In this episode:

Wendy Liebmann talks to Alissa Hsu Lynch, formerly of Google and Johnson & Johnson, about the consumerization of technology in health care, and the implications for consumer packaged goods companies and retail.

They discuss:

  • Google’s utilization of 10x thinking to create radical solutions
  • How technology will provide better outcomes and more affordable access to health care
  • The success of consumerizing technology in health care is staying focused on real consumer needs
  • How wearables will evolve and provide more insight into everyday lives over time.
  • How digital tools, like generative AI, plus real people will provide better outcomes.
  • What will come next – from advances in sensors to prescription digital therapeutics for mental health, and the implications for retail
  • The urgency to build integrated teams – across brand, R&D, marketing, media, user experience
  • How data is key to it all

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Watch the video episode:

Wendy 00:09

Hello everyone. I'm Wendy Liebmann CEO and chief shopper at WSL Strategic Retail and this is Future Shop. This is where I talk to innovators disruptors and iconoclasts, about the future of retail.

Wendy 00:29

Today, the subject is the convergence and consumerization of technology in healthcare or and healthcare, and the impact it will have on the future of retail. My guest is perfect for that. She is Alissa Hsu Lynch. Alissa, welcome to Future Shop.

Alissa 00:48

Thank you for having me, Wendy.

Wendy 00:50

So just by way of background, Alissa and I first met when she was at Johnson & Johnson, where she worked in the consumer health and medical side of the businesses. I then stalked her as she went off to Google and helped companies large and small drive digital transformation. She's lived and worked in the US and Asia and Europe. Now she's back in the US, where she's serving on boards in the health and tech space, as well as the American Ballet Theatre. And you may say, what? well, you should also know she's an accomplished and professional dancer. So we always like well-rounded people on this program. So welcome, for all those reasons.

Alissa 01:31

Thank you. And the dance was a while ago. But it's a good way to give back.

Wendy 01:36

So you have this really unique perspective from your experience at J&J. And then obviously, Google, how has that informed the way you think about technology and providing better outcomes and more affordable access to health care, especially as it relates to everyday health care?

Alissa 01:54

Yeah, one of the reasons I decided to go to Google is because I really believe that technology can help transform healthcare. And my role at Google was to partner directly with healthcare organizations, think about what problems we could help them solve using Google's technologies. And I thought it might be useful just to share some of the lessons I learned while at Google because it was very different than my time at J&J And I think it'll be applicable for the listeners as they think about leveraging technology to solve problems in their own organizations. So three things. The first is this culture of innovation. So on day one at Google, in my onboarding, I learned about this concept called 10x Thinking. So 10x Thinking is about coming up with radical solutions to big problems, going for a 10 times improvement, not just a 10% improvement, or 1% improvement, in some cases, and really asking, why not, instead of why should we. And I think that mindset, and that culture of innovation that they've built at Google is one of the reasons why big tech companies have been able to disrupt many different industries. And I think we can learn from that. So it was very open and transparent culture, obviously, agile methodology, but open sharing of ideas, and really entrepreneurial. So I really, really enjoyed that. And I think there's a lot that traditional organizations can learn from that because I think it feeds bigger innovation. And we need that in health care. Just one example of that is AlphaFold, which is a machine learning system that was developed by DeepMind. DeepMind is one of alphabets companies, and alpha fold help solve the protein folding problem, which has been a grand challenge in biology for 50 years, and scientists thought it would never be solved. But this machine learning system helped figure it out. And it's now open sourced to the scientific community, and they're using it in drug discovery. And AlphaFold. This machine learning system is actually a form of generative AI, which we've been hearing a lot about

Wendy 04:08

I was gonna say, is that what we're talking about when we talk about generative AI that continuing evolution of artificial intelligence to improve learning, is that what that means for a non techie

Alissa 04:20

person? Yes, it is. And it says generative AI can actually create content, as we all know now with ChatGPT, you know, images, video, text software code, but in this case, it can actually predict the 3d structure of proteins. And that's how it's leading to new drug discoveries and new cures for diseases. So, you know, that's an example of the 10x thinking but also applying AI to that problem.

Wendy 04:46

That's really interesting when you've come from a obviously a very strong healthcare company like a Johnson & Johnson, I'm going to say more traditional structure around innovation, product delivery, all of those things. things. I'm assuming they hired you at Google. Now alphabet because you had that adaptive way of doing business. But How challenging is that? Was that transformation for you?

