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APACMed: Johnson & Johnson On Using ‘Big’ For Good In The COVID-19 Challenge

APACMed: Johnson & Johnson On Using ‘Big’ For Good In The COVID-19 Challenge

Source : Medtech Insight

The worldwide chair of medical devices at Johnson & Johnson, Ashley McEvoy, was the first keynote speaker at APACMed’s 2020 virtual annual conference, an event whose content and thrust – as for many others this year – were dictated largely by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Ashley McEvoy

McEvoy, also an executive VP and a member of J&J’s executive committee, gave a “big group” take on COVID-19 problem-solving, but also stressed the need for local ingenuity and tailored approaches.

She recalled that J&J’s teams were immediately out of the blocks to offer care and help frontline workers in hospitals in Wuhan, China, where the novel coronavirus took hold in January 2020. Without a defined “playbook,” they took charge and made the lead on a global stage, she said. For her, it was a testament to what Asia-based teams and the Asia region can do in the future, and on an even greater scale, in health care globally.

As a group, “there are ways we can use our ‘big’ for good,” she said, referring to the unique power that device companies with the reach of J&J have in tackling COVID-19. The group’s global supply chain provided guaranteed business continuity during the pandemic; that would not have happened with merely a local supply chain. An ability to provide “end to end” innovation is another strength of the larger players.

But down on the ground, “agility”  ̶   a word used in the strapline of APACMed’s virtual meeting – is a vital quality to leverage during the crisis. Local people know customers on the ground, they have local insight and connectivity. These assets allow major organizations like J&J to “embrace the power of local and global” while managing employees in a global framework, McEvoy said.

Lessons from a world where executive decisions are made differently can be taken back to the workplace, post-COVID-19. The pandemic and the consequent embracing of Zoom and other virtual meeting technologies made the world very intimate, but as “traditional” work practices return, making decisive use of those new local connections will be crucial – for example, in the race to make a vaccine.

“We are finding ways to collaborate as a global company, and that is happening much more than in the past few years,” said the J&J executive. She observed that people are uniting around a common cause, and that collaborations are taking place both inside and outside the group, describing these processes as “great industry collaboration.”

As a leader in the industry, McEvoy noted that different skills were coming to the fore in the medtech space. Leaders had been in high “listen mode,” and heavy “servant leadership mode,” she said, adding that “there is a lot we don’t understand” as an industry. Groups like J&J must be in the service of those on the ground, she advised.

And local leaders must acknowledge that they do not have all the answers. In such cases, industry must put itself second, McEvoy insisted. “This pandemic was a calling for health care – it knocked on our door and said, please help us.”

So in this context, the global curiosity of new talent coming into the organization was blended with the wisdom, experience and competency of seasoned leaders at J&J, which McEvoy described as an “apprenticeship model in the world of medtech.”

“This crisis has been the biggest nudge for all of us, and it focused us into areas that were nascent.” The data and science showed that a lot of COVID-19 patients were presenting with heart arrythmia, so J&J responded by connecting clinicians from Wuhan with those from Italy to livestream methods of treating patients. “Telementoring and virtual case support is ‘on steroids’ now, and that is here to stay,” said McEvoy.

J&J has trained over 400,000 surgeons on the Advances in Surgery webinar platform over the past six months, McEvoy asserted.

Being a partner on workflow and efficiency was an important shift, “and we need to do more of that,” she said, and to become a solutions company that jointly affects outcomes and makes hospital systems more efficient. COVID-19 has bankrupted a lot of health care systems, so “we need to be a solutions partner beyond the implant,” she added.

Shortly after APACMed, J&J partnered with other companies* and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in signing a landmark communiqué on “Expanded Global Access,” which was effectively a commitment to ensure more equality of access to potential COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics globally. Under the pledge, J&J will allocate up to 500 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries as of 2021.

Asia should find COVID-19 to be an accelerator in health care; the region led the world in coming out of the first wave of infection, showing deep expertise in areas including science, hospital system repurposing, health care management, as well as in the use of technology and data. In many ways, Asia set the playbook for the rest of the world, said McEvoy.

While medtech must be aware of geopolitical events, it has a duty to stay focused on patient care, she said. Her view was that Asia a microcosm of the world, and its relevance in health care would only increase until it inevitably leads the world. “It is the epicenter of data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and connected commerce," she told the APACMed audience of just short of 1,500 registered attendees.

“We’re getting more comfortable about co-creating value for customers,” she said, referring to the tech and AI capabilities that now exist and greater opportunities to do collaborations. “That used to be a barrier.”

*AstraZeneca PLC, Bayer AG, bioMerieux SA, Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, Bristol Myers Squibb Company, Eisai Co., Ltd., Eli Lilly and Company, Gilead Sciences, Inc., GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Merck & Co., Inc., Merck KGaA, Novartis AG, Pfizer Inc., Roche Holding AG, and Sanofi. With J&J, these companies agreed on 30 September to follow five principles to ensure global access to potential that could help accelerate the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Ashley Yeo