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by Medtronic LABS

A Conversation With Head of Implementation Excellence, Garima Sahai | Medtronic LABS

Since our inception, Medtronic LABS has prioritized collaborative action over siloes. To facilitate lasting societal change, we need to meaningfully engage all our partners – from the public and private sectors to the vulnerable communities we serve worldwide.

There are many exceptional people whose leadership and talent have helped us establish productive partnerships with our stakeholders. This month we’re happy to introduce you to one of them: our Head of Implementation Excellence, Garima Sahai

Recently, we sat down with Ms. Sahai to discuss her professional journey, ongoing initiatives, and how Medtronic LABS takes collaboration to the next level.

Read the full Q&A below. 

Tell us a bit about your background. How did your career lead you to Medtronic LABS?

Well, I was a social entrepreneur before joining LABS. My education was in economics. I spent years working with the World Bank, then decided to build a social enterprise in India focused on water sanitation initiatives.

I successfully set up and ran that enterprise for about four years. I was at a junction where I wanted to step down and move my career more broadly to tackle various issues within public health.

I was looking for that jumping-off point to lead me from managing small engagements to driving sustainable, impactful partnerships. I wanted to make a difference at the patient outcome level in a sustained manner.

As I explored the public health sector, my husband, who once worked for Medtronic, pointed me in Medtronic LABS’ direction. After speaking with the HR head, they realized a critical opening matched my profile. I talked to the HR head here in India, I learned about what LABS does, and from there, I joined the team!

And what is your role at Medtronic LABS?

I’m the Head of Implementation Excellence, which means I head partnerships and compliance efforts across the organization. My role also includes leading the day-to-day global strategy of Medtronic LABS as well as parts of higher-level operations. This includes our global partnerships, especially for our ear care initiative, Shruti

I’m currently exploring avenues to expand Shruti beyond India, where the initiative was born. We’re trying to go into Africa, where we can hopefully replicate our successful country-wide care model.

A critical component to achieving our desired level of measurable impact is managing our existing partnerships across the board. 

I’m thankful that Medtronic LABS has a profound vision and a robust platform that allows our team to drive large-scale, complex partnerships that lead to country-wide innovative models. These models drive measurable patient outcomes across different health conditions.

What are some of the current initiatives that you’re most excited about? Are there any new programs coming up?

I’m definitely most excited about the expansion of Shruti. Shruti has facilitated partnerships with various state governments for sustainable ear care intervention in the public health domain while exploring private sector models.

Our first effort to expand Shruti beyond India is our “Hear, Listen, and Speak” program in Bhutan. The objective here is to identify children with hearing disorders and ensure they get the treatment they need by closing the loop within the existing care model.

For this expansion to succeed, we had to engage various stakeholders, from UN agencies to hearing aid companies. We have all come together to design a holistic care continuum and, to ensure the program is successful, it has been established within the local existing public health system.

We’ve been exploring similar programs in Africa—specifically Kenya and Rwanda–where we’re already present through our NCD initiatives. Establishing these new programs requires a lot of consultation and stakeholders, and I’m very optimistic that these efforts in Africa will come to fruition.

Our business operations initiative is also exciting to me. I am actively involved in optimizing various functions and processes across the organization, so we can act as a consolidated unit and move forward as a strongly positioned player. This objective aims to make further expansion of our programs as smooth as possible.

This process is heavily focused on strengthening our tech systems. From HR, supply, IT, and general technology, we’re figuring out what qualitative regulatory requirements we need to get up to speed and ensure data security and privacy are set up to achieve our objectives.

You’ve been speaking a lot about building partnerships–can you share a bit more about Medtronic LABS’ approach to collaboration? What sets you apart?

Objectively, the uniqueness of our approach is our steadfast focus on patient outcomes. We’re committed to ensuring that our end goal for all our programs is improving patient outcomes. This is unique in itself. Much work in public health focuses on imports and exports—or merely the “number” of things done. Our focus extends to our actual impact on the patients we serve.

We are very grateful that many of our funders and partners acknowledge this focus. 

Many organizations like Medtronic LABS are tech-driven, so that’s not necessarily our uniqueness. But in terms of approach, we take it further by actively using technology for data-driven decision-making. We use data from our technology to bring in efficiencies that enhance our service at all levels, from partnerships to on-the-ground implementation.

We leverage the data from our technology to inform decisions, internally and externally, by actively sharing that data with external stakeholders (governments, agencies, and health facilities). This practice helps us make operational decisions, leading to better patient outcomes.

Lastly, the mindset at Medtronic LABS is not about being competitive. We exist to complement the current public health space across the care continuum. By using the resources in this space, we can move towards a single target: the sustained strengthening of healthcare systems in the communities where we operate. 

Lastly, what are some of the most rewarding parts of your work at Medtronic LABS? How about the challenges?

As I mentioned, my profile at Medtronic LABS is very diverse. Most of my assignments are “white space” execution oriented. We have complex problems that need to be solved, and I’m responsible for thinking through that “white space” and implementing a structure we can execute. I find it very rewarding to start from scratch where we have no benchmark or baseline and ensure the initiative is ready to execute.

As far as challenges are concerned, patient outcomes have a lot of external factors that are often out of our control. We need to understand and then optimize how we can best measure our performance and interpret and act on those data to enact measurable outcomes.

Iterative collaboration that inspires growth

We hope you enjoyed this Q&A session with Medtronic LABS Head of Implementation Excellence, Garima Sahai. If you missed it, we encourage you to read last month’s Q&A with Chief Operating Officer Kaustubh Bhatnagar. Stay tuned for more team profile features in the coming weeks and months.

To get in touch with us, please visit our contact page. Together, we can transform global healthcare systems and deliver essential care to those in need.

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