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EF: You have been recently appointed -in the middle of a pandemic-, what attracted you to the second biggest country in Latin America and what was the mission you set for yourself?
JD: I was working in the region, in Panama, since September 2018. The four previous years I worked in different roles in Philips partly in China, Amsterdam and Prague and although I liked the cultures of the countries I like the human interactions of Latin America. We believed it would be a great experience due to the variety of cultures. Panama was a good starting point, Mexico is a great next step. In April I had a talk with my manager and expressed my dream to become the General Manager of Philips Mexico in the future and three months later it happened. Philips has done very well over the last 10 years aligning our global mission with our local missions. We want to improve the lives of 3 billion people by 2030. If we translate that to Mexico it is clear that the country has a very important role to play as it is the 9 th biggest country in terms of population globally with 126 million people. A huge part of the population has limited access to healthcare, is either unemployed or employed in the informal sector and as a result of that, our global mission is even more relevant nowadays. At the moment we already touch the lives of millions of Mexicans and I feel that companies in Mexico have the unique opportunity to reach a larger number of people in terms of improving lives. Covid-19 has shown the importance of a well functioning healthcare systems. However, what we realize is that most systems are based on making people better instead of preventing they fall ill in the first place. There are a lot of preventative measures available, such as promoting healthy living standards, that can help to reduce pressure on the system and make it more efficient. I have told my team in Mexico that we have the moral obligation to play an important role and that we are well positioned to improve the lives of the Mexican people. I can see, day to day, that’s the main source of inspiration for the people that work at Philips. They feel that they can make an impact to improve the lifes of millions of Mexicans, during this pandemic, but also beyond. The organization supports the mission of Philips and therefore the drill down at market level, at the country level is easier, everybody feels inspired by the fact that by working for Philips they are doing something right, having the opportunity to help healthcare systems, improve access to healthcare, especially because it is a very concrete goal that will benefit many lives. In the Netherlands it is normal for all my circle to have access to the highest quality of care in the world but I think we are an exception, in Mexico talking to people within my organization they tell me a large part of their family doesn’t have health insurance, so that alone would have a big impact on the motivation of a person working in Philips. The mission is inspiring as it will improve the healthcare provision in the country.
EF: As part of a new generation of general managers what advice can you offer on leading in times of transformation?
JD: The hardest part of transformation, any kind of transformation is change, there are people who resist, detractors, and the biggest challenge is to take people along in the change journey. One of the few positive things of this pandemic is that there is no choice, we all have to work virtually, adapt to new technologies and we will have to provide training, implement new projects, and find other ways to work virtually with our customers. We were already at the forefront of the change towards digitalization in healthcare but sometimes the industry needs a push to accelerate and in this case I think the pandemic has been the push to achieve that change. We are all being forced to adapt to a more digital world and we will manage healthcare differently in post-pandemic Mexico. For me the biggest learning of managing a transformation during a crisis is that you can actually use the crisis to accelerate the transformation, in a positive way. There have been a lot of books written on the subject but I have never seen it in practice. They say never waiste a good crisis, which is partially true. We should take the learnings from the Pandemic, and use these learnings to push and accelerate a lot of initiatives that we should have implemented for a long time already. What we see now is that they materialize in a very short period of time. I wouldn’t misuse the pandemic to push change for the worse, but we should make the best out of it and push for the better. Besides that,as a company leader I must balance the next 12 months while getting through the pandemic, keeping our employees and customers’ safe from Covid and financially, keeping our business afloat and avoiding restructurings. The risk exists that we put all our long term initiatives or strategic transformation on hold so we have made a purpose choice not to do this in Mexico.With a lot of people working from home things become more efficient, and we should use that increased efficiency to dust off projects that have been in the closet for too long For example, our precision diagnose team has had more time on their hands as for the last months the MR and CT market has fallen drastically as the focus is on Covid-19 related healthcare issues so they have focused internally on all kinds of new digital activities, this year we will organize a digital congress, we are starting organizing online webinars where the customer gets educational points and other activities. This is a plan we had in mind for a long time but as we were busy with day to day work never did it, but now we have used the crisis in a positive way to push for a digital transformation. Besides that we are no starting to work together with both the Public and private sector to really get remote care, outside of hospital settings, in a more virtual way, of the ground.
EF: How are you balancing the tactical and strategic decisions for 2030 while addressing the short term needs while covering the gaps which will appear?
JD: In the short term the most important thing is to keep our employees safe and that for now means home office, the office is only open for specific people who need to be there for specific duties or maintenance and we only visit customers if necessary. However, we anticipate to open our office again sometime in Q4, but only in a safe way and aligned with the protocols of IMSS. If a system goes down an engineer still has to go there equipped with the required personal protective equipment.running. As a highly diversified end to end health-tech company we are well equipped to manage through this pandemic and crisis both in the short and long term. With the health continuum, a concept we have introduced a few years ago, where we don’t look at the product we sell but at the life of a patient, the journey from being healthy, through sickness and back to recovery, we have improved our engagement with our customers and their patients. This has resonated really well and it all starts with healthy living. We are one of the few healthcare companies that are active in the consumer business as well as the healthcare business. That combination is critical, End to end, to truly improve the way a patient engages with his or her own health, as well as with the healthcare system. I find it inspiring that we are not only involved in diagnosing and treating patients but also helping societies to live healthier, get diagnosed earlier which is critical in Mexico, as cardiovascular disease, obesities, hypertension, and diabetes are critical causes of death in Mexico. All of these are directly related to living habits.. Philips can play a crucial role in not only diagnosing and treating but in prevention and in earlier diagnosis for the disease treatment which will be much more successful. We can help patients to stay healthy, but if they fall ill we are there to guide the patient and the doctors through the different stages of the health continuum This is the main strategic direction we will be following in the next ten years. 2030 is an inspiring ambition but I like to make my plans for the next 2 or 3 years so I am asking the team to support me in my mission to help the Mexican government and the Mexican private sector to i) improve healthy living and early diagnosis – encouraging people to live healthier and if they don’t feel well to seek medical attention early. In Mexico there are a lot of people who are afraid of going to the hospital and postpone going as much as possible. ii) Arrive at the right diagnosis as soon as possible and get the most efficient treatment based on the right diagnosis so the patient can go home faster.