Alissa 05:10

Yeah, so one of the reasons Google hired me is because they recognize they wanted to do work in health care, but they are not a health care company. And they needed to bring in people with health. care expertise to come in because we understood, or I understood the problems that J&J was facing, and could look across the industry, having worked in healthcare for many years, and help Google understand, okay, what are the problems to solve? Versus, can we just sell this company a technology. And that's actually my second lesson learned is that technology really needs to address user needs, or it's not going to gain adoption. And that's what I felt like I could bring to Google is, you know, even my consumer background, which is where I started my consumer marketing background, you know, you put the consumer first and you understand what are those needs that you need to address, and then also, then my healthcare expertise. So you know, I think it was a good combination for me, because I didn't know the tech when I came into Google, but they knew I knew healthcare. And to your point, having lived in different countries and moved from consumer to medical devices, they said, you know, you know how to learn. So you're going to have to learn the technology, but you'll never have to be the experts in the room, because there was plenty of experts on tech at Google.

Wendy 06:31

So you could be the expert in the consumer patient. And then for us shopper in the room, and then open the mind to okay, how do we solve this?

Alissa 06:41

Yeah, so I felt like a translator actually, between our customers, which were largely healthcare organizations, like a J&J or Medtronic, or a big hospital system, in translating, okay, here's what the technology is. And here's the problem it can solve. But then, you know, the reverse for the engineers helping them understand, well, that's a great technology, but you can't just sell it that way. You have to think about what is the value it's actually bringing to the customer. So it was kind of the go between there. And then the third thing that I really think I think about a lot now that I've taken from Google is that it's all about the data. And what I mean about that is when you think about in healthcare, we want to drive better outcomes. And in order to do that, we have to understand what's driving variability in outcomes. And we need to understand that across the entire care continuum, but we can't understand that unless we have the data. And so that's why I say it's all about the data. And in order for us to improve outcomes, we need the data, we need to manage that data, we need insights from the data and then turning those insights into ways to personalize care for patients to support them on their journey, or to intervene if needed. So the third lesson is, it's all about the data.

Wendy 08:00

And that has such application across so many things, just talking to one of our retail clients the last couple of days. And, you know, on the one hand talking about the pharmacy and the issues that they're trying to provide better outcomes or advise around better outcomes. And then the front store where you know, you've got the legal wall of HIPAA, that I can't necessarily bring all my data together unless the consumer patient says it's okay. And then the ability to drive better outcomes if you really can see the whole story of the whole patient, the whole consumer. So that's a really compelling proposition, right to think about as we think about consumerizing healthcare in different ways with technology. That's fascinating.

Alissa 08:45

That's why I love the retail industry, because there is so much data. So I think, you know, when I was on J&J is consumer business is more about Point of Sale data and understanding shopper behaviors. But to your point, now with such investment in the back of the store, or the pharmacies, the clinics, there's really valuable data that can be used to help support patients.

Wendy 09:08

Yeah, we were just talking to one of our grocery retailers last week, and just that, how do I connect healthy eating, the OTC aisle, the pharmacy, the clinic, all of those things into a whole view of the consumer as patient or consumers caregiver who's managing the outcomes for other people. And just the opportunity that's there? What are the challenges in that? I mean, I know there are legal challenges in terms of data sharing. Are there other things that you see within the expertise you have or experience you've had to sort of bringing that whole picture together?

Alissa 09:48

Yeah. So at Google Cloud, we were working with a lot of retailers on tackling that challenge. And again, I think it comes back to the data so not just the, the, you know, the regulatory constraint It's in terms of combining data, but really thinking about the user consent, and how do you get that. So it's easier said than done like, oh, well, if the user provides their consent, then we can use our data. But actually setting that up is a challenge for organizations. And then the data needs to be quality data. So a lot of organizations have a lot of data that may be sitting in different systems, but the data may not be in the same format. And that's not really the fun stuff to talk about. But it needs to be addressed, if you want to make that data useful. And then where do you store the data? And who has access to the data and the privacy and the security? You know, cybersecurity is a huge challenge for a lot of organizations. And then just thinking about responsible use of the data. So how are you going to use that data? And can you ensure that it's actually for the good of the shopper, and not necessarily to serve ads to them, which is something Google faces a lot in collection of datas. Everybody always assumes Google is going to just serve me an odd now. But they're actually very cheerful about siloing data.

Wendy 11:06

So is that just the beginning we're seeing in this convergence of wearables, devices and managing our health?

