Deloitte has always been Deloitte: a consultancy behemoth among consultancy behemoths, one equally capable of executing enterprise-scale feats of transformation and shrewd tactical tweaks. The evolution of Deloitte Digital — especially within the life sciences space it now dominates — is a different story.

As recently as seven or eight years ago, Deloitte Digital’s healthcare offering was somewhat fragmented. While the company offered plenty of individual services — its market access, acquisitions/divestitures and health equity capabilities were particularly well-regarded — they seemed, to many outside observers, disconnected from each other.

That didn’t mean organizations working with Deloitte Digital felt underwhelmed by the experience; clients such as NYU Langone Health, Gilead Sciences, Merck and Sanofi were quick to praise the company for its ahead-of-the-herd embrace of digital tactics and data science. They just seemed to want to avail themselves of everything their consultancy partner had to offer, rather than just isolated segments of it, and perhaps less opacity between departments or divisions.

Enter Joanna Ruiz, who joined Deloitte Digital in early 2022 after spending more than two decades at BBDO, Havas and Grey, among other agency monoliths. As managing director, Deloitte health agency head, Ruiz was charged with, in essence, connecting the dots.

“Going back several years, we realized this was a market where we could have a significant impact,” recalls U.S. chief marketing officer Mark Singer, who stepped into his current role around the same time that Ruiz arrived at the company. “We brought in Joanna to work at those intersections of our business. Pulling in marketing was a natural extension of everything else we’d been doing.”

Deloitte Digital creative sample

It wasn’t long before companies all over the healthcare and technology spectrums took notice. In 2017, Deloitte Digital generated $154 million in health-related revenue in North America. By the end of 2023, that annual sum had swelled to a jaw-dropping $684.5 million, up 55% from $441.3 million in 2022.

Deloitte reports that the growth stems from several sources, not the least of which is the addition of 37 new clients, including Johnson & Johnson, Biogen, Moderna, Pfizer and Takeda. Singer also reports an explosion of revenue from three Deloitte products adopted more widely by clients in 2023: tech platform ConvergeHealth, data automation tool CognitiveSpark and AI-driven MLR tool IntelliDoc. 

The company increased head count from 1,900 full-timers at the outset of 2023 to 2,052 at its conclusion. Additions to the company’s leadership suite included principal Roy Yang — who previously led Giant Machines, which Deloitte snapped up in January 2024. Former chief growth officer Barbara Venneman was promoted to global head of Deloitte Digital in June 2023, while managing director, head of content, marketing gen AI lead Jenny Kelly was promoted into her role in January 2023.

As overall staff size has increased over the years, so has its professional diversity. “We have doctors and nurses and surgeons and healthcare policy administrators and people who have invented med-tech devices,” Singer notes. “Our creatives come from healthcare but also digital marketing and consumer marketing. We can do the end-to-end.”

The Giant Machines acquisition is emblematic of Deloitte’s ambitions. Founded in 2015, Giant Machines is a designer and engineer of digital products. Just as critically, the company creates custom learning experiences — which means that its impact will be felt by clients and internal stakeholders alike.

“Rapid prototyping doesn’t just mean, ‘Here’s a med-tech device.’ It can be an app. It can be something that interfaces with a different physical machine,” Singer explains. “This is about engineering and design teams coming together .… Having the ability to prototype and design goes a long way.”

Deloitte Digital creative sample

For her part, Ruiz believes that big-swing moves of this sort are what distinguish Deloitte Digital from the competition. The company’s consulting-plus-creativity-plus-technology model, she says, isn’t easily replicated.

“The expectation is that we are always innovating. We’re helping our clients lead; we’re not just managing a piece of business,” she says.

Those expectations have long been higher for Deloitte Digital than they’ve been for most other organizations of its kind. Over the course of the past decade, as its life sciences capabilities have multiplied, the company has found itself the object of both admiration and skepticism.

“The industry took lots of shots at us early on — ‘You’re a bunch of consultants, you’re a bunch of suits,’” Singer says.

Those shots are fewer and farther between nowadays. Asked whom he views as the company’s most fearsome competitors in the healthcare space, Singer gestures toward Ruiz: “You know what I want to say, right?” Ruiz nods knowingly, then Singer continues with a laugh: “It’s very hard when you’re in a category of one.”

His tone, it should be noted, is far from dismissive. “There are folks on your list that look like Deloitte. There’s a wider berth of competitors,” Singer continues. “But the nice thing about what we’re doing here is that it’s multidisciplinary — which might create a larger competitive set, but it does allow us to create more value for our clients. We can pull together the pieces we need to solve their problems.”

Even as Singer notes that 2023 “wasn’t necessarily a year of let’s-go-build-new-assets,” he allows that Deloitte Digital is experimenting with the Apple Vision Pro on behalf of a handful of clients. He also reports “the med-tech business has completely unlocked itself for us.”

On the other hand, Ruiz expects that Deloitte Digital will extend what she believes to be a sizable advantage in the AI realm. While the organization is happy to work with AI pros, newbies and everyone in between, it senses that many health-adjacent (and non-health-adjacent) would-be clients don’t know what they don’t know about the nascent and potentially industry-redefining technology.

To that end, Deloitte Digital’s Generative AI Readiness Calculator attempts to quantify just how prepared an organization is to execute a meaningful gen AI program. It examines strategy and governance, enterprise-wide readiness, technology and tooling and data maturity.

“The process is the hard part,” Singer says. “Right now, you see companies with varying degrees of maturity and readiness .… They may not be the groundbreakers, but they’re pretty good followers.”

Needless to say, Deloitte Digital’s AI ambitions span far beyond helping other organizations get their ducks in a row. A year from now, Ruiz predicts, the company will have plenty of evidence that it has substantially raised the bar for AI content.

“I want to be able to demonstrate how we’ve moved content production from months to days,” she says. “And I’m not talking about content for the sake of content — I’m talking about content that truly drives behavior change.” 

. . .

Work we wish we did

The Outside In Experiment, which took patient quotes about their battles with uncontrolled gout and combined them with scientific insights about the disease, then turned this information into AI image prompts. From there, five visceral films were produced using open-source stable diffusion AI tools to depict the severe pain and internal damage caused by gout. It was a brilliant use of new technology that showcased the severe nature of gout in a visually compelling way. — Ruiz

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