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EF: 2020 was the year of diagnostics, 2021 the year of vaccines; what do you think 2022 will be the year of?

EG: People are now more holistic and aware of their health, so there will be a rise in regular screenings and diagnostics. Screenings and appointments are beginning to go back to normal. Routine diagnostics and screenings were delayed because of the risk of getting infected by covid. The collateral effect of delaying regular screenings and diagnostics has caused issues for patients. Non-communicable diseases had more casualties than covid did during this period. As humans, we learn from our mistakes and challenging times.

JG: The other illnesses contributing to the pandemic casualties could have been drastically reduced through regular screenings. The government deviated from the medical budgets and tenders during the pandemic because of covid. The funding and tenders are beginning to be distributed to all illness stabilization. Therefore, this year will be the year of stability.  
Our company is in many fields, including endoscopy, chemistry, x-ray, and ultrasound. Throughout the pandemic, tenders for areas like endoscopy were set aside for later. Most of the locked-out services during the pandemic are just now reactivating. This will be the year of reactivation and stability.
The pandemic caused people to have a mental shift regarding health. Now more people are aware and focused on their overall health. This is seen in the mammography strings we manage. During the pandemic, there were less than 10% of mammography strings. Now, after the pandemic, it is at 120%. Many companies started investing in healthcare. The private sector's investments alone have doubled during the last two years because businesses have become more health-conscious, and the mind reset has helped.  

EG: Cancer is one of the leading causes of death. Lifestyle and health choices make people susceptible to chronic illnesses. Most lifestyle-related diseases are manageable and preventable if people continuously live healthily and regularly get screening tests.

EF: Can you elaborate on Fujifilm's role in Mexico during the pandemic?

EG: Our portfolio has diversified. The company's investments now go towards new technologies in healthcare. These investments have enabled us to get equipment to diagnose covid patients successfully. Pneumonia is easy to diagnose through x-ray. The treatment process can easily be seen through an x-ray as well. Fujifilm made investments in lightweight equipment that can easily be moved from one room to the next in hospitals. Many public hospitals in Mexico do not have the right tools to move heavy equipment, so lightweight equipment is advantageous.  
We worked with bronchoscopes, especially at the pandemic's beginning, as they were in high demand. Ultrasounds replaced x-rays for patients that had covid and pneumonia during the pandemic as it is the safer option. Fujifilm acquired SonoSite, a piece of handheld ultrasound equipment through an acquisition. This equipment was critical for the diagnostics of acute covid patients.  

Most of our product lines contribute to the healthcare industry. We try to keep good sourcing of the products. According to several business publications, the stock is moving from just in time to just in case. We have been sourcing many of our services from private institutions, companies, and other countries. We were fortunate to have high-level stocks that we used to supply to new medical facilities specializing in treating covid patients. We are very proud that we could help the healthcare system by providing the equipment for diagnostics and treatment during the pandemic.  

JG: Japan has been moving from hospitals to home care, which helped our company innovate and create some of our current equipment. This equipment was available before the pandemic but became critically needed during the pandemic. We supported many of our partners with this equipment and stocked it in some hospitals. Part of our arrangement was to have the right technology during the pandemic. Most mobile devices are made with an inbuilt covid detector, which is possible because of AI (Artificial Intelligence). The AI system supports doctors and other technicians to identify if there is anything wrong. Sometimes we provide more equipment to our regular clients to help more patients. Occasionally, we must supply beyond the order and serve the community as a company and an industry.

EF: What advice would you give on developing existing partnerships and ensuring the security of supply?

EG: Knowing your partners is very crucial. Not all the products we are developing will cater to everyone. We need to have local knowledge to understand the Mexican market and make it more efficient. According to OECD data Mexico has a low doctor per capita count, especially radiologists. To become more efficient, clients like Salud Digna use the doctors they have to run as many tests and try to automate the way they operate.  
Salud Digna was a key client in AI. They were one of the first customers for Fujifilm, with one of the largest databases. AI technology has helped them make more precise and quicker diagnoses. We have worked with other companies on equipment like x-ray machines. Many of the equipment is tested and developed in Mexico, considering the Mexican infrastructure. It is crucial to have these advancements in healthcare that are a more personalized and more tailored treatment for the patient because they will produce better diagnostic results.

