How Real World Data Can Make a Difference in Healthcare with Jess Federer of Boston Millennia Partners

During this episode of Real World Talk, host Emily Di Capua leads a discussion with Jess Federer, a COTA confidant, advisor and board member for several healthcare and technology companies. Jess talks about some of her past experiences, including a role as the first ever Chief Digital Officer at Bayer.

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  • Jess Federer starts off the podcast with an introduction to her background and provides context on how she became a sought after corporate board member and advisor.
  • Jess mentions how the primary way she made it to the board was through data and a relentless commitment to public health.
  • She highlights how she convinced her undergraduate university to create a program for Public Health and subsequently became the first graduate at George Washington University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Public Health.
  • After periods of time with HHS and AHRQ, Jess went and obtained her Master’s in Public Health at Yale.
  • Jess moved to Germany and was part of the first team to roll out market access globally in her company.
  • After spending some time in communications and policy, Jess ultimately made her way to become the first ever Chief Digital Officer at Bayer.
  • When asked about Bayer’s innovation, Jess discusses how larger, older businesses do not get enough credit for their innovation.
  • According to Jess, the CDO is responsible for two primary things: 1) Cleanup of heterogeneous data and 2) Innovation.
  • Emily asks Jess about the most exciting areas of development within the health tech sector today and Jess mentions how interoperability is one of the biggest areas of innovation.
  • Jess talks about the rollout of EHRs did not lead to the expected innovation in the industry and now, with the current administration, there are efforts in place to unlock the data again.
  • Jess is most excited about data coming together where it can be connected across healthcare systems (across prescribers, prescription data, wearables and more).
  • Jess talks about the challenges of working with real world data and where advanced analytics are really the key to understanding unstructured data. The ability to use natural language processing to understand what’s in the information.
  • Emily poses a question to Jess about how the U.S. compares to other countries when it comes to fragmented healthcare data. Jess talks about how countries such as Germany or areas of Korea that have rebuilt their healthcare systems after wars and have more integration.
  • Jess talks about how COVID has shifted the risk paradigm for healthcare companies. Traditionally, big pharma companies were very risk averse, but now everyone in the industry has to move much faster and innovate more quickly.
  • As startups get to move quicker in this climate, the big challenge will be delivering on those promises in the marketplace.
  • Jess mentions how she’s never seen regulators move this fast and wonders if this speed is the “new normal”.
  • Jess breaks down the process she used to become the first CDO at Bayer and standout among 120,000 global employees.
  • Jess offers a few key pieces of advice for those building their careers. 1) Pick your boss, not the job. 2) Map up and build a roadmap for your career. 3) Hold the door open for others.
  • Jess recommends listening to the Epidemic podcast led by Dr. Celine Gounder.

Key Points

  • After graduating with a Master’s from Yale, Jess joined industry. She mentions “I started in industry and regulatory affairs, which I can’t recommend enough for anyone interested in drug development. Regulatory affairs gives you an incredible overview of the entire life cycle of both innovation and of the product. From when you’re doing the research and working with regulators on the study design all the way through to when you have to stop making a product or maybe just continue making a product because it helps an underserved area in one country.“
  • As the first Chief Digital Officer at Bayer, Jess felt it was “really about using digital enablers to change a company, transform a company and not only improve the existing business models, but also create new ones.”
  • According to Jess, “we now have the technology capabilities to analyze all of that [healthcare] data and make sense of it. Because of course you got to find the signal through the noise because nobody has time to go through all that information.”
  • When talking about real world data, Jess highlights “This is a pretty fundamental evolution. This progression has been in the works for decades. This is a very meaningful, a very sustainable development with the right safeguards and the right management. This is going to be transformative, both for research and for care.”
  • According to Jess, “I think we’re starting to see some changes in how we view healthcare data in the U.S. that’s going to bring us closer to the way healthcare data is seen and viewed, and actually secured and protected as well.”
  • Jess mentions how startups are making fast moves in light of the pandemic, “And so we’re seeing companies that used to have to knock on doors for 18 months, get deals done in seven days. And so the speed with which the technology is being adopted and integrated and put into strategic plans and put into operational studies is remarkable. I’ve never seen it moved this fast.”


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