Leadership in healthcare innovation

Leadership in healthcare innovation

Posted by: on Sep 18, 2018 | No Comments

In a previous blog post, I wrote about innovative care models. On 12 September, I was a key speaker at a healthcare conference in Riyadh (Saudi Global Health Exhibition). The title of my presentation was “Leadership in healthcare innovation: What does it take”? Sweden, my home country, has a long tradition of fostering innovations and this is what I will focus on in this blog post. In fact, Sweden is the leading innovative country within the European Union (EU), followed by Denmark and Finland.

So how has this come to be? I will go through some of the key factors below. Part of the answer lies in investments in research and development. Sweden currently invests well over 3% of its GDP in research and development (R&D) while the average within the EU is around 2%. That means that Sweden is investing 50% more – and investments in R&D is of course key for a nation to become innovative.

Without a strong education system as a foundation in a society, it is hard for any nation to equip its citizens with the skills needed to be innovative. The recipe is first a good overall education. Sweden has a long tradition of free schooling. Already in 1842, the Swedish parliament introduced the first free compulsory primary 4-year school. The compulsory school was extended to 9 years in 1949. Sweden also has a long tradition of world-class higher education. The Uppsala University was founded in 1477 and the Lund University in 1666. They are not among the oldest universities in Europe but their reputation has been very high for many decades, even centuries.

Another factor, which is important to mention, is Sweden’s long tradition of triple helix collaborations. A triple helix collaboration refers to a cooperation between Public and Private Institutions as well as the Academia.

Swedes are considered early adopters when it comes to technology in general and the music and entertainment industry in particular. Below are some examples of great inventions, which Sweden is famous for:

-Anders Celsius, the astronomer, invented the temperature scale.

-Since safety is part of the Swedish DNA, it was of course a Swede who invented the safety match.

-The ball bearing and the zipper are other examples of Swedish innovations.

-The video-chat app, Skype, was launched by Niclas Zennström in 2003. In 2011, Microsoft bought Skype for $8.5 bn. Not a bad return after 8 years!

-The music streaming service, Spotify, is another example of what has come out of the Swedish tech innovation hub. Spotify was launched on 7 October, 2008. On 3 April, 2018, Spotify was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The listing was very successful and several Swedes became multibillionaires overnight. Spotify is currently valued at $30 bn.

I also talked about how every year, on 10 December, the Nobel Prize award ceremony is held in Sweden (except for the peace prize, which is awarded in Norway).  Prizewinners include early innovators such as Albert Einstein, Alexander Fleming and Marie Curie. The first Nobel Prize was awarded in 1901, this is now 117 years ago. Interesting to note is that apart from inventing the dynamite, Alfred Nobel also held 355 different patents.

I ended the section about Sweden by talking about some very famous healthcare innovations, which have changed the way patients receive care around the world. The first one is the very well-known Gamma Knife. The Gamma Knife is an advanced radiation treatment for adults and children with small to medium brain tumors. Lars Leksell invented the Gamma Knife technology in 1967 and founded the company Elekta. Today more than 6,000 hospitals around the world rely on Elekta technology.

Rune Elmqvist, who worked at Siemens in Sweden, developed the first implantable pacemaker in 1958, together with Åke Senning, senior physician and cardiac surgeon at the Karolinska University Hospital in Solna, Sweden. The same year the first pacemaker saved the life of a man who was just about to die. This man, 43 years at the time, lived to be 86 and outlived the man who saved his life.

I want to end this blog post with a special dedication to an invention, which lies especially close to my heart – the dialysis machine. It replaces kidney function for patients with renal failure and since I am active in the renal care industry, I have seen first-hand what this invention means to millions of people every day.

Nils Alwall invented the dialysis machine in 1949 and it became the foundation for the Swedish company Gambro. My company, Diaverum, was once part of Gambro and went under the name Gambro Health Care until 2007.

The introduction of the dialysis machine of course had an enormous impact on the lives of end-stage renal patients. Patients who have lost their kidney function need replacement therapy in order to survive (today this means dialysis or transplant). Before such treatment was available, their lives were not possible to save. Today however, they can live a long life if they receive high-quality dialysis care and take good care of themselves – and currently over 2 million people over the world do!

