Nurgul Vatansever

Restorative Therapies Group, Vice President at Medtronic CEMA

Nurgul Vatansever

“We Are Passionate About Helping Healthcare Professionals By Providing Innovative Solutions”

Medtronic is currently using Artificial Intelligent (AI) through various applications across its businesses, including Diabetes, Neurovascular, Gastroenterology and Minimally Invasive Therapies, as it opens up new and exciting possibilities for us to help alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. “Hospitals” magazine met with Nurgul Vatansever, Vice President at Medtronic CEMA, and below is the full interview:

Can you tell us more about your background and when did you join Medtronic? 

I have been working within the healthcare sector in Emerging Markets for over twenty-five years.  My background is in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, in which I have two degrees from the Middle East Technical University, as well as an Executive MBA and B.S.

I joined Medtronic in October 2019 to lead the Restorative Therapies Group (RTG) business in the CEMA region (Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa). 

Prior to joining Medtronic, I was with Johnson & Johnson for nine years. During my time, I served through three major leadership roles, most recently as Ethicon Middle East General Manager, as well as General Manager for Russia, CIS Countries and Turkey.

Prior to Johnson & Johnson, I was Managing Director of Hitachi Medical Corporation (HMC) Turkey & CIS Countries, and Zone Leader at GE-Healthcare Turkey.We have such a dedicated and united team here at Medtronic, which is key in our mission to create therapies that alleviate pain, restore health, and extend the life of as many patients as possible. Now more than ever, our togetherness will be crucial to achieving this.

The best part of my work is seeing the positive impact our solutions have on patients’ lives. Helping people has always been in my DNA. 

Medtronic is a global leader in medical technology services and solutions, what is your mission statement as a company?

Our efforts are transforming the lives of millions of people each year, thanks to our unwavering commitment to our mission to help alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. 

We live our mission each and every day, whether in times of business as usual or during unprecedented times such as now, with COVID-19. 

For example, we have extended our support through sharing open files of our ventilator designs to enable the global industry to evaluate options for rapid ventilator manufacturing to help doctors and patients in the fight against COVID-19.

Medtronic has been in the region for more than 30 years. How do you find the evolution and the development of the healthcare sector in this region? 

With aging populations and the growing prevalence of diseases, healthcare remains a top priority as the demand and need for quality healthcare services rises in the region.  As a result, the healthcare landscape and market dynamics are always evolving and has become very fast-paced. 

This requires us to think differently and to fundamentally improve the way we do business, as well as the way we operate. 

For example, hospitals are looking for ways to improve clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction, achieve efficiencies and reduce costs, and increase access so that they can maintain the quality of care. 

Therefore, it is important that we partner with them in this challenge. We are already doing this through functions like our Integrated Health Solutions (IHS) and introducing new models to enable transformations to meet their evolving needs. As part of our mission to help alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life, we are passionate about our responsibility to continue helping healthcare professionals, healthcare providers, and patients by providing innovative solutions in order to meet the region’s needs for advanced medical care and achieve life-changing results for our patients. 

We are also committed to promoting better lifestyles for patients and making a positive impact in their lives and their family members.

What are the latest technologies that you have launched during 2019 and beyond?

Many of our new launches are focused on AI, and in 2019 we launched the first Artificial Intelligence System for colonoscopy during the United European Gastroenterology Week. This system, which is a true testament to our mission to help alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life, aims to transform colorectal cancer detection and benefits both patients and gastroenterologists.

We also partnered with iSchemaView to distribute the RAPID software, another AI product, which is artificial intelligence-powered imaging software that allows doctors and first responders to quickly identify brain events, and all-importantly, speed up the treatment of patients suspected of having ischemic strokes. In addition, we notably launched Mazor X Stealth – a transformative robotics guidance system for spinal surgery which offers a fully integrated procedural solution for surgical planning, workflow, execution and confirmation.

Artificial Intelligence is becoming a huge part of healthcare, what is the role of AI in Medtronic?

At Medtronic, we are currently using AI through various applications across our businesses, including Diabetes, Neurovascular, Gastroenterology and Minimally Invasive Therapies, as it opens up new and exciting possibilities for us to help alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. A key example is a technology co-developed between Medtronic and the recently acquired Mazor Robotics, specifically the Mazor X Stealth Edition. 

