Boston Scientific continues to prove that it takes imagination to make science more transformative, with Africa one of the core benefiting markets of such an ethos
Writer: Phoebe Calver
Project Manager: Callam Waller
Boston Scientific has been a global medical technology leader for more than 35 years. Headquartered in Massachusetts, United States, the Company currently enjoys a presence in more than 100 countries worldwide making it a leading player in seven major businesses worldwide: Endoscopy, Interventional Cardiology, Structural Heart, Neuromodulation, Peripheral Interventions, Rhythm Management, and Urology and Pelvic Health.
The Boston Scientific office in South Africa is located in Johannesburg and has been operating since 1997. Today, the Company continues its legacy of offering meaningful innovation that meets patient needs around the world while delivering value to customers.
Country Director, Andrew Sartor introduces: “At Boston Scientific, we are advancing science with innovative medical technologies that are used to diagnose or treat a wide range of medical conditions. In South Africa, we started with offering core products in Cardiology and Endoscopy, followed by Urology products. By the end of 2011, Boston Scientific was fully represented in all regions in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Cardiac Rhythm Management and Electrophysiology were launched in the region in 2013, Men’s Health in 2016 and our most recent introduction expands our product portfolio to include Neuromodulation. Today, Boston Scientific is offering direct distribution in South Africa to better meet our customers’ needs.
Africa Outlook (AfO): Throughout the Company’s evolution, what have been the main continuous improvement strategies and philosophies of Boston Scientific Africa to achieve the success it has?
Andrew Sartor (AS): The Boston Scientific strategy of category leadership and strong culture has enabled us to achieve strong growth and exciting milestones across businesses and regions, including here in Africa. We’re focused on delivering a comprehensive, innovative and cost-effective portfolio of products and solutions within our served markets, while expanding into new, high-growth adjacent markets. We’re also driving global expansion and further improving profitability so that we can invest in our future portfolio and consistently deliver durable long-term growth.
Boston Scientific has also developed strong partnerships with academic societies, to support healthcare professionals through various educational initiatives.
AfO: To this end, how has your business strategy evolved to promote growth and meet customer demand?
(AS): Boston Scientific has established a set of strategic imperatives that guide our growth strategy, including:
• Strengthening our category leadership and strategically adding capabilities and technologies to deliver high quality performance.
• Entering new and faster growing markets that we believe will propel future growth.
• Driving global expansion through a strong focus on building scale and capabilities, including in emerging markets.
• Taking a disciplined approach to profit optimisation, capital allocation and cash generation.
• Developing key capabilities, including digital health, health economics and services to support our customers in key product areas.
(AfO): What significant industry trends have you been monitoring and subsequently adapting to in recent times to ensure you are keeping ahead of the industry curve?
(AS): We recognise Africa as a high priority market, both in terms of potential demand for our products, and access to new innovative therapies that can improve quality of life for African patients. We also recognise the importance of procedural skills development and capacity building. In Africa, there is a real need for practical hands-on training for both newly qualified and experienced healthcare professionals. There are many novel technologies that are now available which require a high level of procedural expertise. We believe that we have a responsibility to contribute to skills development and capacity building. Ultimately, African patients will benefit from access to newer treatments which can enhance their quality of life and save lives.
(AfO): On a more internal note, what significant capital investments have been made in recent months to help facilitate such turnkey solutions in the industry?
(AS): The Boston Scientific EDUCARE initiative leverages the development and coordination of our Institute for Advancing Science (IAS) facilities and the online training platform across all therapeutic specialties - the Virtual Training Institute (VTI).
The IAS facilities are physical learning centres of excellence. Boston Scientific has nine Institutes for Advancing Science (IAS) globally that provide hands-on training in new technologies and emerging therapies, of which six exist in the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa (AMEA) region. In November, 2015, we officially opened the South African branch of the IAS in Johannesburg. Through IAS, we trained approximately 16,000 healthcare professionals in the AMEA region in 2016. It is complemented by the VTI, an online, interactive and non-promotional physician e-learning platform for minimally invasive therapies that has been endorsed by medical professional societies.
EDUCARE shows our commitment to serve our customers and provide value beyond our products. We believe that as healthcare professionals continue to train and expand their skills, patients in Africa will stand to gain.
(AfO): From a personnel perspective, what is the Company’s approach to the hiring, training and retention of key skills?
(AS): To grow the business, we must grow our people. Boston Scientific is a place where all employees can grow, be inspired to do their best work and meaningfully contribute to our mission of transforming lives. Coaching and development is a top priority and each employee is supported and given every opportunity to succeed and progress in their career. Therefore, we invest in new technologies as well as access to training, development and experiential learning opportunities to ensure each employee is able to realize his or her career goals.
