Mr. Fabrice Leguet, General Director of Siemens Healthineers Vietnam, tells VET how the company enables better healthcare outcomes at lower cost.
Can you give us a brief introduction to Siemens Healthineers?
Siemens Healthineers provides a broad spectrum of imaging and laboratory diagnostics systems and solutions to hospitals, clinics and diagnostics centers, so called healthcare providers, throughout the world.
To make it tangible, let's take an example: imagine a friend of yours in his 50s suddenly suffers from intense chest pains and needs to rush to the emergency department at the nearest hospital. Among other examinations and depending on his clinical conditions, the emergency doctor would most probably send him to a computed tomography (CT) scanner to detect possible pulmonary or cardiovascular anomalies, as well as to get his blood tested for troponin levels, which could indicate a heart infarct. These tests will help the doctor decide the most appropriate treatment and most probably save your friend's life if it is performed early enough. Our company provides solutions for this type of medical imaging and blood tests.
Beyond this specific example, our portfolio covers many different applications based on a multitude of technologies.
In the field of medical imaging (also called "in Vivo"), we provide Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Ultrasound, Molecular Imaging, various X-ray based systems and advanced software solutions used for diagnostics purposes or for guiding therapies before and during the procedures, such as angiographic interventions for cardiovascular treatment or radiotherapies for cancer treatment.
In the field of laboratory (also called "In Vitro"), we provide several hundred different tests to detect and assess diseases through multiple chemical, biological and molecular parameters.
In fact, close to 90 per cent of medical decisions are based on the type of technology we provide both in the "in Vivo'' and "In Vitro'' fields and Siemens Healthineers is the biggest supplier of Healthcare Infrastructure, both worldwide and in Vietnam. In 2014, more than 209,000 patients were treated and examined every hour worldwide using Siemens technologies.
This gives us not only the advantage of scale but also of a comprehensive understanding of the most common diseases and the way we can help our customers optimize clinical workflows along the entire continuum of care: from prevention and early detection to diagnosis, on to treatment and aftercare. Ultimately, that helps make healthcare faster and better for patients and more cost-effective for society.
What about your presence in Vietnam?
Siemens started its healthcare activities in Vietnam in 1993 with the establishment of a Siemens representative office. We are proud to be a real pioneer in bringing new technologies to the Vietnamese community; like the first MRI in Vietnam in 1996, the first Linear Accelerator for cancer treatment in 1997, the first track based Laboratory Automation in 2005, the first Positron Emission Tomograph in 2009, and many more.
Investing for instance in a very high tech "3 Tesla'' MRI system, which costs a couple of million US dollars, is not a decision to take lightly for a hospital. There are several critical factors the hospital management looks at in doing so, including: the right choice of the system and its options to optimize budget versus intended clinical applications; the insurance of solid maintenance processes to keep the system up and running; adequate training for both the operators and the doctors so that they understand and leverage the tremendous possibilities offered by the technology, thus being able to maximize its positive impact on the patient's health.
These expectations were what we had in mind when ramping up our local Siemens Healthcare team over the past years with a now large professional and well trained pool of Vietnamese experts: clinical specialists, product managers, operator trainers and field engineers, all with capabilities similar to those we have built up in more mature countries. Beyond technology, this has improved our level of service to our customers and reinforced their trust in our company.
Siemens Healthineers became a limited company on January 1, 2016. What was the reason for this change from a key business of the large Siemens Corporation to a limited company?
The healthcare environment is changing dramatically and healthcare technology providers who want to remain on the cutting edge need to redefine their strategies, identity new areas of growth and new ways of enabling healthcare providers to deliver high quality care in an efficient manner. Being the industry pioneer, Siemens Healthineers announced an ambitious global strategy at the end of July 2015 and a new organizational structure is being executed at all Siemens Healthineers entities worldwide. In alignment with the global strategy, Siemens Healthineers Limited Company was established as a 100 per cent foreign-owned entity on January 1, 2016 and is serving customers in Vietnam.
We believe that, as a separate legal organization, Siemens Healthineers will be better able to respond to changing trends and to the expected paradigm shifts in our industry and therefore will be better able to continue to meet the specific needs of healthcare customers in Vietnam.
What changes in the healthcare environment are there? And what is the impact on the healthcare industry and Siemens Healthineers?
Let's have a look at a few fundamental trends that influence the healthcare environment.
The population worldwide is growing fast, especially in developing countries. This is not a new trend but there are key factors that give it a particular significance today for us. First, this fast growing population has never been better informed and educated than today and rightfully demands access to quality healthcare. Second, almost all societies are struggling with the rising costs of their healthcare system today. Therefore the challenge for governments and healthcare providers to give access to quality healthcare to more people and doing so at costs that are sustainable for society and the patients themselves is becoming more pressing than ever.
So what does this mean for us at Siemens Healthineers? For decades, with its strong engineering and quality focused DNA, Siemens has been recognized as the most innovative and reliable technology partner in its industry by renowned university hospitals, research centers and high-end private healthcare providers around the world with close to 1500 patented inventions yearly.
Looking at the pressing challenges of today, Siemens has had to also focus a large part of its innovation efforts on making these famous tech innovations and "German quality'' accessible to the largest population, at affordable costs.
