Making an impact in healthcare through management consulting: Hilary Thomas

News by #FutureLeadersForum in Trends & Insights | Health and Life Sciences

In an online discussion on 31 March 2022 as part of the FLF Conversations series of the ICMCI Future Leaders Forum, Hilary Thomas, PA Consulting Health and Life Sciences Leader, explored how management consulting and a professional medical background work together to the benefit of patients and healthcare systems. The event was facilitated by Francois Kriel, Director at Kriel & Co, accredited by the Institute of Management Consultants and Master Coaches South Africa and member of the Future Leaders Forum.

Hilary Thomas is leveraging successfully her medical background and a consulting career to drive change and better outcomes for patients. Leading complex projects, navigating clinicians and sites and understanding the medicine behind certain actions, she has been able to manage different stakeholders, bring people together and build consensus to agree a way forward.

Delivering change in the medical sector is challenging and the competences that management consultants bring are those of good managers. They are able to assist with hospital management and improving the culture. The consulting perspective helps to expedite and make more efficient the ways things happen. In the long run, the contribution people make in healthcare systems often saves lives, whether you are yielding a scalpel or improving the way hospitals work. 

Hilary Thomas emphasised the strengths-based approach to teams as a prerequisite to success. According to her, historically organisations have taken a slightly “tunnel-vision” view of what it takes to be a good management consultant. The strengths-based approach allows people to play to their strengths. Thus, the organization is also able to build teams which cover the whole range of skills required for a certain task, so that they cover all eventualities and enable people to bring their whole selves to work. A strengths-based approach not only brings out their best and lets people perform to a higher standard, but it also means that organisations enable everybody to thrive. 

As regards relationships with clients, she pointed out that it is best when the consultants are clear about the different roles and whose responsibility they are. To deliver change is to empower people to own it and change will stick only with cultural alignment. Thus, one of the ways in which management consultants add value as is to create momentum, to drive change, to be more disruptive, and to catalyse innovation more effectively.

The pandemic has clearly brought in new ways of working empowered by the advances in technology, including remote delivery and making the whole ecosystem much more fluid but also complex. The consulting sector is seeing more partnerships and alliances post-pandemic, moreover in different combinations involving small and large partners. It is also important to bring in perspectives from other areas, articulating well the benefits for a particular industry. 

Corporate culture has evolved and is characterised by a much greater awareness of mental health and a holistic view of health. The processes have been democratised with easy access to leaders, flatter structures and less hierarchy.

For highlights of the event, please check out this video.

About the guest speaker

Hilary Thomas is Health and Life Sciences Leader at PA Consulting, a consultancy bringing ingenuity to life. She applies her extensive medical experience to support PA’s clients at all stages of the Life Sciences value chain. Her expertise also helps to shape thinking across a number of areas of Digital Health, Decentralised Trials, and Product Innovation.

She is a senior, accredited clinician with particular expertise in oncology and medical management, having been an acute trust Medical Director and Professor of Oncology at the University of Surrey. Hilary Thomas is motivated by having positive impact for patients and in her consulting career her team’s approach to transforming Quality of Care has benefitted patients in over 30 countries across infectious diseases, immunology, oncology and several rare diseases. She was an elected member of the UK medical regulator, the General Medical Council, for nine years. 

Previously she was Chief Medical Adviser at KPMG for over a decade and has worked globally across many therapeutic areas to better understand patient experience and how it might be improved, enhancing outcomes and access to innovative medicines.

About the facilitator

Francois Kriel is accredited by the Institute of Management Consultants and Master Coaches South Africa with specialisation in the areas of change management, data privacy and digital transformation.

As a director at Kriel & Co, he leads a dynamic team experienced in facilitating digital change at several high-profile organisations in a variety of sectors. Kriel & Co has formed a multi-disciplinary change management affiliation with the tech law department of top-tier law firm ENSafrica. This unique combination of leading attorneys and consultants aims to support the digital privacy era in line with legislation while fitting the practical needs of any size organisations committed to protect data and personal information.

Francois Kriel is a Leadership Committee Member of Privacy Officers Africa and supports Stellenbosch University as guest lecturer in digital transformation to business management honours students. He is an advocate for collaborative leadership, mentorship and LGBTQIA+ inclusivity.

About the ICMCI Future Leaders Forum

The ICMCI Future Leaders Forum brings together young consultants from all over the world in a structured effort to boost the conversation about the future of management consulting. It offers a platform to exchange views about the profession and to coalesce knowledge to the benefit of clients and consultants while growing a strong international network and developing leadership skills in the global arena.