Top Takeaway’s from Fireside Chat with Rice Powell & Daniel Mahony

Watch a replay of the live session here or read our top takeaways below…

Daniel Mahony, formerly Co-Head of Healthcare at Polar Capital and now Entrepreneur in Residence at Evotec, talked to Rice Powell, Chief Executive Officer & Chairman of Fresenius Medical Care (FMC), the world’s leading provider of products and services for individuals with renal diseases, about putting patients first and how he sees the future of healthcare taking shape in the third decade of the 21st century.

The highly awaited session with Dan Mahony and Rice Powell delivered on its promise and more. A renowned industry figure, Rice spent 17 years at Baxter before joining Fresenius in 1997 and eventually being appointed CEO and Chairman eight years ago.

As a vertically integrated company with a focus on dialysis, FMC has over 4,000 clinics treating more than 346,500 patients and employs 125,000 people worldwide — a historical rarity, as Rice calls it.

Early lessons
Rice discussed the early challenges and mistakes that helped to shape the way he manages the business today. He reflected on the early days at Baxter and how they were complacent about competition in those days, especially as Fresenius was one of their key competitors. This was an invaluable lesson learnt – recognising the vital importance of competition, taking it seriously, not for granted.

Managing vertical integration successfully
Referring to the merger of Fresenius and National Medical Care, Rice described the challenge of integrating a products and services business. The team had to understand what value the MedTech piece added and how that worked within the service offering. By bringing engineering and medicine together, they would enable kidney patients to live better and longer lives.

Rice discussed “the care pathway” / renal care continuum and how it has evolved over time – how they looked at where FMC could add value for patients, without needing to go to hospital to get access to treatment, and where pharmacies can serve patients being a part of the coordinated care continuum.

Rice’s advice to growing companies with integrated businesses is to look to what value you can add that addresses patients’ needs.  If you are looking to collaborate with bigger companies like FMC, Rice’s advice is to do your homework and be open to multiple options – collaboration or partnership versus only M&A.

Covid, core values and communication
No discussion is complete without a deep dive into coping during Covid.

For FMC, being a global enterprise was an advantage. Watching Covid move through Asia Pacific early on enabled colleagues to share what was happening in the region and helped FMC get better prepared in other geographies. The Company got comfortable with taking certain risks and made quick financial decisions like electing to fund a childcare stipend to help nurses caring for children as schools were closed.

Post Covid, businesses have created lots of efficiencies in operations like reduced travel, plus the confidence gained that we can all cope in a truly global crisis.

Addressing the importance of core values being reinforced during a crisis, Rice stressed that these values drive enterprise, but that no piece of paper with a set of values on it matched watching people work through Covid. During the last 18 months, he has seen employees go above and beyond core values. Rice is hugely appreciative of FMC’s global teams and their commitment where tired employees continued to do the right thing for their patients.

Rice talked through FMC’s communications planning where they wanted to keep everyone informed by following a straight-talking approach. They had regional CEOs communicate live or via video conference every two to three weeks and answer questions honestly. Through this time they felt it was really important to recognise the team’s heroic efforts and that the leadership was cognizant of their sacrifice.

Succession planning and innovation
Discussing succession planning and attracting talent, Rice and the FMC Supervisory Board spend a lot of time on planning for the future. In his words, “succession is not just checkers, it’s chess”. Companies of all sizes need to build a strong bench of future talent and form a plan of how you evaluate and nurture employees. Not having a talent strategy in place could hamper success and growth.

Rice recognises the need for innovation, whether to attract the younger generation and when it comes to treating patients.

The KidneyX innovation accelerator, a PPP between the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) aims to accelerate innovation in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of kidney diseases. Endorsing the likes of KidneyX, Rice believes regenerative medicine is here as an option and that xenotransplantation may form the bridge to human organ transplants eventually. More pressing, however, is the challenge of how to delay the onset of dialysis in patients at risk.

Rice is positive FMC won’t be made obsolete. The company is keen to embrace new ideas, it will not bury its head in the sand. It is the reason they have a venture arm and are certain they will continue to be at the forefront of change no matter what the future brings.