Read the Conversation

EF: What was the role of Abbvie during the Pandemic?

AR: Our job is to accompany physicians in the best way possible and Abbvie played a critical role during these unprecedented times. Early on on the pandemic, Abbvie allocated at a global level around U$35 million to different organizations to fight the pandemic. In Mexico, we were able to deliver around 25 million Mexican Pesos worth of protection equipment for physicians, nurses, and patients’ treatments for chronic diseases. We focused on helping to mitigate the indirect effects of the pandemic, which we will face later on, as a result of the crisis of having postponed the chronic care of many patients on several diseases. At least 25% of patients stopped going to hospitals, having consultations, and taking their medicine. This is a concern now. With the vaccines, the situation will normalize and it is then when all the diseases that were overlooked will “re-emerge” that will be important to  help patients reconnect to care again.

EF: What are the lessons learned from this pandemic?

AR: First of all, we learned that as we are a well connected global society, a pandemic can happen at any time. The second lesson learned is that we are prepared to operate dramatically differently than we used to. It is a matter of willingness to move forward. In Abbvie Mexico we prepared ourselves to work remotely and completely online for a year, and we took this time to build and strengthen our company culture. Everyone learned that this can be a a new way of doing things in the world. We cannot push it back, we need to adapt and move forward. 

EF: Did you include new KPIs to manage virtually during the Pandemic? What were those?

AR: The business has to be successful regardless of a global pandemic. We introduced a few KPIs mostly related to our staff safety: number of people with symptoms, number of people with COVID cases, number of people that needed to go to the hospital, etc. 

Other KPIs we used have to do with benchmarking our productivity with the one we were used to before the pandemic, and obviously, it all depends on what you're looking for. For example, if what you're looking for is the number of times you get to actually talk to a physician, then you may see a dramatic fall in the KPIs but if what you are looking for is if you have added value to the interaction with them, the answer might be completely different. As expected, physicians got tired quickly, that's where we adopted a different approach. We made focus groups with physicians to understand their needs in order to provide a solution to them quickly. Most importantly is to ensure safety, then to ensure continuity.

As a result, we first donated protection equipment, and we then conducted a course, in which we taught physicians how they needed to prepare for making consultations virtually and comply with the rules of what needs to happen in a consultation, i.e when would be best to have a virtual consultation, and when should a patient have an in-person consultation. We need to update our mindset: life has to continue and of course we need to reduce risks, which is why a hybrid model for consultations is the future.

EF: How receptive were Physicians to learning and adopting this kind of disruptive technology?

AR: As with any new change introductions, you can divide the receptiveness into different physician groups. The first group will get excited and will adopt technology immediately. Then, there is a considerable group that is open to hearing about new ways of working, but needs guidance. Finally, there is a rather considerable group that will be resistant to adapt because they have been working differently. It is important to identify each group and approach each one of them separately. It is best to treat them differently as they will require different efforts.

EF: How do we restore the importance of chronic diseases in a COVID scenario?

AR: The truth is we are constantly looking for a better answer to solve this problem. Fortunately, self-awareness on healthcare and well-being is growing. We're looking at an interesting change of mindset regarding regular checkups. In regards to prevention, this global pandemic showed us how bad things can get quickly, and how important it is to stay healthy. There is a need to raise awareness and help patients reconnect to care, whether it's in the government setting or the private setting doesn't matter. Patients with chronic conditions continue with their treatments. We have seen an increased attention on items related to healthcare and the new lifestyles associated with remote working, for example an amazing increase in the use of lubricant teardrops. We have put together a campaign raising awareness on eye strain, which was a success. There is also a trend to complement diets with vitamins and supplements, which the pandemic accelerated and a general renewed, sense of self-care in the society.

EF: As an ambassador for Mexico within Abbvie, how did you manage to attract resources to the country?

AR: It was not necessary to prioritize Mexico over another country. Our company understood the situation in Mexico and whenever we saw an opportunity to add value, we would submit the project to request the necessary resources from corporate. I believe that the corporation has a very good understanding and a very good approach to listening to the different stories that every country has to tell in terms of the needs of the country. 

EF: What would be your definition of access?

AR:  Access to healthcare is a human right and it is something that we need more of in Mexico and in Latin America generally. Access to consultation, preventive care and medicines are all items where we need to improve within Latin America.

EF: In a few years’ time, you're going to look back at this period in your career, what would you like your tenure to be remembered for?

AR: I believe it will be important for me to look back at how the team was inspired to change things for the better, switch the mindset. Start thinking differently. I would like people to see and understand how this pandemic brought us a 10-year acceleration on the adoption of technology. I truly want to embrace the technology, to make that reality in my inner circle, whether it's my family, my direct reports or my affiliate. I believe the way forward is leveraging technology, as it will be able to solve the problems that we have right now, with a fraction of the resources we need. I also believe in leapfrogging, sometimes taking one step at a time is not the right approach, that's what technology is for. A clear example is the aviation industry with ticketing booking, checking and airplane boarding.

May 2021