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Medtronic revolutionizes healthcare

5 Questions with Rob Clark, Medtronic’s VP of Global Communications and Corporate Marketing

It’s been a big year for Medtronic. The medical devices powerhouse completed its mega-merger with Ireland-based Covidien, purchased Diabeter, a Netherlands-based diabetes care management clinic, and has embarked on a partnership with IBM to leverage insights and data to improve patient care.  As one of the largest medical device companies in the world, Medtronic is racing into the future with exciting plans to shift its role in healthcare from purely medical devices to services and solutions that address health system cost and patient outcomes. We caught up with Rob Clark, VP, Global Communications and Corporate Marketing at Medtronic, after his panel discussion with Sandeep Acharya (One Medical Group) and Andrew Chomer (Pager), at the 2015 Best Global Brands marketing summit to hear more about how he plans to use data and technology to make this shift.

Rob, tell us a little bit about how the convergence of data, technology, and implantable healthcare is openly going to change the delivery of patient care in the coming months and years.
I think the primary frustration for people in healthcare is this lack of integration of care across the system. From your health insurance company to the hospital or clinic to home care – the care we all receive can seem disjointed and unconnected. This results in repeated tests and other forms of waste, a lack of visibility to a person’s complete condition, and a view that we can all get better clinical and financial outcomes if we managed patients more holistically. This lack of integration is costly for the system overall, and it ultimately doesn’t deliver what everybody believes can be better patient care. So if that’s the problem, then how do you start to improve integration? More connected technologies – implanted and otherwise – can play a role as does the better use of data and data transparency whereby healthcare professionals can have a full view of patient information. And, as a portion of our products are implanted and are actively generating data, we saw an opportunity to play at a higher level within healthcare to help integrate care across the care continuum.

Tell us about the growing demand for better patient outcomes. Has it changed the way you guys work? Will it ultimately be good for us as consumers?
Almost every healthcare system around the world is struggling with costs. And so while ideally you’d be able to make therapy and drugs and treatments available to everybody, you can’t. It’s too expensive. So how do you start to deliver an outcome that actually starts to reduce costs? I’ll give the example of heart failure. It’s very costly. These patients are in the hospital system a lot. Every time they come to the emergency room, it costs thousands of dollars. So let’s keep those people healthy and out of the ER.

We can do this with remote technologies and better use of data. But the real shift is when we start paying people for that better outcome. I think that’s where the systems are moving, to say, “We’re going to pay for better outcomes. We want this patient out of the hospital, and if you keep him or her out of the hospital, you’re going to get paid X. If they’re back into a hospital, you’re going to get paid Y.”

Tell us how the role of brand for Medtronic is starting to change as you’re moving into this world of better integration and improved patient outcomes.
I think that this starts to fundamentally change not only Medtronic’s brand, but also all brands in healthcare, because everyone has to lean into the system’s challenges in a different way. And that results in both traditional and nontraditional entities in healthcare coming into this space. So for us, it means more services and outsourced services, whether it be running an arm of a hospital or actually augmenting care for a hospital through a care manager for a patient out of his or her home. So we have to establish credibility with a variety of healthcare providers. We’ve noticed that as we partner more with these professionals and organizations, our brand becomes critical to that partner group.

Tell us a little bit about your recent partnership with IBM Watson.
The Watson partnership is currently focused on our diabetes space. This is for those patients that are insulin-dependent and need an insulin pump. And, again, that’s an active device that’s wireless and transmitting data into CareLink, our patient data network. It’s really a matter of taking a look at that data, aggregating it, and using the power of IBM Watson to ask, “What do we know about these patients—both at the individual level and at the aggregate level—so that care teams can start to manage these patients differently and the patients can start to manage themselves differently?” One of the things about diabetes is that these patients are their own care managers. And they want to be empowered with the same sort of insight and intelligence as well as the people who care for them.

And lastly, tell us a little bit about the launch of your new brand and this idea of “Going Further, Together.” What drove that, and why are you excited about it?
What we like about the notion of “Further, Together” is that it’s a rallying cry both inside the organization as well as outside the organization. And I think for us it means we have to innovate differently. Not only at the product level, but we have to innovate in terms of partnership and service. We have to innovate across a wider swath of capabilities than we’ve normally thought about in the past and we are fully capable of doing this. We’ve made a commitment to really partner with people that are interested in transforming healthcare and solving these new problems. We see it as a promise statement. And we’ve wrapped, I think, a substantive story around it based upon what we’re doing and executing on in the marketplace.


About Rob Clark
Rob Clark is Vice President of Global Communications for Medtronic plc, the world’s leading medical technology company. In this role, Mr. Clark leads Medtronic’s global public relations, internal communications, corporate marketing, social media and philanthropy communications teams worldwide. Mr. Clark led the internal and external communications efforts for Medtronic’s recent $50 billion acquisition of Covidien and is on the forefront of defining the evolution of traditional manufacturing models into more integrated service innovations models.

Interview conducted by InterbrandHealth’s Chief Strategy Officer, Wes Wilkes, at the Best Global Brands event on October 6, 2015.


Chief Strategy Officer