The Spanish edition of the prestigious magazine, MIT Technology Review, created under the umbrella of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, contacted me recently for an interview. I was delighted about the call from the oldest technology magazine in the world. It was founded in 1899 and its view regarding innovation helps and directs world technology and business leaders (businessmen and women, entrepreneurs, investigators, investors and financiers) in order to improve the global economy. Therefore, the fact that the global leader of future online technology thought about Ribera Salud for their next publication filled me with pride and, for that reason, I would like to share the interview in my personal blog.
Alberto de Rosa: “Sickness is a failure for the system”
Written by Marta Sotres
Going beyond genetics, the CEO of Ribera Salud, Alberto de Rosa, believes that health is a question of prevention. As an advocate for innovation, he criticises the health sector for not advancing at a sufficient speed and suggests a collaborative model in which the citizen takes on more responsibility. “In the future there is a going to be a lack of doctors”, warned the CEO of the health management group Ribera Salud, Alberto de Rosa. In his opinion the health sector in Spain should prepare itself for this possible situation and innovate as a matter of urgency so that hospital care does not become obsolete. He believes that public institutions need to be modernised and keep up to date with current social changes, in which even diseases are different from previous ones.
De Rosa is sure that technology will create a more mobile and closer health system, with smaller hospitals and shorter hospitalisations. However, in order to achieve that, he states that society also has work to do. He thinks a cultural change is needed to reduce the reluctance of some people to live with more technology based healthcare and become active in maintaining their own health.
– One of the 10 up and coming technologies that the MIT Technology Review has chosen in 2018 is that of mass genetic studies, capable of finding common features in our DNA to predetermine possible diseases. How will this new technology be valued?
– There is no doubt in my mind that these technologies are going to transform healthcare as we know it. If I think about hospitals of the future, I don´t imagine big centres with 1000 beds but rather small hospitals, with few beds, but with a lot of technology. The ICUs (Intensive Care Units) will be bigger because we will be able to operate on people who are older and older. In addition, we will count on swifter processes and people will spend less and less time there, since, thanks to technology, the citizen will practically be able to have personalised care from home from doctors and nurses, through telemedicine tools. This is the model that were are heading for and its main barrier is cultural. We still have this traditional concept of associating health with a static sector, but when we are able to realise that technology is going to give us much more immediate solutions, we get closer and closer to those hospitals of the future.
– What do you think about the application of big data and artificial intelligence in science as well as in business management?
– I´m convinced that big data and increased intelligence (I prefer to call it that) are going to help the sector a lot but we cannot ignore the fact that we still face big challenges. We need to make sure that the information remains confidential and make its use clear. And, above all, we cannot lose our main focus, which is to organise all of this information and make it available to citizens and their carers so that both can take partial responsibility for their personal care. Unfortunately, I don´t think the health system is very innovative yet, there is still a long way to go. It has to be much more accessible for the citizen and more flexible and mobile in the presence of technological innovation that opens up changing societies.
– What value are new technologies adding to your business? And the users?
– Disease, in the end, is a failure for the system. Of course it is a question of nature, but we also need to see it as a failure of the system in which we need to work with the citizen to try to prolong their wellbeing and health as much as possible. Many things are changing within the sector: health, society and, even, diseases themselves. These days people are living longer, they have chronic diseases that demand a long period in terms of the health system and whilst there may not be any disadvantage to this, it isn´t necessary to meet face to face with the doctor. Technology can, therefore, enable a closer, decisive and more mobile health system.
One of the initiatives to spark collaborative work was our health portal, devised so that the citizen could participate in the management of their own illness. Thanks to this platform, that more than 50% of our patients already use, they can communicate directly with their nurse or doctor. In this act of empowering the citizen, technology is the driving force of change, bringing healthcare closer to each individual. And this is not science fiction, medicine based on the 5Ps is now a reality: population focused, predictive, preventative, proactive and personalised. Nowadays, we all have health in our pockets because mobile phones are first-rate health tools that are always with us.
– These new technologies are favouring the integration of companies from outside the sector that have detected new business opportunities. For example, Amazon has launched itself onto the market through a joint venture together with JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway. How are you preparing to face these new competitors?
– Our first reaction is surprise. The second is to stop and analyse the reasons why these companies are introducing themselves into a sector that was previously foreign to them and study the value that they can add to healthcare. We often make the mistake of thinking that we are more expert in one area, having spent many years in a sector. Today, the rules of the game have changed and it is precisely technology that is breaking those notions and those traditional barriers that existed before. So, it should not come as a surprise that outside companies introduce their experience into other areas. These initiatives are becoming interesting due to the fact that they make important companies help to normalise these concepts of transformation and change in the public sector. However, we can never forget that that technological vision always has to go hand in hand with the concept of humanisation, closeness and warmth in the care from healthcare professionals. It would be ideal for the two visions to come together, since healthcare is a sector that has had superficial transformation for years but without much real, in-depth transformation.
– According to the OSCE, it is predicted that, in the next five years, that more than four million “digital employees” will be lacking in the workplace. Is this something that is already affecting your sector?
– We haven´t noticed it yet, but it is true that in the healthcare sector we have to be prepared and conscious of the fact that in the future there will be a lack of doctors, professionals related to technology and highly skilled jobs. That is a problem in which the authorities should get involved and act as quickly as society needs for a permanent transformation. And, we, as organisations, should be capable of attracting and retaining talent. Our objective is to always be at the forefront of technology because, to keep the best talent, we have to opt for innovation and digital transformation.
– Incorporating new technologies and lines of work requires an organisational change: accepting new tasks, taking responsibility for mistakes…How was the need to innovate conveyed to the board of directors and the organisation?
– Ribera Salud has a digital culture; we were born with innovation and the use of technology at patient level. We were, in fact, the first company in the Spanish public system to introduce electronic medical records. For me, the idea of cultural transformation is fundamental in an organisation. At first, people are reluctant to do different things but when you manage to involve them and make them the protagonists of the process and they see that the effort of adapting to new methodologies makes their job easier and improves the care given to citizens, you get results. In that way, a very positive inertia is created in the company in which creativity, flexible environments and innovators come together to maintain talent. We choose a culture of innovation that goes from the bottom to the top.
– As CEO, how are you facing the challenges that digital transformation brings with it?
– As CEO I have been lucky to lead a process of introducing technology into the health system when the digital experience did not exist in the sector. If I go back 20 years, the most important role was to lead that internal cultural change in the face of difficulties that arose through being pioneers. We had to push and assure people that we were taking the right steps. And, even today, the challenge of knowing how to project with confidence that we are heading towards the future continues.