Alissa 11:14

Yeah, I think wearables are a great example of the convergence of health and technology. And I had the opportunity to work closely with the Fitbit team, which was acquired by Google a couple of years ago, while I was at Google. And I was just surprised at the advances in wearables today. So they don't just track steps. They now track sleep, nutrition, blood, oxygen level, heart rate, irregular heart rate afib. So there's really, really valuable data. And if we think about the fact that 80% of health actually happens outside of the hospital, so acute episodes, maybe you go into a hospital, but health actually is everything that we're doing every day. So I think wearables can help us get more insight into what people are doing in their everyday lives over time. That's really a great example of convergence and where there's a lot of valuable data. But I also think about advances in other sensors, like continuous glucose monitors, and they're not just being used, they're started to expand beyond people with diabetes, to performance athletes. And you can imagine that trickling down to the everyday athlete, or the everyday person. And I actually tried a continuous glucose monitor, I don't have diabetes, but my doctor recommended I try one out earlier this year just to track what I was doing and the foods that I was eating, how that was impacting my blood sugar level. And it was fascinating getting that continuous data and being able to see the spikes, and what caused the spikes. It was really, really informative for me. So one of the things I learned is that I had switched to oat milk, thinking oat milk is really healthy. But what I learned is that oat milk made my blood glucose spike, like crazy. And so I cut that out. And so I think sensors like that are going to get more everyday adoption and help people better understand, even at a deeper level, beyond what health and wellness wearables provide.

Wendy 13:14

That's really interesting, because the other day I had my Apple Watch on and I must have banged my arm or something in the bathroom. And all of a sudden, it was the first time I got this alert that said, Did you fall? And the one hand, I was like, what, what are you telling me when I'm, you know, beeping? Why is my arm beeping? And then I looked and I thought, no, that's interesting.

Alissa 13:34

Yeah, spot detection.

Wendy 13:36

Yeah, what you just said about nutrition, understanding our bodies better and eating better, whether we've got a condition or not, and that outside the hospital care, one of the things we've been seeing in all our, how America shops, researchers, this sort of shifting view from the way we think about our health, so from, you know, the early days of kind of sick care, and then we talked about well care. And then we talked about self care. And people now talking a lot about self control, not self control. And let's not have more chocolate today, Wendy, but rather, in the sense of, I want to take more control of my health, my family's health, my extended community self, and that having better information can help me do that. And that's when you were talking about that I was thinking about that sort of fits within that model of self control or taking control for myself.

Alissa 14:28

Absolutely. I did want to touch on one other thought though, it when I think about health and technology or health technology. I think it does go beyond devices. So if you think about even telehealth might fall under convergence of health and technology, but there's a lot of innovation happening in the space. So think about prescription digital therapeutics for mental health or just AI is being used to diagnose and detect diseases in medical imaging. So that's an example of health into technology coming together. And I advise a digital diagnostics venture fund. So I see a lot of early stage companies, and a lot of them are investing in using data and AI for earlier detection and diagnosis of diseases like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. And those technologies are going to be really valuable. And you mentioned sort of this shift away from treating to actually preventing or self control. But I think preventative care is so critical, because 60% of people in the US have chronic diseases, and healthy behaviors can help prevent those chronic diseases. So I can picture retailers being able to offer many more of these digital therapeutics or digital diagnostics as they come into the market to being able to offer those in store. So those will be new services.

Wendy 15:53

Yeah, I think that's really interesting, that whole service model of what does the store whether it's a drugstore or a pharmacy in a Walmart, or a grocery store, or even a an Amazon pharmacies sort of concept where you expand on everything from I think all the testing kits that we've learned about, right, what was pre COVID, but during COVID? What are the kinds of things that we can manage, test, personalize through that, and all that technology that can support that? And your point about the using AI to do some of this testing has certainly been reading a lot about that lately, the speed at which that I guess it is, excuse me, if I'm using the wrong term, the sort of generative AI testing that allows us to look much quicker, much more quickly, whatever, at something and look at the conditions versus the sort of old world more manual assessment of things. So is that what you're envisioning in this world of convergence?

Alissa 16:53

Oh, absolutely. So I was working on AI for medical imaging while I was at Google, and it's more traditional AI versus the generative AI, but it's just using computer vision, which can see things that the eye can't see. So if you train a model to be able to detect a cancerous cell or an anomaly in an image, it can do that much faster than a radiologist can. But definitely, as you think about technology being useful and being adopted, you also have to consider like, people actually still want the radiologist reading their medical images. So the AI initially is being used more to augment and maybe do pre screening or provide a second opinion. So thinking about how that technology should be used, but also how it will be adopted, it's important to think about,

Wendy 17:42

so that's an interesting point, that ability, it's sort of like regular shopping, right? Sometimes we want to be in stores, sometimes we don't have time. And we're clicking Thank you Amazon, you know, delivered to the door in 10 seconds. Right? So that ability of the role, whether is it as comfort or expertise to have the real person in the room is that when you think about your experience, and I know J&J and did a lot of work with nurses, and obviously, medical practitioners and things like that, that role of the person, the real person, not an artificial person. In all of this. Do you see it as you just described moving forward of additives? Is it just comfort? Or is it the combined intelligence of what real people say? I guess this is the AI question. Right? If I cut to it, well, we get rid of people because the technology will take over. Do you see what the role is there in both at the moment? Or what do you see in the future?

