Astrocytia founder and CEO Brian Thomsen tells HEQ about best practice in healthcare digital transformation.
Founded in 2018, Danish firm Astrocytia is dedicated to promoting innovation in healthcare business excellence. Astrocytia’s work within the clinical and healthcare sectors focuses in particular on shoring up best practice through the systemic implementation of transparent, logical processes: CEO and founder Brian Thomsen tells us more.
How did Astrocytia come to be established?
I have worked around the world with multiple teams in product development, professional services and strategy, as well as being a member of Customer Advisory Boards (CABs) in both Europe and the US. I have been closely involved in over 50 projects for global brands across multiple sectors, either as a Director of Best Practice or as part of the implementation team. With all this experience managing large institutional changes, I became increasingly frustrated that people only viewed these changes in terms of the technical solution itself and never of the impact on the actual people who had to use them.
There was a huge gap in the market for assessing the values of the transformation process, the strategy behind it and ascertaining how that change could optimise the business. I could see the market developing more and more; and so, after 18 years in the industry, I decided to start Astrocytia. The company name is derived from astrocytes, a central part of the brain and central nervous system which enable the entire human organism to transmit information across multiple functions. I thought that was the perfect translation for what we do for businesses.
Can you give me a brief overview of the programmes Astrocytia provides?
We offer everything, from the development of massive global strategies all the way through to the implementation, support and ongoing optimisation. Effectively, we provide a turnkey solution, looking at the entire value chain of a company – everything from research and development to sourcing to packaging; along with the more internal aspects like customs, pricing, channel management – and then the final sales, which are typically completed through a very complex process, through multiple online and physical channels. Then there is the issue of ensuring the marketing team is appropriately equipped to go to market with the right information at the right time.
Astrocytia’s strategic guidelines for the healthcare sector recommend a setup based around ‘multi-domain management’ – how does this work?
A company may sell a product within its industry, but one key element which enables this to happen is its staff. The employees provide the necessary skillsets and product expertise to make a business work: this includes the people who test the product within the development process; project managers; employees involved in strategic sourcing for a specific project or account; and many more.
The healthcare and pharmaceutical industry are particularly complex – in the case of a hospital, for example, there are multiple buildings, multiple structures and multiple departments to consider, along with many different decision-makers, with no single point of oversight. That is where Astrocytia comes in. If people within the hospital change positions or roles, we take that into account to produce a revised overview of the implications for the product, which key account managers are affected, which strategic sources – as well as assessing the potential impact on suppliers and third-party logistics in order to ensure that they can continue to deliver what is needed at the right time.
We can see things like this happening right now: the challenges posed by addressing the COVID-19 pandemic are extremely complex; services must be delivered at speed to multiple locations at the same time, so logistics and location management are essential – and many companies are working with a global setup, so they must take into account differing legislation and compliance between countries, especially within this industry. Another issue which can complicate matters is that of project tenders, particularly for delivery of large quantities for governments.
The main problem with all this is that in many cases, all the key knowledge is in individual silos, with important data scattered between different systems. Astrocytia helps brings all this disparate information and different skillsets together. Essentially, multi-domain data management focuses on breaking down both mental and operational silos in order to recreate this holistic learning organisation in a more collaborative way. By doing this, we can typically optimise businesses by between 5% and 20% within just two years, just by facilitating the flow of information and relevant data.
People often become stuck in a single operational mode, meaning that when they look forward at where the market is going and how their company could meet that, they just add more weight to the existing tools and people that they already have, rather than offering the opportunity to do things differently. We can take that leap forward with them; we can coach them and show them the way forward through practical proofs of concepts – it’s not just theoretical, we can actually show them that our initiatives work before we start implementing anything.
People may know that they need a new sales tool, a new customer relationship management (CRM) system or a new website, but they only tend to innovate within their comfort zone. We challenge our clients to take a wider look five to 10 years ahead: where could you go with the information and skillsets your company has? What if you combined dynamic packaging, for example; or what if you were able to anticipate which customer segments would grow in the future? The industry can use that long-term planning to direct research and development; and not waste time on projects which do not move the company in the right direction. That alone was a huge game-changer for our customers: we help them to adopt a commercial focus and to take account of the fact that you can’t do everything right at once, so you need to take one step at a time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of a number of new and emerging innovations. Are there any specific challenges which have arisen from this? What support and guidance will new businesses need when entering into these growing markets?
A lot of companies right now are trying to do things just to do something, without a real clear sense of direction. Businesses need to utilise these external industry vibrations and shifts within their own organisational plans and recognise that they now have the chance to make things land in a different way. We are working on some massive change projects: one company we are working with has 75,000 employees who will be affected by this. The scope is massive; and we can succeed. We develop an extensive and ambitious strategy and achievable roadmaps together with our customers, setting the direction of the future.
Because we have an external perspective, we are better equipped to take control and help guide the companies we work with through this unprecedented situation.
People and companies want to be more secure in an insecure situation; and we can show that we know exactly what to do because we have done it for over 50 projects. It’s not just something we think is going to work; we know it’s going to work. That allows the business the security that it needs: we engage management very early on in the process, but we also engage from the bottom up, so everybody involved in the operations is involved immediately. That creates a sense of community; it is essentially a team-building effort which also enhances the speed to market and the company’s approach to projects like this.
How do you anticipate Astrocytia evolving in the future? Are there new products or plans in the pipeline?
We want to grow our team to 100 people and expand out to three countries within four years. Currently we are growing exponentially: we grew more than 400% in 2020; and we expect to grow another 400% this year. Because the healthcare and pharma sectors are even more complex than our more traditional businesses in other fields, the need for our services is immense – and that means that the commercial outcome is huge.
Astrocytia combines digital transformation, change management, and strategic direction. We help to commercialise businesses and stop them from wasting money on projects which should probably never have survived. Our services allow the business to focus; and I think that’s exactly what companies need right now: they need direction, and they need help. This is exactly where we can create companies built for the future.
This article is from issue 16 of Health Europa. Click here to get your free subscription today.