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EF: Taking the need to balance different economic and political situations into consideration, do you see the year 2023 as a challenge or an opportunity?
CE: 2023 is both a challenge and an opportunity. As a multinational company, we are focusing on increasing our efficiency to better serve the markets. Last year, we started looking deeper into our different portfolios with the aim of focusing more on Medical Technology, and that is currently an ongoing process. I see positive results. The market needs innovative companies like us that recognize that there are different niches and needs within the healthcare sector that require our effort. 2023 is going to be challenging, but we are on the right path.
EF: What was the mission you were given or that you set for yourself when you took over as the General Manager of Baxter International?
CE: Firstly, I want to amplify Baxter's voice in the market. One of my main goals is to raise the bar and establish Baxter as a company that is transforming the healthcare sector to bring innovations to the marketplace. We want to continue developing our employees by creating a strong organization that can attract the best talent. You cannot achieve this if you do not have the right talent to do it.
EF: What is the significance of Mexico to a global company like Baxter?
CE: The Mexican market represents close to 40% of the value of our sales in Latin America. Mexico is important for our presence in that market, as we have a strong manufacturing footprint here. We bring much employment to these countries. Manufacturing and sales are the two things that make Mexico so important to us.
EF: What are the advantages of having a local production footprint, and what can be done to further enhance the capacity of Mexico?
CE: It is important to establish local manufacturing hubs. For example, if you look at the IV products that we supply, they are required in large volumes. During the pandemic, there was an overall situation in the industry of broken supply chains around the world, and not having a manufacturing plant in Mexico could have caused a disruption in the business, making it difficult to cater to our clients. Fortunately, we had a manufacturing footprint here. A local production footprint has the potential to supply local hospitals while also providing employment to a variety of people. Mexico has taken steps to start promoting nearshoring initiatives in order to serve the US market, and that will open new opportunities for the industry.
EF: What is your assessment of Mexico's potential to become an innovation hub in Latin America?
CE: You can look at this from different perspectives. In terms of manufacturing, we're exporting a lot of the automation that is being created in our manufacturing process to other plants within Baxter. We are starting to build those hubs that include those manufacturing plants and capabilities. We have a strong team that helps us create more volume and initiative. We are working closely with universities such as Tecnológico de Monterrey and several others in the area of Morelos. They are helping us grow more rapidly in terms of automation. The increase in volumes aids in the development of our commercial capabilities. This type of innovation benefits manufacturing while also developing digital solutions and new models to treat patients in the country.
EF: How are you using technology and digital tools to enhance your operations in Mexico?
CE: We are doing two things. One is for internal processes, and the other is focused on the things that allow us to do more digitalization with our customers. Let me start with the second one. Most of our customers in Mexico and Central America are public institutions. That makes it even harder to bring about innovations. It is difficult to get new products approved, but in recent years, there has been more openness by the regulatory authority as a result of the pandemic to implement more digitalization. We are working with a partner to automate all the information about our contracts. Our contracts are heavy documents with much paper. We are attempting to create a portal through which one can track the types of products we provide to patients as well as other details related to those contracts. This information will be available in real time. This type of solution helps us do our transactions more seamlessly and gives the customer more control over their patients. Recently, we have brought in robots to do more automation and take over some of those routine tasks like writing reports and connecting databases. We have done different projects in the financial area, and now we are kicking off on the commercial side as well. Technology is going to be crucial, especially for diagnostics. We are going to have more connected devices that are going to be generating data.
EF: How are you collaborating with other stakeholders in the sector? How are you leveraging these collaborations for the betterment of the industry?
CE: We are assessing and leveraging our positioning in the different healthcare chambers and associations. We are starting to use those relationships to connect in a better way with the government and start those collaborations that enable us to think more about the long term. We are looking for collaboration in areas such as the improvement of dialysis patient care. We have ways to remotely connect with many of these patients to see how their treatment is going. We are trying to engage with them to determine the type of services we can put together that use low-cost technology to give better care to them.
EF: How does Baxter attract top talent and expertise to the company?
CE: We're deploying different initiatives. I think the first one is creating a positive culture at Baxter to make the people we recruit feel happy and proud to be part of the organization. We are working on several pillars. One of them is our Ethics and Compliance principles. We discovered that this is a critical component in attracting top talent to the organization. We want to create an environment of trust among all the people that work here. We are working hard on communication. We are considering their feedback on various initiatives and listening as much as we can. We utilize different types of interactions, such as coffee chats.
We are also working on diversity and inclusion. The number of women in director and management positions is significantly high. We are close to 50/50 representation. At the level below that, we have more women than men in the organization. We are trying to create a conducive environment for women and are still in the process. Fostering a culture of engagement and maintaining purpose in what we do is critical for attracting top talent. When people join the company, they live our mission "To save and sustain lives." Our mission is not merely a banner on the wall. Our people believe in it because we are very close to the patients.
EF: How would you like to be remembered as a leader ten years from now?
CE: What I enjoy most about taking on a new role is seeing how I can transform it and make it different from what we have done in the past. I would like to be remembered as a transformational leader who helped others improve and advance in their careers. I also want to be remembered as someone who aspires to manage people and companies to achieve their goals in a professional way.
EF: If you had to design a road map for the future of the Mexican healthcare industry, what would your three main pillars be?
CE: The first pillar would emphasize patient-centricity. We need to transform and put the patient first. Mexico is a very fragmented market, and healthcare is an example of that. Therefore, it will be extremely difficult if we do not connect one sector with another and build a strong ecosystem. We need to tie the different interests together and create a strong collaboration between the government and the private sector. Doctors need to be more involved in the future of the healthcare sector in Mexico. Another pillar is access to technology and healthcare. Many people in Mexico City do not have access to the healthcare system. We need to build an affordable system that embraces new technologies to provide better care to patients. I think those will be the key elements that need to be worked out in order to have a better healthcare system in Mexico.
EF: Is there any final message that you would like to give or something that we did not ask you about that you feel we should be talking about?
CE: I would like to reiterate the need for the different stakeholders in the healthcare system to find and clarify their missions and what it is that they are trying to achieve to drive big changes in the future for our society. That is one of the key pillars. Without innovation, it will be very hard to really move the healthcare sector to a different dimension, and that is where we need to collaborate with governments. We need to educate more people and work closely with different stakeholders, both the government and private sector included, to make it easier and faster to get approvals for new technology so that we can move healthcare into a new dimension. Everything is about talent. If you do not have the right people to do the job, it is very difficult to evolve these big companies and achieve the innovation that we need for the healthcare sector.