Angeles Delgado, president of Spain and Portugal for Fujitsu, a globally leading Japanese ICT company, discusses the long history of the company’s presence in Spain and within its healthcare system. Delgado goes on to shed light on the affiliate’s ongoing projects in Spain and how Fujitsu is positioning itself as a dedicated partner in the digitalization of healthcare.
Spain is at a point of disruption in which the healthcare system is facing big challenges; the solution to which has to be technology
Please begin by describing Fujitsu’s presence in the Spanish market.
Fujitsu is a long-standing company all over the world and specifically in Spain where we began operations in 1973. Spain was the country in which Fujitsu decided to enter the European market. At the time Spain had its own IT company, Secoinsa, which was formed by Telefonica. Telefonica was looking for a new technology partner and this is where Fujitsu’s relationship with the public sector began. From there, we began acquiring shares of both Telefonica and the public sector; this was the origin of Fujitsu in Spain.
Fujitsu has a long-term established business in the market and is a company of nearly 3,000 employees. We have a strong presence throughout Spain with two very strategic directions. The first is to bring the best of Fujitsu close to our Spanish customers and from here, support our development in Latin America. In Spain, we have many centres of excellence for financial services, healthcare, Internet of Things (IoT) and big data. Additionally, we have a factory in Málaga and two remote data centres which provide us with the capabilities and knowledge we bring to our customers; a crucial differentiator in today’s digital era.
As part of the second aspect of our strategy, Spain has developed itself as an export platform of talent and services to other countries. The software factory in Seville has doubled in size over the last year and has 80 percent of its team dedicated to developing applications for international use; more than 40 developers are creating software for the UK postal service. Additionally, in Barcelona, we have a workplace management centre which provides remote services to 42 countries.
What makes Spain the ideal European hub for Fujitsu?
Fujitsu is a company driven by customer needs, therefore, we rely on long-term customer relationships in which we can understand their challenges, co-create, and implement our technology to ensure the success of their business. The value of Spain is in the established customer base we have here, for example, our relationship with Caixa Bank has been standing for over 30 years.
Moreover, Spain is a good-sized market with a high degree of talent that can be found at a reasonable cost. This, combined with the expertise and experience we have acquired throughout the years, allows Fujitsu Spain to deliver operations to other markets.
What is the importance of the healthcare sector for Fujitsu?
Fujitsu has been working with the sector for 20 years now, mainly within the public arena. We are proud to say that 40 percent of patients in Spain rely on Fujitsu for their healthcare services as we hold a strong presence in the biggest regions of Spain; Madrid, Andalusia, and Catalonia.
Please elaborate on the partnership between Fujitsu and SERMAS.
SERMAS is one of the most successful healthcare services in Spain. They have always been very open to technology and they have had good experiences in the past working with Fujitsu. This project, of course, was a request for proposal (RFP) so we had to include the best offering in our proposal in terms of content and cost. SERMAS put together the central services of IT together with their hospitals. Therefore, there is one single service to handle IT for all of SERMAS’ hospitals, which means managing the networks, servers, and access. SERMAS sees Fujitsu as a partner with end-to-end capabilities and the necessary level of investment to walk through the future.
Similarly, in other regions we are in the process of renewing contracts as the managing partner of data centres and in Catalonia, we manage 18,000 professionals across all healthcare workplaces. In Catalonia, thanks to our services, a 25 percent level of healthcare savings was achieved.
What is your analysis of the current condition of the Spanish healthcare system?
Spain has a very efficient healthcare system which spends less than those of France, Germany, and Switzerland, but is still well aligned with the European average. Spain is one of the top three countries globally with the highest life expectancy and most health issues in the country can be dealt with at the primary care level which accounts for about 14.3 percent of expenditure. However, Spain is at a point of disruption in which the healthcare system is facing big challenges; the solution to which has to be technology.
The main challenges come from a financial and sustainability perspective. For the past seven years, the system has been cutting costs to an extent that the spending per capita in 2017 was the same as in 2010. Secondly, there is an increasing demand for health services as chronic diseases are on the rise and the population ages; 23 percent of the population accounts for 77 percent of expenditure. Additionally, unemployment, while having done down in recent years is still at 16 percent, also adds to the healthcare burden. Nevertheless, the expectations for higher quality of care continue to rise.
What solution strategy can Fujitsu offer the healthcare system in the face of these challenges?
We view digitalization as a solution spread over three different layers. The base is centred on running operations efficiently and guaranteeing patient safety by avoiding human error. This layer is provided by the most innovative technologies leveraged on a cloud model in order to be continuously flexible and available. It is essential that a solid digital infrastructure is created across various health centres, using a singular system, to support a continuous supply of high level of IT availability.
Moving forward, we need to apply this technology into the two additional layers of health services. The second layer addresses how we can apply technology to generate better health prevention. Fujitsu can apply innovations such as AI to facilitate a multichannel approach when it comes to areas like data analysis and diagnosis. The third and final layer of our strategy is related to patient experience, the patient journey, and their own involvement in healthcare.