((AfO): And; how much of a local emphasis is placed on Boston Scientific Africa’s employment strategy?
(AS): All employees are important to the success of Boston Scientific, including our employees in Africa. They play an important role in developing and contributing to our culture and our mission of transforming lives. Boston Scientific is dedicated to promoting a rich and diverse employee population in a highly inclusive work environment.
((AfO): Similarly, in regards to the supply chain, what is the overall approach to procurement, logistics and distribution in terms of operational efficiencies and establishing business partnerships?
(AS): We pride ourselves on delivering high quality products coupled with exceptional customer service. A well-designed and established supply chain helps make that possible by leveraging global partners, ensuring supply and demand exist in perfect harmony.
By utilising a robust global supply chain, we promote best practice sharing, delivering the right product, at the right time, at the right place; while continuously driving cost efficiencies. Demand and supply planning is based on the total end-to-end supply chain requirement, thereby reducing waste throughout.
By carefully selecting third party logistics partners, we ensure continuity in terms of the quality of our customer offering. Stringent service level agreement and regular engagement enforce our pro-active mind-set, as we continuously strive for improvement in all that we do.
(AfO): Outside of your core healthcare affiliations, to what extent does Boston Scientific Africa involve itself in corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives?
(AS): Boston Scientific is passionate about the community, the places where we live and work. Our priorities include improving educational opportunities, promoting volunteerism and helping underserved populations gain access to healthcare. However, in many places the lack of physicians and healthcare workers can be an issue. South Africa is one of the regions where we believe our community investment and volunteerism can make the greatest impact.
In support of the non-communicable diseases (NCD) goal announced by the Minister of Health in South Africa and joint efforts with the World Health Organisation and the United Nations to improve global health through a variety of efforts, the Boston Scientific team’s approach is focused on increasing the number of healthcare workers. We identified Project HOPE, a US-based non-profit organisation that has been part of the South African healthcare landscape for nearly 10 years, as a strategic partner and awarded a grant to them.
Our grant to Project HOPE enabled the creation of new NCD screenings protocols, which were approved by the Department of Health in 2017. Our investment in Project HOPE has led to training nearly 100 community health workers on the approved Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Diabetes and Hypertension - two major NCDs - in two districts in South Africa. There are plans to roll out the programme in one more district by year end.
Boston Scientific employees also actively participate in other projects, such as a water drive to bring relief to drought-stricken areas in South Africa and countrywide drives to collect clothes, toys and grocery vouchers to support South Africans in need in observance of Mandela Day.
(AfO): On a general note, what would you say defines Boston Scientific in Africa and differentiates it from others within the sector?
(AS): Boston Scientific has worked to improve the Company’s culture over the past several years, with a focus on strong leadership and a common mission and set of core values that engage employees and help them feel proud of the work they do. Meaningful innovation is one of these core values, and employees are encouraged to challenge the status quo to better respond to the needs of today’s changing healthcare environment and find new ways to create value for customers and patients with less invasive, more effective and more accessible therapeutic options.
(AfO): Looking forward, if we were to speak again in three-five years’ time, what would you hope and expect to be able to report back in terms of Company development?
(AS): Boston Scientific’s products reach more than 24 million patients around the world annually, and address global markets that total more than $40 billion today and are expected to reach more than $50 billion by 2020. Boston Scientific has plans to launch innovative products into high growth adjacent markets that are expected to address an incremental $13 billion in market opportunity by 2020. The Company expects to be able to continue to diversify its portfolio away from low growth markets, which represented nearly 50 percent of sales in 2012, to moderate and high growth markets, which represented approximately 60 percent of sales in 2016 with a goal to reach an estimated 75 percent of sales by 2020.
Our investment strategy has focused on diversifying our portfolio and shifting the growth profile of the Company towards higher growth markets and focusing on globalisation. For example, years ago we were heavily concentrated in stents, pacemakers and defibrillators, and our pipeline wasn’t as robust as it is today.
While these businesses are still very important and provide needed therapies to patients, they now make up roughly half of our company, and by 2020, we expect that to be about a third as we continue to grow with our robust pipeline. Also, today our geographic mix is strong with nearly half our sales coming from markets outside the US.
In 2017, Boston Scientific also initiated our strategic intent to activate and support the commercialization of Nigeria and Ghana, given the immense need for industry support in these densely-populated regions with minimal infrastructure and limited healthcare services. We aim to offer the same value-added partnered initiatives in these regions and strongly believe Boston Scientific can make a meaningful impact in the healthcare sector in both countries.