Q&A: Why the time was right to launch BCD’s Life Sciences Center of Excellence

BCD’s Azoulay and Bratko look at back at the first 100 days of the Life Sciences Center of Excellence.

BCD Travel launched its Life Sciences Center of Excellence (LSCOE) this year with a clear mission: to provide new energy, strategy and solutions for life sciences organizations. Under the leadership of Senior Vice President Kessie Bratko and Vice President Jessica Azoulay, the LSCOE draws on BCD’s deep capabilities to provide for clients’ unique end-to-end needs—from program design to technology, traveler experience to consultation. As the new LSCOE nears its first 100 days, leaders Bratko and Azoulay share why the time was right for BCD to harness best practices across travel, meetings and consultancy to solve this industry’s unique and complex requirements.

For those new to our blog, what exactly is BCD Travel’s Life Sciences Center of Excellence?

Kessie Bratko, Senior Vice President, BCD Travel

Kessie Bratko: The Life Sciences Center of Excellence is the formalized organization of work we’ve already been doing for many years and leverages the success BCD M&E has had in their own LSCOE. We have had close partnerships with life sciences companies for more than 20 years. We service over 100 organizations in this industry today, across their travel, meetings and consultancy needs, including 90% of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies worldwide. As our customers have specific and complex requirements, we knew it was important to harness that shared expertise into a resource team that provides cohesion of strategy, best and “next” practices and consultation to our customers.

How does your market leadership and deep experience in the sector play into the origins of the new Life Sciences Center of Excellence?

KB: Because of our broad life sciences portfolio, we knew that our customers need solutions that go beyond traditional corporate travel management. While there are nuances specific to each organization, there is so much commonality in terms of regulations, external traveler types (especially HCPs and patients), compliance, reporting and technology. Many of these customers also have very robust meetings programs where we have the ability to build integrated solutions. Formalizing the LSCOE was important to us as it not only builds an internal community of practice and knowledge sharing but also allows us to leverage those insights into valuable program solutions for our customers.

Why is now the right time to formalize BCD’s patient travel & logistics services?

Jessica Azoulay: Well, certainly everyone is much more familiar with clinical trials and drug development today as we all follow COVID-19 vaccine development and distribution, but we actually started looking closely at patient travel a few years ago when a customer invited us to participate in a large study RFP. What we realized is that there’s a lot of opportunity to manage patient travel in a more supportive and consistent way that also benefits from the foundational value a managed corporate program can provide. That’s why we are so focused on delivering solutions that reduce the burdens associated with patient travel, whether they be emotional, financial or related to special needs, while also providing increased transparency, robust duty of care reporting and the ability to leverage suppliers and spend.

What’s on the horizon for the Life Sciences Center of Excellence team?

Jessica Azoulay, Vice President, Life Sciences Center of Excellence, BCD Travel

JA: I am very excited about our approach to patient travel and logistics. We often say we’re shifting the paradigm—because it’s true. It feels both powerful and personal to know you’re making a difference for someone. We are passionate about keeping the patient at the center and really providing caring and careful support along their journey. We’ve spent a lot of time listening and adapting to ensure we are able to deliver in the ways that are most important while lessening some of the anxiety related to travel. From patients to caregivers, we are focused on providing a single point of contact that oversees all of their needs; very similar to a case manager role. We also know how important advocacy and engagement are, so we have taken learnings from traveler engagement to deploy patient engagement strategies and solutions that provide ongoing support and communication to patients; reducing attrition and increasing advocacy. Likewise, given the potential financial burden associated with travel, we are enhancing our reimbursement solutions to ensure patients are reimbursed quickly for any out of pocket costs we can’t pre-pay.

KB: From a broader life sciences perspective, there is significant opportunity to develop new technologies to solve common challenges. We’re engaged in several technology workshops with our customers and working closely with Yannis’s team to get new or refined solutions into development. From building new APIs that connect standalone platforms, to enhancing dashboards, to improving guest profiling tools, we’re very excited about ways we can continue to automate and create efficiencies. Our customers are innovating and partnering in ways we’ve never seen before and it’s thrilling to drive that from our side as well.

How is BCD’s Life Sciences Center of Excellence responding to the business travel needs of frontline workers in the midst of COVID-19?

JA: At the beginning of the pandemic, while traditional corporate demands slowed drastically with restrictions and uncertainty, several customers sought quick solutions to support their frontline caregiver staff. We were proud to work quickly with our clients to modify their programs to allow for individuals who didn’t feel comfortable going home and potentially exposing loved ones with an option stay at a hotel nearby. We were able to minimize any financial or administrative burdens associated with booking extended stay rooms and managed payments and reconciliations on their behalf, allowing those caregivers to continue their lifesaving and important work.

What travel challenges lay ahead for the life sciences sector? How is BCD Travel preparing to meet them?

JA: Life Sciences customers are like many others right now, trying to determine how and when to safely return to travel. From that perspective, BCD Travel is offering consultation and insights including really incredible work done by the Research & Innovation team and real-time updates related to testing and health requirements on our COVID-19 Information Hub. While the past year has been incredibly challenging, it’s also allowed us to really focus on value-driving solutions and placing traveler wellness and sustainability at the forefront. For our life sciences customers in particular, patient-centricity will continue to be a primary driver for service delivery and innovation; including decentralized trials which may further limit burdens associated with participation. It’s an incredibly exciting time for life sciences and we are proud and excited to be a part of it.

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