Tag Archives: drisabellewidmer

The future of healthcare, digitalisation and health equity

Sunny beautiful May, plants on my balcony are blossoming. It is almost summer. Almost a month ago, I went to the first BOOM summit, run by DayOne in Basel, and MC’d by the fabulously impressive DayOne Director of Innovation: Caoimhe Vallely-Gilroy.  The topic of the event? Igniting the Health-tech revolution. There were many fascinating presentations, however, a few things stayed top of mind which I wanted to share with you. A testimony to the fact that great things stay in our minds, even months after we hear them. 

Today’s Topics:

  • BOOM Summit takeaway 1: GenAI and sustainability
  • BOOM Summit takeaway 2: How to bridge gaps and build futures
  • BOOM Summit takeaway 3: Health equity and digital transformation in the WHO EU region
  • Leadership: The traits of an inspiring leader

BOOM Summit Takeaway 1: GenAI and sustainability

The BOOM summit had some stellar presenters, brilliant presentations, deep subject matter expertise and competent, engaging delivery. There was so much content that it is impossible to share it all here, but there are certain topics that were raised, that I think of every day.

The first topic was water and energy consumption of Generative AI.

Samantha Gordine, Sustainability Solutions Lead, Arcondis, Switzerland shared that

  • ChatGPT uses 0.5 litres for every 20-30 questions it processes and that by 2027 AI’s water demand could be 50% of the UK’s national demand
  • GenAI uses 4-5x more energy than a conventional web search and that within years, large AI systems are likely to need as much energy as entire nations.

I think about this every time I use GenAI, or read about companies adopting GenAI across the globe, and I wonder.

A nature article posted on Feb 20th, 2024, addresses this topic in more depth “Generative AI’s environmental costs are soaring – and mostly secret (Link)

Key takeaway: My personal take-away is to ask myself when I need GenAI and when a regular search will do.

BOOM Summit Takeaway 2: How to bridge gaps and build futures

In the session: Bridging gaps, building futures: The intersection of Health Tech,
Gender, Medicine, and Additive Manufacturing Naomi Nathan, Head of Medical, Mobility, Medical goes Additive e.V., Germany shared her thoughts.

What stayed with me from her talk was the exhortation to the audience to do the following:

  • Break silos: bring together experts from diverse fields, healthcare, technology, engineering and beyond to cross-pollinate and tackle challenges from different angles.
  • Co-Creation: patients, clinicians, researchers, industry partners should co-create new health tech products.
  • Share knowledge: create collaborative ecosystems and avoid reinventing the wheel
  • Scalable solutions: interdisciplinary teams enable the development of solutions that can be deployed across diverse healthcare settings and communities.

I readily admit that in my case Naomi was preaching to the choir and my enthusiasm for her suggestions stems from my not only wholeheartedly agreeing with everything she said, but my also having said the same things over the years, repeatedly. My first panel discussion on digital islands was a case in point, both panelists have a broad background, they code, they are data scientists, they understand data, data science and systems but they also understand business from fintech, to NGO, to pharma, to CRO, national intelligence and beyond. It is easier than ever to bring thinkers together, all it needs is the willingness to explore different ways of thinking and working and to take nothing for granted.

Hopefully, these ideas are now becoming mainstream.

Key take-away: Accelerate towards success by integrating ideas across industries, countries and cultures and making something new.

BOOM Summit Takeaway 3: Health equity and digital transformation in the WHO EU region

Clayton Hamilton representing the DATA, Digital Health and Evidence WHO Regional office for Europe spoke about health equity and provided the following definition of health inequities: health inequities are differences in health status or in the distribution of health resources between different population groups, arising from the social conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.

He asked the following questions:

  1. What impact is digitalisation having on health equity?
  2. Why does this matter?
  3. What can we do to shape the future of digital healthcare that is available, accessible, and affordable for all – and make sure that we do not lose the humanity in medicine?

From a patient perspective it is easy to understand that a lack of digital literacy and digital access impacts health outcomes. In addition, underserved and marginalised populations, could benefit hugely from access to digital health tools.

An aspect I did not consider is that if underserved population data is not captured, any AI solutions that are built using the data that is captured, once again, only represents a subsegment of the population further impacting how underserved populations healthcare needs are managed.