New lightweight and flexible equipment are very advantageous and easily adaptable. Some of our consoles for imaging technologies have been developed in Mexico. We run many of these tests in Mexico because we know our customers and what we want and need, and we can provide feedback to the developers.  

EF: Do you think physicians are ready to adapt to AI and technology improvements?

EG: AI is well adapted to medicine. The history of medicine is based on statistics and observations, which artificial intelligence has excelled at. That is why it is a perfect fit for the medical industry. It is difficult to understand technology initially, so some doctors see it as a threat. When we installed technological equipment in one hospital, we noticed decreased productivity in the first two weeks. They would run diagnostics the traditional way and then use the equipment to conclude afterwards. It was like they were testing the technology. They became more productive as they learned to integrate diagnostics with AI.  
Once doctors work with AI, they will realize that AI will never replace them but help them become more productive and efficient. AI is used in limited ways when it could be used in so many more ways like administrative tasks, diagnostics, screening, operations, etc. With medical digitalization, time can be saved. Once doctors realize that technology is here to help them instead of competing with them, they will become more productive and efficient. As with all technological changes, once we get past the learning curve, it will provide more accuracy and faster diagnostics.  

JG: The scheme and technology we have can help our collaborations. We have to invent and change our way of thinking to tailor-make the procedures for everybody. During the pandemic, we provided different methods to our partners. An example is to learn how to have subscription plants for the medical industry, just like Netflix. So instead of our customers buying our equipment, they can subscribe to use the equipment per click. Such a scheme is cost-effective for not only the client but also us.  

EG: Training models are needed in AI, and they are usually precise. In the beginning, companies were more efficient in creating personalized algorithms. By being the leader in imaging software for the private sector, we found out it would be more beneficial to have an open platform. One of the most significant advantages is not only setting up algorithms for certain diseases. We also have an available network where other companies can publish their algorithms for conditions from different diagnostic tests. It is like an interface where people can test the various algorithms to see what works for patients and run them per click. Therefore, we are not only providing the leading technology Fujifilm has, but we are also opening up to companies that are producing all the algorithms and integrating them into the software. Many smaller and start-up companies cannot get a foothold because the information is sensitive. That is why taking all the randomized algorithm pieces and integrating them into one platform for our customers is essential.

EF: Could you elaborate on your portfolio, and are they any projects you are looking forward to?

JG: In the beginning, we partnered with many companies because we produced consumables for film machines. Once digitalization began, we realized our business model would not last if we kept film as our only product. At this time, Fuji decided to move further into the medical field. It was also when Fujifilm began making significant medical devices like x-ray machines, mammography equipment, and endoscopy equipment.  
To continue our expansion within the medical field, we acquired Hitachi, which helped Fujifilm get equipment for MRIs, CTs, and ultrasounds. All our new equipment is a mixture of Fujifilm digital technology with Hitachi's mechanical technology. We are drawing innovative ideas and expertise from both sides and creating new models and products.  

This year we will produce products for CTs, MRIs, and ultrasounds. We hope to have the same success we had when launching other new products. We went into the mammography market as one of the last machine production companies. We turned it around and are now one of the leaders in the mammography market. Though the market is saturated, we hope to infiltrate it and once again become a leader in the ultrasound market. For this to happen, we have to market more innovatively and become better known as a brand before we can grow in this segment.  

EG: Fujifilm has been a pioneer for products like the digital x-ray machine. We created the first digital radiography system in 1983. Fuji has been working on digital components from the beginning. Fujifilm was the first to launch video endoscopy instead of fibre-optics. Our technologies and innovations are widely known and advertised as new. Fuji has been creating new products and technologies by mixing its core technologies with some of the acquisitions. Fujifilm's acquisitions were all made to gain new technologies instead of market shares.  

EF: What are your new KPIs, and how do you see them in the short-term and long-term?

