, it's obviously never a perfect fit. There's always some give and take in terms of prioritizing certain capabilities and experiences that people bring against what I'm looking for. But what I endeavor to get to is a model where I have the full complement of attributes that I need to successfully execute and to effectively deliver against the strategy on the team. I also recognize that people have different ambitions, depending on what stage of life and so forth that they're in, and try to make sure that their ambitions are aligned with what I'm trying to achieve in the organization.

So, if I'm in an earlier stage, building out a product, then I want to find those individuals who are out to change the world with a product, that have strong ambitions to do so. Whereas if I have a more mature offering, my emphasis will be more around sales and marketing capability, account management, and client relationship capabilities, which I think are probably more needed when I have that established offering but I'm trying to expand my market breadth and depth, if you will. 

So, I try to modulate across those different capabilities and build the right mix of team that brings those experiences and ambitions for that point in time. 

Josh Clarke: To follow up on that, Kaushik, have you found in your experience that there are certain functional areas where healthcare domain experience is more valuable rather than less valuable?

Kaushik Bhaumik: Absolutely. Healthcare is a domain-driven industry: you need to understand the intricacies of how the dynamics of the business work, in terms of the payer and provider relationship, and the technologies in particular. If you want to play in the electronic health record space or the payer back-office space, you need to understand what's involved with those technologies, why those technologies are architected the way they are, and where that technology is potentially going.

All of that is centered around understanding the industry, how care is delivered, how care is paid for, and how patient outcomes are improved. That does require depth, and so I would urge anybody who's considering a career in this to take the time to learn about health care. 

Learn about it from one of those anchor points I was talking about earlier, where you could understand the dynamics of payers and providers and care organizations and the patient, ultimately. What are patients? How are their needs evolving? People with complex care needs versus simpler care needs have vast differences in requirements. 

The other aspect of this, Josh, is the role of the government. The government does play a very strong role in terms of how care is organized and delivered. The standards around care and the standards around health technology are often set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and other government entities as well.

So, it’s a very complex ecosystem that requires, I think, quite a few years to feel like you’ve really got a grasp on it and to understand how it all comes together and helps improve the lives of patients. 

Josh Clarke: Picking up on that comment about the complexity of the healthcare ecosystem, I'm curious—I'm interested in hearing your thoughts about collaboration within healthcare and health tech specifically.

In what ways do you see partnership between tech companies, healthcare payers, providers, and researchers driving innovation? 

Kaushik Bhaumik: It is absolutely essential. Collaboration is at the core of the success of the health industry, because it's just too big for any one entity to tackle all by themselves. 

So, if you're out to solve a particular problem in the health industry—let's say it's a certain infrastructure, disease area, or therapy area—and you want to apply new innovation, whether that's innovation that's coming from the drug side or the medical equipment side or even just from the application of information technology, you will need to draw upon collaborations across all kinds of participants to help deliver those capabilities.

You can look at what's happening now, for instance, with interoperability. That's one of the major trends in terms of the ability for patients to be able to move their health data from one healthcare organization to another, to exchange data, so that there's a lot more efficiency.  These are things we're all used to, perhaps from our retail or our banking experiences, but we don't have that same facility right now in healthcare. 

You're seeing a lot of forces and a lot of entities collaborating with one another to make sure that your consumer device (whether it's an iPhone, where you may want to keep some of your health information) can connect to your electronic health record, which might be stored in an Epic or a Cerner back-end, and to the actual health provider itself that you're working with. Multiple parties will need to be involved to help facilitate that information to flow from one to another.

So, you've seen a lot of strong collaboration come together over the past few years—not only in terms of standards, where the government plays a strong role—but in the actual realization of that information flow and making it usable by the patients.

I think that's just going to increase, because the healthcare industry has a lot of silos of information and technology. That's just been the way it has developed over the past many decades. But I think moving forward, those silos need to come down, and the only way it does so effectively is for the different participants to share information, share know how, share the ability to exchange patient information (obviously all done within HIPAA constraints, with the patient in control of what's going on). That's really going to ultimately improve the experience and outcomes for patients. 

Josh Clarke: Kaushik, just one final question as we begin to bring this conversation to a close.

I would love to hear your perspective on the future of health tech. What do you think are the most exciting possibilities on the horizon, as well as the most significant hurdles for the sector? How do you envision these advancements and challenges shaping the healthcare landscape? 

Kaushik Bhaumik: Sure. I will start with the challenges. I think the single biggest challenge is the increasing cost of healthcare and bringing that down in some way, shape, or fashion. I recently read an article about how the health insurers are planning, you know, 6-10% premium increases for next year.<

That is now becoming a very, very big bite for employer-sponsored health plans and so forth. So, the economics of health care are becoming a significant part of the individual that is out there. I think that challenge and trying to control that challenge and bending that cost-of-care curve downwards so that we're getting lower costs but with better outcomes, is, I think, where health technology can play a very central role.

I think one of the best things that has evolved over the past couple of years was telemedicine. People are recognizing that there are a lot of healthcare interactions that they don't need to go into the doctor's office for, that they could do over the phone or in a web chat and so forth. That has really, I think, improved access to care and the costs associated, and that needs to evolve. 

So, I think telemedicine will evolve to be able to address more and more health conditions at home, starting with the ability to do basic monitoring of your health conditions like blood pressure and EKG and those types of things.

The more diagnostics that can be done at home, the more that offloads the requirement to do those at the doctor's office. So, when you get into the doctor's office, they have all the information and can jump right into diagnosis and treatment plans. That could help bring things down. 

And one of the third major levers is the cost of drugs. We're starting to see a lot of innovation there with, for instance, Mark Cuban's company, The Cost Plus, trying to go after those big spend areas around the leading drugs. Introducing more competition around that will help bring that down. A lot of the emphasis over the next 5 to 10 years will be how to bring costs down to a more affordable zone for everybody and how to improve outcomes. 

I think that improving outcomes will also come through advances in technology, being able to track and monitor your health care. More and more people are showing a desire to monitor their health care more frequently, which is great. Understanding their day-to-day habits, in terms of exercise, what they eat, and so forth, has an impact on their health.

The more we provide tools and capabilities for individuals to be able to track their health and monitor their health, the more we could reduce those visits to the doctor and reduce those visits to the ER. And so, I think that's where technology can play an increasing role as well. 

So, addressing the cost of care, finding easier and cheaper venues for healthcare to be delivered at home, and then allowing patients to track their health outcomes and understand what goes into those outcomes—will be great sources of innovation over the next few years. 

Josh Clarke: Kaushik, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today.

Kaushik Bhaumik: I was happy to do so, Josh. Thank you. 

Thanks for listening to The Heidrick & Struggles Leadership Podcast. To make sure you don’t miss more future-shaping ideas and conversations, please subscribe to our channel on the podcast app. And if you’re listening via LinkedIn, Twitter, or YouTube, why not share this with your connections? Until next time. 

About the interviewer

Joshua Clarke ( is a partner in Heidrick & Struggles’ Boston office and a member of the global Technology Practice.

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