A shift in focus: from recovery to prevention


Who are the people behind Accenture? What drives Marissa Jaggan and inspires her on a daily basis? How has Shruti Pathania's life, career, ambitions and dreams developed over the years? What difficult choices has Javier Leonor made in his life? Through a series of portraits, we answer these questions and introduce you to our people: those who make Accenture the thriving company that it is.

Introducing William de Waard, Managing Director of Life Sciences at Accenture.

William de Waard hopes to be a driving force for change in this industry. ‘As a father of three young kids, I have to think about their future health. Knowing I can have an impact in this area is important to me.’

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Few industries are as dynamic and rapidly evolving as the Life Sciences field. Encompassing healthcare organizations, medical technology companies and science institutes, this is an industry that, more than most others, is set to have a huge, lasting impact on our future. Find out what William loves about the Life Sciences industry.

‘My middle son, Carsten, was born three months prematurely. So, naturally, we as parents had to deal with a lot of medical misery. I understand that human errors are a fact of life, but, I must admit, I was taken aback by the fact that we didn’t always get the right information at the right time. I was also surprised that we had to tell the same story about our son over and over again to different healthcare providers. Luckily our boy, Carsten, came through just fine and grew up to be healthy and strong.’

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‘Sadly, though, we had to go through a similar ordeal when he was diagnosed with epilepsy a few years ago. I know that reading stuff on the Internet often does more harm than good, but I did some online research and I found not one positive review about the drug he had been prescribed. After having to deal with an aggressive, unhappy child for some time, we went back to the doctor, who then prescribed different pills. It made a world of difference. I won’t lie, though, I still cannot get my head around the idea that the most commonly used anti-epileptic drugs possibly aren’t the most effective. How much better would it be if we had access to personalized medication that could be tailored to patients' problems?’ 

Out with the abstract; in with the tangible 

‘My experience with Carsten definitely has a lot to do with why I didn’t hesitate to take up the opportunity to lead the new Accenture Netherlands Life Sciences Community. In September last year, I switched over from my job as managing director in the Communications, Media and Technology department to take on this new, exciting role. I had just turned 40, a milestone that, for some mysterious reason, brings up questions like “What do I want to do with the rest of my life?” and “What would I like to leave behind in this world?” As a father of three young kids, I have to think about their future health. After all, if you don’t have health, you have nothing. Hence, I realized I wanted to have an impact on this particular industry.’

"After all, if you don’t have health, you have nothing."

‘Sure, Life Sciences is a very complex industry, but it is also the one field that can really change people’s lives forever. Let’s be honest, we’ve all come across companies that do important work but have really abstract (albeit appealing) mission statements. That’s not the case with the Life Sciences industry and medical technology companies. How they utilize equipment and technology to bring about tangible improvements is nothing short of incredible.’ 

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Knowing I made the right choice – for my career and my life

‘I recently attended an event organized by one of our Life Sciences Community clients that invited doctors and patients to share their personal stories. One of the speakers was an 85-year-old man who was diagnosed with a heart condition 10 years ago and told that he needed a pacemaker. He kindly refused and instead volunteered as a “lab rat” in a trial for a new intervention – still a pacemaker, but one that's 80 percent smaller than regular devices. The researchers hoped to find that the new invention would yield even better results than a regular pacemaker without being nearly as taxing on the body. Today, the 85-year-old man is an energetic old soul who plays tennis twice a week. They found that the new pacemaker took over 70 percent of his heart function – how amazing is that?’

‘But the story that resonated with me even more was that of a 41-year-old woman and mother of three children. As a type 1 diabetes patient, her quality of life had been reduced to nearly nonexistent. When she was introduced to what’s called a “smart pump”, she got her whole life back – she was able to do everything a healthy woman her age can do. Hearing those stories, and seeing how these people’s lives had been improved by Life Sciences made me realize I had made the right choice – not just for my career but also for my life in general.’ 

A rapidly growing industry that’s already huge 

‘Because it’s an industry with so much potential, the Life Sciences field is huge. There are four underlying trends propelling it forward. Firstly, socioeconomic factors play an important role: the size of our aging population has caused healthcare costs to rise faster than our GDP, so we simply cannot afford to go on the way we have been. Secondly, there’s the trend of “health consumerization” – we’re all being more proactive about looking after ourselves and our health. We can see this in the increased use of wearable devices. Thirdly, there’s the fact that the science landscape is making new tailor-made medications and “personalized health” possible. Everything I’ve just mentioned is further supported by the development of new technologies, which can be combined and merged to create new business models and services.’

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A shift in focus: from recovery to prevention

‘What’s the one thing I would change about the industry? Well, I personally find it frustrating that the whole healthcare system focuses on recovery rather than prevention. By doing so, the industry sustains a need for itself and therefore stays intact. I firmly believe that if we change our perspective and invest the bulk of our resources in prevention, the impact we could have would be even greater than it is today. Many others want to see this change too, but only a holistic approach that involves each and every stakeholder in the ecosystem would make this sort of complex shift in society and the industry possible.' 

"I hope we at Accenture will be able to play a role in this shift in the future."

‘I consider the fact that I’m not an expert in the field one of my strengths. Because I sometimes look at things from a different angle, I bring a new perspective to the conversation, which occasionally leads to a different outcome. Together with a team of nearly 40 talented, driven industry experts, I aim to provide our clients with solutions that enable them to improve their core business and better help their customers. Be it by optimizing a supply chain so that a hospital is never without an MRI scanner, by co-creating a new wave of connected health services, or anything else, we do whatever is needed to have a truly positive impact on the lives of our clients’ customers. I love how having the support of a large organization like Accenture empowers us to make a real difference in a sustainable way.’ 

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Health & Life Sciences Community

‘Officially launching the community in November last year was a real milestone. I can’t wait to get our ambitious team fully up to speed and ready to go after our goals. We couldn’t do what we do alone, though. Our department works closely with Accenture’s Health & Public Services division. While we are two separate entities, we aim for synergy and try to cooperate whenever we can. After all, while our community works for our particular clients, the Health & Public Services department has our clients’ clients in mind. Collaborating so we can achieve the best possible outcomes for everyone is a no-brainer.’

'Where will the Life Sciences industry be in 10 years? I honestly don’t have a clue. Predicting what will happen in this field is virtually impossible, and that’s one of the reasons I find it so fascinating. Many medical technology companies are transforming from product-oriented to service-based organizations, largely featuring platform-based business models and cross-ecosystems. It’s essential that all parties involved work together to bring about necessary advancements, but getting everyone to sit at the same table is sometimes the challenging part.’

"We have an intrinsic desire to make a difference in people’s lives."

‘Luckily, bringing the right people together at the right time is part of Accenture’s DNA, which is why we function as quite an important stakeholder in this industry. Plus, we have an intrinsic desire to make a difference in people’s lives. Some things happen Olympically quick, while other things tend to take what feels like ages. Although, that could have something to do with my slightly impatient nature [smiles].’ 

Related opportunities

  • Would you be confident enough in your knowledge to advise a company to follow a full digital transformation? Maybe Consulting or Strategy could be a good fit for you.
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  • Would you want to explore the possibilities that come with new technologies or develop fantastic user experiences? Try Digital or Technology

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