What have been the most important advantages of having Dubai as a regional base for Medtronic?
It has been a great journey for us and the whole process was triggered by the talent that we were able to acquire within Dubai. Dubai has provided a platform that allows us to easily communicate and engage with the healthcare programs around the region by being a hub that attracts many visitors and innovative solutions. The maturity of thinking about healthcare issues within the public and private sectors is among the best across the region, and we learned a great deal through these interactions. Through its location in the heart of the emerging markets, Dubai helps us significantly in ensuring we connect and contribute to the healthcare trends across the region and not only those of the Gulf or the UAE.
How do you partner with governmental health and science entities and educational institutions in Dubai?
We have been discussing with the healthcare authorities across the UAE and the Ministry of Health on multiple programs. These programs are focused on improving the quality of care for patients, delivering the latest technologies, and awareness programs. Having said that, Medtronic is also shifting from being a company that produces some of the world's best technologies in healthcare to a partner that ensures the delivery of these technologies is meaningful. The idea is that patients get the best technologies in the most efficient environment. Our aim is to improve patient outcome through controlled costs and improved accessibility to therapies without compromising on quality. Penetration rates and accessibility for patients are still at an initial stage, and there is a great deal more to happen. That expansion eventually means more spending and pressure on budget. Governments and hospitals depend on partners like us to not only produce the technology and the device itself, which has a clinical output value, but also to help them maintain an efficient process around the patient flows, patient recovery times, inventory availability, and so on. In this way, additional budgets can have the largest impact on the public. At the moment, the major healthcare challenge is to raise the standards of healthcare and improve accessibility without increasing costs, or rather while reducing the overall costs of care. Medtronic can meaningfully address this challenge, and we are driving toward what is called value-based healthcare in collaboration with the Dubai Health Authority and certain hospital chains.
What are the most important trends and developments in the healthcare industry?
Certain trends in the region have been to make the system more accessible, build more hospitals and increase bed capacity, and attract more talent from outside the country to address some of the clear challenges across the entire region. When we look at diabetes and obesity and take into account the bed capacity and number of patients per physician, these are much lower than what we see in a European or North American system. In addition, the standard of care still lags behind. The scarcity of physicians is one of the challenges that this region faces, and, therefore, it is important to see a higher output per physician than we see in a European or North American setting. Medtronic has had some programs in major countries around the region where we work together to improve the patient flow and the number of patients treated per bed or per physician. The region should now relook at its entire healthcare system and learn from the lessons of mature systems in Europe and the US. We need to build infrastructure; however, if we want to treat double the number of patients, we do not necessarily need to double the number of beds and hospitals. The efficiency of the system could be enhanced, for example by establishing centers of excellences, with high expertise in one location that can elevate everyone's skillsets. There will always be a need for certain general hospitals, though by establishing more centers of excellence around, for example cardiology, obesity, or diabetes, their impact and efficiency will be higher.
What is your outlook for the year ahead, and what will be your main objectives?
We have a roadmap with countries in the Middle East and North Africa region that we want to further establish ourselves in the next years. Every year we hope to localize and further our operations in at least two and possibly three countries. These countries range from Pakistan to Morocco. There is a certain level of maturity in these systems in terms of the availability of infrastructure and physicians, and by establishing Medtronic local presence in these markets we can assist in providing higher output. I would love to see us in at least two to three more countries next year, with fully direct/ local operations in the region. I aim at growing the Medtronic team who support physicians and communities across the MENAT region by 200 over the next 12 months. Also, I would love to see more programs of value-based healthcare coming into the region. We are already in serious discussions with funders and government entities in the UAE, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and South Africa. We are currently involved in the treatment of 4 million patients and aim to treat 30% more patients in this region. It is important for us to continue to challenge ourselves by asking our partners and customers to expect more of us. First, we want to set the stage correctly and make it clear that it is to the benefit of everyone to move into the value-based healthcare space. It is not only to the benefit of patients, but will eventually be to the benefit of the funder too, and that journey can only happen through physicians adopting the right mindset. Our partners and customers can expect more from companies like us and push us to the limit. Funders, partners, and governments across the region need to be aware of the potential of value-based healthcare and take our hand through the journey so that we can do it together. Any investment in healthcare that is made today will see a better benefit if it is built around that concept and will definitely become more sustainable.