The healthcare sector has been centre stage throughout this challenging pandemic period. We spoke to Terumo about its legacy, current operations, and future plans in the medtech sphere
Writer: Marcus Kääpä | Project Manager: Callam Waller
If anything has been proven over the course of the past year, it is that the healthcare industry is vital to the continuation of our businesses, industries, and of course, individual lives.
The presence and impact of COVID-19 has shaped our globe; the unique challenge that we have all faced has brought people together through a period of collective trauma. This has forced the quickened pace of adaptation, from the smallest to the largest scale changes in society. From simple practices such as a greater awareness of social proximity, to large-scale industry changes like that of high-street retail turning to e-commerce en-masse, the pandemic has changed our lives, and it will be felt for generations to come.
And with the virus having taken the stage of international news throughout 2020 and into this year, combatting such a challenge has been placed at the forefront of everybody’s lives.
Across Asia, the continent that was first to be hit by the pandemic, countries have enacted serious measures to limit the spread of the virus, spearheaded by the healthcare sector.
In Singapore, the healthcare sector boasts a well-designed and tiered infrastructure within a sophisticated and developed market. This was not always the case, as Probir Das, Chairman and Managing Director at Terumo Asia Holdings, explains.
“Singapore went from being an underdeveloped to a developed nation in a single lifetime,” he tells us.
“The country sees a lot of new technology adoption, aided by physician training and an excellent regulatory system.
As an outcome, you see that Singapore’s healthcare system ranks among the best in the world in terms of infant mortality rate, longevity, disability-adjusted years, and more. What is more remarkable is that it achieved these fantastic outcomes at leveraged cost.”
But Singapore’s importance in the medtech industry goes beyond this. For many global medtech corporations such as Terumo (the parent company that Terumo Asia Holdings is a subsidiary of), Singapore’s excellent connectivity and infrastructure, industry friendly policies, and access to a global high quality talent pool, makes it an Asia-Pacific regional hub.
“The medtech innovation scene in Singapore is very exciting and productive,” Probir says.
“The Government’s actions, combined with availability of excellent institutes and talent, is creating the confluence that is seeing a medtech start-up boom here.”
Terumo is a global leader in medical technology and has been committed to “Contributing to Society through Healthcare” for 100 years. Held in Japan and operating globally, Terumo employs more than 25,000 associates worldwide to provide innovative medical solutions in more than 160 countries and regions.
The company started a century ago as a Japanese thermometer manufacturer and has been supporting healthcare ever since. Now, its extensive business portfolio ranges from vascular intervention and cardio-surgical solutions, blood transfusion and cell therapy technology, to medical products essential for daily clinical practice such as infusion systems, diabetes care, and peritoneal dialysis treatments. Terumo strives to continue to be of absolute value to patients, medical professionals, and society at large.
Several factors make Terumo stand out from its competition in the healthcare sector.
“We were set up 100 years ago by a group of scientists and physicians with a purpose of creating innovative technology that improved societal outcomes – a rather unique founding story,” Probir tells us proudly.
“Most corporations set themselves up with a purpose of business; revenue, profit, fame, but we were founded to advance healthcare innovation. To date, I see that this passion of innovation and superior engineering, drives Terumo.”
In line with this, Terumo is almost unmatched in its purpose-centred values.
“Whether it was an instance decades ago regarding advanced manufacturing processes in the US where employees were trained further instead of laid off, or a more recent example where products were recalled for no reason other than company engineers feeling that they could do better (and proved this), Terumo is driven by a sense of pride and purpose that goes above and beyond the conventional ‘business sense’,” Probir assures us.
And with their core values at the centre of their operation, Terumo has a unique portfolio in its long history of service. From relatively traditional products like syringes and needles, to futuristic technologies like personal predictive analytics that enable healthcare organisations to decrease cost and improve clinical decisions at the point of care. Combined with unique education services that see the company train thousands of healthcare professionals every year, Terumo’s professional and quality products and offerings cover a vast array of healthcare services.
“We are rapidly strengthening an effective and synergistic regional headquarter,” Probir adds. “This sees us scale up our regional functional capabilities, enabling data centric decisions, and cross leveraging our different entities. We are now driven by Regional cross-BU, cross-Entity ‘togetherness’ and ‘collaboration’, though remaining simultaneously mindful of the rich diversity of the culture and operational realities across our markets.
“Given the massive disruption and uncertainties that COVID-19 has created in our markets, we are driving priorities such as proactively contributing to infection prevention and treatment, aggressively launching several digital marketing and medical education initiatives, and ensuring that our associates and their families are kept safe and supported through this difficult period.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated an emergency response from several government health systems to quickly scale up their capabilities in high-quality injection, infusion, plasma therapy, and other aspects such as emergency bypass for critical life support. As Terumo is a high-quality global player in these domains, it has an obligation to support these scale-up initiatives.
“Due to this, we have had to quickly expand our production capacities, which given the complex global nature of their supply chain, was extremely difficult,” Probir informs us. “In addition, we have been able to equip several hospitals with such mission critical tools as UV Light Germ Zapping Robots, thus enabling them to disinfect large areas swiftly while allocating human resources to more pressing priorities.
“I feel proud that we have been able to fulfil our responsibility towards our corporate mission of contributing to society through healthcare.”
2021 and beyond
Terumo’s line of work involves massive efforts in the training of physicians and supporting their surgical procedures with technical services. In the pre-COVID world most of this was done face to face. With COVID related restrictions and constraints, Terumo has not only rolled out such things as webinar-based education programmes, but also very unique firsts such as remote glasses enabling long distance case support.
Being a highly care centric company, Terumo has taken several swift steps to support flexible work from home arrangements, often supporting equipping company associates’ home offices and ensuring that our office places were virtually contamination risk-free.
Into the future, Terumo’s priority is to ensure that all its associates are kept safe from the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Most of our people are frontline healthcare workers who support doctors and nurses in hospital settings, work in maintaining supply chains, or run manufacturing operations in factories, without the luxury or safety of work from home,” Probir explains.
“We are taking several steps towards this, including supporting their vaccination in markets where privatised vaccination is allowed and will permit them to be quickly secured.”
Terumo is also scaling up its digital medical education and physician interaction capabilities to ensure that, even during the pandemic, customers can be fully supported. Through its work with them, the company will continue with its dual strategic imperatives of globalisation and portfolio transformation.
“We shall also continue to fortify and strengthen our systems, processes and team skills to manage the dual responsibilities of short-term razor-sharp balance sheet management and mid to long term strategy execution,” Probir assures us.