Scaling Social Responsibility to Overcome the COVID-19 Crisis

Tackling the Newest Infectious Disease Virtually Is Another Day in the Office

Former managing director and partner Jean Mixer describes her virtual care efforts in response to infectious diseases like COVID-19 and how BCG has influenced her career decisions.

After being exposed to a variety of industries, what attracted you to focus on digital transformations in the health care and pharmaceutical spaces?

I have always been attracted to areas that have a high positive impact on the world. One of the things I loved about being part of BCG was the opportunity to work on challenging problems in short periods of time that would have significant downstream impact. I still see the results of such work. As an example, a former client reached out recently and shared that the business we had helped launched in 2005 had reached $25 billion in assets.

When I saw that digital was heating up in health care, I took the opportunity to leverage my prior experience from BCG to make a difference in the world. Since expertise in pediatric medicine is not evenly distributed, I work with Boston Children’s hospital to share this expertise globally. Digital provides a powerful opportunity, in this regard.

I also serve on the board of directors of an innovative biotech firm in the microbiome space. The work is in its early stages, but what attracted me is the potential for it to be transformative—as an emerging field of science and as providing a pathway through its unique platform to accelerate drug development. This could be a game changer. The existing models for drug development take too long and are too costly to address many of the world’s diseases.

At Boston Children's Hospital (BCH), you launched and currently lead several digital health initiatives. Can you talk a bit more about your favorite products that emerged from the Innovation and Digital Health Accelerator?

In 2015, we launched the Innovation and Digital Health Accelerator along with my epidemiologist colleague John Brownstein, Ph.D. to accelerate digital services and extend the reach of BCH. We vet about 100 internal and 100 external ideas annually. Some of them you might find interesting:

  • HealthMap: Launched by John Brownstein—this site creates a map of disease cases around the world over time. In the wake of the coronavirus, we used it to move quickly in collaboration with others in emergency preparedness locally and globally.
  • COVID Near You: A crowdsourced tracker and predictor of infectious diseases.
  • Virtual Visits: In response to COVID-19, we rapidly scaled virtual visits to enable patients’ remote access to clinicians. This effort grew 80x in 8 weeks.
  • Online Second Opinions: Enabling patients around the world to get remote access to BCH experts virtually. The concept was grounded in BCG recommendations. It has resulted in 65% of patients receiving suggested changes to treatment and 10% to 15% changes in diagnosis.
  • Precision Medicine: We have launched online services in genomic interpretation, at the intersection of the rapid rise in gene testing and the frontier of medicine, matching genetic variants to the disease and its treatment. There are 7000 rare diseases impacting 350 million people globally; 50% of those affected are children. People with a rare disease often face a five- to seven-year diagnostic odyssey to get an accurate diagnosis. Out tool helps connect the rare disease to an expert for treatment.

There are many exciting initiatives we are working on, from AI to “Voice to Virtual Care.” We have partnerships with more than 20 companies, spanning startups to market leaders in technology and health care. They generally focus on pushing the boundary of what is possible through disruptive service models. One example is a tool we co-developed to improve the accuracy and efficiency of diagnosis, using pattern recognition in MRI scans that will be launched and distributed via our corporate partner. I am always interested in supporting efforts to develop, test, and bring digital solutions to the market.

What skills or experiences have you gained in your 12 years at BCG that have helped you in your current role as Chief Digital Transformation Officer and VP of Strategy at Boston Children's Hospital?

BCG provided me with the fantastic opportunity to work across the health care value chain, as well as to do a lot of work in launching new businesses online in the financial services and consumer goods spaces. Financial services, like health care, is a heavily regulated and complex industry, so my work in launching a digital accelerator and an online business have been very helpful in structuring, setting up, and co-managing BCH’s Innovation and Digital Health Accelerator. Many of the lessons I learned in 1990s (at the birth of the dot-com era) are still relevant today in rapidly vetting opportunities and introducing new services.

BCG has also been instrumental in building my experience in strategy and working with CEOs and their boards. My own board roles reflect this breadth of experience. I have served on three public companies’ boards—in banking, medical technology, and in biotech.