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by Medtronic LABS

A Conversation With Jesse Njunguru, Head of Operations, Africa

In this conversation with Jesse Njunguru, our Head of Operations in Africa, we dive into the importance of a hyper-local approach that prioritizes adaptability and user-centeredness, the success of the non-communicable disease management programs in various African countries, and the unique value of technology and data optimization. Mr. Njunguru also shares his personal motivation for joining the organization and the challenges they face in achieving sustainable health impact in the face of urgent needs.

Continue reading to enjoy the full Q&A session.

Hi, Jesse. Can you share with us your professional background and how you came to be part of the Medtronic LABS team?

Hello! It would be my pleasure. My experience in the healthcare realm has been diverse, spanning multiple sectors such as public health, commercial pharmaceutical business, healthcare in emergency settings, and social marketing aimed at improving access to sexual and reproductive health. Throughout my career, technology and data optimization have played a key role in driving positive outcomes for patients and healthcare systems. This has given me a unique perspective on the many healthcare challenges African communities face.

Joining Medtronic LABS almost a year ago was an easy decision for me. The organization’s innovative and sustainable approach to improving healthcare access and patient outcomes in Africa aligns perfectly with my own values and aspirations. Being part of such an impactful team allows me to use my skills and experience to make a measurable difference in African communities.

One of the many aspects that makes Medtronic LABS stand out in the healthcare space is its use of technology and data to optimize programs and drive outcomes. As someone who has seen the transformative power of technology in healthcare, I believe that Medtronic LABS is well-positioned to be a key player in improving health outcomes across Africa.

Overall, being part of the Medtronic LABS team is exciting and deeply meaningful. Our vision and approach to healthcare align with my passion for utilizing technology to strengthen health systems, and our ultimate goal of improving health outcomes at scale is something that resonates with me.

Can you tell us about Medtronic LABS’s work and the program(s) you’re involved with?

At Medtronic LABS, we believe that healthcare is a human right, and we are committed to delivering global health solutions that are accessible and affordable to everyone. Our approach to delivering impact is unique, as we believe that local solutions are the most effective way to address the complex and diverse health challenges communities across Africa face. We work closely with local health ministries and other policy-level partners to ensure that our programs are tailored to the specific needs of each community and that they achieve scale and sustainability.

Our focus on adaptability and user-centeredness means that we are constantly learning and refining our approach to better serve the needs of our health system users, patients, and partners. We have implemented non-communicable disease management programs across Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, and Sierra Leone with remarkable success. Our programs have reached so many people, with over 320,000 patients screened for hypertension and diabetes and over 177,000 enrolled in ongoing care programs.

What sets our programs apart is the significant measurable improvement in the lives of over 82,000 people with an average of 60% disease control. Our approach has been successful because we prioritize program cost efficiencies while leveraging data and technology to drive better outcomes. We are excited about our impact so far and are committed to scaling our programs to continue reaching more underserved communities across Africa.

What are some of the organization’s upcoming initiatives that excite you?

At Medtronic LABS, we are constantly working to improve and innovate our healthcare solutions. As we implement our current initiatives and plan for upcoming ones, I am continuously excited about the potential for impact and growth. Our approach to healthcare is adaptable and user-centered, which means that we can create customized solutions that meet the unique needs of different communities and healthcare systems.

One of the aspects of our work that I find most exciting is our ability to apply digital health solutions across different health domains. Digital health solutions can improve access to healthcare, reduce costs, and enhance patient outcomes. We are currently exploring the use of digital health technologies to improve maternal, neonatal, and child health outcomes, as well as mental health and ear programs. These initiatives have the potential to significantly improve the health and well-being of vulnerable communities across Africa.

As we continue to develop and implement our initiatives, we are also focused on achieving scale and sustainability. We work closely with local partners and ministries of health to ensure that our programs are integrated into existing healthcare systems and that they can be maintained over the long term. It is incredibly rewarding to be part of a team that is making a tangible difference in the lives of patients and communities in underserved areas.

