Healthcare Consulting: Everything You Need to Know

Healthcare Consulting Everything You Need to Know

Are you recruiting for consulting and coming from a healthcare background? Or are you curious about healthcare consulting work and want to focus your consulting job search on this industry?

If you are wondering what career paths are available, we have great news!

Healthcare consulting is a huge part of the consulting industry, with many firms and exciting opportunities.

In this article, we’ll provide:

  • An overview of healthcare consulting: definition, key characteristics, and how it differs from generalist consulting
  • Examples of healthcare consulting firms
  • Information on applying for a healthcare consulting role and acing the case interview
  • Top 5 tips on how to land a healthcare consulting job
  • The possible exit opportunities for healthcare consultants

An Overview of Healthcare Consulting

What is Healthcare Consulting?

Definition: Healthcare consulting is a specialized area of the consulting industry  that provides expert advice and guidance to help healthcare organizations with business challenges in their operations, marketing, organizational strategy, and valuations.

Clients in healthcare consulting come from both the public and private sectors and may include hospitals, clinics, insurance providers, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, and government agencies.

As a healthcare consultant, you’ll work with clients to identify areas where they can attract more patients, improve operations, reduce costs, increase efficiency, and improve patient outcomes. This work can involve analyzing data, conducting market research, developing strategic plans, implementing new technologies, and providing training and support to staff.

These projects can cover a wide range of topics, including business strategy, operations, implementation, innovation, and everything in between. Some real-life project examples include:

  • Developing an implementation plan for a hospital to scale its field capacity in rural areas
  • Performing due diligence on an acquisition of a European network of cardiology clinics
  • Advising a national health government agency on its program strategy to roll out the latest vaccine

There are some unique constraints or considerations to note in healthcare consulting, such as:

  • Regulatory environment: Healthcare is a heavily regulated industry, and consultants need to have an understanding of the regulatory landscape (for example in the U.S., issues like FDA approvals and HIPAA compliance would be important)
  • Complex stakeholder environment: There are multiple stakeholders, including patients, providers, payers, and policymakers. These parties have different goals and perspectives, and consultants need to take them into account.
  • Patient privacy: Healthcare consultants must be extremely careful if projects include analyzing patient data. This can involve implementing strict data security protocols, training staff on privacy policies, and ensuring all data is handled carefully.
  • Reimbursement models: The industry in the U.S. is undergoing a major shift in reimbursement models, with more companies trending towards value-based care (where providers are compensated based on patient outcomes and patients are incented to live healthier lives and reduce chronic health problems). Consultants need to be knowledgeable about industry changes and how they impact healthcare providers and payers.

Healthcare consulting is a broad term. In this article, we’ll focus on consulting work performed for larger, established organizations including hospitals and large pharmaceutical firms. While these large organizations often develop or distribute new products, much of traditional “healthcare consulting work” relates to improving ongoing business performance.

There are related consulting specialties that focus more on innovation and new product development.

  • Life sciences consulting: performs strategy and operations work for medical providers, pharmaceutical companies, biotech firms, insurance providers, and other health organizations.
  • Biotech consulting: focuses on products derived from research centered on biology (vs. broader research including chemistry, environments, behavior, etc.) Clients include big pharma and small biotech firms focused on medicine, energy, or agriculture.
Now that we understand what healthcare consulting entails, let’s look at how it differs from generalist consulting.

Similarities & Differences Between Healthcare Consulting vs. Generalist Consulting

If you’re interested in learning more about healthcare consulting, chances are you already have some knowledge of management or strategy consulting. However, if you want a more comprehensive understanding of traditional consulting, check out our article “What is Consulting?”

Let’s look at the key similarities and differences between healthcare consulting and generalist consulting:

Healthcare Consulting vs. Generalist Consulting - What’s Different

For more information on salaries and career trajectories, see our article on Management Consulting Salaries.