Our MAGNETOM™ Essenza MRI system is a very good example of this effort. It was designed with emerging markets in mind: enabling hospitals with limited budget to have access to all routine MRI clinical applications, with the lowest "total cost of ownership'', the smallest footprint, and the best in class reliability and user friendliness in the market. It has been so successful in fulfilling its original purpose that it has very quickly become one of the most sold MRI systems not only in developing countries, including Vietnam, but also in mature markets like the US and Europe.
As part of its new strategy, Siemens Healthineers reinforces this approach across the various technology segments and I am personally very enthusiastic about it: it helps me and my team in Vietnam support the strategic initiatives of the government to give access to high quality healthcare, not only to a few privileged in the largest cities, but to all people in Vietnam.
Are there any other critical trends and what can Siemens Healthineers do to help address them?
Another obvious trend is the rapid aging of the world's population. Average life expectancy worldwide, which is now 69 years for people born between 2005 and 2010, will rise to 76 years for those born between 2045 and 2050. Vietnam is in the game being one of the youngest but at the same time fastest aging populations in the world.
Coupled with factors like higher exposure to pollution, changes in eating habits and a reduction in physical activity, this aging population trend increases the prevalence of some chronic diseases like cancer and cardiac disorders.
Unfortunately, these diseases tend to have a lasting burden on the healthcare system to levels that are difficult to sustain. Therefore, the earlier they can be detected, accurately diagnosed and efficiently treated, the less the burden.
Siemens Healthineers has been strengthening its clinical knowledge and development capabilities in these areas over recent years through various initiatives, including the creation of so called Clinical Competence Centers for various chronic disease specialties like Oncology and Cardiology. These enable the latest advancements in research to be integrated into solutions specifically designed for these diseases. These also enable our employees to enhance their knowledge in clinical fields, to better assess the needs of our customers and consult them.
In a way, we’ve become "engineers truly under-standing clinicians".
Let's take again the example of our 50-year-old friend I mentioned earlier. Our so called "Dual Source" Computed Tomography (CT scan) technology enables the creation of clinically relevant 3D images of his heart with unprecedented speed and comfort: within a heartbeat, without need to hold his breath, and with the lowest dose of contrast media and radiation in the market. His doctor will get faster and better diagnostics quality, which will dramatically increase his chances of receiving the right immediate treatment. This simply saves his life and more lives!
Such "Dual Source ' technology was already made available in Vietnam some years ago within our SOMATOM™ Flash solution utilized in various large institutions like Bach Mai Hospital and has now been rolled out to more hospitals in provincial areas.
But technology is not enough to fight such complex diseases. To ensure technology has the highest clinical impact on patients, it is critical to also enhance the knowledge of doctors and biomedical engineers involved. This is where we can play a role as a multinational company with a strong presence in Vietnam: through our "well oiled'' global organization we have easy access to a multitude of knowledge platforms and networks of experts which we can use to help Vietnam's healthcare community.
We are therefore investing heavily in user training activities and are very happy to partner with various teaching institutions like Bach Mai Hospital, Cho Ray Hospital, the Ho Chi Minh City Medical University Hospital and the Hanoi Medical University Hospital in a number of educational initiatives. We organize monthly symposia and workshops where we bring renowned medical doctors and professors from overseas together with professionals from Vietnam and Siemens experts to share clinical best practices.
In doing this we see a tremendous ambition and willingness to learn and improve among the Vietnamese healthcare community. This is what makes my team and me so passionate about our job!
What about the trends in the healthcare industry itself - among healthcare service providers like hospitals, clinics and diagnostics centers?
We see a number of trends among healthcare providers but let me highlight two striking ones: Consolidation and Industrialization.
Consolidation is the shift "from small company to large, often multinational, cooperation" for a number of hospitals or laboratories. Mergers and acquisitions are far from seldom these days, and the consolidation trend affecting the healthcare industry will gather even more momentum in the coming years. This is leading to the creation of large healthcare networks, hospital and laboratory chains that increasingly resemble corporations, many of which have elevated their operations to an international dimension.
Such "XXL-sized healthcare providers" hope to attain competitive advantages on the strength of a broader or deeper offering of specialized services, as well as cost savings resulting from economies of scale.
Industrialization is the shift from fragmented individual providers to efficient healthcare networks: How can we lower our fixed costs while improving treatment quality at the same time? While this question is not new, it will worry even more healthcare providers in the future. They are increasingly seeking inspiration from the manufacturing industry; and as a result modern methods of production organization are being employed in the healthcare sector. With the aim of avoiding mistakes, unnecessary complexity, and resource waste, operating procedures throughout the healthcare network are being scrutinized, streamlined, and standardized and continuously improved.
Vietnam is no exception as we see fast growth in the private healthcare sector, the creation of large chains of private hospitals and laboratories and the development of Public Private Partnerships or similar socialization projects, which focus on operational and financial efficiency.
As a solutions provider and strategic partner of these "industrializing" healthcare providers, our ambition at Siemens Healthcare is to improve medical outcomes and reduce costs jointly with them. They need to adapt and transform. We strive to become their long-term trusted partner that they can count on throughout their transformation process.