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March 31, 2020

Deb Kilpatrick, Evidation Health

We are all adapting to an uncertain new reality as the COVID-19 pandemic changes the way we work and live. Business leaders at all levels are sharing the challenges they’re encountering in the face of COVID-19, like ensuring employee safety, staying connected to a fully remote workforce, and navigating supply chains. Chair of the AdvaMed Women’s Executive Network (WEN) Tracy MacNeal asked Deb Kilpatrick, CEO at Evidation Health, for her views.

While we are all similar in how we’re responding to COVID-19, many of us have unique situations and contributions. What is unique about the way Evidation has been affected by this pandemic? How are you leading in the face of those circumstances?

Pragmatically speaking, Evidation already had a portion of our workforce that was fully remote and working in different parts of the US – one benefit of this being that we were already quite technology-enabled for 100% of the company to work remotely. So, we reacted to this need quickly and efficiently on a tactical level. However, the bigger challenge is that trust and mutual accountability need to be maintained among everyone in the company, even when no two people are in the same room together. One thing I’ve asked of our senior leadership team is that they really focus on embodying behaviors and qualities of high trust leaders, now more than ever. Keys to high trust leadership include, for example, genuinely caring for others, openly confronting reality, continuously learning and improving, and keeping commitments to our partners and one another.

We’re also collectively heartened by our mission of empowering everyone to participate in better health outcomes at a time like this, because our team knows that we can take action on this to advance our mission, even in very challenging circumstances. It motivates us, but it also reflects how we can meaningfully contribute to navigating this crisis through empowering individuals across the country to help at a time in which many might not feel empowered at all. Evidation’s virtual research platform of nearly 4 million people across the US, connected via our Achievement product, gives us a direct line to a large and diverse population of people willing to participate in health research, allowing us to gain valuable insights into how people are feeling right now, what they’re experiencing, and what they’re doing to cope with COVID-19. Best of all, we’re able to see how these factors and variables are evolving over time, and we hope to use that information to help public health officials assess whether public policy recommendations (e.g., such as social distancing, and eventually, vaccination, etc.) are being followed and have impact in different regions of the US or to spot potential geographic areas of concern. 

Many people are seeking a silver lining, as humanity learns more about our "new normal." What kind of impact do you see out of COVID-19 for Evidation and for medtech as an industry?

First of all, I’m quite hopeful this crisis causes us all to be a bit more empathetic to what others are experiencing in terms of individual health challenges. In terms of the business of health care, it’s clear from the nightly news that there’s already a much deeper public understanding of the complexities of the medical product supply chain. But I also hope Americans are gaining a new appreciation for the importance of the work that everyone in this sector of the economy does every day – from pharmaceutical companies to medical device manufacturers to researchers to hospitals to regulators. The reality of what it takes to develop and prove that new treatments and vaccines work, even in the most pressing of global circumstances, might be an eye-opener to many people. And there is significantly more public debate and policymaking around how we can streamline health care product development and approval processes without sacrificing patient safety. For Evidation, this means that core aspects of our business – evidence generation and measurement of product impact in the real world – stand to be central parts of a national conversation for some time.

More broadly, our company centers on inventive methods for capturing, quantifying, and measuring health in the everyday life of individuals, at scale, across therapeutic areas – and in the last several weeks we are seeing significant, widespread changes in health-related behaviors, including the biggest week-over-week drop-off in daily physical activity we’ve ever measured. But in the face of this upheaval, we’re also seeing that people are working together to get through this situation. We’re finding that our connected members in Achievement, across every state in the U.S., are ready and willing to contribute to the understanding and containment of COVID-19. Our nationwide initiative gauging attitudes, experiences, activities, and behaviors around COVID-19 has received an overwhelming response – well over 100,000 enrollees in a single weekend at launch. We believe many of these individuals are choosing to participate in our work because they truly want to make a difference, and we hope that sentiment continues long after COVID-19 is no longer a threat.