While we focus on patients, thinking of the charity I volunteer for, there are also clinical officers around the world serving patients, these clinical officers also do not have the same access to internet and digital health information as their peers. Who has access to data, when and to what quality and volume, is relevant not only for patients but also for physicians.

About ten years ago I was doing some work to design a training course on market access, and I remember looking up a McKinsey or PWC report on smart-phone use worldwide amongst HCPs – the topic was – when and how do doctors consume information. At around the same time pharma companies were providing physicians in South America with access to international scientific publications because of the cost of these publications making them less accessible to physicians in certain populations.

We are so used to having access to everything online all the time that it is easy to forget that this is not a global reality.

There was so much more content that Clayton shared, and I cannot go into it here, however, he shared a link to a WHO Online introductory course on Ethics and governance for AI for health, you can find the link here.

Key take-away: If we don’t address digital health inequity, health inequities and social disparities will grow.

Leadership: The traits of an inspiring leader

Leadership,  is as much, if not more about managing yourself, than it is about leading others.

In a nutshell, if you can manage yourself—your emotions, your engagement, your energy levels—and if you know what you can and cannot do, bringing in others with complementary skill sets without begrudging them their abilities, then you are already in a great position.

If you can work with others who possess diverse skills, delegate effectively, temper any need to micromanage, can offer praise but also provide candid, fair, and constructive feedback, and communicate honestly about what you can change and what you cannot, your position is further strengthened.

Finally,  you need to be able to make difficult decisions, avoid blaming others when things go wrong, take accountability, and be honest and human to the point of recognising and accepting you have strengths and weaknesses. Know that it is easier, and I believe more sensible, to build on a strength than it is to fix a weakness. Whatever the topic of your end of the year review.

The traits described above, I believe, are those of potentially great leaders, who can inspire loyalty in others and the desire in them to follow you.

Naturally, you also need to be able to communicate effectively, set goals, have a meaningful vision, and manage all the business aspects.

Key take-away: learn from others but know you are a unique leadership instrument, and you need to find out who you are as a leader, of one, or of many, yourself.

I hope my post provides you with useful insights. If  you need support with a project, or are interested in coaching, why not give me a call to see how I can help. Find out what clients say about working with me here link.

My very best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Image credit: Jason Dent @Unsplash

Navigating the regulatory jungle – don’t advertise magic remedies

I have a busy week behind me with participation in the Boom Summit in Basel, which was great, and a busy work week coming up. Beyond work spring has sprung, the weather is beautiful and I have new strawberry plants on my balcony. I have also  soaked chilhuacle nero  chili seeds in tea, and a batch in water in order to compare performance,  before putting them onto a heating pad to germinate. 

  • BOOM Summit: Improving healthcare access and technology
  • Bad workman, bad tools or neither? Me, my bike and I 
  • Navigating the regulatory jungle – don’t advertise magic remedies
  • Leadership: Lessons from a consultant

BOOM Summit: Improving healthcare access and technology

Imagine you have no health insurance; no internet access and you cannot afford the bus fare to get to your nearest physician. Perhaps you are one of the 2.9 billion people, 37% of the world’s population, that has never used the internet (Source: United Nations Website, 2021).

How would technology help you? When I prepared for the panel discussion on improving health care accessibility through technology, that I took part in at Boom Summit last week, it became clear to me that I want to share my passion for technology and equitable access to healthcare, while remembering that 50% of the world’s population does not have access to the healthcare they need (Source) and that, depending on location, needs are dramatically different.  I realised I wanted to focus on healthcare access/intervention and context first, and modality, e.g. technology, second. Tech is fantastic, but it is not always the answer. Below my recommendations for how to approach improving healthcare access with and without technology.  

