BCD Travel announced its Life Sciences Center of Excellence
last month and has now rolled out a new focus on patient travel. The move is intended
to support the unique needs of the patient but also to leverage the benefits of
a company’s corporate travel program.
“We started receiving customer requests about a year
and a half ago, asking what we were doing in this space,” said BCD Life
Sciences Center lead and VP global client team Jessica Azoulay. “BCD has
rich experience across life sciences, but with patient centricity so important
in life sciences today, our customers started looking for new and better ways to
manage their patient travel.”
The model for health study teams today is for healthcare
and pharmaceutical companies to partner with contract research organizations
like Paraxel or Icon. These organizations, over time, have expanded their remit
to manage travel and logistics related to patient needs. But, according to
Azoulay, there’s a lack of transparency on what is happening on the patient level
when it comes to travel.
“These organizations serve a really valuable [purpose]
in the ecosystem. They do things we would never entertain,” said Azoulay.
But, she added, when it comes to travel, BCD wants to realign the roles and responsibilities
to ease the burden on study teams and also to ensure the sponsor company
optimizes the travel piece.
“We know [CRO’s] aren’t leveraging corporate rates by
and large [and they may] lack the information to bring that full negotiation
power to the table when they are talking to suppliers,” she said. “We
also think there is a gap in duty-of-care management because the reporting
isn’t there to bring in the patient detail.”
Part of the solution for patient centricity in travel was
scaled by forming BCD’s Life Sciences Center of Excellence, said Azoulay. “We’ve
had the teams and the expertise for a number of years,” she said, adding
that formalizing the center has allowed the company to put more process around
how to share best practices across the life sciences practice and to offer
unique solutions to clients.
Since the initial announcement of the center of excellence
last month, BCD has experienced a “groundswell of interest,”
according to Azoulay. And the center is flexible in terms of working directly
with the sponsor company or with the designated CRO to provide the right set of
services and solutions.
Other key pieces are still in play, however; specifically,
the technology platforms that the center will use to deliver those tailored travel
solutions, specialized reporting and duty-of-care management to their clients.
“There are a lot of opportunities in both the meetings and
travel space in terms of technology,” said Azoulay. BCD is evaluating those
options but remains open to the idea that the technology pieces that ultimately
make up the platform may not be those traditionally used in the corporate
travel space, given the sensitive patient information required as well as the
regulatory and compliance requirements that are deeply embedded in the life sciences
“We need new solutions to solve recurring challenges
across our client base,” said Azoulay. “On the meetings side, it
could be reconciliation and payment. On the travel side, it could be creating a
single experience for the patient, knowing they need to manage a number of
requests and appointments along their journey. We are trying to catalog what is
there now, and what solutions we could build or develop.”
BCD has “a number of big customers we are talking to
and that are very engaged with us” regarding the Life Sciences Center of
Excellence technology roadmap. The center has run several workshops with those
customers to define their needs and “solve for their recurring challenges,”
The deep focus on patient travel is just one way that BCD’s
Life Sciences Center of Excellence aims to prove that company is the right one
to work with as healthcare, pharmaceutical, medical device and insurance
companies—which have been among the few verticals that continued to travel
during the pandemic—think about their specialized travel management needs.
“This is a differentiator for BCD,” said Azoulay.
“We are the only organization that has the experience and the focus to
solve these challenges.”
As specific business verticals recover and essential travel
becomes more robust in industries like marine, oil and energy, as well as
entertainment and film production, the industry may see more specializations
like this emerge in travel management as TMCs invest to capture active clients
with unique service needs.