EF: How would you rate the level of diagnostics and precision diagnostics in Mexico today?
JD: The biggest transformation underlying the one above is to change the relationship with our customers, from a transactional relationship towards a long term partnership. In the past most healthcare companies sold products to hospitals but we want to go in another direction. We want to serve our customers end to end, so it is not about selling a MRI scanner but about selling a diagnosis combined with a treatment plan. Besides that we will have shared KPIs with our customers, and we will work together to deliver on these KPIs, that is what a partnership means to us. This might sound a bit like a marketing slogan so there is work to be done, the industry must change as must our customers so they can be open to the new way of working. For example acquisition process is still very must focused on buying equipment and they need to trust us and allow us to become more than an equipment provider –a partner- and from our side we need to build the ability to link everything we have, as well as what our competitors and other third parties have to offer as part of an end to end solution optimizing the complete system. In Philips we are well under way, maybe midway in our transformation journey at the moment, investing in new capabilities like healthcareconsulting, work flow improvements whereas in the past we would have invested in specialized product expertise. I have to say I don’t think the market is fully ready for the transformation so we need to work with the Ministry of Health but also with the private sector. There is a big shift and a very good trend we see in Mexico and all over the world which is the role of the Chief Information Office (CIO) of a hospital who is becoming more important in the acquisition procedures of new service solutions and equipment. This is a very important change because hospitals still work on what I call legacy systems –old systems- and it is not easy to replace them completely. We can play a critical role helping them in replacing the full information system in the hospital in a gradual way as it is a huge investment but it will integrate different elements making it easier to manage the information system. This is important because to drive more efficiency in the healthcare system in Mexico it must be digitized. Patients get lost in the system because it is not digitalized, for example hospital A cannot easy-share information with hospital B because it is not digital, and in the process of cancer treatments if the patient is going to different hospitals for treatment the physicians don’t have the necessary information flow and this causes delays which can have a huge effect on a stage 3 or 4 lung cancer patient. With digitized healthcare a lot more can be done in a shorter period of time, in some parts of Mexico it can still take 3 to 4 months’ time to get a diagnosis and in stage 4 lung cancer that makes it either too late or the possibility of fully recovering is very small. With digitalization and the use of AI I know we can drive efficiency in the system which will be good for all involved.
EF: What is Philips Mexico balance between private and public allocation of resources?
JD: This year is very different as the market is heavily driven by Covid-19 related investments coming mainly from the public sector, so this year the balance will most likely go to 70-30 or even 80-20 but in previous years we saw the balance shifting with the private sector becoming bigger versus the public sector. But for me the end customer of what we provide is most important and the end customer is the patient, and if the patient doesn’t have a good experience the hospital doesn’t have a good experience and they won’t be pleased with us. Therefore, at Philips we focus on 4 pillars, which we call the quadruple Aim: 1. To improve the experience of the hospital´s staff 2. Improve patient’s experience; the first two go hand in hand because if the staff is happy they will deliver better care and that benefits the patient. 3. Deliver better health outcomes: deliver early and precise diagnosis with first time correct treatments 4. Lower costs of care along the way. In Mexico quality healthcare is not yet affordable for everyone, and we believe by focusing on these four pillars we will significantly improve access to care, and quality of care for all people in Mexico.
EF: What would you like your 2020 tenure to be remembered for, considering there are only 4 months left?
JD: First of all, I want this year to be a year were we took great care of our employees. Next to that I would like this year to be remembered for Philips proving to be a reliable partner for both the public and private sector in a time of crisis and I don’t just mean hospitals but patients as well. I would really like to be remembered for being a true partner to both sectors with a lot of examples to prove we have done a great job and will continue doing so. we worked together with FUNSALUD to donate E30 ventilators; we have been managing almost impossible delivery times supplying ultrasound equipment, monitors and ventilators needed with urgency in the middle of the crisis. A lot of hospitals in the private sector have been heavily hit by the pandemic, some of our customers who had a 100% occupancy of their MRI machine dropped to 20% because essentially voluntary scans have dropped completely and they have had to face financial and operational issues with the fall in the demand and we have worked together with them to help them through this period and they as well as the government sector have really appreciated our help. In crisis selfish attitudes are of no help and I am proud to say we take care of our employees, our customers and the financial health of the company and we can only do the first two if we are financially healthy. I am very proud of the fact we did not have to do any layoffs due to the covid-19 crisis even though we employ around 300 people in Mexico and I have never seen them as motivated as they are now. They are motivated because they believe they can have a positive impact on Mexico but also because they feel they work for a company that is prepared to take care of them in a time of crisis and I am very proud to be managing a company of this Besides that I am very proud of all our employees in Mexico, as everyday they are putting their best foot forward to support our customer and their patients.