Read the Conversation
EF: When we look back on 2022, what will the main talking points be regarding healthcare in Colombia?
CH: 2022 is the year of healthcare returning to normal. Patients are going back to the hospitals and receiving treatment that was delayed for 12 to 18 months during the pandemic. In addition, we have noticed an increase in lower-complexity treatments compared to the past two years. Covid-19 was very aggressive, especially in 2021, when it was of critical complexity. This year we have also noticed that much of the infrastructure built to tackle the pandemic is now readily available, but occupancy rates are lower.
Regarding different speciality treatments, doctors and healthcare providers, in general, are still learning about some of the effects of Covid-19. What we are seeing is that the virus is causing a different impact, not only related to the respiratory system. Those with pre-existing illnesses experience different situations after having Covid-19. The healthcare sector is still learning how to prevent and treat the aftereffects of the virus. Despite this, Colombia is very close to its pre-pandemic situation.
EF: Having worked for an impressive array of companies in the sector, what attracted you to ICU Medical?
CH: I feel inspired by the spirit of the company. ICU Medical used to be a relatively small company, with revenues of around $400 million five years ago. Then the decision was made to acquire Hospire from Pfizer, for total revenue of around $1.2 billion and now with the Smiths acquisition revenues are around $2.4 billion. The acquisition of a company that was so much bigger was very impressive. ICU Medical’s approach is to keep growing into the future; we want to pursue our work in IV therapy and ensure that we offer a complete solution to our patients and healthcare professionals. The growth and direction of the company are very inspirational to me.
EF: Could you elaborate on your footprint in Colombia and the importance of Colombia to ICU Medical?
CH: We have a direct presence in Colombia; we have an infrastructure in the country and a team based here, which isn’t the same for other countries in the region, where we are present through distributors. Our team incorporates different aspects, such as sales and promotion, as well as a clinical approach to support our customers and improve clinical practices.
Around five years ago, when I joined the company, a decision was made to establish Colombia as a hub, so we also support the surrounding countries with logistics, operations, regulations, and finance. Colombia was chosen for various reasons, such as its economy, stability, and size of the market, and over the last five years, Colombia has been consolidated as the regional hub for ICU Medical in Latin America.
EF: Could you elaborate on your portfolio in Colombia and how you expect this to evolve over the coming years?
CH: We have recently acquired Smith’s Medical from the UK and a pump company from Poland. Over the next twelve to eighteen months, we are integrating the portfolios of our acquisitions with our current portfolio in Colombia. This will change our approach to the future a little because, along with our current strength in IV treatments, we will branch out further into areas such as oncology, anaesthesia, pain management, and the respiratory field. The latter is very new for us. Some products will continue to be sold by current distributors, but we are going to work together to offer the complete portfolio to our end users, which is a natural change following the acquisitions.
Our approach is to offer a complete solution to our users; we are working hard with healthcare professionals to enhance clinical practices. We are working to improve several areas, such as patient safety and Health Care Professionals' efficiency and safety, which are mutually beneficial for them and us.
EF: How are you leveraging the use of technology to improve patient care?
CH: One of the most important things for us that we are currently introducing in Colombia is interoperability. We have pumps that deliver the IV solution; in order to have an increased level of control of the drugs that are administered to patients, these must communicate with a central database. Secondly, they must be connected to the clinical history of the patient with other hospital systems, including the pharmacy. We are aware that the future of healthcare relies on the interoperability of digital solutions.
Our company is very strong in countries like Canada and the USA, which helps us to deliver a comprehensive solution to our customers in Latin America. We have a very good position in Colombia, and it is one of our goals for the near future to keep progressing in ensuring that customers are connected and that we implement interoperability solutions across our operations.
EF: How do you collaborate with other stakeholders, and what benefits does this bring?
CH: In the past, it was not common to have a collaborative spirit. One of the key teachings of the pandemic is that we are all part of the same healthcare sector, and we need to work together to support our common goals between different stakeholders, such as clinics and hospitals, suppliers, logistics companies, etc. One year ago, we attended a workshop with leaders from the healthcare sector, and one of the topics we covered was the importance of maintaining a collaborative spirit after the pandemic.
This is an approach that must be maintained, as well as enhancing partnerships, especially with companies and stakeholders that complement our portfolio. This will allow us to bring greater solutions to the patient.
EF: What makes Colombia an attractive place to invest in?
CH: The situation that ICU Medical finds itself in is very similar to many other companies. In the past fifteen years, Colombia has consolidated itself as a regional hub thanks to its economy, stability, and the open competition that exists in the country. The healthcare sector is very dynamic; when the results are published for the best hospitals in Latin America, you will find several Colombian ones as part of the rankings. The clinics and hospitals in Colombia are focused on improving quality practices and having international certifications. They are part of an international network, and the healthcare sector in Colombia is highly respected, not only by the hospitals but also by the healthcare professionals. Colombia has a very good infrastructure for healthcare providers, and companies, including many global companies such as ICU, have a significant presence here.
Colombia is home to many regional hubs and manufacturing facilities; multinational companies are coming to invest and acquire local companies; this has already been happening over the past few years, which makes it a very interesting market. What we see as a huge benefit is that we have not yet reached the maximum potential or possibilities in terms of the country's population, but we still see significant room for growth.
EF: What are you most proud of over these past five years?
CH: What I feel most proud about is that we are going back to basics. 80% of our people here are from the healthcare sector, mostly nurses, our focus is to provide great advice and support to clinics and hospital nurses on how to improve clinical practices, when I joined the company five years ago, our focus and priorities were different, we were in a transitional period, was increased pressure of achieving goals and meeting key performance indicators. However, over the past five years, we have gone back to our basics, which is being a consultant to other healthcare professionals on how to improve the IV clinical practice.