  1. Patients: Engage patients, involve patients. listen to all patients and don’t forget that patients are also doctors and nurses, physiotherapists, and computer programmers, molecular biologists, and lawyers. They know their disease, they know the science, they have programmed solutions where the industry has not provided what was needed.
  2. Identify the problem: the presenting problem is often, in fact, almost never in my experience as a consultant, the main problem you need to solve. Ensure you have understood the issue, and you understand the context, key stakeholders, and patient needs. Reality check this. A great example of what happens when you don’t understand the problem can be found in Ernesto Sirolli’s Ted talk: want to help someone, shut up and listen
  3. Identify the ideal solution in the context you are in:  For example, to provide stigma free access to mental health support, a psychiatrist rolled out friendship benches in Zimbabwe. Benches are placed in parks, they are staffed by community elders, who listen to and potentially triage individuals needing mental health support to practicing clinicians, thus lowering the barrier to ask for help, while implementing a cost-effective solution.
  4. Fast-track your approach: learn from other industries and others in your field. 
  5. Smart solutions can have a huge impact even if they don’t seem exciting:  Game changers that can save money and ideally support systems to reallocate funds where they are most needed, include: implementing better processes in managing the patient’s journey and health records and ensuring all treating physicians have access to the data. Allocating physicians to cases based on expertise and adapting on a case by case basis as a day in the clinic evolves. And AI supported diagnostic solutions.
  6. In many indications in the mental health arena the need is great: aging populations including patients in mental decline, and those who are confused and disoriented, will at some point overwhelm the available resources in healthcare systems in the Western world. I remember a patient I met while I was a medical student. He had dementia and he spent his day restrained in his chair. He seemed lonely. I drew a board game and got some buttons. I tried to engage him.  This was many years ago, but this man’s situation, and the situation of many others like him around the world,  still make me feel sad. Tech solutions like Paro the therapeutic seal, view a video: here.  can help patients feel more connected and less afraid. Another success story is the app Stigma, which “aims to foster a supportive community while breaking down societal stigmas associated with mental health”

My fellow panellists also shared many ideas including the following: 

Ventsislav Dobrev recommended you start small and develop your solution in increments, Brian Li Han Wong, stressed the importance of implementing solutions that match the environment you are operating in, sharing a story about failed healthcare initiatives when high-tech solutions were implemented in an environment unable to maintain them, and Sara Schmachtenberg spoke about the problem with too many apps which makes managing health difficult for multimorbid patients and that when tech investors are hesitant creative tech developers will stand out from the crowd. Julie Cheu led us through the panel discussion and was widely acclaimed afterwards as a fantastic moderator by audience members I spoke to. 

Key takeaway: Here, as everywhere, knowing what you are doing is critical: shiny, golden tech solutions have no legs if all they are is golden and shiny.

Bad workman, bad tools or neither? Me, my bike and I
There is an English saying: “a bad workman blames his tools.”  However, sometimes ensuring you have tailored tools for the job can be the difference between success and failure.
Last weekend, I cycled up a series of hills. The steepest incline was 16%, which, for me, is steep. In the past, I would not have had the ability or the desire to attempt it. However, last Saturday I really enjoyed the challenge and the satisfaction of cycling a difficult route.
So, what has changed? My fitness? A little, but mainly my motivation and my equipment have changed; I had my bicycle adapted to make hill cycling easier and I bought a bicycle computer that tracks where I am on an incline and collects data. When I started cycling, other cyclists often overtook me, whenever I cycled up a hill. I assumed it was because the cyclists were much better than me; I did not think to question my equipment. Then an avid cyclist looked my bicycle over and explained the issue.
Key takeawayYou may not always see key performance predictors if you are not well-versed in a subject. Properly equipping yourself and aligning with your personal motivators can improve performance more effectively than merely training harder.

Leadership: Lessons from a consultant

When I began consulting in 2013, I was tempted to manage every aspect of my business myself. It seemed manageable and sensible for someone just starting out. However, my father, who passed away recently, often told me, “Do what you are good at, delegate the rest.”

It took me a while to embrace his advice, but now I apply his wisdom in every area of my life. If someone else is better at a task, if the task is highly time-consuming and my time would be better spent elsewhere, or if I simply do not enjoy it, or the thought of doing it causes me anguish, I hire someone else to do it. The joy I get from seeing something taken care of well, and knowing I did not have to do it, is incredible.

In addition, this approach frees me up to focus on what truly matters to me: consulting, coaching, learning, participating in industry events, making new connections, engaging in charity work, cycling, hiking, spending time in nature and with my friends and family.

Key take-away: Energy is finite. Delegate where you can and focus your energies, the rewards are immense.

