Towards better healthcare: Vision, vocation and determination


Sir Ray Avery GNZM is a successful scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He is an internationally recognised charismatic and entertaining public speaker who challenges everyone to “Dream Big” and develop game changing disruptive thinking strategies. A former street kid, Sir Ray went on to become an internationally recognised scientist and entrepreneur and Knight of the realm. He uses disruptive technology and thinking to develop game changing businesses and provides companies with the tools to create a culture of innovation. In this interview, Sir Ray he draws on his extensive healthcare experience to offer exclusive leadership insights.

Q: Your desire to improve the health of the world’s poor and disadvantaged has seen you develop life-changing inventions, including hightech, low-cost incubators for premature babies; state-of the art, affordable intraocular lenses; precise devices for administering intravenous drugs; and products to prevent and treat malnutrition.
What inspires you to channel your time and effort into these worthy causes?

We live in a very inequitable world with 90% of the burden of disease borne by people in the developing world. In contrast, 90% of the world’s spending on healthcare is spent on the 10% of the population living in the developed world. That’s us, and we make healthcare products for us.

The Medicine Mondiale team get up every morning with the sole ambition of making safe modern healthcare accessible to all.I’m inspired by the Mondiale team and our supporters who live by the mantra “Change the World”. We have and we shall continue to do this, because we develop disruptive scalable medical technologies and get them out on a global scale.

Q: Throughout your life, you have overcome significant adversity, chartering a remarkable journey from homelessness to medical leadership to knighthood. What personal qualities and mindsets have helped you along the way? What advice can you give to healthcare leaders about staying resilient in the face of setbacks?

Firstly, you have to have a plan. Our average life expectancy is around 30,000 days and we are probably the only species on the planet to know that we have a finite lifespan yet do no long-term strategic planning about how we are going to live our lives or set timelines and goals. Since the age of 14 I have always had ten year plans, what do I want to do and how will I do it? I usually attenuate these plans after three years because I know much more than I did three years ago. If you have a plan and set objectives you are going to be infinitely more successful than your contemporaries who do not have a plan.

Secondly, never give in. For successful people “failure” is a cul-de-sac on the way to success. It is inevitable that one will at some point fail but if you fail fast and cheaply and learn the root cause of the failure then you have not “failed” because you have learnt valuable lessons.

Q: Across your work in science, inventing and social entrepreneurship, you are a strong advocate of putting the customer first. In your view, what are the strengths and weaknesses of current approaches to customer-centricity in healthcare? What improvements would you like to see over the next five years?

I think the major strength in our current customer-centric healthcare approaches are our “front of House” GPs, Clinical and Nursing staff. These are passionate, caring individuals who try to do their best for their patients. On the negative side, Healthcare Strategic Planning by Governmental agencies and Administrators can be slow to adopt healthcare innovations which may improve the quality, speed and cost benefits of clinical care for all stakeholders.
The key drivers for this malaise are poor management of change in embedded clinical organisations and lack of discretionary funding.

Realistically I am not optimistic that in the next 5 years we will see a significant change towards integrated customer-centric management systems in traditional healthcare systems. Conversely we will see an increase in the number of customer-centric healthcare offerings in the personal biometric monitoring, telemedicine and elective medicine space.More than ever in history the customer dictates what products and services they want. Identifying and meeting individual customer statements of need is the future of modern medicine.

“Have vision & be brave.”

Q: You are known for your belief that New Zealanders have a particularly strong inventive streak. What is it that makes New Zealanders so inventive? Do you think Australians share common qualities with New Zealanders when it comes to creativity and innovation?

This is a complex question. Are Australians naturally inventive? Absolutely. Australians gave us Google Maps and Wi Fi which changed the world, they gave us ultrasound scanners and atomic absorption spectroscopy equipment. One major difference between Australia and New Zealand is that the majority of all Australian inventions were invented by CSIRO or large government or commercial research organisations but in contrast most New Zealand inventions are fathered by an individual “not practised in the art”. People like Colin Murdoch – a pharmacist from Timaru who invented the disposable plastic syringe, tranquilliser dart guns and tamper evident seals for medicine containers.

Kiwis have three characteristics which “bind” them together: They are not fond of rules, they have no respect for the Status Quo, and they dare to dream. Like Israel which, per capita, is the world leader in successful medical startup companies, New Zealanders have an embedded self-belief that

Q: Foresight and planning have been integral to your work, with 10-year plans informing your vision, focus and strategy. What advice can you give to healthcare leaders about navigating long-term change?

Have vision, and be brave. We are living in the most disruptive period in history and applied disruptive medical technology is going to change the way that we measure, treat and pay for medical care. The reality is that established “embedded” healthcare providers such as Public and Private Hospitals are not fast followers of disruptive medical technologies.

Real-time, over the counter, 24/7 cloud-based personal biometric monitoring systems will allow customers to remotely monitor their own health and the health of their loved ones. This will impact on traditional healthcare providers, insurance companies and government healthcare spending. Healthcare has always been about the application of new technologies to improve healthcare outcomes and reduce costs.

The best advice I can give is to determine your customer statement of need, provide an application that meets or exceeds their expectations, and conduct constant post-marketing surveillance to ensure the ongoing sustainability of your business application.

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