The patient’s view

The patient’s view

Posted by: on Apr 29, 2016 | No Comments

I have just travelled back from Diaverum’s annual meeting. This year the meeting took place in Cascais (Portugal), where over 200 managers met to learn and share experience from colleagues representing our 20 countries around the world. This year we had the honour to listen to one of our patients from Australia, Greg Collette. With 20 years on dialysis he had a lot of important messages to share with the audience. To regularly listen to our patients is the only way to really improve their quality of life for renal patients. Greg Collette, who also writes his own blog at bigdandme.wordpress.com, and he spoke about what is key for a patient, who is about to choose a kidney centre for his or her treatment. He talked about the importance of feeling safe and comfortable, having flexibility with regards to treatment time (especially for patients who work), good food and the proximity to home. Whilst we should know all this as people working every day with renal patients, it was good to hear it from an experienced patient.

Greg also talked about the need to receive more personalised care and the possibility for patients to play a larger role in their health management.  He is very engaged in supporting other patients and has for example been an active developer of our d.CARE app. One very important comment he made in his talk is the active inclusion of patient representatives in the management team meetings in the countries. I found this an excellent idea and I can only encourage all people working in healthcare to do that on a regular basis: To invite patients to really understand how they think and feel about their disease and their treatment. This is essential to improve their quality of life.

The key leadership skills

Posted by: on May 16, 2013 | No Comments

There is an interesting debate taking place as to whether or not poor leaders can become good leaders.

My view is rather simple: in the same way as there are naturally good and poor athletes, physicians, engineers and politicians, there are also good and poor leaders.

I do, however, believe that everybody can improve but the scale of improvement will depend on many factors including the individual’s persistence, commitment and true willingness to do so.

I believe many of us have said on a number of occasions that we want to improve ourselves in certain areas; sometimes, after a few glasses of bubbly on New Year’s Eve, we even, promise ourselves that “next year I will do this or that better”. I also believe that many of us, a few weeks into January, have forgotten all about the promises made.

Interestingly, on the topic of poor leaders vs. good leaders and on self-improvement, there was an article published in the Harvard Business Review earlier this year.

The authors used 360 degree feedback data over 12 to 19 months to track what exactly the leaders who had made the most significant progress actually were doing.

The results were very interesting: practically all the executives in the study managed to improve on nine particular leadership skills.

Skill number one was communication effectiveness. This was actually the most common skill that the leaders improved. Communication is critical to leadership. Communicating timely, frequently and professionally is key to success for any leader. Communication skills (including presentation skills) can be greatly improved through training and/or coaching.

The leaders in the study also made an effort to share their knowledge and expertise more widely. Typical for good leaders is to share their knowledge more frequently and teaching people what they know how to do.

Good leaders also encourage others to do more and to be better. Some leaders believe that if they minimise challenges to their team and expect less of their people, subordinates will see them as better leaders. This is wrong! Fewer challenges is the opposite of what a work group or organisation needs. When leaders challenge their direct reports to do more and be better than they thought they could be, the leaders are actually perceived to be better themselves.

The leaders in the study also developed a broader perspective. Getting leaders to stop and look at the bigger picture can help them see potential problems sooner and focus more on strategic and less on tactical issues. This leads to constructive change and innovation.

They also recognised that they were role models and needed to set a good example. It frequently happens that leaders unintentionally (or unknowingly) ask others to do things they don’t do themselves. This never works. Good leaders must walk the talk.

They began to champion their team’s new ideas. Leaders who shift from discouraging new proposals to encouraging and supporting innovative ideas and thinking will witness a lot of positive change around them.

Another important skill is to learn to recognise when change is needed. Leaders who become more proactive (i.e. by doing a better job of spotting new trends, opportunities, and potential problems early) are better leaders.

