Over an evening hike up a winding mountain trail, we talked to Ruchika about how Medtronic LABS started, her vision back then and now, and what she is most excited about for the future.
Question: How was the concept of Medtronic LABS born?
Answer: LABS was born from our former Chairman and CEO, Omar Ishrak’s vision to leverage technology and innovation to expand access to healthcare for underserved communities.
As an organization, we have been experimenting with disruptive ideas and organizational structure for more than ten years to get to where we are today with LABS. Our success to date is truly the result of personal passion and commitment from several hundred Medtronic employees who volunteered their time and championed this work in the early years, including the entire Medtronic executive team and our current CEO Geoff Martha. Very few multinational corporations walk the talk when it comes to purpose and making a difference – LABS is truly the result of Medtronic leaders’ unwavering commitment to the mission despite our frustratingly slow progress in the early years. I have been very fortunate to be part of this learning journey and have had the incredible opportunity to build a ‘start-up’ within a large corporation, with mentorship and support from some of the best leaders in the world.
Question: How do you feel about the current path of Medtronic LABS?
Answer: I recently returned from the World Health Assembly in Geneva and from discussions there, I am more convinced than ever that we have a unique value proposition that is resonating with key stakeholders. Our solutions are scalable and sustainable. We have a fantastic team, and we are executing well. There is a lot to do and I don’t want to be blindly optimistic but I am confident that we can accomplish our big, hairy audacious goals.
Question: Now that Medtronic LABS is gaining momentum and the Medtronic LABS health care platform is scaling into other regions, what are two things you’re excited about for this next year?
Answer: We have partnered with the Ministry of Health in Kenya and the World Diabetes Foundation for national-scale expansion and I’m excited about executing this on the ground. It will be the first comprehensive national-level NCD management program anywhere in Africa. This is huge.
Our model is replicable – we have been able to ramp up exponentially in several countries simultaneously and are actively building a pipeline of partnerships in additional countries. Yes, we need to customize for each country, but a lot of the core elements are the same. And once people see what we are doing on the ground, there is a lot of traction and excitement to scale quickly. I am now trying to balance how many countries we can be in at once and at the same time maintain our focus on delivering meaningful outcomes.
I’m also excited about the outcomes data that we are starting to see in our programs. The last time we published our results was from a cohort of patients in 2018 and then COVID hit. We have been ramping up exponentially over the last year, recently crossing the 100K patient enrollment milestone, and will be able to publish our results soon. Demonstrated outcomes at a population level are crucial to continue our exponential growth and support our partnerships.
Question: What do you envision the future looking like for healthcare in underserved communities?
Answer: The future of primary healthcare is digital and community-based. Whether that is NCDs, communicable diseases, or maternal health; digital technologies are key to addressing inequities and improving outcomes. Our SPICE platform is specially designed to strengthen primary care by extending the reach of healthcare facilities into the community. We are now able to build on top of our core platform and expand beyond hypertension and diabetes into other disease areas, reduce care silos and enable holistic, patient-centered solutions.
We are reinventing health systems to expand access for more than 5B people across the world, so I would say we are just getting started. Our successes to date have primed us well and we are gaining traction with key stakeholders across the ecosystem to enable innovation and impact at a system level. Most of all, we have an amazing team – talented and passionate. The future is exciting!
Question: What gives you joy and purpose?
Answer: Most of the world has limited to no access to health care. We, at LABS, are privileged to enable and fulfill in our small way the Medtronic mission of ‘Alleviating Pain, Restoring Health and Extending Life’ for all patients. I see the humanity of our impact when I go to these communities and interact with patients – their smiles and stories give me real joy and purpose.
About Ruchika Singhal
Ruchika is the President of Medtronic LABS and strives to disrupt healthcare systems to improve the lives of underserved patients, families, and communities through digital, tech-enabled, and equitable healthcare access throughout the world.
Connect with Ruchika via LinkedIn.