Siemens Medical Solutions USA announced today that Heinrich Kolem, Ph.D., has replaced Thomas McCausland as president of its Customer Solutions Group. In an exclusive interview with DI SCAN, Kolem discussed how his experience in the MR business will shape his now broader agenda, his early plans for the company’s U.S. operations, and how Siemens’ pending acquisition of Diagnostic Products might change the character and approach of Siemens Medical Solutions USA.
Siemens Medical Solutions USA announced today that Heinrich Kolem, Ph.D., has replaced Thomas McCausland as president of its Customer Solutions Group. Kolem, who has served as president of Siemens' MR business since January 2001, will work with McCausland until June 30, when McCausland retires.
In an exclusive interview with DI SCAN, Kolem discussed how his experience in the MR business will shape his now broader agenda, his early plans for the company's U.S. operations, and how Siemens' pending acquisition of Diagnostic Products might change the character and approach of Siemens Medical Solutions USA.
Editor's Note: DI SCAN will run an exclusive interview with McCausland tomorrow.
DI SCAN: How do you see Siemens Medical Solutions USA changing under your leadership?
Kolem: To be very honest, I don't see many changes. For the first few months or half-year, I would like to listen and learn and see if any changes are necessary. I would like to make sure we follow Erich Reinhardt's vision and also what Tom McCausland has implemented and to help sell and promote the very good products that we have. And I would like to better integrate customer interaction in how we can improve.
DI SCAN: Do you have specific goals for the first year?
Kolem: The goal for the first year is really just to learn about the individuals in the organization and to learn more about the customers. I know many of them already. But this is important because the U.S. is seen by the whole world as the trendsetting market and, therefore, I think I should spend a lot of time getting to know what is going on and where this market is going.
DI SCAN: The U.S. market has a lot of individuality. Would trying to improve workflow and efficiency while maintaining the individuality found in medical practice be one of your bigger challenges?
Kolem: I think that is one of the bigger challenges but it is not much different from other countries. I think in most cases you have different workflows. We can use this to our advantage to identify the different know-how and approaches that serve different kinds of customers, because there is not one workflow for everyone. Each customer has different challenges and we have to find where we can use standardized parts of individual solutions. That is the challenge I would like to help sort out.
DI SCAN: How will the tough reimbursement issues, particularly those associated with the Federal Deficit Reduction Act, affect Siemens' business in the U.S. and what do you plan to do about them?
Kolem: The market will react to these things, but I think it will be a moderate reaction. We should try to lessen the impact by helping customers improve their productivity to overcome the disadvantages of these issues. We can also try to help communicate to lawmakers the adverse effects of their actions and to argue in this direction to reduce the effect of these things, such as the Deficit Reduction Act.
DI SCAN: Let's look at the pending acquisition of Diagnostic Products Corporation. This will change the character of Siemens by expanding your portfolio into the biosciences. How will it affect your approach to the market?
Kolem: We are following our strategy of extending our offerings along the whole process chain in the healthcare continuum. If you look at the diagnostic chain, there are also some in vitro diagnostics; this is basically an entrance into this part of the diagnostic chain. Therefore, I think this will change our whole process of understanding what is necessary in healthcare - what can be optimized and what can be done better in the future.
DI SCAN: Do you believe, as some have said, that developments on the in vitro side will lead naturally to developments on the in vivo side, particularly as you get deeper into molecular imaging?
Kolem: In the long run, there will be interaction between in vitro and in vivo diagnostics, which should lead to faster and better diagnoses, and also to better diagnostic processes. There may be a combination where the output of the in vitro better determines which imaging modality should be used or how the imaging protocol should be applied. These kinds of interactions are what we will be looking for.
DI SCAN: How will R&D change at Siemens when you try to combine these different groups - one oriented toward the life sciences biochemically versus one that has dealt with hardware? How do you mix them together?
Kolem: That is a challenge in itself. But I believe we are prepared. And I think that will be very interesting and promising in the future.
DI SCAN: How do you see Siemens Medical Solutions USA evolving over the long term?
Kolem: Better customer integration that leads to better design, marketing, and selling of cutting-edge products and solutions. This will continue to be a major part of our vision of integrating healthcare IT and modalities that lead to better processes in healthcare.
DI SCAN: Are there interactions among Siemens Medical Solutions USA and organizations focused on other parts of the world?
Kolem: There are. But many people in Asia and Europe look at the U.S. and they believe that a lot of things they see in America will come over to those other continents later. Therefore, it is very important to make sure this trendsetting market has a significant role in the design and definition of future products and solutions.
DI SCAN: Your Ph.D. dissertation 20 years ago focused on MR. A big part of your role over the last five years has been to manage the development of MR - a natural fit with your background. Will you miss being so directly involved with an area that has held your interest for so long?
Kolem: I will miss it a little bit. That is very clear. But on the other hand I was not just managing the MR product. I have had a lot of contacts with customers who helped to develop the right product strategy. Therefore, I am looking forward to the new job and to having more of that customer contact. Innovation is only innovation if it is at the customer site.
DI SCAN: Your emphasis on this, in regard to the MR side, would naturally carry over to the broader modalities and therapies on which Siemens is working.
Kolem: That is part of the strategy that Erich Reinhardt has always said and we try to follow. We need to closely partner with our customers in order to evaluate the whole process chain.
DI SCAN: This might seem clear cut, but I would think the actual means for implementing this strategy is not always so.
Kolem: There has been a lot of conflict and discussion inside the business unit about how we should do it. I think that maybe the contribution I could make in my new position is to have these open discussions and communication. I would also participate in key decisions and offer advice on which direction to take. I consider that one of the most fun and successful parts of my job in the last five years.
DI SCAN: How would you characterize this success in terms of accomplishments?
Kolem: I think I have had two major accomplishments - making sure our organization understands the customers' needs and implementing solutions that adhere to our processes. And also making sure that our products are of the highest quality, are delivered on time, and have the right functionality from day one.
DI SCAN: Are there specific challenges that you see coming up?
Kolem: I don't see specific challenges, but I would like to amplify our current strategy and its emphasis on customers. We want customers to get ideas from customers; we want customers to play an active role in the process that defines our products. So that is something I would like to emphasize - the active role of the organization with the customer and making sure the whole organization understands how important this is to the entire process. Our products are not something simply delivered by a factory and sold by a salesman. We are one Siemens and we have to work together to make sure that we serve our customers. I think we are already very good at that, but we can always do more.
DI SCAN: On May 18 you returned from China. Does your new position with headquarters in Malvern, PA, mean you won't be going to other countries as much as you have been?
Kolem: Definitely. I will travel to other countries, but much less, typically only for the international meetings that Siemens has. And I am looking forward to that.