You became President of Mayo Clinic International in September 2019, and before you’d settled into your seat, the pandemic hit. How has Mayo Clinic dealt with the challenges Covid-19 has brought? Have you personally been working in a hospital during Covid-19?
Like everywhere across the world, Mayo Clinic has faced the disruption caused by the pandemic. In 2020, we had just embarked on our strategic goals for the next decade, a plan that can be summarised as Cure, Connect and Transform, that is, developing the next generation of cures for patients, creating innovative digital strategies to connect people and data, and working to transform health care so that it's more accessible and equitable for all. Our research and healthcare teams pivoted quickly, and Mayo Clinic developed some of the first Covid-19 tests available. We established a wide range of clinical trials to test emerging therapies. We also expanded our virtual care, even developing and piloting a home-hospital model so patients can receive in-patient level care in their own homes. Mayo Clinic has a multi-specialty team-based approach to care – it's really the secret to our success – and that was our approach internationally, too. We expanded our partnership with Mayo Clinic Laboratories to expand Covid-19 testing capabilities worldwide at Mayo Clinic Healthcare in London and elsewhere. During the pandemic, many members of our care teams have travelled to Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City, the hospital we co-run in Abu Dhabi, to help with patients there.
As an organisation, Mayo Clinic made close to a decade of progress over the course of one year. The Covid-19 pandemic pushed us faster and further than we could have imagined. We're now stronger than we were pre-Covid – in our practice, in education, in research, and in operation and business agility. I'm a gastroenterologist, and I continue to see patients at Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minnesota. Whenever I have a bad day because of Covid-19, I simply think of people less fortunate than I, and of our mission to extend Mayo’s reach internationally. That puts things into perspective for me and keeps me motivated.
What does your role as President of the International division entail?
In my role as President of Mayo Clinic International, I'm responsible for expanding Mayo's reach across the globe. That means creating avenues so that patients can access us, whether they want to come to see us at one of our three destination medical centres in the US, or they want to connect with us through Mayo Healthcare in London and have access to our specialists from here. We are creating an international healthcare network in carefully selected markets and with carefully vetted organisations. This network elevates care locally and provides members differentiated access to Mayo capabilities.
Mayo Clinic's global reach is deeply rooted in our history. Our founders, members of the Mayo family who were talented surgeons and gifted teachers, travelled the world to share their knowledge and learn from other experts. Today, we're building relationships and partnerships throughout the world with those who are interested in working with us. Our approach remains the same: to provide access to Mayo Clinic's expertise, particularly in the treatment of serious or complex disease, and to learn best practices from others.
How have your previous roles with other hospital networks prepared you for your current position?
I have been preparing for this role all my life. I have worked in four countries, which has given me deep appreciation for all cultures and people from all walks of life. I grew up in a medical family and was exposed to healthcare before I could walk. I have always been fascinated by the science, art and business of medicine. As a gastroenterologist, as a chief medical officer and then president of large medical groups, and as the chief clinical officer of a large health system – each of these roles taught me a new aspect of healthcare. I think the most important thing I've learned is to see the big picture, think strategically, hire the best people, and then get out of their way.
Data and digital innovation are a keen interest for Mayo Clinic; what are you working on at the moment in this field that will push the Clinic’s services forward?
The world is facing a great opportunity for innovative digital connection – and for putting tremendous amounts of data to use, to increase knowledge and insight. Mayo Clinic is establishing digital tools for remote diagnosis and management, using artificial intelligence and machine learning. We're also building tools to improve care. For instance, our researchers have developed a tool, using AI and data from seven million electrocardiograms, that can help predict certain heart problems, even before patients have symptoms. That means patients may be able to seek preventive care before facing a crisis.
Mayo Clinic has established the Mayo Clinic Platform, a collection of digital strategies. We see it as the first true platform in healthcare, using technology to connect people, organisations, and resources. The platform provides a means for our partners to connect with us from anywhere in the world. It also provides opportunities for innovations in care delivery, whether that means improvements to care in a hospital or the ability to reach out across the world for an expert second opinion.
Telemedicine allowed a great deal of healthcare services to continue to serve patients during the pandemic, but do you think that the level of engagement is going to maintain its current high levels?
The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that healthcare can transform more rapidly than we might have believed. It also showed us that patients are open to using digital tools, that they really like the convenience and the access. As clinicians, we learned that we're able to provide care for patients in person, through digital connection and through virtual visits. All of these are moving toward becoming the varied modes by which care is delivered. Eventually, we're not going to refer to it as telemedicine or telehealth, as some kind of unusual or alternative approach – it'll just be another way that patients access their care.
Partnerships with international health insurers are key to success for hospitals with sites around the world; what do you think are the essential elements to keeping these relationships going?
This is true – as we increase our international outreach, we rely on relationships with international health insurers. Patients are interested in travelling from all around the world to receive care at Mayo Clinic for several reasons. One is because of our clinical excellence: our outcomes and our ability to help patients get the correct diagnosis quickly so they can get the right care. We've been honoured to be recognised as the number-one hospital in the US for six years in a row by US News and World Report. Another reason people want to come to us is because Mayo Clinic provides an unparalleled patient experience. The goal of Mayo Clinic International is to elevate care worldwide in the treatment of serious or complex disease. To serve as many patients as possible, Mayo Clinic seeks to create mutually sustainable partnerships with payers across the globe – relationships built on trust and predictability – that will enable patients from all walks of life to benefit from the care we provide.
As the world emerges from the pandemic, how can international hospitals make patients feel more comfortable about travelling for treatment once again?
One of the challenging aspects of the pandemic has been that, even as we've been battling Covid-19, people around the world have continued to need care for other serious or complex medical diseases. Many people put off getting evaluated for conditions that then progressed. We're seeing patients begin to travel again, and this is good. Hospitals all over the world know more now about the protocols necessary to keep patients safe from Covid-19 so that patients can be seen for other concerns before facing severe or even life-threatening complications. It's important that patients be informed, and Mayo Clinic has concertedly continued to provide trusted information about the pandemic that anyone can access online to understand the latest pandemic updates. When it comes to staying healthy, it's important that people recognise that they need to continue taking care of themselves, getting screenings that are necessary, following up with their physicians and reaching out for expert second opinions when necessary.
You’ve worked all over the world; do you have a favourite place you’ve lived in? Why did you choose this one?
My favourite place is wherever I find myself. As long as I am around bright, motivated people who want to change the world and help people, I am in my favourite place. I like kind people, and I love being with my family.
What do you enjoy most about your role with Mayo Clinic?
There are so many things I enjoy about this role, but bringing hope and cure to people who have run out of options is among the most rewarding. Having so many colleagues who wake up with a singular mission of putting the needs of patients first is both humbling and motivational. I always like surrounding myself by people cleverer and better than I am. Mayo is full of people like that, and we love working together.