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Types of Healthcare Consulting Firms

Healthcare is a complex industry with different needs depending on the client. There are 2 types of healthcare consulting firms serving these needs:

  • Specialist healthcare consulting firms who work with one or both of:
    • a) Service Providers: healthcare delivery systems (e.g., hospitals) and payors (e.g., insurance companies and governments)
    • b) Product Providers: work with the companies that develop and market pharmaceuticals, medical devices, diagnostics, and other medical products
  • Generalist firms with healthcare practices are traditional management or strategy consulting firms with dedicated healthcare consulting divisions and experts.

We compiled a list of top life science consulting firms to give you a headstart on your research into your future career. Vault also publishes an annual ranking of the Best Consulting Firms in Health Sciences Consulting.

Specialist Healthcare Consulting Firms

ZS Associates

ZS Associates is a management consulting and technology firm known for its work in global healthcare and other industries. With 35 offices and a team of over 12,000 professionals, ZS leverages analytics, data, and science to help clients make informed decisions.

The firm’s clients include consumer goods and private equity, but healthcare remains its primary area of focus and expertise. ZS advises many of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, drugmakers, and medical device manufacturers.

Check out our guide on ZS Associates to learn how to ace their interview.

IQVIA (formerly IMS Consulting Group)

IQVIA is a biotech and pharmaceutical management consulting firm committed to advancing the healthcare industry and enhancing patient outcomes worldwide. Client work includes helping speed up drug development, ensuring product quality and safety, enhancing commercial effectiveness, improving access to healthcare, and driving better health outcomes.

With a team of about 500 consultants, IQVIA has a growing presence in emerging markets, supported by local experts in Brazil, Shanghai, Singapore, and a global footprint across five continents.

Read this article on IQVIA for an overview of their company and interview process.

Putnam Associates

Putnam has provided life sciences strategic advisory and consulting for over 30 years. It works with a diverse range of clients, from venture-backed start-ups to global biopharmaceutical firms across the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. The firm specializes in solving complex strategic challenges, including portfolio prioritization, product pricing, and patent expiration strategies.

Putnam prioritizes its professional development program as it has a boutique firm culture with over 200 consultants. It was recently ranked as the #1 consulting internship by Vault.

For more insights, we have a deep dive into Putnam’s interview process.

Clearview Healthcare Partners

Clearview is a boutique consulting firm specializing in life sciences strategy. It focuses on delivering insights in four core areas: pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, medical devices, and diagnostics. Clearview’s healthcare expertise includes pricing, market access, advanced analytics, and expert research solutions.

Over half of Clearview’s consultants hold a life sciences Ph.D. The company operates primarily in Boston, New York, and San Francisco.

The Chartis Group

The Chartis Group is a management consulting firm with a team of over 600 leading healthcare advisors, physicians, data scientists, nurses, strategists, digital architects, informaticists, and practitioners. It has expertise in helping healthcare companies reposition themselves in response to industry changes and new competition, and improving operations including improving quality and patient outcomes and digital transformation.

Health Advances

Health Advances is a boutique strategy consulting firm specializing exclusively in healthcare, driven by a core vision to make a lasting, positive impact on global healthcare. The team of over 170 scientists, clinicians, and business professionals shares a passion for advancing the commercialization and adoption of healthcare innovations that improve patient outcomes.

The firm prides itself on company culture and professional development. In 2023, Vault named it #1 in its “Best Consulting Firms for Formal Training” list.

Health advances has offices in the U.S., Switzerland, and Hong Kong, and project work worldwide.

Huron Consulting Group

Huron is a global professional services firm helps clients with projects from strategy through execution. Huron drives positive outcomes across the healthcare, higher education, life sciences, and commercial sectors. With expertise in strategy, technology, operations, advisory services, and analytics, it focuses on industries facing transformational change and regulatory or economic pressures.

Huron has worked with over 450 health systems, hospitals, academic medical centers, over 125 life sciences organizations, and Fortune 500 businesses. It has employees based in 15 countries.

Trinity Life Sciences

Trinity Life Sciences is a global team of consultants, technical experts, data integrators, and innovators with a passion for healthcare. With a focus on advisory services, insights & analytics, and technology, Trinity serves a range of clients from emerging biotech firms to established pharmaceutical companies.

