Healthcare innovation now — how Roche is keeping the patients at the center

Anne Nijs, Rare Conditions Transformation Leader at Roche, talks about her motivation to bring the best minds together to transform the future of healthcare by relentlessly focusing on patient outcomes.

How can leaders show up to drive innovation in healthcare?

Being part of the pharmaceutical industry, we are all experiencing some fundamental changes. Changes where systemic dynamics are shifting and the value we bring to patient communities, healthcare professionals and systems is what matters most. This value goes beyond the discovery and development of medicines to a more holistic idea of care. Increasingly, stakeholders are asking for broader support that could help them along different parts of their journey.

To innovate in this current climate not only requires significant shifts in mindsets and ways of working but also relies on openness and collaboration with talent both inside and outside our industry.

As a forward-looking organisation, we need to think out of the box to allow for the creation of novel ideas and solutions that can positively impact people living with various diseases across the world. No single organisation can evolve healthcare on its own, and partnerships and co-creation sit at the core.

I believe that for innovation to thrive, embracing the right mindsets and behaviors is key. As leaders, we must encourage our teams to unleash their full potential by tapping into the wealth of their experiences, challenging them and letting them challenge us, and thereby creating a safe space for experimentation.

How do you inspire a culture of purpose and patient-centricity within Roche?

Sadly, people with rare conditions can spend the majority of their lives being seen as a patient, rather than a human being. As a team, we are incredibly passionate about what we do. Many of us have seen first-hand what the devastating impact of such diseases can bring. We all have a common desire to help those affected, be it through our delivery of medicines or solutions that could help them manage their lives a little easier.

Every day, I encourage my team to lean in, and really listen to the experiences of our patients and their surrounding communities and ecosystems. By truly honing on to the insights shared by them, we can design and build novel solutions for the challenges that they face every day.

We continue to push ourselves to think bigger and be better. We approach situations with curiosity and the intent to learn and evolve. By embracing experimentation, failures and sharing our experiences broadly within Roche, we have been able to kick-start incredible momentum to support this transformation and truly focus on patient-centricity and the needs of broader stakeholders in the rare conditions ecosystem. I’m incredibly proud to be part of this journey and look forward to seeing what the future will hold as we continue to bring more value to people living with rare conditions, faster.

How do partnerships help to support patients?

Being in this industry brings about opportunities for change that we would have never imagined. The ripple effect of one meeting or one phone call, can result in life-changing outcomes for patients. And not just in one place, but around the world. To meet the magnitude of these chain reactions, we focus on ideas that leverage networked ways of working, and can easily be scaled up to reach the maximum number of people who need them. This is supported by our organizational setup built around empowered and diverse teams around the world working towards a unified goal.

By working with our talented partners across specialisms and geographies, we can create opportunities to listen, explore and find new ways to support our patients. It’s critical to bring the best minds together to co-create sustainable ways in which we can support people living with difficult-to-treat diseases with their physical and mental wellbeing. External Partnerships with open innovation platforms such as Kickstart innovation as well as Growpal who brings Pharma expertise, helps us accelerate this journey, allowing us to tap into different knowledge bases, mindsets and skill sets.

Through partnering, we can look beyond the development of medicines and evolve our approach to truly cater the provision of care to the patient and their individual needs. With this initiative, we are looking to form pioneering partnerships with innovators that are built on trust, flexibility, shared values and a passion to make a lasting contribution for people’s health.

What are some ways in which Roche is helping to transform the lives of people living with rare conditions?

People living with rare conditions and their families form tight-knit communities, who often have deep-knowledge about their disease, so we understood very early on that in order to help them at any stage of their life, we needed to integrate ourselves within their community.

Through our integration efforts, we’ve been working hard to ensure we’re breaking boundaries and collaborating across borders to experiment, take risks and embrace out of the box thinking. We have strong customer-facing teams working across the globe, all connecting and partnering with both internal and external stakeholders to problem-solve, whilst making sure that we as a team are in the position to constantly learn, self-assess and evolve together.

Through this modernised way of thinking and learning, we have already achieved great things for our patients; for example, collaborations have meant that countries such as Trinidad, a country that historically had no clinics or physicians to treat Huntington’s patients, now have access to resources that no only enables them to manage patients in their own country but have access to training and materials beyond country borders helping them better understand the disease and its impact on their community.

And through partnership between France and Canada, we were able to support the experimentation of repurposing existing equipment for scoliosis used in the 60s and tailor it to help children living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (a physically debilitating disease).

Another example is that through our efforts, we have demonstrated that sometimes it’s the small gestures that can have a tidal wave of impact. By connecting previously isolated caregivers and families in the Middle East, we were able to spur a grass-roots SMA community, all connecting together and finding ways to help make a difference for their loved one or patients.

This partnership with Kickstart and Growpal is our latest way in which we’ve been collaborating with startups and entrepreneurs to find solutions that help to transform the lives of people living with rare conditions. It helps us work to ensure that we’re able to support them every step of the way — throughout their entire journey — and I am very excited about what’s to come.

What do you hope to gain from this collaboration with Kickstart and Growpal?

Our collaboration with Kickstart is a perfect example of the ways in which we can bring the outside in. The partnership will enable us to open the door to newfound networks that could generate potentially life-changing collaborations that will deliver better health outcomes for patients. We can’t wait to learn from innovators and join forces to scale-up ideas so that we can transform lives.