The leaders in the study also managed to improve their ability to inspire and motivate others. All the above skills presented do create a more inspirational environment. But there are also two other benefits coming from inspiring and motivating others: first, they do a better job keeping people focused on the highest priority goals and objectives; secondly, they make a special effort to stay in touch with the concerns and problems of their teams. When a leader is the last to know that an employee is having difficulties, others interpret that as a lack of concern. Providing support and assistance to an employee in difficult circumstances not only helps that employee, but also reassures others they can expect to receive the same treatment.

Good leaders also begin to encourage cooperation rather than competition. When leaders look for ways to encourage cooperation and generate common goals, they become more successful.

All the skills described above need to be developed for a leader to truly become a good leader.

Even if, as I said in the beginning, I believe that there are leaders who are naturally good leaders, there are also leaders who become good leaders by practising hard and focusing on their leadership skills.

Contemplating pros and cons of living as an expatriate

Contemplating pros and cons of living as an expatriate

Posted by: on Sep 1, 2011 | No Comments

My family and I are typical expats. Our roots are in Gothenburg on the Swedish west coast, but for the last few years we have been residing in Munich, Germany. Before that we lived in London for a couple of years. That easily raises the question: Where is home? My wife and I have three children, a daughter of 12 and two sons aged 16 and 17 and our children have spent a great deal of their childhood in various cultures. I believe there are two approaches to being an expatriate family – either feeling guilty for not providing a solid base, or embracing all the special opportunities this kind of lifestyle offers.

Europe versus the US
There are lots of opinions about living a mobile life, but few facts. Geographical mobility in Europe is quite low. This is especially true for some parts of southern Europe where families can live in the same house for generations.

The opposite can be seen on the other side of the Atlantic. The States has a history of settlers, and being on the move seems to be a part of the national American character.

Not as easy as it might seem
Statistics shows that in 2010 there were about 200 million people living abroad. And according to a study done by justlanded.com among German expatriates in 2008, many seem to underestimate the challenges of moving abroad. As a general rule, the survey showed that 68% of expatriates found the move abroad “more difficult than expected”. The biggest problems mentioned of German expatriates were:

  • Adapting to the local culture (85%)
  • Finding new friends (72%)
  • Learning the local language (42%)
  • Finding accommodation (38%)

(Source: justlanded.com)

Our first move as a family took place in 2001 when we relocated to the UK. Our children were still quite small (2, 6 and 7) and immediately got integrated into the British school system. Within half a year their English was fluent. When it was time to move back to Sweden, after four years, the children were more than resistant to come along and actually wanted to remain in the UK. Once back, we decided to sign the kids up for the international school in Gothenburg.

Boarding schools
But, when time came to relocate once again, this time to Munich, our sons announced they wanted to go back to the UK and study at a boarding school. This might seem like quite an uncommon alternative and often causes a raised eyebrow or two. For our family, however, this is a solution that has worked well. The rest of the family now lives in Munich, where the boys come to stay during holidays.

Finding a model that works
One thing I’ve learnt is that there is no right solution for everybody. Each family has to find what is best given their special circumstances. Today’s world is full of swift changes. Having an international background definitely teaches children how to adapt to new situations and cultures. A true gift, I believe, in this world of ever-increasing mobility. And it is absolutely true that the younger the children are, the quicker they adapt to a new environment. To move abroad with teenagers is therefore more challenging than moving abroad with very young children.

I also believe that moving on a frequent basis becomes a “life style”. I would personally get bored very quickly if I lived in the same house in the same city for too many years. I like change, frequent change, and I hope that my children will look back on their youth with fond memories of having lived in various cultures and homes.

When I ask my children where home is, they do answer Gothenburg! Therefore the family spends a large part of the summer and Christmas holidays in this city.


Up in the air – the art of making business travelling enjoyable

Up in the air – the art of making business travelling enjoyable

Posted by: on May 4, 2011 | No Comments

As I am writing this I just landed after a long flight between São Paulo, Brazil, and Munich, Germany. In a few hours I am catching another plane in order to attend next meeting. I spend many days a year crossing the globe, and I am well aware that travelling can be painful. Delayed flights, crowded airports and inefficient security checks can cause stress, a lot of stress.

