Dell's CEO contributes seven tips on how to maximize healthcare events
The annual SXSW Festival wrapped a few weeks ago, but the industry tips generated by this event have resonated with healthcare professionals in a big way. Noteworthy CEOs from various industries gathered together to swap start-up tales, success stories and helpful tricks to avoid the trials they’ve all seemed to experience.
Company leaders from start-up champions like South by Southwest, TripAdvisor, Shutterfly, the Knot and Dell Healthcare, lead multiple conversations on how to get the most out of attending their respective industry events. Dell Healthcare’s CEO, Michael Dell, was one of many to share his thoughts on how to maximize the potential of attending healthcare events, through a series of “how-to” tricks:
1. Find the passion
It is important to find out exactly what attendees are seeking out of any respective event. By identifying what exactly the endgame is of the audience, you can better identify with industry executives and find common ground beneficial to both parties. Whether it is the individual attendees or topical matter, it is important for an event-goer to gravitate towards those who are likeminded in their passions.
Hugh Forrest of Southwest commented on the idea by saying, “The more you can engage and work with the community, and reflect the passion, interest and energy of the community, the stronger the event will become.”
Through this core group of unified individuals, you will establish productive and long-lasting relationships for your event.
2. Forget the numbers
The start-up success experts all seemed to agree on this next tip: size doesn’t really matter. The emphasis on the size of your event shouldn’t be the primary focus; allowing your event to grow naturally will allow for the right people to gravitate to your cause— and you don’t want people to be there just to fill seats. Another positive of smaller events is that you are able to make more impressions and you will have more time to network with interested parties.
It is important to choose quality over quantity; and in the words of two start-up success stories, slow growth is good growth in the eyes of Michael Dell and Hugh Forest.
3. Expand beyond your group
Whether you are hosting or attending a healthcare event, meeting new people is essential. Although it is important to connect with those who are likeminded in terms of your passions, introducing yourself to others from varying opinions or specializations is essential.
Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Healthcare commented on the importance of building relationships by saying, “Our business is about technology, yes. But it's also about operations and customer relationships.”
Not only will you expose yourself and your organization to new markets, but learning from the opposition can be enlightening on both a personal and professional level.
4. Visit the unknown
Don’t be afraid to attend events that you are not an expert in; often, the hosts of these events are excited to have an inexperienced audience to teach. Not only will this experience broaden your mind as a healthcare professional, but you will exit the conference with new contacts and new leads to follow-up on, should the opportunity present itself. Also, attending events outside of your comfort zone will allow for inspiration for your own events, in terms of organization, scheduling and other technical aspects of event-hosting.
5. Be diligent
This seemingly obvious tip, is often forgotten, but proves to be the second most important networking key. Aside from making the initial contact, following-up with an established industry contact is essential for a successful event experience. This means that the event does not end at the closing ceremony; in order to capitalize on these acquired networks, it is important to make yourself known to your contact on a more intimate professional level. Sending a personalized email, LinkedIn message or engaging the person or company on Twitter can be good ways to carry the conversation beyond the actual event.
Additionally, find a way that you can add professional value to yourself in the new relationship. The start-up CEOs encouraged event-goers to do this by thinking of ways they could bring something to the table for potential contacts; this allows the individual to become a more credible and act as a valuable asset in a person’s professional network.
6. Benchmark similar events
By keeping it simple and embracing your audience, a successful event can be easier than you think. When it comes time to throw an event for your organization, don’t reinvent the wheel. Utilize pre-existing resources either online or in your field to benchmark the upcoming event, in terms of procedures and event standards.
Remember that the most important elements for any event are the same, regardless of the size: time, date and location.
7. “Surrender to serendipity”
This line to live by, “surrender to serendipity”, is a favorite of South by Southwest’s CEO Hugh Forrest when it comes to attending or hosting events. Whether it be the chaotic crows, last-minute cancellations or unforeseen crises at his prominent SXSW event in Austin, he encourages event-goers and event hosts to just go with the flow.
When attending an event with these circumstances, make yourself stand out and don’t sweat the small things. It is important to remember that a successful introduction is just as important as getting a front row seat at the EMR seminar; and after all, building a productive contact pool is what networking is all about.
The challenges to vaccine distribution affecting everyone
While it is comforting to know that vaccines against COVID-19 are showing remarkable efficacy, the world still faces intractable challenges with vaccine distribution. Specifically, the sheer number of vaccines required and the complexity of global supply chains are sure to present problems we have neither experienced nor even imagined.
