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EF: Looking at 2022 in the context of the past two years, 2020 was the year of diagnostics, and 2021 was the year of vaccines; what do you think 2022 will bring?
PS: We will look back at 2022 as a year of recovery and as a time to return to pre-Covid levels of normality in elective and oncology procedures, which can be seen in the data. During the pandemic, cancer patients did not have the same access to treatment, going forward this will be a key area of focus, alongside moving forward and preparing for a new reality.
EF: How can the health industry get patients back to care?
PS: The key point is to prepare the support structure, with supply chains and sales teams supporting the clinicians returning to work. Stryker has a broad medical device business, and we have seen an increase in the number of elective surgeries –more than normal- this is due to surgeons catching up on work they would have done in the last two years.
EF: What is the key mission of Stryker South Africa?
PS: It is about running a focused company, specifically around service elements. In South Africa, there is a focus on education, training, and upscaling the country's healthcare providers. I come from the UK and know how the European healthcare infrastructure works, I’m excited to bring this knowledge to South Africa and to be a part of the development journey and reinforce our overall company’s mission, our focus areas in the country derive from this mission.
EF: You hold a leading crisis certificate; what advice would you give leaders managing through a crisis?
PS: There is no right or wrong way when leading in a crisis; you learn as you go along. The business must be agile, and a leader must understand the challenges and the plan to overcome the crisis. Transparent communication is essential for employers. I have a very strong leadership team in South Africa with an expert in every area, and we work hand in hand. Every leader needs a strong team to be successful, we have a greater focus on employee engagement and staying close to employees, keeping the dialogue open and a check on the pulse by addressing issues such as anxiety and ensuring support for employees.
EF: The importance of collaboration and education are lessons learned. What are the ethics behind the positive social impact of care systems and procedure coordination through education?
PS: At Stryker, we are focused on making healthcare better together with our customers, and educating the HCPs is the best way to improve. We educate clinical phase HCPs (doctors and nurses), clinical engineers in hospitals, and office staff in the doctor's rooms to understand what we do and the procedures they support as customers. We also educate the various purposes of the healthcare team focused on the end-use and look for other areas where we can provide connective solutions.
In South Africa, there needs to be a big shift toward a collaborative approach between the government and the private sector -we cannot move forward in isolation, and I trust we are going in that direction. Looking at the current infrastructure in South Africa, the government needs all the help it can get. The PPPs have proved to be very successful, and even if they come with certain challenges, overall, they work very well. When government-supported work had huge waiting lists in the UK, they used the private sector to reduce these lists, and this could be replicated in South Africa. Collaboration is needed as it delivers results such as better outcomes, greater efficiency and cost-related benefits. Partnerships and teamwork are required, as individual solutions no longer work.
EF: Could you elaborate on Stryker's portfolio performance in South Africa and how is it evolving?
PS: We need to be longer sighted in South Africa regarding our technologies, what we want to introduce, and what we deliver in healthcare. Funders and the government are focused on the short-term, this year and the next, as the Covid challenge forced that outlook on us. When considering technology, the longer-term vision is essential. In digital healthcare, technology can be leveraged to streamline communication; for example, doctors and nurses can understand what is happening to a patient who has had an accident before the patient arrives at the hospital because our emergency technology can communicate wirelessly with the hospital’s technology. These advancements will only continue to develop.
EF: How do you see Stryker's role in leading the innovation industry and providing predictable surgical procedures to patients?
PS: Leading in innovation means taking accountability and understanding our customers' needs to help them deliver healthcare for the patients of today and the future. I trained as a nurse in 1993 and have seen a significant change from what was available then to what is available now. We are here to make healthcare better. We have the right mindset and a real purpose to improve healthcare. We understand our customers and the market's needs, both are crucial elements to act with responsibility and lead in innovation. It is a source of pride for those who work at Stryker that we invest significantly in R&D and are committed to innovation.
EF: Could you elaborate on the strategic importance of South Africa to the global company?