I have seen many well mannered business people suddenly turning nasty and rude the moment they enter an airport. With bags in hands and elbows out they make sure nobody has a chance to board the aircraft before them.  Once airborne, the business man (I have no prejudices – but I rarely see aggressive business women at the airports) starts up his computer and taps away on the keyboard, making sure all e-mails can be sent off immediately after landing. And the moment the wheels touch ground Blackberries and Iphones are switched on. Frustration grows. Teeth grind. Stress mounts. Does it have to be like this?

Years ago I too used to turn into one of these unbearable business men. However, time has made me wiser. Nowadays I keep my energy up following some common sense rules.

I always arrive early at the airport
Actually, I am proud to say that I have never missed a flight. Getting to the airport with plenty of time on hand is such a stress reliever. There is absolutely no reason to be late. I can get plenty of work done in the airport.

I keep luggage, clothing and loose items to a minimum
Not having to check in a suitcase is a huge time saver, and less is definitely more when it comes to making it through the security control. I keep jackets, belts, bags and other unnecessary items to a minimum.

I make sure to have access to a business lounge
Getting some work done at the airport requires peace and quiet, a commodity that is to be found at the business lounge. There are three ways to achieve access: Through a Diners Credit Card, with a Priority Pass or having collected enough frequent flyer points.

I use the Online Check-in service
Most airlines have this service available 24 hours before flight departure time. With no bags to check in and boarding pass in hand I can head straight to the lounge. Checking in online also gives me the benefit of choosing an aisle seat way in front. This allows me to get off the plane quickly and saves me from climbing over my fellow passengers if I want to visit the restroom.

I am the last passenger to get on the plane
There is nothing like the turmoil that emerges when a large group of travelers enters a plane at the same time. Hand luggage, elbows and coats swing through the reduced space. So even if I am early to the airport I make sure to be the last one to board the plane.  This way I can also spot if there is a free row of seats available. Not having to be jammed in with strangers for hours makes travelling so much easier.

It is amazing how some common sense rules can keep the blood pressure down and spirits high. Business travelling actually can be quite enjoyable.










Using social media: Getting your strategies right

Using social media: Getting your strategies right

Posted by: on Mar 30, 2011 | No Comments

I have been a keen follower of Twitter for several years. It gives me up-to-date information, is easy to follow and – it only takes a few words to get the gist. Twitter is the absolute antidote to long essays, a huge benefit for anybody living a busy life!

But, what is the correct way to use social media? Some users prefer to be constantly connected and active. Others have a more conservative approach.

For me social media is a way to stay informed, both professionally and personally. It helps me keep in touch with family and friends back home in Sweden (since work has taken me to Munich). Even so, before taking my first step into the sphere of social media I decided to get my strategies right.

My 5 must-answer-questions before getting into social media:
1) Why do I want to use social media in the first place?
2) What is my goal with using the specific media?
3) Do I want to tweet and post actively? (That does take some time)
4) How public do I want to be?
5) What kind of digital footprint do I want to leave on the web?

As a CEO of a large company I rarely do something without having my goals clear, this goes with the profession. Setting out the path for using social media was similar to making a business decision.

Obviously everybody has different answers to the above questions. There is no right or wrong answer. The important thing is to think before acting, and then go ahead. Social media is a great tool that can make life easier and more fun, provided it is used the right way.

I personally use Linked In, Facebook and Twitter, and my approach for each one is different. However, as a general rule I prefer to have a conservative approach.

Twitter for quick updates
Twitter is definitely the social media of my choice. It lets me choose the exact information I want to access. I follow the stream from various daily newspapers and newsproducers. I also get the latest information about business news, competitors, airports, restaurants, wine producers and much more.

Facebook for keeping in touch
Since my work takes me all over the world, Facebook is a way to keep in touch with friends and family. As a conservative Facebook user I only add friends that I actually have a close relationship to in real life. I rarely take the time to post up-dates myself.

LinkedIn for professional reasons
LinkedIn is purely business. I use it to get to know competent professionals across the globe.

Answering the five questions does not take too much time. And once you get your strategies right there is a whole world out there to connect with and get information from.

Foto på Dag Andersson