Sanofi’s Superstar Celine Schillinger VS. healthcare’s perfect storm


It’s no secret the healthcare industry is in a challenging but exciting state of flux. For pharma, the challenges lie on almost every corner, from lost revenue on non-adherence, to harder access and rising patient demand for rare (expensive) treatments. Healthcare’s perfect storm is well and truly upon us.

As with all crisis, lies opportunity, and the logical one here is for pharma to share their expertise through the provision of innovative joint services. A sentiment shared by Jane Griffiths, Janssen’s company group chair (Europe, Middle East and Africa) who recently stated, “In a perfect world, there would be perfect collaboration between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers. Could there be better ways to collaborate in healthcare?”

My research into healthcare collaboration led me very quickly to Celine Schillinger from Sanofi Pasteur. Flagged by friends as someone I must speak to about her amazing work in this space. Celine’s breakthrough work comes in the form of the Break dengue Initiative, an award-winning collaboration between non profit organizations,a digital disease detection start up (HealthMap),and the pharma giants Bayer & Sanofi. It aims to bring patients closer to potential treatments, and to provide effective prevention strategies. The initiative won the Shorty awards for their social media campaign.  All stakeholders seem equally happy and the initiative has had a huge impact…can this model be replicated and scaled across the industry?

I pulled Celine away from her busy schedule to learn more about this great work – enjoy.

Kate: How big is your team and what is your core focus?

Celine: On pure organizational terms, my team is… just myself. I’m driving collaborative projects that involve internal communities (several hundred people strong) and external communities (the largest is a quarter of a million strong). Anyone who shares my passion for collaboration, social impact and digital transformation is a co-worker, in a way. We’re a very big team :-)

Kate: What does collaboration and integration mean to you?

Celine: Collaboration can relate to the diversity of people and thoughts. When diversity is poor, and companies are unable to integrate the richness of available talents whatever gender, age, culture or social origin, they can’t keep the pace on innovation and connection with their ecosystem. Collaboration is the mind-set that is adapted to the era of networks we’re in. It’s really a new way of thinking. It requires authenticity, transparency, and non-territorial thinking. Collaboration can be difficult for people raised throughout the corporate pyramid with command-and-control silo leadership cultures. This may be why health care are often quoted to be two years behind other industries!

Kate: So how do you get a joint-working project through a big organisation like yours?

Celine: We have no choice. The transformation of business and technology, the empowerment of customers and employees to have a voice make collaboration mandatory for companies to thrive. Integration means we have the capacity to consider the input from all stakeholders, and to co-create with them this can give us a huge advantage in the market.

Kate: Looking at your current approaches what works well in terms of collaboration?

Celine: What I’ve seen to work well is to connect around a meaningful cause, a common purpose. Something that speaks to people’s values. Even when this happens you still have difficulties which are usually down to ignorance or old habits like territorial thinking! You have to make people want to contribute, you can’t command collaboration. Collaboration only works if you put yourself at the level of the people you want to collaborate with. Connect them, and connect with them. It goes with letting go of control paranoia. The time of perfectly crafting a message, then sending it out to a passive audience is gone. Now, corporations have to enter into conversations – with their customers, employees, stakeholders at large and this is what big corporations find really scary. I know it works because of my own track record in forming successful communities. I’ve seen other groups that never took off, and I wasn’t surprised as they were surrounded by red tape and old thinking.

Kate: A lot of pharma companies claim they are ‘patient centric’, I’m getting the impression you think otherwise?

Celine: All pharma companies claim they’re patient centric. Indeed, they spend a lot of effort researching and developing new ways or new services to support the patients, to integrate them into the clinical trials, etc. This is all very good. But you hardly see a real transformation of the customer – company relationship, although social media provides us with a huge opportunity to do this. Concerns over regulations and what’s authorized or not are not the sole explanation for pharma not engaging with their customer. I think this shyness comes from the fact that it can be pretty hard to innovate within large and traditional corporate structures. The best example of innovation I can share is Break Dengue, the social movement we contribute to, that brings together the various stakeholders and enabling actors of the fight against the dengue disease, to share ideas, support, and information. This non-profit, open platform links scientists, industry, patients and health organizations, journalists, NGOs and other key players to help empower the initiatives and track their progress. Our objective is to co-create shared value through innovative projects that will advance public health and serve the whole community. We’re trying to reach an actual impact against the disease by mobilizing people through social collaboration.

Kate: With Break Dengue, you’ve achieved increased engagement through collaboration. Would you like to rule out a similar project in a different area?

Celine: I think there are opportunities everywhere. Patients want to be more involved, but also doctors, nurses, pharma companies’ employees. There’s a huge, untapped reservoir of engagement.  What it takes to leverage this opportunity is a different mind-set among pharma leadership. They have to realize that change agents, connectors, empathetic talents are critically needed now. Those talents are often already available in-house, but more traditional, obedient profiles often prevail. The NHS Improving Quality is doing a fantastic job at present to empower change agents. For example as well as continually looking at best practice from across the NHS and around the world the NHS IQ draws on the experience of previous successful improvement programmes established by legacy organisations. They are focused on developing partnerships across sectors to support the NHS. I wish pharma as a whole was inspired by this example.

Celine will be presenting the Break Dengue Initiative on October 24th We have 150 currently attending and a limited amount of discounted passes available. The discounted rate expires tomorrow. Click here to register today.