Alissa 18:39

Generally, I think AI will replace humans in some heavily manual tasks that can be easily automated. But I think where a high level trained expertise is needed, such as reading a complex CT scan, I think people want both. So I think in that case, it's additive. It's not just comfort, because I think it can be used in a way that maybe gets to this as an area of concern. And then the radiologist looks at the scan versus they have to look at the entire thing and say, Okay, where is the anomaly in this large image to AI can help them zoom in and say, this looks abnormal.

Wendy 19:20

When you think about you know, you've talked about the development of both tools and new products I think we alluded to briefly but you know, if you put your more CPG hat on from your J&J days, how do you see this as being able to inform create new different, better products faster? How do you see the generative innovation come into play in the in the CPG space if you were back in a J&J roll? Yeah, so

Alissa 19:49

I think there's a number of different ways that generative AI can be used in CPG and in retail, so, you know, first is just in marketing, which you know it came from marketing. So I don't want to be replaced. But I think it's actually going to help people get to a new creative level, if you will, and a new level of productivity. So generative AI can develop content for you, it can develop different versions of it, and then do the AB testing, and then dynamically in real time, if you're running a campaign online, it can then optimize it. So it can take the instant feedback and optimize your marketing. So I think that's a huge plus, it's not necessarily saying you're not valuable marketer, but then the marketer maybe is focusing on other things or, you know, higher level. So I think it can drive huge productivity in marketing and huge personalization. So that's what consumers want. That's what we expect nowadays is for things to be personalized for us. And I think the AI can help do that very quickly. You can take a lot of information about a person, and even in healthcare context, and figure out what is the right messaging for you, or what are new products that you might need. So I think it can help with generating new ideas. And then in the store, you know, think about like store layouts, degenerative AI can quickly generate different assortments and then help you test them. And then in the store, AI can be used for virtual assistants, and also for consumer. So as a CPG. Marketer, clearly in fashion, it can even come up with new clothing ideas, but are there ways that a virtual assistant can make recommendations or take your preferences into account and tailor a shopping list for you. So I think there's just huge application for it. And things we haven't even thought about, because it's still very early stages.

Wendy 21:46

We had a good friend of WSL on a few weeks ago, and she had recently been at Amazon where they worked on the Amazon Style store. And you know, the convergence there of technology and fashion and trying to solve fashion problems. So the whole family and personalize those. And she talked about building a team, who did you need in the room of fashion people of user experience tech people? How did you get everybody just sort of think together or work together and learn this sort of whole story. And as you were describing the marketing role, I was just thinking about who do I need in the room to really take full advantage of this from in CPG? Or retail?

Alissa 22:28

Yeah, I think that's a great question. Because I think at least you know, many years ago when I was in that marketing role, so caveat that, it was always you know, the consumer. So you always use focus groups, and you generate your concept, maybe with your R&D partner, and then you test it with consumers. But I think nowadays, and taking this more agile tech approach, I actually think everything's going to be digital moving forward, or have some digital aspect wrapped around it in terms of the products that are the innovation that comes out in the consumer industry, because that's what consumers expect. So I think you need the product designer, and you need you mentioned everybody, the user experience, as well as the traditional folks that you used to have, and then being able to test things much more quickly. So that's the whole agile methodology. So ideate, prototype, test, iterate, learn, I think adopting that process is going to be really critical for marketers moving forward.

Wendy 23:29

I have in my mind, you know, what people used to sort of some of the companies used to create kind of an entrepreneur group. And they went off in some direction somewhere, and they just got crazy. But it feels to me like this needs to be much more integrated into the that 10x philosophy of all together in this moving forward.

Alissa 23:48

Yes, I absolutely agree. I think organizations can't silo, the digital organization anymore, and hopefully many of them are not, but at least in the med tech, part of the business, digital surgery was very separate from the core business. So organizations are at different parts of their journey. But definitely moving forward. I think it needs to be integrated needs to be part of how people approach business,

Wendy 24:12

which reminded me of when you and I first did some work together many years ago, we were talking about how do we help lower income families take care of their health, and what were their needs and understanding them? And so when I think about technology, I think about wearables, I think about all of these things, you know, testing, is this really going to be able to help more I'm going to call them underserved communities. Is this going to be more democratic?

