Insights + interviews

Terumo celebrates centenary by helping the war on COVID-19

By  |  0 Comments

Terumo, a medical technology leader celebrates its centenary, by tackling and solving challenges and disruptions brought about by the pandemic.

Terumo began as a thermometer manufacturer in 1921, and was the first company in 1963 to create disposable syringes in Japan. Since then, the company has been providing medical solutions for the healthcare community and products to patients.

During the pandemic, Terumo Asia Holdings was instrumental in supporting scale-up initiatives that government medical systems and the healthcare community required .Their initiatives were focused mainly around COVID-19 centric therapies, setting up plasma therapy centres, building project sites, protocols, supporting disinfection activities, and initiating dialogue between physicians across Asia.

During its centennial year, Terumo Asia Holdings gave back to communities through ‘100 hours of CSR’, which encouraged Associates to give back through ways they are passionate about; and ‘Plant A Tree’, which helped beautify outdoor environments, and enhance green spaces.

The organisation also earned a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS Title for the largest online video chain of people passing and using a thermometer. They had over 500 people across Asia participate in this endeavour.

Photo credit: Terumo Asia Holdings

We discussed the organisation’s mission, resilience, and actions as they supported healthcare communities in the war on COVID-19, as well as the changes we might see as communities move into the endemic stage with Mr. Probir Das, Chairman and Managing Director, Terumo Asia Holdings.

the Active Age (AA): How did Terumo contribute and support healthcare practitioners and organisations during the pandemic?

Mr. Probir Das (PD): We appreciate the opportunity to share about Terumo and our activities on the occasion of our centenary.

Our mission for the past 100 years has been to ‘Contribute to society through healthcare’, and while we have always lived our mission, the current pandemic, which is perhaps the biggest health crisis in recent history, makes our mission even more meaningful.
Terumo has been highly instrumental in supporting many initiatives across the region during the pandemic.

I am very satisfied that we were instrumental in helping to scale up COVID-19 centric treatments such as enabling COVID vaccination programs with our syringes and needles, setting up COVID plasma therapy centres both in cities and remote geographies; provided emergency bypass equipment for patients that were seriously ill, catered with infusion pumps in critical care & ICU settings, built project sites and protocols, supported disinfection activities with disinfection robots and initiated dialogue between physicians across Asia.

AA: What were some of the challenges encountered and how did Terumo respond to them?

PD: To set context, from an Asia Pacific regional perspective, the pandemic had not caused one single big challenge. Instead, it created several large challenges across the healthcare system.

At the start, there was no established structure, approach or system for dealing with a global pandemic of this scale. There was no playbook. This was the beginning of the ‘war on COVID-19’ and many situations were not clear with the ‘fog of war’ as we struggled to understand the virus, and all the implications across a broad spectrum of environments such as hospitals, healthcare facilities, clinics and the like. It was clear we would be called to support the healthcare community that we are a part of. We had to figure out where and how we could provide value.

The next set of challenges was both site-based and logistical. Health regulators began to create clinical protocols, secure supplies, and restrict movement on access of our people to hospitals and public health clinics. However, there was no uniformity in the early days, as regulators had to select from a range of approaches unique to their environment in dealing with COVID-19. We had to support and strengthen these systems and protocols.

Truth be told, we are not a ventilator or diagnostics company. Therefore it was important that we supported in areas that we had strength and capability in, and pivoted processes and procedures to bring in COVID-19 centric therapies and support our customers and their patients.

From the start, we had to scale-up within a very short period and shorten our supply cycles in order to meet the critical needs and demands of our customers quickly. Our customers, quite often, hospitals and primary healthcare sites were dealing with increasing numbers of COVID-19 infected patients. They required large volumes of equipment, materials that were often different from what they had procured before as well as guidance on how to optimise the use of these items.

We also worked with government health systems to support them in scaling up capabilities. These were across areas such as high-quality injection, infusion, plasma therapy, as well as other treatment areas such as emergency bypass for critical life support. To do so, we had to expand production very rapidly. This was a major challenge by itself, given the global nature of our supply chain coupled with the reduction in manpower for freight and cargo due to lockdowns in some countries.

Across many Asian countries, there were massive requirements for infusion and syringe pumps. We increased our production capacity, ensuring that the crucial supply was readily available for intensive care and high-dependency units.

Additionally, and importantly, we customised our support for the country, depending on their respective national COVID-19 healthcare programmes.

In India, we supported the establishment of patient handling protocols in hospitals. In Singapore, apart from enabling the vaccination program quickly with expanded supplies of syringes and needles, we equipped several hospitals with mission critical tools such as our UV Light Germ Zapping Robots. These robots can disinfect large areas quickly. This supported healthcare professionals in reallocating manpower resources to other urgent areas and priorities.

Terumo also worked with cardiology units on how to manage inbound patients under these vastly different distancing and disinfection circumstances. We initiated an early dialogue between physicians in China and those in other parts of Asia to facilitate sharing and knowledge transfer based on our advantage in connecting healthcare practitioners across the region.

Recently, when India had a huge oxygen shortage due to huge COVID surge, the entire Terumo group, led by Asia Pacific countries, contributed and supported the Indian Government with oxygen concentrators and bi-pap instruments.