What inspired you to join an organization like Medtronic LABS?

I was drawn to Medtronic LABS because of the team’s boldness, patient focus, creativity, and humility. The organization’s commitment to driving scalable and sustainable health outcomes for underserved communities in Africa aligns with my own values and aspirations. At Medtronic LABS, we have the privilege of seeing the impact of our work on the lives of patients and communities firsthand, which is incredibly rewarding.

What also makes Medtronic LABS unique is the people. We are all driven by a passion for improving patient outcomes through agile and innovative approaches at all levels of the organization. The team consistently innovates while leveraging data and technology to tactically improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our programs and initiatives.

Beyond the work itself, I have also been impressed by the strong sense of community within the organization. A collaborative and supportive culture allows for open communication and the sharing of ideas, which drives innovation and growth.

So, what else makes Medtronic LABS unique from similar organizations?

One of the unique features of Medtronic LABS is the end-to-end nature of its programs, which covers the entire patient journey from the community to the facility and back to the community, backed by patient support features such as telecounseling. Our SPICE platform, which connects everything together, from the household to the community to the facility, is also a differentiator. We boast a robust platform that can risk-stratify patients at every stage of their journey, facilitate targeted follow-ups, and track outcomes in real-time using technology and visualization.

The ability to track outcomes in real time is a key feature, as it allows Medtronic LABS to make decisions quickly and in the best interest of patients. The platform also tracks other aspects of the patient journey, such as how many patients have been linked to care, how many have accessed care, and how many are being treated. This personalized process ensures that each patient receives individualized care, and the platform learns more about patients over time to better serve them.

What would you say is the most rewarding part of your work?

I find the most rewarding part of my work at Medtronic LABS is being part of a passionate team pioneering new ways of approaching sustainable health impact through local partnerships, digital solutions, and real-time data. Our approach puts patients at the forefront of everything we do – we work collaboratively with local ministries of health and partners to develop tailored solutions that address the unique healthcare challenges faced by underserved communities across Africa.

I am proud to work with a team that is committed to delivering high-quality healthcare solutions and recognizes the importance of sustainability and scalability. By leveraging technology and data, we can identify and address gaps in the healthcare system, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes.

Moreover, being part of an organization that prioritizes local partnerships is crucial to our success. Our work is grounded in understanding the unique challenges and opportunities that exist within each community we serve and working collaboratively with local partners to develop and implement solutions that are effective and sustainable in the long run.

What are the most challenging facets of your work?

One of the most challenging aspects of my work is the tension between the urgency to scale existing health system-strengthening solutions and the reality of slower adoption towards scale as we secure local partnerships and funding to quickly make the interventions available across communities in Africa.

It can be difficult to balance the need for quick action with careful planning and collaboration with local partners to ensure effective and sustainable interventions. However, it is also incredibly rewarding to be part of a team that is working tirelessly to address these challenges and make a real difference in people’s lives. The urgency of our work motivates us to be creative and innovative in finding solutions, and the impact we see on the ground makes it all worth it.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention that we haven’t touched on already?

Thank you for asking. Overall, I am just so grateful to be part of an organization that is making a real and tangible difference in people’s lives. The work we do at Medtronic LABS is challenging, but it is also deeply fulfilling and rewarding. I am excited to continue working with this talented and dedicated team to drive positive change in healthcare across Africa.

Making a measurable difference in community-centered healthcare across Africa

We hope you enjoyed this interview with Medtronic LABS Head of Operations in Africa, Jesse Njunguru. Medtronic LABS is significantly impacting healthcare access and patient outcomes in underserved communities in Africa through innovative and sustainable approaches that prioritize local partnerships and technology. 

While the urgent need for scale and sustainability can create challenges, the dedication and passion of the team and people like Jesse Njunguru continue to refine our team’s approach to making a real difference in the lives of patients and communities.

If you enjoyed reading this conversation, please share it with your network. You can read our previous team member Q&As on our blog, along with other exciting insights and stories. Stay tuned for more team profiles 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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