PS: South Africa is growing and will continue to grow in healthcare. It is a substantial opportunity for us to be involved in shaping healthcare for the future in South Africa, and we are committed to its growth. Stryker now has four branches and will be setting up the fifth one this year. I believe the access to technology and health we offer in the US should also be offered in South Africa.
EF: Do you see a future for home-based healthcare in South Africa, and will Stryker be developing remote care?
PS: Stryker already has technology around arthroplasty procedures and at-home post-op procedures that allow remote patient monitoring. MotionSense is a wearable remote therapeutic monitoring device that guides the patient through knee replacement recovery. We are currently using it in the US and are looking to enrol the technology in South Africa imminently. We work with GPs to assist in the treatment and management of patients at home. Covid has been a springboard for advancement in virtual communication, opening many exciting future possibilities. The provision of information worldwide and the sharing of knowledge is very exciting. We did a lot of virtual HCP training during the pandemic for the products' safe and effective usage.
EF: How do you see the future working environment model, hybrid or otherwise?
PS: We are using a hybrid model, working part-time from home and part-time from the office; face-to-face interaction helps keep the company culture alive. We will keep the hybrid model and its flexibility, as a lot of work can be done remotely. But the energy is different when we are together; the conversations between meetings, the personal chit-chat, checking on family, and weekend activities build relationships, which are harder to achieve in a virtual relationship. My team in South Africa has been very receptive to going back to the office and having face-to-face meetings -they really enjoy it- so it has been important to return to the office.
EF: Stryker's corporate responsibility, sustainability efforts, and objectives have created a positive impact and complemented huge growth. What are the key factors contributing to Stryker's forward drive?
PS: I look after a small segment of the Stryker business, but I know from my experience in this industry over the past seventeen years that specialization and focus are key to a good performance. We are very broad-based, but we also have focused sales teams that stay close to our customers. Having specialized salespersons collaborating with our customers is crucial to our success. Healthcare is different from other industries; it is not about delivering goods; it impacts people's lives and needs an extra specialized focus. Stryker's strong point is specializing, focusing, and staying close to our customers.
EF: Stryker is considered one of the best 25 workplaces for the fifth consecutive year; what are the top strategies employed by the company regarding employee engagement and workplace culture?
PS: We take engagement seriously, and engage in stores every year. If we see gaps, we sit down with the teams, determine where the challenges lie and address the obstacles causing disengagement. We also have Employee Resource Groups (ERG), and I personally focus on employee engagement. My South African leadership team is very diverse; I am from the UK, and we have different religions and genders. To face a crisis like Covid, we need diversity because different perspectives are required to find the right course of action.
EF: In the changing scenario, what is the new skill set you look for when hiring talent for the company?
PS: Skills can be learned, so what we look for is ambition, energy, and drive. I can teach a new employee the skills, but not an attitude to life. I see some of our new teammates arriving from universities wanting to change the world, and that attitude marries appropriately to Stryker's culture. We want people who want to make a difference; our objective is to impact people's lives, and we need passionate people. It is not so much about skills but more about their passion and what makes them tick. I don't know any salesperson who has done an actual degree in sales; it is all about them, their passion, experience, and drive.
EF: What achievements in healthcare would you like to celebrate at the end of the year?
PS: We will celebrate that we can reunite by working face-to-face. From a business perspective, we will commemorate being able to see our customers once more. It has been challenging for the sales teams not to go into theatres and hospitals. We have come through the pandemic, and like all taxing experiences, it has provided significant lessons, and we will celebrate the lessons of COVID-19 as a business and individually.
EF: When you look back at this period of your professional life, how would you like to be remembered as a leader that managed in difficult times?
PS: I would want my team to consider me as a supporting leader that achieved what I set out to. I am transparent and like people to be equally transparent with me.
EF: Is there any final message you would like to share or highlight for our feature?
PS: The most important message to highlight is that the continued progression in healthcare needs collaboration across all stakeholders within the healthcare industry. We are a supplier and continued progression in healthcare is at the heart of what we do.