Reminder, Sign up for the panel discussion  on digital islands and AI on April 24th

Don’t forget to sign up for the panel discussion on digital islands I will be joined by Wolfgang Schwerdt and Peter Shone, both experienced data scientists. All information in the link below.

Sign up for the panel discussion on April 24th at 2 pm GMT, 3 pm CET, and 9 am EST: “Are you stranded on a digital island in a sea of data?”

I hope my blog provides you with useful insights. If  you need support with a project, or are interested in coaching, why not contact me to see how I can help. Find out what clients say about working with me here link.

My very best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Image credit: Michelle Bridenbaker

Medical Information delivery – navigating legislation and language

You may remember that I play lacrosse, not well, but with enthusiasm. Last weekend was  a game weekend, the teams played sixes. The teams have thirty seconds to score, then the ball changes hands

It’s fun, it is fast, it needs someone to manage the clock. That was me. Sadly, it was cold, it was raining, and the trackpad on the computer I was using was not registering my frantic taps, or the computer would freeze, or I would lose the window, and as it was not my computer it was tricky. The experience reminded me that even simple tasks can be daunting when you are under pressure to perform, you are not familiar with the material, or you are cold and wet, or in an unfriendly environment. Reminder: when judging substandard performance always consider the context.

Today’s topics:

  • Medical Information delivery – navigating legislation and language
  • Optimising content localisation: balancing global, regional and local requirements
  • The essentials of effective program management
  • Leadership: Diagnose then treat

Medical Information delivery – navigating legislation and language
Leading international pharmaceutical firms with a presence in nearly every market typically offer all customer services in the local language(s). However, many mid-sized or smaller companies, particularly those focused on orphan indications,  do not have the resources or global reach necessary to provide every service in every local language.
This issue is particularly pronounced in departments like Medical Information, which provide scientific responses to unsolicited queries. Here, the dual requirement for responders to be both scientifically knowledgeable and native speakers significantly compounds the challenge
While it is reasonable to anticipate that information provided to customers is provided in local language, this expectation is not widely found in legislation, perhaps because national legislators historically took this for granted.  This absence challenges companies to identify bespoke solutions for each market that are compliant, financially viable and pragmatic, while also meeting customer needs.
Solutions to the challenge should consider the business significance of each market, now and in the future and factor in a company’s product portfolio, pipeline, upcoming launches and anticipated market presence and resources.
In markets with lower inquiry volumes where scientifically trained native speakers are unavailable for direct customer interactions translation services often bridge the gap. Translators can be utilized to assist on calls, provided stringent quality checks are in place, or queries can be addressed in writing in the local language.
Key take-away: A market specific, strategic approach to providing scientific information on medicines to customers in line with codes of conduct and national legislation, as well as business considerations, is important.  Language is just one factor.

Optimising content localisation: balancing global, regional, and local requirements
“We never use the global materials, because they don’t work in our market” I have heard this many times. The amount of energy expended in generating materials that are not used in local markets is immense. Content is generated, slide kits are shared, yet often, either due to perception or reality, the materials generated by global teams fail to hit the mark.
Sometimes this is because global teams operate in a silo, sometimes it is because the needs of smaller markets are not taken into consideration, sometimes it is because speed is in focus and materials are produced in isolation, and sometimes processes describing the adaptation of global materials for use in local markets are not outlined and systems to manage these documents are not implemented.
Despite the difficulties in achieving harmonised content, the rationale for centralised generation of content is easy to understand. When it works, there is an increase in efficiency, in effectiveness, a reduction of effort expended in markets, and no reinventing the wheel. With the exception of necessary content adaptations for example to ensure adherence to local legislation and the local label, or in some cases translations of content, local teams can focus on market engagement, instead of on content creation. As customer engagement is led by local teams, and engagement preference varies across markets, the format of content provided by global teams should be flexible to accommodate different audiences, stakeholders, and modalities.

