Read the Conversation

EF: What is your perspective on the perception of AI and digitalization in healthcare?

DR: AI is positioned as an assistance tool that enables big data and algorithms that improve systems and efficiencies within the industry. The industry has the potential to fully and effectively use AI in its full capacity. Surgeon and physician discretion remains sacred even with robotic procedures and AI-powered tools and equipment within the OR and the industry. AI is an assistant tool for patient criteria.  

The digitalization process and its benefits and outcomes are something I am excited about. There are opportunities for digitalization which include the AI remit for theatre efficiency. We are in the process of showing patients and healthcare practitioners the importance of digitalization. We are in the process of showing healthcare practitioners the importance and opportunities of digitalization, which include the AI remit for theatre efficiency.

MedTech digitalization covers the pre-operative process of needs to post-operative outcome measurements. The accumulation of data from the different processes helps to build algorithms that align with AI. At Johnson & Johnson, we have tools like the digital patient pathway and SPI, a software-based process efficiency tool. Process efficiency occurs when patients receive treatment quicker and get the necessary procedures faster. Our aim is to provide value not just through the product which is why the tools we will bring to the market will be more than just MedTech devices. Delivering value is one of the key lessons we learned in the last couple of years.

EF: What were some of the greatest lessons learned during the pandemic, and how can these lessons be applied to MedTech solutions in the future?

DR: I was appointed before the pandemic hit South Africa, where I took on the exciting role of cross-sector chair for the COVID-19 crisis management team. The lesson learned was to move faster. Most of the time, people talk about the speed of technological advancement. We need to move faster and adapt to the speed of solutions. Many of the opportunities and advancements will provide value to the patients.  

The biggest crisis in South Africa during the pandemic was not having enough beds and space in ICUs. The lack of access to facilities was catastrophic at one point. This catastrophe provided the backdrop for the tremendous opportunity in the market and value for the whole value chain from patients to suppliers. The faster we move and the more value components we can provide and the more value that can shine.

EF: How do you rate South African physicians' adaptation to technological solutions?

DR: The pandemic helped accelerate the adoption of technology in the MedTech sector. Initially, technicians embraced technological advances because it was a necessity during COVID-19, and we are encouraging this to continue by communicating the value of technology and increasing physicians' and technicians' understanding. Transformative technology is the future of MedTech.  

Physicians need to learn and deliver accessible healthcare for all patients. Several physicians struggle to adapt technological solutions because they often cannot find the balance between technology and the human touch. The greatest benefit of technological solutions is the assistance it provides to everyone involved, from the representatives to the doctors and nurses, and the patient.  

Virtual training tools have advanced and grown exponentially. Surgeons are now wearing virtual reality glasses, which makes visualization clear and precise. Technology has completely changed training techniques across all learning institutions. It is an unbelievable scope of opportunity. The value of the learning curve is increasing through virtual reality and the support provided by technology like surgical glasses.
There is a surgeon talent shortage in South Africa relative to other countries. The representatives here in South Africa often play an extended role in the theatre. Technological solutions will cover the loopholes and shortages within the medical industry.  

EF: Can you elaborate on how J&J MedTech's rebranding effort has evolved since you became a general manager, and what are your expectations going into the future?

DR: I joined when the company was still a medical device company. The branding change is an intersection of devices and the technology space. Our main key driver of value in the marketplace is not product modification. The main driver is technology, software, and the utilization of the big data that is going to be encapsulated in different offerings that are very technologically driven. That is where MedTech comes in.  

Data scientists were not well known four years ago. Now they are a talent that most companies need. As we dive deeper into the robotic space, different skill sets will be needed because we need people who understand the technology. Many digital, omnichannel, and sales positions are more transit now. In the South African space, we have to temper it with cost challenges—many of the MedTech advancements come in at initial increased costs. We have to demonstrate the health and economic opportunities that technology brings.  

Most people and institutions are aware of the pace that technology is moving, which makes people apprehensive about procuring technology. Some assurances need to be given to the market as technology evolves. Our strategy is to partner with institutions and specialists. The country needs to provide more support for connectivity. A lot of technology requires stable and sufficient connectivity. Advancement is about the whole patient pathway from start to finish. We need more connectivity through the value chain.

EF: How can physicians be encouraged to adapt to new technology in the sector?

DR: It is not about changing the mind of the physician but about changing their perspective on technology. It is about adapting to the pace with which change comes. Technology will not replace a physician's part. It will change their role allowing them to do more pre-processive thinking and planning with data. Adapting to new technology is something that all doctors are talking about. Different specialists have different impacts on healthcare. Technology aids in the process and assists in the outcome.  

J&J provides the technology for training opportunities. We provide technology through online forums, virtual platforms, surgical glasses, and other medical equipment. We also have hands-on practical training in surgery. We have an institute that runs the program on procedural training with different institutions. Some things cannot be replicated like the human touch. Technology increases the speed of learning. Technology will serve and accelerate processes to provide personalized training and a personalized patient approach.  

EF: What is the perception of Johnson and Johnson MedTech within the MedTech sector?

DR: The South African sector is based on consumer brands. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine being the first used in South Africa escalated brand awareness. Historically J&J was not understood in the MedTech sector. We took on the attention and continued to build our corporate presence during the pandemic. We learned the importance of connecting with the ultimate patient base through various mechanisms.  
In South Africa, there will not be a sufficient transformation in MedTech unless people look at the ESG components. Each of the ESG components is equally crucial in the role they play in transformation. J&J places tremendous importance on women's advancement and leadership, a social aspect. Before we transform the MedTech industry we have to transform the ESG components, most especially the social component.

EF: When you will be making your speech end of the year what are going to be key elements you will celebrate as achieved?  

DR: We recently had our major review. There will be a lot of alignment at the end of the year. We had our first major meeting in person in February 2020, which was a celebration in and of itself. We celebrated being able to connect again. Tapping into the energy of that connection was important to us. Our performance bounced back after COVID-19, but this was still not the main reason to celebrate. We celebrated being connected again. At J&J, employees can work remotely or in the office because we acknowledge the connection.  

At the end of the year, we will celebrate some of our critical corporate pillars, including our progress and the transformation we have steered. There are some quantifiable KPIs to measure because we want improvement and growth. We will celebrate embracing innovative change post-COVID-19. We have goals and objectives to measure our success in embracing our goals.  

We recently have had some regulatory changes on environmental sustainability, which is very important to us which is why we have different initiatives on it. As part of a global organization, we have goals that we can easily tap into and customize for sustainability.

EF: How do you want to be remembered as a leader post-pandemic?

DR: I would like to be seen as an empathetic leader. Everyone had to work through the pandemic, but I hope as a leader, I could put people first and understand everyone's circumstances. The pandemic allowed me to dig deeper into my partnerships with my staff. I remember telling my team to trust our staff and to set clear KPIs for them to achieve working from home. I hope I will be remembered as empathetic while getting the job done.

July 2022
South Africa