Read the Conversation

EF: After 10 years with BD, what did your speech look like? 

IW: Ten years ago, I embarked on a new journey with BD, having previously worked in the pharmaceutical industry at Novartis. As a newcomer to the medical device sector, I encountered a distinct set of opportunities and challenges that affect patient healthcare. BD appointed me as a business unit leader upon my arrival. I eventually progressed to become the general manager for southern Africa, making me the company's first GM for the African region. During my tenure, I dealt with several significant internal events. I coincidentally arrived during the acquisition of CareFusion and Bard, which required navigating through operational challenges and personal growth opportunities. 

Additionally, the COVID-19 crisis presented significant challenges for the healthcare industry, requiring professional and personal learning. It was, most importantly, the realization that healthcare is not static, organizations are not fixed, and the external environment is not static. This experience emphasized the need for adaptability, agility, and a nimble approach to remain competitive in the dynamic healthcare sector. As a leader, I have become more externally focused, engaging more deeply with health ministries and partners. Through successful program launches, BD significantly contributed to healthcare. Although the journey was not without its challenges, it was ultimately a rewarding one that I look back on positively. 

EF: Could you describe the key components of the BD 2025 strategy and how it translates into your scope in Africa? 

IW: We developed a proven effective strategy about two years ago, particularly in light of the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic has highlighted the healthcare systems' challenges, such as patient safety events and staff shortages. These issues are universal, and even developed nations like the UK and developing countries like South Africa face them. WHO has emphasized the importance of medication management in addressing healthcare's pain points. At BD, we focus on three pillars to implement a sustainable healthcare strategy - patient safety, healthcare workers, and resource constraints. As an organization, we can offer solutions, partnerships, and know-how to tackle these challenges. In my role, I engage with stakeholders in the public and private sectors to find solutions together. BD has the infrastructure and willingness to impact critical healthcare needs significantly. Our goal is to strengthen and improve healthcare, regardless of the setting. 

EF: Can you elaborate on what are you focusing on to ensure Healthcare sustainability?  

IW: The UK and other nations are currently experiencing an upheaval in the healthcare sector due to staff shortages and other challenges, with nurses struggling to provide adequate patient care. We have revisited our major programs and restructured our new office setting to focus on customer engagement and technology display. Our approach to engaging with customers and C-Suite executives emphasizes addressing pain points and offering solutions rather than solely discussing products. We are currently focusing on three critical pillars for sustainable healthcare: patient safety, healthcare worker support, and efficiency. Specifically, we are working to improve patient outcomes by implementing surveillance programs and providing training on clinical procedures with fewer steps that lead to better outcomes. Our approach involves collaborating with customers and offering support through our signature solution process programs, which enable hospitals to conduct internal audits and identify pain points compared to clinically published best practices. Focusing on patient impact areas rather than product discussions, our programs resonate with customers and facilitate important discussions on improving patient outcomes. Ultimately, creating spaces for collaboration and shifting our perspective from products to pinpointing solutions will drive innovation and improve healthcare outcomes for all patients. 

EF: How do you see the industry’s shift to preventative care and MedTech occurring within BD, and what is the awareness and importance of this change? 

IW: Preventive care offers the most favorable value in healthcare. Hospitalization and subsequent treatment expenses are higher than early interventions. This is where we focus, particularly in oncology, from a business development standpoint. In Africa, the statistics are disheartening, especially concerning breast, cervical, and prostate cancers. Cervical cancer is preventable and curable in developed healthcare systems. However, late diagnosis in Africa is saddening; thus, good screening programs are crucial. In low-income countries, women have twice the risk of developing cervical cancer compared to high-income countries, which is six times higher for HIV-positive patients. This highlights the need for early intervention screening programs and education. Our involvement in a private partnership with CoWHA, comprising Organon, ourselves, and Hologic, seeks to prioritize women's health and promote the use of preventive care to avert adverse outcomes. In Africa, late diagnosis in individual countries often translates to high mortality rates of 50 to 60%, impacting younger women who are active members of society. Therefore, investing in screening and education in oncology, especially cervical cancer, across various settings would yield a meaningful impact from both a societal and healthcare perspective. 

EF: How is BD prioritizing other non-communicable diseases and oncology in South Africa? 

IW: In recent years, there has been a shift in focus towards non-communicable diseases in African healthcare systems, as the late diagnosis and high cost of treating these diseases have become major challenges. In the field of oncology, for instance, there are multiple touchpoints in the patient journey where interventions can make a difference, including screening and diagnosis, hospital management, and post-hospital care. Another space with numerous touch points is the coronary artery vascular disease space. Our peripheral intervention business is based on vascular care and the impacts of coronary artery disease. We recognize that we have to build solutions, influence, and alliances. To effectively address these challenges, partnerships with ministries of health, physicians, and organizations are critical. Companies must engage in public-private and private-private partnerships to be part of the solution rather than a singular commercial entity driving their own goals. Building external relationships and partnerships is essential in healthcare, as products alone are not enough to deliver great outcomes. 