The rationale for a harmonised look and feel across company materials also makes sense as many physicians interact with multiple product teams from the same pharmaceutical firm. Furthermore, especially for companies that are active globally the provision of disparate information from market to market looks unprofessional.
While teams often lament the loss of individuality when faced with centralised content generation in reality written content only represents a small part of a relatioship between a pharmaceutical company employee and the stakedholders she engages. ^While “the science is the science” personal engagement, scientific conversations, and relationship management, is provided by individuals hence customers benefit from the best of both worlds a personal touch, individual conversations focused on science and harmonised scientific materials.

Key take-aways: An optimised approach to content benefits all stakeholders, by freeing resource to provide value where it makes a difference

The essentials of effective programme management

Programme management is the coordinated management of multiple projects to achieve the desired outcomes. As the programme lead, you are the conductor of an orchestra. Using this analogy, ensure that everyone in your orchestra knows what instrument they are playing and when. Each section of your orchestra has a leader, for example, the first violin, with responsibility for that section. These are your project managers and sometimes working group leads, depending. Limit the size of working groups so that they remain functional and can make recommendations. Select participants judiciously.

Ensure that everyone’s eyes are on you so that efforts are coordinated. The orchestra is the operational part of your programme. Beyond the operational teams, you also need strategic leadership. The manager of your orchestra, who manages the business aspects of your programme, where you will play next, etc. The strategic team manages the big picture.

In pharma, this means having a steering committee of senior leaders. This is a small team that does not get involved in operational aspects; they are your sounding board, manage other senior stakeholders in the organisation and are accountable for final decisions and the overall direction. While programme management is simple, in theory, often projects gain momentum and complexity, as aspects that were initially forgotten are added in later.

Key takeaway: Effective programme management depends on clear roles, coordination, and strategic oversight to ensure the desired outcomes can be met.

Leadership: Diagnose then treat

 “How many of you in here are CEO’s?” the presenter asked. The video panned to the cowed looking audience, some of whom raised their hands, the presenter said, “you have to be willing to fire your best person, if they are making others unhappy”.

This video is being widely shared and liked on social media.

A word of caution, in my experience, in a dysfunctional team, firing one person, doesn’t solve the underlying problem. It looks easy, but it may not be the right thing to do.

What struck me, more than the presenter’s words, however, was that he was so forceful, that I felt physically uncomfortable just watching a recording of him in my office.

This made me wonder, what if the team leader, or the CEO, is the person everyone is afraid of?  How would you know? Who would tell you? Would you care, and how would you act?

Key take-aways: A leader is also part of a team and influences the team dynamic. Always diagnose then treat.

Reminder, Sign up for the panel discussion  on digital islands and AI on April 24th

Don’t forget to sign up for the panel discussion on digital islands I will be joined by Wolfgang Schwerdt and Peter Shone, both experienced data scientists. All information in the link below.

Sign up for the panel discussion on April 24th at 2 pm GMT, 3 pm CET, and 9 am EST: “Are you stranded on a digital island in a sea of data?”

I hope my blog provides you with useful insights. If  you need support with a project, or are interested in coaching, why not give me a call to see how I can help. Find out what clients say about working with me here link.

My very best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Image credit: Isabelle C. Widmer Russia 2006

Data dynamics in medical affairs and sign-up for the panel discussion on digital islands!

The world is a riot of colour, cherry blossoms, crocus, bluebells and daffodils, green shoots, blue skies, and  more hours of sunlight every day. There is a lot of promise in the air. Spring is here, greeted every year with a sense of joy and wonder.

Another event that occurs annually is in preparation: The DIA Medical Information conference, which this year will be held in September in London. Remember, the meeting stays relevant and interesting thanks to your participation. If you have an idea for a submission, please don’t hold back. If you need a pep talk, reach out!

And now some news, something that has not been here before: I will be running and hosting my very first panel discussion with my company. I have done many of these but none without the support of conference staff. Please find the link below!