Operating since 1996, Trinity provides comprehensive end-to-end analytical and strategic support to early-stage companies and tools and solutions for larger, established clients.

Syneos Health

Syneos Health Consulting is a biopharmaceutical management consulting firm that helps clients accelerate activities from laboratory to patient care. It provides services through its four consulting groups: commercial advisory, product and franchise strategy, scientific, and medical affairs advisory, and R&D advisory.

As part of the larger Syneos Health organization, it can leverage the network of therapeutic and clinical experts to deliver customized solutions to help clients minimize risk, facilitate drug trials, and accelerate time to market.

Back Bay Life Science Advisors

Back Bay Life Science Advisors is the only life sciences firm offering both strategy consulting and investment banking services. It serves global clients in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical technology, and related industries. The firm collaborates with investors, banks, academia, and government to advance treatments in human care and works with companies of all sizes across the US and global life science markets.

Back Bay’s experienced strategy and banking teams guide companies on technology and drug development, from planning and initial concept to product commercialization, franchising and licensing, M&A, divestiture, and more.

The firm’s headquarters is in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, and it has offices in Toronto and Europe.

Generalist Firms with Healthcare Practices

All MBB firms (McKinsey, BCG, Bain) and the Big Four (KPMG, EY, PwC, Deloitte) have robust healthcare consulting practices. According to Vault’s 2023 list of “Best Consulting Firms for Health Sciences Consulting,” BCG and Bain rank #1 and #4, respectively. The Big Four are also in the top 20 list.

If you want exposure to healthcare consulting but also want to work in other industries, consider recruiting for a generalist consulting firm. One of our My Consulting Offer coaches had a diverse range of projects during his 3 years as a junior consultant, including healthcare cost optimization for clinics, due diligence for private equity firms, and a mining project. This variety is one of the main attractions of working for a generalist consulting firm.

If you end up loving healthcare consulting, you may be able to specialize in that field at the generalist firm – especially because it’s a technical field where you can add value by being up the learning curve – or join another specialist healthcare consulting firm.

How to Recruit into Healthcare Consulting

How to Apply to a Healthcare Consulting Firm or Join the Practice in a Generalist Firm

For those interested in joining specialist healthcare consulting firms, these firms place more emphasis on industry-specific expertise. You have a huge advantage if you have a Ph.D. or graduate degree in healthcare and life sciences. You are an expert in the field, and your rationale for wanting the job is evident. For more information, check out our article on How to Transition from a Ph.D. Program to Consulting (it’s relevant for other graduate degrees too).

These specialist healthcare consulting firms are usually boutique firms, with smaller company sizes and tight-knit cultures. We recommend reading what consultants say about working at this type of firm and our tips on recruiting into Boutique Consulting Firms.

If you’re looking to join a generalist firm, there are two ways to approach it. Some of the top consulting firms have specific job postings that recruit directly into their healthcare practice. For example, McKinsey in Switzerland has postings for Associate roles that solely focus on pharmaceutical industry projects. It is targeted at graduate students with 3 to 5 years of work experience related to healthcare and life sciences.

Alternatively, you could recruit for a general consulting role and join an office with a larger healthcare practice. If you have a specific background in healthcare, make sure to highlight it during the staffing process. After a few projects, you could network and move internally to the healthcare practice by aligning yourself with senior managers and partners focusing on that area.

Insight into the Healthcare Consulting Interview Process

Healthcare Consulting Everything You Need to Know

What should you expect when you land a healthcare case interview? Get ready to put your analytical and problem-solving skills to the test!

The interview process will differ depending on the type of firm you are applying to. If you apply to specialist healthcare consulting firms, the interview will focus solely on the healthcare industry. Be prepared to tackle cases involving investment decisions like product development and research, mergers and acquisitions, product launch and commercialization, and operations. It might also cover healthcare delivery or insurance, depending on the firm’s area of expertise.

For generalist firms, you can expect the interview to cover a range of industries, perhaps including healthcare, but there is no guarantee that you’ll see healthcare cases.

