Read the Conversation
EF: What are the lessons learned from this last very atypical year?
HT: We had to rebalance our priorities to adapt to the new situation. Our biggest investment was in safety, in personal protection equipment for our employees, we closed the office and our employees did the home office. We are a regional company and had recurring meetings with colleagues in Brazil, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Panama, etc., so we were already using digital tools from remote locations. This is why the change in working habits for us was much easier than for other companies. Our aim was to continue focusing on the customer -our main objective- so we just had to address and improve some processes to minimize the impact and continue with business as usual. We did introduce some creative solutions that would allow with minimum investment, to adapt our products to their special needs. As an example, we developed a specific protocol for disinfection of the systems adapted for Covid-19 in all our machines (MRI, CT, X-Ray, etc.) so the operative could disinfect the system to avoid contagion. Global demand for X-rays increased a lot because it's one of the first options to detect Covid patients and when our customer didn’t have the possibility to buy a new x-ray machine –either for money reasons or because there is a huge demand of supply- we developed a protocol to use a similar system -we call OEC- like an x-ray for certain specific patients to detect Covid-19.
EF: Was this because the customer asked for it or did you see the opportunity to introduce this change?
HT: It was a combination of the need, demand, and creativity of our people. It was the result of a thinking process, innovation, and finding solutions in difficult times -thinking out of the box to be of service. Our customers came to us for x-ray machines which would have taken 2 months to deliver while others couldn’t afford to buy new machines so our people in the factory looked for solutions to cater to our customers and came up with a creative adaptation.
EF: What is your advice on ensuring business continuity when leading remotely?
HT: It has been a great challenge, but we all have the technology to implement and lead successfully. This is important as contact was very necessary during the pandemic both at a working and personal level. People felt isolated once face-to-face relations were no longer possible so it was important to be in communication both with our employees and customers to be able to talk and not only about work, but also about their personal situations and life. At first people were afraid of the changes but when the new communication ways were understood we all opened up to the new way of doing things, replacing the one on one human contact with virtual communication.
EF: Could you elaborate on GE Healthcare Colombia´s footprint and its relevance to the Group?
HT: Our history in Colombia amounts to 50 years in total, but we have been working in the country as GE Healthcare since September 2015. Our new operation now has a big presence and a huge base in the country focused on diagnostics specifically in radiology (CT, MRI, X-ray, etc.). We are in all the big cities, Bogota, Cali, Medellin, and Barranquilla, a growing presence in the country, and in terms of size we are the third biggest GE operation in Latin America after Brazil and Mexico.
EF: Are you launching any special product in Colombia soon, something you are especially excited about?
HT: We launch new products every year, as we are continuously developing products in each area. We had big advancements in our MRI systems and we will be releasing a new product that leverages Artificial Intelligence to reduce the time to reconstruct an image, a benefit for the patients as well as being more productive and it has had a huge impact. In the city sites, we will have AI with a differentiator, the CT´s have a new system with a camera covering the patient. We also have launched for Ultra-Sound, a space where we are market leaders especially in gynecological machines which have the resolution to see the baby’s face and which of course parents love.
EF: How do you see the future of Home-care?
HT: The future of companies is oriented towards digital. We have systems that are home-care ready, for example, a device that is constantly on the patient’s body, and the system monitors the patient’s blood pressure constantly -24 hours a day- for an accurate diagnostic. The information of these devices used to be limited but today we can get a lot of data from the devices so they are an excellent diagnostic tool for physicians. We have terabytes of information as a result of all our AI health machinery and capabilities. We have designed a system we call Edison which is an open source platform where developers -that are not working for GE- can enter and develop their own code for the data and the use of data.
EF: What is your pitch to attract digital talent to GE Healthcare and to the healthcare sector?
HT: The best way is to make people aware of the huge potential of healthcare companies. We have several non-profit areas within the company and HR has different initiatives on inclusion and diversity, for example hiring more women, colored people, and people with disabilities. We had a session opening up to school students in their last two years on the benefits of working in the healthcare sector and GE in particular. Not only for digital design but in engineering or electronics or telematics, they visited a radiology area, talked to the operatives who shared their experiences. There are a huge amount of options and areas in healthcare companies and in my opinion, using high schools to share healthcare information makes a lot of sense.
EF: What is your personal definition of access from a diagnostic and Med-Tech company perspective?
HT: Access relates to needs and in our headquarters there is a lot of information of the US, European and Japanese needs but very little information on other regions and countries such as Latin America, India and China. The needs are different, for example US has a problem with overweight people so the devices are adjusted to the body specifications of the patients in the same way we have had to adjust to the Latin American population. We have managed to reduce the price of the systems we use therefore availability and accessibility has grown as well as the number of patients we service. Our machines are smaller and easy to install which allows for giving access to more people. We have started to develop a mobile very small ultra-sound that can fit in a pocket to use in rural hospitals. When I think about access, I think about ensuring more people have the same access to quality health that already exists in big cities but which is lacking in rural and remote areas. Regardless of where you live you should have access to healthcare of quality.
EF: EF: What would you like your 2020/2021 tenure to be remembered for?
HT: 2020 will be remembered as the year of Covid-19, 2021 has to be the year of recovery and the year of taking the learnings of a very difficult year to grow and improve. We must adjust our leadership behavior, focused on connecting with people, being open to listen, solve problems and continue working with a spirit of collaboration. We must work with non-negotiable integrity for the people in a time of deep crisis, focusing in humility, transparency and focus, our new GE behaviors.
The role of leadership has changed, we have had to adapt to the changes occurred in the last year and those faster to adapt to the changes will be leaders in the companies and in the market.