Today’s blog topics:

  • Medical affairs: unlocking insights and exploring data dynamics 
  • Medical affairs: the benefits of collaboration
  • NEWS: Upcoming panel discussion on digital islands and AI
  • Leadership: Remember to lead with compassion

Medical affairs: unlocking insights and exploring data dynamics 

In 2019, I conducted a survey on the interconnectedness of all things, systems, knowledge, and people in medical affairs. I asked individuals how they manage data, communicate across geographies, and ensure that different teams in the medical affairs sphere, think medical managers, medical directors, medical science liaisons, medical information and beyond, are aware of key information about products, key clients, and services. The survey was global and shared with biotech, pharma, and device manufacturers. Eighty-five respondents shared their knowledge.
I asked questions about collaboration across teams and geographies. I inquired about processes, systems, and platforms, as well as whether regular meetings to share data are held and  all processes are described in SOPs and WIS. While almost 50% of respondents reported having meetings to share information across functions, these meetings were mostly on a case-by-case basis, and the approach to information sharing was not described in SOPs and WIS.
When asked to identify the biggest challenge to collaboration and data-sharing across teams, respondents selected the following (multiple responses were possible):

  • Lack of knowledge about potential data sharing areas (85% of respondents)
  • Lack of shared processes (90% of respondents)
  • Lack of common platforms (80% of respondents)

While AI is often discussed for analysing data within systems, it’s crucial to acknowledge that without proper processes in place to identify and manage data, capitalising on its potential becomes challenging. Furthermore, the absence of common platforms poses a technical obstacle, compounded by variations in taxonomies and ontologies.
In conclusion, many hours are lost in generating new information or reinventing the wheel. With constant reorganisations in the pharmaceutical industry, managing this situation is more important than ever across the board, teams, and geographies.
If this topic is of interest to you, stay tuned for a follow-up survey. I am curious to see how the field has evolved.
Also, consider signing up for my upcoming panel discussion on digital islands here.
Key take-away:
 You don’t know what you don’t know.

Medical affairs: the benefits of collaboration

In the survey mentioned above, beyond asking team leads how they collaborate, what they collaborate on and what processes are in place, I asked them to outline how collaborating across teams, e.g., Medical Directors/Medical Managers, Medical Information, and Medical Science Liaisons, had improved how they work. The precise question was: “What have been the benefits since you started collaborating with other teams?” The answers included: faster identification of issues/opportunities in the markets (65% of respondents), harmonised medical affairs strategy at a local level (63% of respondents), insights from other markets to help us anticipate market needs (58% of respondents), and also, especially relevant in these times of constrained resources, sharing resources has freed up capacity to do other work (41% of respondents).

One respondent said: “From a global perspective, the benefits are better alignment, more efficiency, more room for innovation,” and another stated, “Collaboration helps us anticipate our customers’ information needs.” It is easy to imagine the downstream benefits of these outcomes of better collaboration, for example, better resource management, better customer satisfaction as customers’ needs are anticipated, and enhanced in-field effectiveness, all of which have a positive impact on the business.

Key take-away: cross-team collaboration can add huge value in medical affair through  efficient resource utilisation, reduction of reduplication of efforts and the ability to address topics as they arise ultimately leading to better business outcomes. 

NEWS: Upcoming panel discussion discussion on digital islands and AI

So how about managing data on Jersey then?” a lawyer in the financial sector asked me at a panel discussion I hosted on digital islands last year. Jersey is an island located in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy. I suspect he was disappointed to discover that the islands we focused on were entirely virtual.

I am delighted to share today that I am finally hosting my first virtual panel discussion on digital islands, also virtual, with my company elytra – very real!

I have been speaking at conferences for years, and managed many panel discussions, in this context, but I have always had a hankering to host my own. Now, finally, thanks to Krystal Ellison, who supported me in all things technical, my first panel discussion is here!

I will be joined by Wolfgang Schwerdt and Peter Shone, both experienced data scientists and sailors, so perfectly placed for the subject matter.

Sign up for the panel discussion on April 24th at 2 pm GMT, 3 pm CET, and 9 am EST: Are you stranded on a digital island in a sea of data?”

Come prepared to have all your questions answered.

Key takeaways: My first panel discussion is upcoming, it would be fantastic to see you there.

Leadership: Remember to lead with compassion

During the pandemic, there were many discussions regarding how teams can function without face-to-face interactions and in a state of fear and lock-down. A friend said “I tell my team that not being ok, is ok”.

There were discussions about self- care, how to achieve balance and rituals people put in place to work remotely. The truth of the matter is that many teams work remotely, pandemic or not. However, now the world is back to normal, I anticipate that some of the great ideas people had about managing pressure, or insights about remote working have been lost and forgotten amidst daily work and busy lives.