EG: We hope to collaborate with different companies, education institutes, and independent companies to use Fujifilm technologies. It is incredible how much our portfolio has diversified. Every day, people may connect or come across Fujifilm products on their phones or physically without realizing it. The film is closely related to the medical field. If you analyze a roll of sensitive or used film, its material is similar to how the body produces tissue. The film is built by collision with suspended nanoparticles to create the images.

We started going into fields closely related to the film, like cosmetics. Pictures fade away primarily because of oxidation, which damages the skin in the long run and creates ageing. We have integrated technology and science and have made antioxidants out of nanoparticles that the body can absorb, which provides better protection against oxidation. The antioxidants that we use are more robust than those on the market.  
If we talk about nanotechnology structures and nano matrix scales, the natural next step is to go into life sciences. One of the products is like a scene from a sci-fi movie. Doctors can now take skin cells and blood samples from a burn victim and reproduce epidermal tissue in a lab. Therefore, each patient will use their own reproduced skin grafts to cover the burnt areas.  

This is only the tip of the iceberg. We have developed a lot of cells and cell tissue from cardio to skin to lung tissue. We are beginning to work on organs for outer transplants. At the moment, Fujifilm produces corneas, a very sensitive part of the body. We use it to test for allergies and different reactions like the skin's reaction to our cosmetics. Imagine a world where a dialysis is no longer an option because you can have your kidneys transplanted inside your body after growing outside your body. The future technology in the medical field is breathtaking, and it is what Fujifilm has been investing in.  

JG: Fujifilm medical was part of an enormous division in the company before the reorganization. Now it is its own division focused on digitalization to bring solutions. We are entering the pharmaceutical field. We created an influenza medicine for Japan called Avigan because there are many influenza cases. Avigan worked for influenza and Ebola. When the Ebola outbreak began, Fujifilm sent this medicine, and it helped stop the epidemic. Avigan was also used to treat some covid patients in Japan though it was not as effective for covid as it is for influenza.  

We are also entering the nano market for nano cells and nanotechnology. We have covid tests, influenza tests, and various other tests on the pharmaceutical market. I am proud to say that Fujifilm was one of the first companies to produce the PCR tests for covid three years ago. Unfortunately, Fuji could not supply covid tests to Mexico because of production constraints. However, they managed to provide the tests throughout Europe and other countries worldwide.  

EF: Shifting gears towards HR. What new skill set do you look for in the healthcare industry?

JG: Healthcare has many different branches and components. We talked about the new schemes we have to reinvent on the financial side. This requires a new way of thinking when buying equipment. Biomedical engineers are a good fit in this field. They have medical and engineering knowledge, which is perfect for our industry.  

EG: The way we interact and serve our customers has completely changed. That is why we need to partner with customers. We moved from the boxing industry to a service industry, which has changed how we communicate with our customers and sometimes even patients. We need more technical, knowledgeable, and people-oriented people who will work closely with patients and our partners. We have many in-plants in hospitals to explain the technical aspects of our products to customers and patients.  

AI is a very specialized field; however, we look for people that can simplify that technicality and present our products to our clients and patients. We need new multi-faceted human resources that understand new technology, patients, and our clients. They have to be able to collaborate with them from the supply chain side and in the diagnostics and operations of clinics and hospitals.

EF: What is your perspective on managing a Japanese company in Latin America?

EG: The West has a lot to learn from the East. However, sometimes the communication between Japan and Latin America is not as straightforward. Having local decision-makers and local operations is very important for Japanese companies. Distributing Fujifilm in Mexico has been successful. We are going into the 60th year working with Fujifilm, which has provided a lot of advantages in knowing our customers, our market, and the way business works in Mexico. We still keep the Japanese culture and identity integrity in our local branches. Most other Japanese companies have Japanese representatives, leading the companies even in other territories.  

The close relationship and trust we have built with Fujifilm globally have provided us with the best of both worlds. We have local knowledge of the products and technology needed in Latin America. Yet, we also have the expertise and backing of the wide range of global Fujifilm technologies. Sometimes we launch products faster than other subsidiaries because of the knowledge we have of the markets from our global network.

March 2022