Current projections estimate that we could need 12-15 billion doses of vaccine, but the largest vaccine manufacturers produce less than half this volume in a year. To understand the scale of the problem, imagine stacking one billion pennies – you would have a stack that is 950 miles high. Now, think of that times ten. This is a massive problem that one nation can’t solve alone.
Even if we have a vaccine – can we make enough? Based on current projections, Pfizer expects to produce up to 1.3 billion doses this year. Moderna is working to expand its capacity to one billion units this year. Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, is likely to produce 60% of the 3 billion doses committed by AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi. This leaves us about 7 billion doses short.
Expanding vaccine production for most regions in the world is complicated and time-consuming. Unlike many traditional manufacturing operations that can expand relatively quickly and with limited regulation, pharmaceutical production must meet current good manufacturing practice (CGMP) guidelines. So, not only does it take time to transition from R&D to commercial manufacturing, but it could also take an additional six months to achieve CGMP certification.
The problem becomes even more complex when considering the co-products required. Glass vials and syringes are just two of the most essential co-products needed to produce a vaccine. Last year, before COVID-19, global demand for glass vials was 12 billion. Even if it is safe to dispense ten doses per vial, there is certain to be significant pressure on world supply of the materials needed to package and distribute a vaccine.
It is imperative drug manufacturers and their raw material suppliers have clear visibility of production plans and raw material availability if there is any hope of optimizing scarce resources and maximising production yield.
It is widely known by now that temperature is a critical factor for the COVID-19 vaccine. Even the regions with the most developed logistics infrastructures and resources needed to support a cold-chain network are sure to struggle with distribution.
For the United States alone, State and local health agencies have determined distribution costs will exceed $8.4 billion, including $3 billion for workforce recruitment and training; $1.2 billion for cold-chain, $1 billion vaccination sites and $0.5 billion IT upgrades.
The complexity of the problem increases further when considering countries such as India that do not have cold-chain logistics networks that meet vaccine requirements. Despite India’s network of 28,000 cold-chain units, none are capable of transporting vaccines below -25°Celsius. While India’s Serum Institute has licensed to manufacture AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which can reportedly be stored in standard refrigerated environments, even a regular vaccine cold chain poses major challenges.
Furthermore, security will undoubtedly become a significant concern that global authorities must address with a coordinated solution. According to the Pharmaceutical Security Institute, theft and counterfeiting of pharmaceutical products rose nearly 70% over the past five years. As with any valuable and scarce product, counterfeits will emerge. Suppliers and producers are actively working on innovative approaches to limit black-market interference. Corning, for example, is equipping vials with black-light verification to curb counterfeiting.
Clearly, this is a global problem that will require an unprecedented level of collaboration and coordination.
Disconnected information systems
While it is unreasonable to expect every country around the world will suddenly adopt a standard technology that would provide immediate, accurate and available information for everyone, it is not unreasonable to think that we can align on a standard taxonomy that can serve as a Rosetta Stone for collaboration.
A shared view of the situation (inventory, raw materials, delivery, defects) will provide every nation with the necessary information to make life-saving decisions, such as resource pooling, stock allocations and population coverage.
By allowing one central authority, such as the World Health Organization, to organize and align global leaders to a single collaboration standard, such as GS1, and a standard sharing protocol, such as DSCSA, then every supply chain participant will have the ability to predict, plan and execute in a way that maximises global health.
Political influence and social equality
As if we don’t have enough stress and churn in today’s geopolitical environment, we must now include the challenge of “vaccine nationalism.” While this might not appear to be a supply chain problem, per se, it is a critical challenge that will hinge on supply chain capabilities.
In response to the critical supply issues the world experienced with SARS-CoV-2, the World Health Organization, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) formed Covax: a coalition dedicated to equitable distribution of 2 billion doses of approved vaccines to its 172 member countries. Covax is currently facilitating a purchasing pool and has made commitments to buy massive quantities of approved vaccines when they become available.
However, several political powerhouse countries, such as the United States and Russia, are not participating. Instead, they are striking bilateral deals with drug manufacturers – essentially, competing with the rest of the world to secure a national supply. Allocating scarce resources is never easy, but when availability could mean the difference between life and death, it becomes almost impossible.
Global production, distribution and social equality present dependent yet conflicting realities that will demand global supply chains provide complete transparency and an immutable chain of custody imperative to vaccine distribution.
The technology is available today – we just need to use it. We have the ability to track every batch, pallet, box, vile and dose along the supply chain. We have the ability to know with absolute certainty that the vaccine is approved, where and when it was manufactured, how it was handled and whether it was compromised at any point in the supply chain. Modern blockchain technologies should be applied so that every nation, institution, regulator, doctor and patient can have confidence in knowing that they are making an impact in eradicating COVID-19.