During the pandemic I put this question to Medical Affairs Leaders  “What has this extreme experience taught you that you are grateful for? How will this knowledge serve you in the future as a leader, or in your personal life?

The five responses I share below are as relevant for today’s world as they were in 2020. regardless of how you are currently engaging with your teams:

  • “Support, empathy and understanding are essential as a manager and be real”
  • “Personal and professional life are intertwined. Each person will react differently as these pieces alter”
  • “To get the best out of people individual circumstances and personalities must be taken account of” 
  • “As someone who would have been a big proponent of a WFH model, I now understand the benefits of working together. I can now also see the importance of trusting your team and giving them flexibility as appropriate to work around their lives”
  • “Some of us may have placed work/company as our driving priority in life. This experience reinforces that professionalism is vital to career success, but relationships outside workplace provide a critical source of connection”

Key take-away: Communication, empathy and trust are crucial when leading teams, regardless of the set-up.  Beyond this, understanding your needs,  striving for balance and self-care are also essential for you to be a strong leader. 

I hope my post provides you with useful insights. If  you need support with a project, or are interested in coaching, why not give me a call to see how I can help. Find out what clients say about working with me here link.

My very best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

AI see you

The leaves are turning yellow, the temperatures are cooler now, and my favourite season, fall, has finally arrived.

I have come across some interesting AI use cases that I wanted to share with you.

Today’s topics:

-AI see you
-AI generated images and copyright
-Business: AI generated content and human preference
-Leadership: Why you cannot divide and conquer in pharma

AI see you

You must leave your shopping trolley in the centre aisle” the security guard said as I entered the pharmacy. When I asked why he said “It’s to help prevent theft. People used to steal items by walking out with unpaid items in their trolleys. When we stopped them they expressed surprise and said the items must have fallen into the trolley as they brushed past them while walking past the shelf”.  

We have a new system in place now though” he said, pulling out his phone and indicating the cameras on the ceiling. He continued “the camera feed is monitored by AI, when there is suspicious activity, I receive a video clip”.  He pulled up some clips to demonstrate. In one a man took a product out of its packaging and slipped it into his pocket leaving the empty box on the shelf.  In another a couple leaving the pharmacy with purchased items exchanged the package contents with more expensive products they had placed close to the exit.

He said, “the system is good, but it is also learning all the time, I validate every clip I get to identify false positives, for example when someone puts their phone in their bag”, adding “of course I can’t personally stop everyone, but as the camera feeds from the shop, the mall and the parking lot are integrated, we can track people to their cars and get their number plates, at that point we involve the police and they take it from there”.

Key takeaways: 1) Everyone you meet can teach you something if you listen 2) The lower the margins the faster AI is adopted 3) Have a good business case for AI adoption and you will likely get funding.  

AI generated images and copyright

Needing an image to illustrate a post I thought I would try text to image system Dall E3. I had a clear image in my mind and after providing many prompts and failing to get the quality I was hoping for I finally resorted to adding “generate an image in the style of Magritte and Dali”. Many images were provided, but they either fell short of my expectations, or looked like collages made using other people’s work which had me worried about copyright infringements.

When using ChatGPT I ask for source documents, which I check to validate content veracity and origin. This isn’t possible with text to image systems which are typically trained using millions of images that may or may not be in the public domain. While trying to identify the training data set for Dall-E I couldn’t find the desired information on the providers website, but I did find some text telling me that any images I generate are mine to use as I wish.

However,  in 2023 several companies using AI to generate art have been sued for copyright infringement, in one case by visual artists in another by Getty images for using images to train AI models without permission or compensation (Ref 1, 2). And while I am not sure what this means for the end user I prefer to use content that I know I can reuse without any issues at all.

Further interesting reading can be found at the Verge – the scary truth about AI copyright is nobody knows what will happen next (3).  

Key takeaways: The field is moving quickly, whenever you use online generative AI tools with a view to sharing the content, consider carefully, and check multiple sources for guidance on use. Also for business use get guidance from your legal team and other internal experts. 

