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Leading international markets into sustainable growth

How Cardinal Health serves customers within a changing healthcare landscape

Jorge Sahlieh, president of Cardinal Health’s International Medical Products and Distribution, oversees all commercial activities across Cardinal Health’s International footprint, which spans Asia, Africa, Canada, Europe, Japan, Latin America, and the Middle East. Here, he discusses his role at Cardinal Health, the international business, and the challenges and trends he sees shaping the healthcare industry.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your work in healthcare.

Over the past two decades, I have witnessed significant change within global healthcare. One thing remains constant: the work we do in healthcare matters. Cardinal Health contributes to healthcare providers’ vital work to improve the health and lives of their patients.

I joined Cardinal Health in 2018 as vice president and general manager of Latin America. This was not long after the company had acquired a business that allowed us to expand our product portfolio; that expanded portfolio and some organizational changes enabled us to reshape the Latin America business into one of Cardinal Health’s fastest-growing international commercial divisions. I next had the opportunity to lead our International Direct markets­, which include commercial operations in 16 countries across Latin America, Europe, and Asia.

In early 2023, I stepped into my current role as president of Cardinal Health’s International Medical Products and Distribution business. This business manages all commercial activities across Cardinal Health’s international footprint. Over the past year, my leadership team and I have focused on building sustainable, long-term growth while fostering an inclusive, collaborative culture.

Q: What do you see as the most pressing challenges in today’s healthcare ecosystem? How does Cardinal Health respond to these challenges?

There are several challenges, including financial and human resource constraints. Cardinal Health works hard to help our healthcare customers effectively manage these constraints. For example, our ValueLink® solution, offered to customers in Canada, delivers products to predesignated areas within a hospital, eliminating touch points and ensuring healthcare professionals can focus on delivering care rather than performing operational tasks. ValueLink® also alleviates space limitations, so customers can dedicate more hospital space to administering care.

Another challenge is delivering medical supplies to patients receiving hospital-level care at home. As we’ve learned through Cardinal Health’s at-Home Solutions business, patients being treated in their own homes experience improved outcomes and are typically more comfortable. An Annals of Internal Medicine studyi  found that patients receiving hospital-level care at home had fewer readmissions and engaged in more physical activity. Therefore, we have been exploring in certain markets how we can work with customers to support home care efforts by providing cost-effective options and a range of essential medical supplies. Such solutions would also allow hospitals to keep more hospital beds available for critically ill patients.

A third challenge in healthcare is ensuring a reliable supply of products while navigating changing demands. We are working to eliminate supply chain disruptions by expanding our network of manufacturing sites and suppliers, investing in innovative technology platforms, and advancing our distribution capabilities.

For example, in 2021, the Japanese government faced a syringe shortage that hampered its ability to roll out its COVID-19 vaccination program. Our Fukuroi manufacturing site, which primarily produces neonatal and intravenous access catheters, responded quickly and pivoted to produce syringes to support the vaccination program across Japan.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about how you’ve evolved your business model to better meet the needs of our international customers?  

Our International Medical Products and Distribution business serves different types of markets and cultures at various stages of development. We know that different customers and markets require tailored approaches. That’s why we have moved to a model that enables us to provide targeted, strategic support to markets with similar growth profiles regardless of geographic location.

This structure allows our commercial teams to collaborate effectively and helps us to tap into synergies across markets. And most importantly, this new model improves our ability to support customers in the right way in each market.

Q: Cardinal Health’s unique position between the clinical and operational sides of healthcare gives you a view of trends within various segments of the industry. What are the top trends you see shaping the future of healthcare?

The global medical products team works closely with our manufacturing and procurement teams to study market trends, which inform our pricing strategies and keep our portfolio relevant. Here are three of the top trends we’re seeing today.

Customer-centric innovation: As technology continues to change the way we support customers and patients, customer-centric innovation is critical for healthcare companies. Because we work hard to understand our customers and their evolving needs, we can create solutions that improve patient outcomes and make it easier for healthcare professionals to do their work.

For example, our new Kangaroo OMNI™ Enteral Feeding Pump was designed to help improve the lives of enteral feeding patients through automated programs, versatility, and portability.

The Kangaroo OMNI™ Enteral Feeding Pump has also been designed with the caregiver in mind – a familiar user interface, the ability to withstand cleaning under running water, and screen content in 19 languages. 

Increased connectivity and the use of data analytics: The use of online connectivity and data analytics in medical products continues to grow. We prioritize technology advancements that result in tangible, positive outcomes for customers and patients.  

One example of this is our NTrainer™ System 2.0, a device designed to help premature infants develop oral coordination skills. This clinically proven system develops preterm infants’ transition to independent feeding, reducing their length of stay in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Through real-time assessment technology, the NTrainer™ System provides clinicians with the necessary data to track the progress of an infant’s pre-feeding skills, while giving parents more confidence in their infants' development and potential to thrive after hospital discharge.

Increased automation: We have been increasingly using autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) at Cardinal Health. AMRs are proving to boost efficiency, improve employee safety, increase picking and packing accuracy, and strengthen employee engagement. Today, 27 of these AMRs support more than 200 employees at our Quebec facility.

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG): ESG is a strategic framework for managing a wide variety of issues, including our carbon footprint, workplace culture and DE&I, and corporate ethics and governance. All of these are increasingly important to our employees, customers, investors, and other key stakeholders.

At Cardinal Health, ESG includes how we treat the people within our company, in our supply chain and in the communities where we live and work; how we treat the planet; and how we take these factors into consideration as we lead our business into the future. ESG provides us with a great opportunity to truly make a positive difference, and we approach ESG in a comprehensive way that supports our business, positions us as an essential partner for customers and suppliers, and ensures compliance with regulatory requirements. (You can find Cardinal Health’s most recent ESG Report here.)

The entire healthcare industry continues to evolve at a rapid pace; it’s truly an exciting time to be a part of Cardinal Health. I’m grateful to do work every day that matters to so many.

i David M. Levine, MD, MPH, MA et al. Hospital-level care at home for acutely ill adults, annals of Internal Medicine. December 17, 2019. 

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Cardinal Health is a distributor of pharmaceuticals, a global manufacturer and distributor of medical and laboratory products, and a provider of performance and data solutions for healthcare facilities. Subscribe to our News Alerts to get all of our latest news.