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The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic was the dawn of a new era for health care. For patients wishing to avoid exposure in hospitals and clinics, telehealth and home care services became preferred methods of consultation and nursing. Many of the industry’s biggest players found themselves at a crossroads: adapt or die.
Those that were able to do the former not only survived, but thrived. Just ask Christian Schmidt, CEO of GHD Group, Germany’s largest home care provider, who discovered a world of opportunity amid the pandemic.
“COVID-19 showed us how much we could do remotely,” Schmidt says. “Things that weren’t a priority – such as video consultations or the online store – were suddenly at the top of the list because the needs of our patients changed. They want everything digital and want it done from home.”
For GHD, which handles not only home care but pharmaceutical distribution and the production of premium healthcare products, this meant less of a radical transformation and more of a natural enhancement of the way business had been done to that point.
“Our range of products and services is unique. Besides home care we have Sangro, the largest pharmaceutical wholesaler in the country,” Schmidt says.
“Other services provided by GHD include, for example, orthopedic shoe manufacturing and the production of special prostheses. GHD also has a compounding operation for the production of sterile infusion solutions, and a production site for the manufacture of ostomy bags.
“On top of that, we have such highly qualified people that we are able to create any care model necessary to serve our patients, no matter what their needs may be.”
With all the right elements in place, the evolution of GHD was a matter of creating a road map for the future and encouraging the team to come along for the ride.
“I think that’s been my biggest challenge,” Schmidt admits. “During the pandemic, it was hard to reach my team. You can’t do it over a video call, it’s done sitting across the table from them or out on the road when you’re seeing how they do what they do.”
But as restrictions eased, Schmidt was able to crystallize and share his vision for where GHD is heading. “It’s my duty – our duty – to take care of GHD and modernize it,” he says.
“We are transforming medical care with concepts such as hospital@home. At the same time we are on our way from a pure home care operator to an integrated healthcare provider. That way, we’ve got a clear direction for the next five years.”
“The more I saw of what GHD was doing, the more I realized I could actually create more value here than I ever had before.”
The acceleration of GHD’s digitization process saw a new side of the company revealed and Schmidt says he was blinded by the possibilities. “That’s why I’m here,” he says. “The potential is just great. Digitization does not replace a doctor, but it does enable new forms of care.”
And while COVID-19 may have come to dominate the list of ailments, pre-pandemic health conditions persist. “We have a specialized team for dialysis patients. We have a large team that’s purely for looking after children. Whenever our patients leave hospital, it’s on us to make sure they’re comfortable in their own home and served by highly qualified people and top products.”
With expertise in many fields, GHD has become a one-stop-shop for health care. “That’s why we’re the biggest in the industry,” Schmidt says. “We are able to provide for a patient’s needs.”
After a lifetime in hospitals and healthcare academia, Schmidt was approached to join GHD based on his experience in the field. “They wanted it managed close to the needs of hospitals and health plans,” he says. “The more I saw of what GHD was doing, the more I realized I could actually create more value here than I ever had before.”
Schmidt says his role as CEO at GHD affords him the freedom and space to make a change in people’s lives. “We serve the entire nation rather than just a small region,” he notes. “The hospital@home care delivery model is new in Europe, but it hasn’t taken us long to find partners to help us do what we do.”
“You can really see how much the young patients and their parents appreciate being looked after in their homes instead of a hospital.”
For Schmidt, the work GHD does with children is particularly satisfying. “We can’t have children in a specialized hospital for long stretches of time, so to be able to provide for their needs at home is very special. You can really see how much the young patients and their parents appreciate being looked after in their homes instead of a hospital.”
It may seem like this shift in approach is just a reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Schmidt explains that for the GHD journey, which began in 1992, evolution and transformation have always been a key factor to its success.
“We embrace change. A lot of tiny changes fit together to create the innovative, data-driven, digitalized company we are today. We’re more about medicine and the needs of the patient than ever.”