As of this point, Fujitsu has been highly focused in the base tier of this digitalization solution, which can be seen in the best practices used for health projects, such as in the case of SERMAS. Our newest challenge is to apply this experience and expertise in the upper layers of the strategy.
How open-minded are health stakeholders in the rest of Spain to the digitalization trend?
Looking at other industries like telecommunications and banking, the budget expenditure on IT ranges anywhere between five and six percent. Unfortunately, in healthcare, we see that of the overall budget, only 1.2 percent is allocated to IT – a shift in mindset is needed within the industry. There is no room left to cut costs in clinics and hospitals and increasing demands cannot be met without upgrading the system. Now is the time to invest – the only way forward is through digital technology.
What health initiatives has Fujitsu implemented in Spain thus far?
In Clínico Juan Carlos Hospital, Fujitsu developed an AI system for the early prevention of mental disease. The ageing population paired with our fast-paced lifestyle has impacted the incidence of mental illness not only in Spain but around the world. Fujitsu, in collaboration with the psychiatric specialists of the hospital, developed an allorhythmia which assists doctors to early detect and diagnose the susceptibility to the mental health of patients.
It is important to note that technologies like AI are not replacing health professionals but rather serves as a tool which allows professionals to spend more time connecting with the patients. The human touch will always be one of the most important aspects of healthcare.
Fujitsu is also applying technology to R&D processes, which can be seen in the case of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center – part of the European Supercomputing Network. There is a pan European research project around cancer in which each country is specialized in a specific kind of cancer. The BSC is using Fujitsu’s supercomputing services for this project. Equally as important as the quality and amount of data provided is the capability to process this data through an infinite amount of combinations, which is where quantum computing comes into play – an innovation which Fujitsu has. We have also applied this technology in areas like finance, automotive, and other uses in healthcare such as drug design.
The third tier of our strategy includes projects like creating new connection channels which establish a 360 relationship with patients outside health centres. We have developed a mobile application with the health quality development agency in Andalusia, Agencia de Calidad de Sanitaria de Andalucía (ACSA). The application today is operational in its pilot phase in Cordoba, at the Reina Sofia Hospital and will soon be implemented in three other hospitals. This application will help avoid empty operational facilities by improving patient education on the mandatory pre-operational protocols so that they can arrive for surgery better prepared and avoid last minute operation cancellations.
Additionally, RFID is a system implemented in the Medina del Campo Hospital which helps to track hospital garments and save costs caused by human error. It is an issue which is not often considered but can be costly to hospitals as clothing can be lost. We are also improving control and security to the patient as we track the lifespan and exposure of the clothes.
How does Fujitsu differ from other technology providers who operate in healthcare?
We are differentiated on three points; experience and capabilities, proximity, and strategy. Health is a very serious area in which there is no room for newcomer mistakes. Understanding the client and their specific needs is crucial; this is something that does not develop overnight. Fujitsu has the infrastructure to manage this huge task, but this alone is not enough to transform the industry towards digitalization. We have the capabilities surrounding big data, cloud services, IoT, and quantum computing; all the technologies that can be applied to healthcare.
Secondly, it is important to have our capabilities close to the customers. Like in the case with SERMAS, we need to be able to provide services close to the customers and being based in Spain is our big differentiator. Fujitsu can provide the right services, the right quality, and meet the demand through our direct presence and relationships in the sector.
Third, is the methodology and attitude of Fujitsu when facing the challenges of digital transformation. Our company values keep us dedicated to our customers and we approach digitalization as a co-creation process – we are building an industry-wide ecosystem. We are cooperating with SMBs who are specialized in niche IT areas as an approach of bringing the best technology we can find in the market to customers.
What is your future vision for Fujitsu as a partner of healthcare in Spain?
We will continue to invest in the area and adapt ourselves to the rhythm of our customers. We want to continue to evolve the mindset in healthcare that the solution for the increasing health demands and need for sustainability, in both the public and private sector, is technology. We will continue to use our solutions to change the health paradigm.
The next three to five years, what do envision as the role of technology and Fujitsu in the healthcare system?
We envision that some of the aforementioned programs we already have implemented here in Spain will be launched on a wider scale. We also hope to progress in the analytics platform as we have some mature technologies that are ready to be applied widespread. We also hope to see a continuation and increment in the investment of the healthcare system into IT as it is still lower than we would like it to be.
On a personal note, you have been with Fujitsu for 15 years, what is it that drives your motivation in IT?
In total, I have been in the IT industry for 32 years. IT was something that was always needed, but never at the forefront of decision making. Today, IT is an enabler which transforms business and society. Being with a company such as Fujitsu, which has more than 100,000 technology patents, gives me a privileged position to help customers transform their business, which is extremely exciting. IT has been in the basement for many years, but today is in the core of all businesses in every industry. The added potential to collaborate with the customers on this is very exciting.