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EF: What was your mission when you were appointed Head of North Latam last November 2020?
HO: My mission is the consolidation of Medtronic in the region. We employ over a hundred and fifty people in the cluster and our priority is to increase access for patients using innovative technology for diagnosis and treatments. We offer innovative technology and solutions for a region that is often neglected.
EF: What was Medtronic's role during the Pandemic and over this last year?
HO: Latam has two differentiated healthcare systems: the public and the private sector. It has been exciting to see the joint effort the sectors have made to face Covid in each country of the region. Early in the pandemic, efforts focused on diagnosis and prevention, at the moment, the focus is on vaccination, but we will very soon be tackling the bubble of unattended surgeries and delayed treatments. The only way new solutions find their way to patients is to partner with either (or both) healthcare systems. Medtronic has been a relevant enabler of technology and access and has learnt to be flexible and adapt to the new environment. We can provide adequate treatment to patients as allies of both systems.
EF: What were the lessons learnt managing a company in a complex environment?
HO: Our message across Latam was to be flexible, enabling and empowering each country to adapt to the needs of each market and business segment. But the most important lessons learnt were:
- Flexibility and adaptation to new circumstances: the company's response to Covid was to provide the blueprints for a respiratory system -a platform for affordable and easy to use ventilators.
- Adapt the solution to each patient -we don't have one solution for everybody. Losing a year to Covid affected the patient's situation; in some countries, the private sector was able to advance faster in recovering treatments for the patients. We trained doctors and partners to use our technology and haven't stopped training our surgeons and users over these last eighteen months.
Medtronic made a point of doing the right thing and working in the right way; compliance is in our DNA and culture. Solutions in Panama, Costa Rica or Mexico were different and we all learned from them -the closer we are to the patient, the more we know. I was amazed at our capacity to adapt to the requirements of the different systems, the passion and the ability of the teams to move forward despite facing multiple challenges. They trained surgeons, took care of patients, navigated tricky waters and were decisive. It was a great moment for us to be recognized as a trustworthy partner by our stakeholders in both public and private health systems.
EF: Did you have to introduce any new KPIs to manage operations this past year?
HO: We worked on understanding and integrating all the external Covid indicators, including vaccination rates -differentiated by country- to make local and day-to-day decisions. Even for traditional business decisions or people-based decisions, we incorporated external environment indicators to help our decision-making. Our new company CEO has generated a transformation across the organization over the last eighteen months. With Covid and the present volatile situation, the management style has undergone a massive change.
EF: What will be the skill-set required for the future employee, for surgeons and physicians, considering the technologies being developed and becoming available?
HO: Our team has learnt how to manage uncertainty, to move quickly and decisively taking advantage of the opportunities, acting boldly and competitively in the market, all of which will provide better access to patients. As far as our doctors are concerned, we have to deploy resources to get better solutions for each patient and access more patients in general. Digitalization has to happen; the systems will learn to (re)deploy the limited resources in the best way possible because we need to be wiser with our resources. The possibilities technology offers today are incredible; it allows us to receive information and provide virtual training. The different generations of physicians must be prepared to adapt and learn to be comfortable with the new tools we offer because the adoption of technology can vary so much. The relevance and responsibility of training surgeons is a crucial element to our success in the adoption of technology. The surgeons that are active users of the HUGO technology in Panama are delighted to have it. The results on the patients are incredible and it has been an impressive development of robotic technology in Panama.
EF: In terms of delivering technologies, what is your personal definition of ‘access’?
HO: There is access when as many patients as possible get treatments and procedures through the benefit of technology, resulting in better outcomes. Healthcare systems –both public and private- have limited resources, so access is not about getting a bigger budget but that our portfolio and solutions are available in each model. We work in alliance with both systems for more patients to benefit from technology. Collaboration is a key factor between public and private healthcare. Medtronic must work on better outcomes for more and more patients.
EF: Was there a change or evolution in the portfolio in this past year?
HO: Medtronic has continued innovating over this last year; it's an excellent opportunity for Latam to increase the number of patients accessing our technology. We have a device called the PillCam, an intestinal visualization device with artificial intelligence that provides better data and results. The pandemic has not stopped us from registering HUGO Robotic Systems technology and we continue to engineer a new medical device revolution for the future of the region.
EF: How can we attract young talent to the healthcare industry?
HO: Young talent today is interested in working in Medtronic -this was not the case seven years ago. Medtronic strategically works closely with universities and other technological environments. We are committed to inclusion, diversity and social responsibility and these concepts are attractive to young generations. Our mission and purpose: to alleviate pain, restore health, and extend patients' lives also appeals to them. I feel fortunate that every day for the last twenty years, I have had some responsibility in helping a patient recover health, and I think people are aware of this and want to experience that goal themselves. I think the young generations see us as an alternative to develop a career in medical technologies.
EF: When you look back on this period in your professional career, what would you like your tenure to be remembered for?
HO: The last eighteen months have been of extreme learning for us all. Today, I am better prepared than twelve or eighteen months ago. When I look back at decisions we made four or six months ago, I now feel much better informed and prepared, as the constantly changing environment is an impressive teacher. Looking back, I will be satisfied with what we did because I am confident that all our teams never stopped working for the patients. We have changed, the leadership has changed and developed, human resources decisions have changed, and this experience will set the way we work in the coming years because I don't see us going back to how we worked pre-Covid. We will find a balance between emerging technologies and day to day activities to achieve better results. Covid has reshaped the way we work. It is a huge opportunity and responsibility to lead in these times.