Lessons Learned from the Pandemic

Podcast, Videos


In this episode of Impetus Digital‘s Fireside Chat series, I sit down with Tom Hsu. Tom is the VP of Specialty Medicine at Bayer Canada, where he oversees the Specialty Medicine Portfolio, which contributes over 50% of the revenue and most of the growth for Bayer Canada. Tom has always had a special interest in the well-being of people and the business of healthcare. Prior to his current role, he worked in diverse roles in medical affairs, marketing, sales, and strategy.

Among many other things, we talk about how Tom got to where he is today and his experience working for Bayer in China and how that compares to the work he is doing now in Canada. We also discuss the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as his views on disruptive digital technologies in healthcare.

Here is a sneak peek of our conversation:

Q: There might be a lot of people here who, one day, want to be VP of specialty medicine. How did you get to where you are today?
A: I got into the business of healthcare, after going to school to be a pharmacist. I’ve always been interested in science and in the treatment of people. I studied at the University of Toronto and was actually a practicing pharmacist in the hospital for quite some time. During that time, I got familiar with the pharmaceutical industry and became very interested. Then, fairly early in my career, I tracked over to Pharma, starting in Medical Affairs with AstraZeneca. Through several other moves throughout my career, I branched out from Medical Affairs to Sales and into Marketing and Business along the way, and picked up an MBA. After that, I went abroad to manage the marketing team for Bayer China, but five years ago I came back to Canada to take over my current position as Vice President of Specialty Medicine for Canada.


Q: How have you found internal communication has changed for you and your team at Bayer during COVID-19?

A: Well, we had the video technology, but we really didn’t use it. As a company, whenever we had large national meetings, even though we have people spread all across the country, everyone would fly to one place and we would communicate our strategies, outlook, and updates to a broad audience, all in one place. When we made key decisions, people met in boardrooms, talked through the issues, did workshops, made decisions, all face-to-face. Typically, even if you had somebody remote, it was eight people in the room and one person on the phone that had to be remote and listening in and they sometimes got ignored. I think that’s very typical for most corporate cultures right up until March of 2020, when everything changed. So everybody got familiar and had to very quickly learn technologies such as Zoom and Teams. That has been a big change for us, but luckily the technology had actually progressed beyond our own behavior. I can’t imagine if we had to do this back in the early 2000s and had to communicate all the time through a BlackBerry. Our thumbs would be really sore right now. I’ve gotten more familiar and used to communicating this way and we realized that you can actually be effective in communicating in this manner.

Q: Is this way of communicating and collaborating with team members going to be the new norm?

A: It’s going to be. We’re going to be operating this way for some time. I don’t think we’re going to ever go back to the way it was. I hate to be the bearer of these news, because I think everybody’s really optimistic and hoping to go back to the time where we could have large gatherings and and watch sports in a large stadium, or go to concerts, or be able to go to barbecues. Recent research from Harvard looked at the effectiveness of different cost containment measures. Their conclusion through deterministic modeling was that some form of strict or intermittent social distancing measures will be needed until 2022 for this to be effective. Now, whether we have the social and political will to continue this for two years, maybe not, but we have to get ready for some measures to remain in place. So, as an organization, one of the things you may need to do with your teams is to set the expectation, first and foremost. This is not a temporary measure that’s going to be over in one or two months or as of July 1st. Even if we do go back to the office, it will be only certain people that need to be there, it could be phased, and virtual communication through other platforms, asynchronous or synchronous, is here to stay and may be the predominant platform that we use to communicate…

For more of Tom Hsu’s insights on the “new normal” in healthcare, including the evolving roles of telehealth and other digital technologies, you can watch the whole Fireside Chat or listen to the podcast version below.

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About Impetus Digital

Impetus Digital is the spark behind sustained healthcare stakeholder communication, collaboration, education, and insight synthesis. Our best-in-class technology and professional services ensure that life science organizations around the world can easily and cost-effectively grow and prosper—from brand or idea discovery to development, commercialization, execution, and beyond—in collaboration with colleagues, customers, healthcare providers, payers, and patients.