Part 2: Assessing Progress in Quality and Value Strategy

Executive Summary

Value-based care is creating new market demands for life sciences companies. Discern Health has worked with numerous life sciences clients to navigate these new demands, related to both customer relationships and internal management. Based on feedback from Discern’s clients and our experience helping other organizations with health care transformation, we have identified opportunities for further integration of quality and value into life sciences strategy. We have also identified concrete steps that life sciences companies can take to overcome barriers to change. Discern has built a framework to support both internal change and external engagement to drive success in a value-based market environment.

Part 1 of this blog defined a framework for life sciences quality and value strategy. In Part 2, we assess the current adoption of quality strategy best practices.

Assessing Progress in Quality and Value Strategy

In September 2020, Discern hosted the third annual convening of its life sciences clients. Twenty organizations participated in the event, including nine of the ten largest biopharmaceutical companies (ranked by global sales).

Using Discern’s framework, participants evaluated their company’s progress toward integration of quality and value into strategy. First, participants rated how proactive their company’s approach to quality is (1 to 5 scale, with 5 being “almost always proactive”). Second, participants rated how comprehensive their company’s approach to quality is (1 to 5 scale, with 5 being “almost always comprehensive”).

The results are shown in the graphic below. Most of the participants rated their companies in the middle: moderately comprehensive and moderately proactive. This suggests that while companies have begun to adopt structures to integrate quality, there is still room for growth.

Count of companies reporting their approach to quality strategy. Larger bubbles represent more responses.


We also asked participants to indicate which structures they have implemented internally to support quality activities and engagement. Participants could indicate more than one. The results show that most companies are still relying on individual staff or informal processes to develop and implement quality strategy. Only a few companies reported that they have implemented more formal interdepartmental mechanisms that coordinate and integrate quality strategy.

Count of quality strategy structures reported by Discern’s life sciences clients.


Overall, these results are consistent with Discern’s work with its clients. Many life sciences organizations have begun to integrate quality into their overall strategy. In most cases, this work began on an ad hoc basis, perhaps reacting to a specific measure or program that had a clear impact on a product or therapeutic area. In some cases, this initial activity has evolved into an ongoing work stream, in which an individual leader (or small team) within a life sciences organization takes on responsibility for tracking quality issues and sharing information with colleagues. However, in most companies these processes are still informal and ad hoc. As a result, life sciences companies may miss opportunities to optimize their customer relationships and their market position.

This contrasts with other sectors of health care, where quality and value are core strategic pillars. For example, many hospitals and health systems have created a Chief Quality Officer role to focus on overall quality of care, moving from volume to value, and population health.[1] These entities have been subject to quality and value measures for over two decades, and they have responded by making strategic investments and changing their leadership focus. Life sciences companies are going through a similar evolution.

Part 3 of this blog will describe specific actions life sciences companies can take to elevate the role of quality and value in overall strategy.


[1] Institute for Healthcare Improvement, “What’s in a Name? Health Care’s Chief Quality Officer,”

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