This is a revolutionary new technology that uses cutting-edge software to plan the surgical procedure, then uses a robotic arm to guide implants and instruments through the steps of the surgical procedure with precision, while simultaneously using real-time imaging feedback to ensure the plan is being carried out as desired.

We are also aiming to leverage AI in stroke care through RAPID software by supporting hospitals to implement the software and optimize the referral pathways to ensure a more accurate diagnosis of patients who would benefit from endovascular stroke treatment. 

Trying to improve the outcomes and lives of as many patients as we can, we are also providing consultancy services to enhance stroke patient pathways across pre/inter/in-hospital phases.

Tell us about your future strategies  in the region, and how are you coping with the ongoing changes on the healthcare level?

At Medtronic, we are always looking at how we can introduce and deliver increasingly meaningful therapies and procedures to address the challenges in healthcare access, whether locally, regionally, or globally. 

At the same time, we are also striving to lead the creation of value-based healthcare solutions.We are always in tune with and innovating for the industry’s needs, both current and anticipated, which has allowed us to become a preferred partner of choice in the region. We are doing our utmost to accelerate partnerships with the public and private sector to help them address increasing lifestyle diseases, and concurrently control rising healthcare costs. 

By using our technology and expertise we are able to help doctors provide more efficient care to patients, and help hospitals improve their operational efficiencies to achieve better clinical and economic outcomes. 

For example, we have partnered with several diabetes clinics, where our technology is used to better manage the disease, to improve the lives of those patients. 

This has also resulted in significant savings from reduced complications and hospitalizations, which can be redirected toward other needed resources and infrastructures. At Medtronic, we truly believe in harnessing the power of medical technology to change lives and make the future of the healthcare system better.

How is Medtronic implementing and supporting the UAE vision 2020? 

Many of the  priorities of UAE Vision 2020  are shared by us here at Medtronic too, and so implementing and supporting them is key to both our continued success and ability to deliver on our mission to help alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life, as well as our ethical commitments to the communities we serve as a company. 

For example, a competitive knowledge economy is one of the Vision’s core goals. As a company, we are heavily focused on innovation, research and development. 

One of the ways we extend this is by working with local partners, such as congresses, and educational institutions. Local doctors also partner with us to learn, share and pass on best practices acquired at international congresses. 

Through these partnerships, we believe we are playing a key role in facilitating and advancing knowledge exchange in the medical sector locally.  

World-class healthcare is another priority set out within the Vision. Being a world leader in medical technology, developing solutions that support and enable world-class healthcare is central to our purpose. As such, we are at the forefront of research and development, always striving for new ways to overcome today’s healthcare challenges. 

Our harnessing of AI, for instance, is just one example. Another example of how we are constantly adapting advanced technology to meet local needs is the introduction of the first MICRA, which is the world’s smallest pacemaker for patients with Bradycardia, in KSA and the UAE. 

This was the first of its kind in the Middle East.The Vision also highlights the importance of an inclusive environment. Medtronic is passionately committed to ensuring an ethnically and culturally diverse workforce that respects local traditions. We are very active in our initiatives to drive this. 

For example, we champion female empowerment and leadership in healthcare and STEM industries. Our goal in 2022 is to have 40 percent of leadership roles held by women. We are proud to say we have already surpassed this.

How is Medtronic supporting in optimizing stroke pathway and saving more patients in the region?

Artificial Intelligence has been a great enabler when it comes to saving, improving and extending the lives of patients with stroke. We do this in a multifaceted way, for example through the RAPID software, an artificial intelligence-powered imaging software that helps to quickly treat patients suspected of having ischemic strokes. 

With such fine margins, time can make all the difference between a good or bad medical outcome for a stroke patient with a large-vessel occlusion (LVO). To help solve this, the AI can detect, locate, and notify doctors whether an LVO has occurred. 

We are also working diligently with key stakeholders to optimize the processes and resources across the four different stages of patient pathways. 

For instance, by supporting initiatives to expand the usage of specialized stroke screening scales to ensure more patients are getting the best care possible, as quickly as possible. 

Other ways we are helping to elevate stroke pathways include partnering with healthcare professional societies and authorities to organize training programs, working with the industry and authorities to generate economic evidence for health technology assessments, as well as reimbursement submissions and resources allocation. Helping to reduce recurrence rates and lasting health problems is another vital area, which is why Medtronic also sponsors clinical registries to improve post-stroke treatment.

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