Alissa 24:37

Yeah, that's a really important question when and I'm still very passionate about expanding health equity and access for everyone. I think your question about as technology advances and gains adoption, is that going to leave, you know, certain populations behind I certainly hope it doesn't, but we need to think about it proactively because the pandemic certainly He exposed that there are a lot of health inequities that exist. And I believe though with more data, if you think about technology, also as being the data, I think we can shine the light on Social Determinants of Health understand where there are gaps in care, and then we just, we all need to commit to addressing this.

Wendy 25:21

Yeah, no, I'm with you on that one. So just as we sort of wrap up here, as you think about all of this over the next three to five years, what's your vision? And how do you see it impacting, you know, the more consumer health and traditional retail space, as we look to the future?

Alissa 25:39

Yeah. So I think we need to start with the consumer. And as I think about the next five years, and where I'm seeing growth, there are a couple of segments that I hope retailers and consumer companies start to focus on. So Women's Health is a big growing area, and we need a lot of innovation in that space. So people are living 35 years longer than we used to 100 years ago. So we want to live longer. So there's a focus on longevity. But also, as we get older, we do tend to get more chronic diseases. So we need more care, we need more help and management. So I think the aging population, mental health, which is I'm glad there was a huge focus on it. And there was much more investment going into that space. So I think those are some of the areas and then also just purpose. So purpose driven brands and products and retailers that make decisions like kicking out tobacco, I think, you know, that influences where people want to shop and what they want to buy. So I think starting with the consumer, just generally. And then from a technology perspective, I think this hyper personalization will just intensify because AI is going to enable that. So it'll be able to really just give us what exactly what we're looking for before we even anticipate it. So think about, I think we're all going to have our own AI assistant. And then AI itself, I think is going to be table stakes for any digital offering that comes out. I think it's table stakes, because consumers and shoppers expect it they expect a seamless experience. They don't necessarily think about it as online or offline.

Wendy 27:25

I remember actually being at a conference in London, and there was somebody a medical doctor who had just left MIT to go to Google. But I went up to her after and I said, Tell me more MIT to Google. What are you doing there at Google. And it was really fascinating in that whole conversation of how Google in particular, but obviously others, were beginning to understand the opportunity for technology to enhance and improve everyday health, and the needs of those populations that you've particularly identified for the next, your vision for the next five years.

Alissa 28:02

Maybe just one last thought that you sparked, Wendy is the need for collaboration. So I think we saw that during the pandemic, with organizations, from government, academic institutions, big tech, pharmaceuticals, retailers all coming together to make sure that we could address this this major pandemic. But I think that type of collaboration, maybe not with the same level of urgency is going to be needed as because not every CPG company or retailer has the tech expertise that a Google or an Amazon or an apple has. And so I think that collaboration between health and traditional organizations, but also other entities across the healthcare ecosystem, is really what's going to drive innovation and make it successful.

Wendy 28:48

Yeah, that's a great ending to this discussion and a great call to action. In terms of how we move all this forward. It's very exciting territory. And I know that beyond your pirouetting into another great board role, that or other work that you will obviously be in the intersection of this because speaking of purpose and passion, I know you're at so that's wonderful. So thank you for joining me today. This has been a great view not only to the future, but how CPG and big tech come together to really think about delivering healthy outcomes to the world, really not just to us here at home. So thank you for that. Good to see you.

Alissa 29:27

Good to see you too Wendy. Thanks for having me.

Wendy 29:29

As Alissa said, there is so much going on in this space and from her expertise of coming out of a CPG organization into a highly sophisticated technology company like Google and Alphabet, that opportunity to converge the two to provide not only digital assets, but data to bring people together not in separate silos, but to bring people together to build both products and service that deliver health and wellness, accessible, affordable health and wellness and better outcomes, whether it's the OTC aisle or whether it's the medical care facility, whether it's digital access through my phone, or whether it's some kind of tracking, healthcare tracking or wearable device, there is so much on the horizon. And I think for all of us in the CPG, and retail space, one of the things we really have to look at moving forward is not just look at the other person in the aisle, she talked, and by that I mean brand, not shopper. And one of the things that Alissa talked about was this ability to keep the consumer front and center, as we always say, is the shopper in the room, and really understand how these tools can engage and address their solution, their needs, the solutions they need to access, more affordable healthcare and better outcomes every day. So there is a lot here. And I would just challenge you all not to think about the other brand next door to you or the other store that looks like you up the road. But really step back and think about how all these tools including AI and generative AI can help deliver better health care outcomes if we are creative and bold and willing to push to the future. 10x is the thing. So let's be bold on that one. So here's 10x for the future. See you there.

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