Read the Conversation
EF: What was your given mission when appointed almost one year ago?
AP: Cardinal Health has evolved over time, going beyond healthcare distribution in North America and moving into the global production of medical devices. Our global acquisitions were of strategic significance in Asia, which helped us to significantly expand our presence. My mandate was to drive growth and accelerate the good work already happening within the Asia organization, especially in the direct market, where we have a strong presence and end-to-end interconnectivity with our customers. I had to ensure accelerated growth in Asia by aligning with the customers' needs, and positioning Cardinal Health to support the customers, thereby driving growth in the Asian countries I lead.
EF: Could you elaborate on the business units across the region?
AP: Globally, Cardinal Health has multiple healthcare offerings; it covers the end-to-end health spectrum, from delivery to outcomes, we also do our own R&D and manufacture our own products. In the Asian market, Cardinal Health's presence is primarily in manufacturing and selling a broad range of general medical and specialty medical products. Key among them: the prevention of Venous Thromboembolism (VTE) through mechanical prophylaxis, patient monitoring through electrodes, thermometry, and driving patient recovery with the help of nutritional delivery products. Additionally, our surgical gloves portfolio keeps us close to our clinical customers, and surgeons. In Asia, our next goal is to offer clinically differentiated products throughout critical patient pathways from OR to ICU to ward.
EF: What would Cardinal Health’s definition of access be?
AP: Cardinal Health looks at demand and manufacturing from a global standpoint; we are able to leverage our global scale to deliver market-leading products to customers based on local needs. There are a couple of ways to look at access: identifying the right product and adding value to the customer is one way of providing access. We strive for driving customer awareness and creating enough incentives for an option to be a viable solution. We are mindful of creating access in terms of regulatory pathways, skill sets, and required competencies. We start with customer needs in mind, considering what value we can offer. When we find the right fit, our teams will drive access through meaningful engagement.
EF: Could you elaborate on the role technology has had in the past years, and what are the trends for the future?
AP: Prior to the pandemic, most leaders already believed that there were different avenues where digital could be used to support commercial growth, but Covid accelerated the trend and opened the door to opportunities we had not thought practical before. Face-to-face relationships in the MedTech industry were considered very important, but Covid made us realize what could be done during lockdowns. In Cardinal Health, internally and externally, we have become extremely open and learned to collaborate online. It takes a certain amount of expertise to brainstorm online, achieve an open dialogue, have creative conversations, and be successful – something impossible to imagine pre-Covid. We have also moved to the next level regarding the external environment - our customers. We conduct conferences online, showcase products online, have different We-Chat channels in China, and talk to thousands of customers through various platforms in one go, accessing people in a way only made possible by technology. All these trends are here to stay, especially for uncomplicated products, and when people already possess a certain understanding and information. Best competencies and practices can be shared through technology at a fraction of the cost. Those are the aspects that are here to stay.
EF: Even with digitalization, time is limited, and stakeholders need to choose which information should be consumed; what strategies can be implemented to address customers' time constraints?
AP: Technology has its pros and cons; the short attention span is a challenge. The message must have the right anchor or hook so it won't be overlooked. Another challenge in healthcare is we are not talking about personalized health at the moment, as there are regulations with which we must comply that prevent us from engaging directly with patients. We communicate to caregivers, ensuring that our messages are valuable for them, making it easier for them to understand our value proposition. In some instances, we may not arrive at the ideal solution in the first go; when that happens we utilize customer feedback to arrive at the proper communication.
EF: How do you attract the best and the brightest to Cardinal Health, Singapore, and the Asian market?
AP: Attracting and retaining the right talent has always been a challenge, currently probably a bigger one. It has to be a win-win situation and a good fit for the talent and the organization. We must have the right culture within the company to attract good talent. In particular, internal recommendations and references are valuable because they attest to our culture. It is also about producing high-quality medical products and creating a reputable brand in the market. I don't mean advertising campaigns but rather a reputation built on the good work we do when working with stakeholders like distributors, regulatory authorities, government agencies, and hospitals so that when people see our brand, it creates a conducive ground for talent to realize they can grow, achieve their potential, and be appreciated for their contributions. The culture, the value we offer, the work we do, and our mission in terms of our impact on delivering medical products and services that improve patient outcomes in different markets all add up.