Lastly, as a global medical technology company, we have made major contributions to WHO. In April last year, Terumo Corporation donated USD 2.4 million in cash and products to support the COVID-19 relief efforts worldwide – including a USD 1 million donation to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO.

The product contributions included a large number of digital thermometers and vital cardiopulmonary support systems (ECMO, or Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) to medical institutions.

This year, Terumo Corporation donated another USD 1 million in cash to continue its support of the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

AA: In your opinion, will we see pandemics become more likely or common as we move forward?

PD: Amanda Glassman, EVP of the Centre of Global Development has shared that the frequency and severity of spill over infectious disease is steadily increasing and that the probability of a COVID-19 scale pandemic in any given year is between 2.5 – 3.3 percent. She translates this to a 47 – 57 percent chance of another global pandemic as deadly as COVID-19 in the next 25 years.

In my opinion, we should ask whether we can be better prepared when the next pandemic comes along.

To be ready, we must be clear about the lessons from the current COVID-19 pandemic, as well as our episodes with diseases from the past. With the lessons, as a healthcare community, we should both look at increasing our strengths and plugging our weaknesses.

There will be reviews done at the national level to determine whether the government, medical and healthcare actions and responses were effective. These reviews will also result in more changes within the healthcare ecosystem and its interaction points with other systems such as cross border health system collaboration and harmony action of treatment protocols, building hospital and ICU beds capacities, expansion of telemedicine, the balance between in-hospital and at-home treatment, supply of doctors in general, , travel and entry to countries, and the warehousing and storage of essential items.

AA: As we move to an endemic state, what are some of the changes we can expect to see with healthcare and HCPs?

PD: There is no doubt that the pandemic has reshaped healthcare, forced a rethinking of many systems and accelerated the adoption of new processes and technologies. All these changes had to happen fast in order to make new therapies readily available alongside quicker access to populations.

In my opinion, many of these changes will remain even after we go endemic. Some of these trends include fast and clear dissemination of crisis control information, , baseline social distancing and mask-wearing, adoption of contactless payment and last-mile fulfilment for retail or F&B, enlarged remote working, use of video and chat apps to connect families and friends, better tiering of healthcare systems across acute, sub-acute and home based care using the power of telemedicine, etc..

More specifically on the business side, we shall see more hybrid working, more remote documentation and process management, and a huge change in ‘go-to-market’ business models like remote promotion, inside sales, value based care models … the list is long.

From a Terumo Asia Pacific perspective, we intend to evolve stronger together, one country at a time, to define and fit the new normal. There is no such thing as a one size fits all approach, as healthcare in different Asian countries are all delivered differently.

We will continue to shape and align with the country’s medical policy priorities, and what the local market needs.

Our core values of Respect, Integrity, Care, Quality and Creativity, will help us find an approach that fits each individual market well, while bringing us closer on more cross-border standardisation and collaboration.

We shall continue to re-balance our portfolio, support primary health systems with such ‘critical again’ products like syringes, needles and thermometers, while we accelerate our clinical partnering capabilities around our high touch, highly differentiated products within our cardiovascular, cell technology and medical care businesses.

We shall continue to expand our automated integration with hospital information systems and create new digital platforms for customer education; we believe that these initiatives will enhance the delivery of equitable, high quality healthcare.

A few examples of these above initiatives are our Cardiovascular Go-Virtual integrated customer training and communication portal as well as our Intervention Systems social media promotion and lead generation initiative.

To achieve these, we will increase our regional functional capabilities, enabling data centric decisions, and cross leveraging our different entities.

AA: Terumo has a celebrated history filled with innovation. How does the organisation keep this culture and spirit going?

We are proud of earning our century. Personally, it has been a deeply satisfying journey being part of a company that is committed to our mission, that is, Contributing to Society Through Healthcare, and has had a hugely disproportionate impact on medical systems through its pathbreaking innovations.

As a few examples of this outstanding innovation culture, Terumo pioneered trans-radial vascular intervention (creating vascular access through the wrist) which minimises blood loss, risk of infection and shortens hospital stay. Then again, Terumo invented hollow fibre technology, which enables current forms of bypass heart surgery. Terumo made the world’s first 34 gauge pen needle which made insulin injections virtually painless. During COVID pandemic our Blood and Cell Technologies business got one of the earliest USFDA emergency approvals for our life saving technology.

Our list of innovations is very long and combine both breakthrough and incremental innovations.

This is enabled by the philosophy that patients are at the centre of everything we do. Patients exist; therefore, we exist.

Our north star is ensuring the safety of patients through the efficacy of our innovative products.

The other cornerstone of this innovation culture is GEMBA, which in Japanese means the action of going to see the actual process. GEMBA makes our engineers and researchers see from close the procedures of medical practitioners, identifies their struggles and difficulties, and resolve them with commitment.

The spirit of Terumo is in its togetherness. As an example, this year, our Asia Pacific associates came together and achieved a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS Title!

Taking inspiration from our founding device – the thermometer – and its continued importance even after a 100 years in monitoring human health in this pandemic, we accomplished a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS Title with over 500 associates across Asia participating for ‘the largest online video chain of people passing and using a thermometer’.

We will continue to build on our successes in order to support the healthcare community, our customers. And our patients.