Let’s look at a case interview example with PharmaCo, a multinational pharmaceutical company, to give you a glimpse of what to expect.

PharmaCo developed a new drug that can potentially treat 3 major types of illnesses but only has the capital to finance clinical trials for 1 illness out of the 3. As a consultant, your task is to help PharmaCo decide which illness to pursue clinical trials to maximize profits over a 5-year period post-launch.

To solve this, you may be asked to:

  • Assess the market potential for the 3 illnesses, such as looking at competitive drugs, market share, and demand for drugs.
  • Understand what different stakeholders want (e.g., doctors and physicians might want more options and the potential for a lower-cost alternative for their patients).
  • Evaluate any regulatory concerns (e.g., if one illness will require more costly and lengthy regulatory approval processes).
  • Determine the pricing strategy (discount vs. premium drug) that will maximize profitability.

Potential quantitative analysis may include analyzing exhibits, such as calculating:

  • Market size for each illness to determine the potential and need for the drug
  • Potential profit pools for each illness
  • Expected profit (5-year period), factoring in clinical trial costs and probability of success

When making your recommendations, it’s crucial to consider balancing profitability with the probability of clinical trial success. Remember to include suggestions for the next steps.

For more tips and resources, see Our Ultimate Guide to Case Interview Prep and The Healthcare Consulting Case Interview.

Top 5 Tips to Land a Job in Healthcare Consulting

1. Be Clear About Your Interest in Healthcare, Including Your “Why?”

Articulate why you are specifically interested in healthcare consulting. Is it because you want to make a difference in the industry? Because you have a personal connection to the field? Whatever your reason, be sure to communicate it effectively.

2. Emphasize Any Relevant Healthcare Experience

Be ready to answer questions about your experience in the healthcare industry. Make sure to highlight any relevant skills or experience you have, such as internships, healthcare-related courses, or research projects.

3. Network With Current Consultants

Healthcare Consulting Everything You Need to Know

Connect with people in healthcare consulting to learn more about the field, and the firms, and to demonstrate your interest.

4. Stay Up to Date with Industry News

Follow healthcare news to stay up-to-date on the latest developments and trends. Most firms publish articles and content about their research and select projects.

5. Practice Your Cases

If you’re applying for a generalist consulting firm, be sure to practice cases outside of healthcare as well, as case interviews will cover a range of industries. However, if you’re prepping for a specialist healthcare consulting firm, focus on healthcare cases.

Remember, the skills tested in a case interview are the same across all industries. You’ll need to be able to structure a problem and reach a logical, defensible recommendation.

Exit Opportunities After Working at a Healthcare Consulting Firm

After a few years at a healthcare consulting firm, you will have a lot of great experience. There are potential exit opportunities for healthcare consultants, including:

  • Industry: Leverage your experience to move into the healthcare industry, such as healthcare management or corporate strategy, in organizations such as hospitals, insurance, and pharmaceutical or medical device companies. These roles involve setting the company’s strategic direction, analyzing market trends and opportunities, and making decisions about mergers and acquisitions.
  • Government: Shape healthcare public policy at government agencies, like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Private equity or venture capital: Analyze the viability of healthcare investments for a fund or work in operations to help the portfolio companies grow and scale.
  • Non-profit: Work at a non-profit focused on improving healthcare access or addressing public health issues.
  • Education and training: Pursue academia and teach or research healthcare-related topics. Become an expert in your research area and advisor for companies.

With these tips and knowledge of healthcare consulting, you’ll be on your way to landing your dream job in this field!

 – – – – –

In this article, we’ve covered:

  • An overview of healthcare consulting: what is it and how it differs from traditional strategy consulting
  • Examples of healthcare consulting firms, both specialist firms and generalist firms
  • How to recruit into healthcare consulting, including what makes a successful application and interview
  • Potential exit opportunities after working in healthcare consulting

Still have questions?

If you have more questions about healthcare consulting, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s case coaches will answer them.

Other people prepping for healthcare consulting found the following pages helpful:

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