EF: How would an integrated, holistic healthcare model work in South Africa? 

IW: The integration of healthcare is critical for meeting the needs of patients in South Africa. A universal healthcare approach is one key element in addressing the current inequity in healthcare delivery. To achieve this, a universal healthcare model that offers affordable and quality care to all South Africans is necessary, one of the cornerstones of the National Health Insurance (NHI). While supportive of the approach, there are challenges to implementing it effectively and efficiently, such as whether to have a single model of purely NHI or a limited private sector. The quality of healthcare standards also differs between the public and private sectors. There is a need to work together to build the strongest partnership to address funding mechanisms and ensure equitable quality care for all. 

In this regard, leveraging Discovery's data access methodology and private healthcare institutions is crucial. Still, it is essential to find an inclusive approach that involves discussions and finding solutions to current barriers. It is also important to work with private sector institutions to build the right model that may differ from the proposed under the NHI. 

EF: If you had to create a startup in South African healthcare what would it be? 

IW: If I were to start a healthcare startup in South Africa, I would focus on data-driven, connected patient care. Patient records are disconnected, and a patient's medical history is not readily available across different institutions. Implementing a common electronic records system can save time and money and reduce unnecessary tests while moving the patient's journey forward. More data and electronic records can lead to better outcomes, and clinicians and health ministers must track and treat patients effectively. A startup with a focus on digitization of the Patient journey -utilization of AI, electronic records and a data-driven patient care approach can have a significant impact in the healthcare space. 

EF: How do you think the BD research cloud will help Africa? 

IW: Digitalization, AI and various tools and resources have become increasingly important in healthcare—for example, using data and understanding opportunities for improving patient outcomes. The use of data is essential in shaping decisions and investments and identifying areas of opportunity from an epidemiological perspective. Discovery Health, for instance, used a data-driven approach to remap patient journeys for oncology patients, resulting in improved outcomes by delivering hospital care for certain patients and home care for others. 

Data utilization and cloud-based access are increasingly important in oncology to identify the best treatment options. However, not all available methodologies are being maximized. Medical device companies are now using cloud-based approaches to allow for better access to data and more efficient analysis of patient journeys. Computing power and AI can also accelerate research and analytics, leading to more targeted investments that improve outcomes. Implementing AI in healthcare is exciting and holds the potential for more personalized treatment and a more preventative approach. 

Advancements in diagnostics have allowed algorithms to increase efficiency and save time. Previously, microbiologists would have to sift through every culture plate, but now algorithms can quickly identify negative results, allowing pathologists to focus only on relevant samples. This approach optimizes trained resources and improves clinical outcomes, demonstrating the practical application of AI and technology in the healthcare industry. 

EF: What is the role of South Africa in contributing to BD’s strong performance results? 

IW: BD is a sizeable organization with a crucial role in advancing global health. In particular, the African market is critical due to its potential for technological advancement in patient care. BD's purpose is to drive patient impact while maintaining financial goals. Relative to other regions where BD is present, in Africa, our largest segment is the Life Science Segment where we have a significant focus on the diagnostic space. We particularly see this in the prioritization of AMR, TB diagnostics and HPV testing across the continent,  

Adopting diagnostics in Africa has been accelerated due to COVID, leading to increased investment in diagnostic platforms with multiple uses beyond COVID testing. This investment has provided clinicians with more diagnostic tools in various disease areas including antimicrobial resistance. Clinical management was previously empirical, but with diagnostic advancements, clinicians now have data-driven diagnoses, enabling more effective drug sensitivity assessments and improved antimicrobial treatment. This trend is both a business and a clinician-driven one. 

EF: What advice would you give other executives to keep engaging with their teams and be top employers? 

IW: Organizational culture is an indispensable aspect of the value proposition to associates. To be a top employer, we must benchmark our offerings and demonstrate that we are on par with the best practices of any company globally. It is crucial to foster an inclusive organizational culture that enables every member of the BD family to express themselves freely, irrespective of their background or identity, and advance their career. While having excellent systems and training is essential, building a positive culture is just as important. As the expectations of different generations, including millennials, evolve, leaders must adapt to stay relevant. To foster a sense of belonging and commitment, associates must see leaders embody the company's values and purpose. A strong association with the company's mission is critical to keeping employees engaged, and leaders must lead by example. In today's world, employees expect quick and easy access to information and services. With the rise of employee-based apps, we can now access organizational resources on our phones, including HR inquiries, through chatbots and other tools. This accessibility has transformed how we engage with our organization and made the HR process more efficient. 

June 2023
South Africa