Reference articles:

1) Lawsuits accuse AI content creators of misusing copyrighted work, Blake Brittain, 17 Jan 2023 Reuters  2) Getty Image, 2023s AI art generator Stable Diffusion in the US for copyright infringement; James Vincent, 6 Feb 2023, the Verge  3)The scary truth about AI copyright is nobody knows what will happen next 15 Nov 2022; James Vincent, the Verge 

Business: AI generated content and human preference

There is widespread excitement about the potential to improve business efficiencies by using generative AI for example when writing scientific responses for customers. However, whenever optimisation is looked at it is important to take the human element into account.  

A recent article by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) did just that, exploring people’s perceptions, and bias, toward generative AI in the article “Human Favoritism, Not AI Aversion: People’s Perceptions (and Bias) Toward Generative AI, Human Experts, and Human-GAI Collaboration in Persuasive Content Generation” by Yunhao Zhang, Renee Gosline, published in 2023 (link). An article on the MIT website by Dylan Walsh posted in October 2023 outlines the key points (link), I have put together a short summary for your convenience below: 

The authors Zhang and Gosline performed the study with the goal of identifying how people perceive content depending on whether it was generated by AI, humans or a combination of both, eliminating bias in some of the assessors by blinding them to how the content they were evaluating had been created. 

The content was generated in one of four ways

1) Professional human authors only
2) GPT-4 generated ideas shaped into final content by professional human authors
3) Human generated initial content completed by GPT-4  
4) GPT-4 only generated content.

The content was assessed by three groups: Group 1 was unaware of different content generation approaches; Group 2 was told about the four different approaches and the Group 3 knew which  approach was responsible for the content they reviewed. 

When reviewers didn’t know how content had been generated they preferred AI generated content. However, assessments of content improved when reviewers were told that a human had been involved in its generation, showing what the study authors called “human favoritism”, however, knowing a text had been generated by AI only did not diminish reviewer’s initial assessments.  

From Dylan Walsh’s article: “The most direct implication is that consumers really don’t mind content that’s produced by AI. They’re generally OK with it,” Zhang said. “At the same time, there’s great benefit in knowing that humans are involved somewhere along the line — that their fingerprint is present. Companies shouldn’t be looking to fully automate people out of the process.”

Key takeaway: Generative AI is set to revolutionise content generation. Consider how you can balance process improvements with customer preference in your specific area as well as how to assess customer satisfaction objectively. 

Leadership: Why you cannot divide and conquer when engaging with customers in pharma

A while back I was caught in the rain as I biked to the recycling plant. Stopping at a tram shelter I passed the time by separating my disintegrated paper bag from my recycling bottles and throwing the bits of paper into the trash. A tram came to a stop, and far ahead, the driver got out of his cabin. He walked up to me and handing me a large plastic bag said, “it looks like this might come in handy”.

I was touched by that simple act of human kindness from an employee of the tram company.

In many professions I have worked in there has been an us versus them mentality. The belief that one team has the customers best interests at heart, while another team does not.  For example, when I was a physician, the nurses said “we truly care for patients, whereas you doctors just come and go”.

In pharma, medical affairs teams may feel commercial just cares about numbers, while commercial team members have been know to think that medical affairs colleagues slow them down and lack creativity and customer centricity.

While an employee’s specific department is significant to them, most customers are primarily concerned with resolving their issues. A patient who departs the hospital in good health typically appreciates all the staff they’ve encountered. Similarly, a healthcare professional’s perception of a pharmaceutical company is shaped by her interactions with its employees, regardless of whether they work in sales, medical, or clinical development.

Case in point, I feel positively disposed towards the entire tram company because of a single positive interaction with an employee that made a huge difference for me.

So, while I have seen leaders build strong teams using an “us versus them” dynamic, I think instead of fighting for the “customers’ favour” it makes more sense to identify customer needs and then to work together across functions to meet those needs. 

Key takeaway: Customers perceive a company as a whole and company employees as company brand ambassadors, regardless of the individual employee’s function. 

Thank you for reading, I enjoy sharing my thoughts and I love hearing what piqued your interest or any feedback. If you are currently working on a project in the fields of medical, digital, systems, analytics, channels, or facing any team or personal challenges, feel free to reach out to me for a chat. I am always happy to explore how I might be able to support you.

Best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer MD

Image credit: Alex Knight @unsplash