EF: Singapore is known as a global innovation hub, and science and innovation are fundamental to your company; to what extent are you contributing to include Singapore's local innovation footprint?
AP: Cardinal Health's presence in Singapore goes beyond selling products; we offer a significant contribution from the R&D standpoint. We have a global research centre housed here, the only one outside of the US, driven by a team of engineers and scientists who strive to develop innovations that will deliver greater clinical value to customers and patients. We also have a large procurement team and other global teams operating from Singapore - a lot of talent. We tap into the local talent pool to resource R&D, Sourcing, and other functions beyond Commercial activities. Singapore gives us access to its talent pool, a valuable and unique element in line with our long-term objective of supporting local healthcare needs, which in turn contributes to the success of Singapore and Cardinal Health. We benefit from a vibrant ecosystem and deploy talent globally for the greater good. The products developed locally are also marketed around the world.
EF: Singapore is also well-known for its startup culture, including the health tech area; if you had to create a new health sector startup in Singapore in 2023, what would it be and why?
AP: I love the Singaporean ecosystem's receptivity to cutting-edge technology. The mindset is open to technology, supported by data, and AI-driven. Healthcare, data, and an extremely supportive government that invests in prevention and monitoring are huge assets. Wellness backed by data and a keen sense of technology creates a great ground for people looking to innovate in healthcare. The Singaporean environment is driven more by prevention than therapeutics, so I would look to create something targeted towards prevention, leveraging data analytics, to deliver personalized solutions that help individuals take control of their health.
EF: Next month is your first anniversary since being appointed Managing Director of Asia Direct Markets; what have been the greater achievements of your first year, and what are your plans for the second year?
AP: The first year was about enhancing stability, as we have gone through some organizational changes. We had to ensure that all our businesses in Asia Direct Markets simplified their practices, and streamlined their operations - it has been a year of consolidation and focusing on the right priorities. We have brought in some exciting products in a few markets, and we will continue to bring to market new technology from various global R&D centres and manufacturing locations. This year we are piloting an exciting technology product in South Korea, and we will scale up its launch in other markets subsequently. We are typically into prevention and recovery, but we are also looking to help neo-natal patients in Asia by offering premature infants targeted products to improve care, which will also drive further business growth. We are also looking at multiple opportunities in China and working on commercializing locally manufactured products that are market specific and are developed by external suppliers. Baby steps at the moment, but we are looking to accelerate these trends and solutions over the next few years because these initiatives have much potential.
EF: Cardinal Health has operated in Singapore for almost twenty years, what would be your advice to other executives on managing, motivating, and leading virtually while creating impact and value for the sector?
AP: It will be Cardinal Health’s 20th anniversary in Singapore next year. In the early years, our business activities revolved around sourcing; we have a huge sourcing team in Singapore who play a critical role in our global supply chain operations. In terms of commercial operations in Asia, we are still fairly new, supporting regional customers and stakeholders over the last eight to nine years. We know from our global experience that it always comes down to our customers, adding value and making a difference that will get one through the highs and lows. The trust built with our customers over the years has enabled us to partner with them to navigate global challenges like pandemics, logistic issues, inflation, supply shortages, etc. All the while collaborating with customers to ensure patient needs were met. Keeping the customer at the centre of the conversation is key to staying outcomes driven. Every organization has internal plans that are integral to the market they operate in. However, we cannot look only inwards and in isolation at our internal plans and products and ignore where the market is going or what the market needs. We must work in sync with the market, contribute towards its sustainable development, and strengthen our organizational footprint for mutual benefit.
EF: Is there any final message you would like to share with our healthcare sector readers, who are very targeted? As you are when you refer to the Cardinal Health Way of working.
AP: It can be easy to get lost in internal jargon that has little meaning for external audiences. For example, when I speak of driving "Focused Growth," people in Cardinal Health know what I mean. To decode this for an external audience, it means to “simplify and prioritize”. Healthcare is evolving excitingly; our mission is to improve people's lives through prevention, ensuring they do not get to a critical stage health-wise. For us at Cardinal Health, it is about making the right decisions, helping the caregivers who are our extended partners, listening to them, offering them solutions, and delivering to them the value they need.