OUTPACING THE COMPETITION

Spain 2020 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

Clínica Universidad de Navarra is investing in AI, digitalization, and robotic surgery to create more value for patients and stay two steps ahead of the competition.

José Andrés Gómez Cantero
BIOGRAPHY

José Andrés Gómez Cantero became general director of Clínica Universidad de Navarra in 2005. He has a degree in industrial engineering from the TECNUN School of Engineers of the University of Navarra. He completed a general management program at IESE and business management training at Harvard University. Between 1989 and 1995, he was director of the Colegio Mayor Ayete and the Colegio Mayor Belagua. He was also a member of the board of directors at the Independent Association of Teaching Centers. He has collaborated as an advisor for online education courses in Spanish at the Harvard School of Education.

How are you integrating technology into your business?
We were the first ones to acquire technology that supposes a disruptive scientific innovation both for the diagnosis and treatment of patients. We are the second center in Spain to implement a PET, and we will also be the second to implement a proton accelerator in Madrid. We didn't establish our headquarters in Madrid solely because of international patients; our patients from Madrid and southern Spain asked us to be closer, especially for certain treatments that do not require hospitalization. Previously, people would have to go to Pamplona to receive certain oncological treatments that require hospitalization, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy. We needed to be in other location besides Navarra to be more accessible for patients. The location of the site in Madrid is convenient because it is close to the airport, meaning we can serve foreign patients. This site is aimed more at fast treatments whereas Pamplona is for slower, more complex treatments.

How important is research for the Clínica Universidad de Navarra?
Even when we were small, the medical school had basic research laboratories. As part of the university, the Clínica is a non-profit organization and its mission is to generate knowledge, research, and innovation. Thanks to our group of researchers and scientists, we have managed to build the center, attract more researchers, and start the project. We ask our professionals to question and study the reasons why diseases arise, how they can be addressed, and which biological mechanisms are involved. We have strategic alliances and collaborations. We are rigorous with data records and administrative data management. We have also launched some of our clinical trials through the funding of competitive calls from both Europe and the Carlos III Institute in Spain. We have a good track record in international research, which makes it easier for young researchers to form and develop their projects.

What is the future of AI and robots in the medical sector?
Robotic surgery is an innovation that we have incorporated because scientific evidence shows that it is good for patients. It is a controversial and expensive innovation but it offers better results. We use robotic surgery in urology, thoracic surgery, gynecology, general surgery, and other specialties. In Pamplona, we are developing surgical simulation centers. Surgeons in residence are required to have a certain number of hours of simulation before entering the operating room. Big data is also going to be important. There are AI tools that can diagnose more accurately than a radiologist. AI will not substitute for a radiologist, but it can make the work much easier.

How difficult is it to attract and retain human talent?
We train 200 medical students and 150 nursing students annually. We have 175 medical residents in Pamplona. We cannot compete with other institutions regarding salary because we are an educational institution, but we offer other advantages. We offer an academic project where professionals are free to develop their professional career in ways they do not have in other places. We offer technological means, the possibility of participating in research projects, and academic support platforms that help professionals in their investigations. Professionals are even free to care for patients without time constraints, so they can offer the best of their knowledge and time. This differentiates us from other health institutions.

What are your goals for 2020?
In 1Q2020, we will open the proton therapy facility. We will continue working with international hospitals, including John Hopkins. We are working on a publication to show the benefits of proton therapy. We want to grow between 20% and 25% in Madrid. We also want to continue growing in Pamplona. One of our goals is to ensure that growth in Madrid does not affect the Pamplona site. We are also digitalizing our operations, which will help us give more value to our patients.