MedTech POV Blog

ResMed CEO Mick Farrell on Leadership, Learning from Experience, and Giving Back

  1. Scott Whitaker President & Chief Executive Officer

Mick Farrell is CEO of ResMed, a companyhe describes as “helping 137 million people in 140 countries to sleep better, breathe better, and live better lives outside the hospital.” The S&P 500 company produces the technology and cloud-connected devices to treat sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other chronic diseases. The company’s SaaS business provides cloud-based clinical, financial, and operational solutions to various out-of-hospital health care providers.

A member of the AdvaMed board of directors, Farrell joined me on the MedTech POV podcast to explain what motivates him to serve patients and his community. A few takeaways:

Note the Lessons of Experience

“Aristotle stated, ‘Once the brain has been stretched with a new idea, it never returns to its original size,’ ” Farrell said. In respiratory technology, the COVID-19 epidemic underscored the value and applicability of digital health. Telehealth visits with a doctor are only the start. Digital tools can offer end-to-end treatment of screening, diagnosis, treatment, and management of sleep apnea or COPD.

With hospital visits for many treatments limited during the pandemic, patients took more into their own hands for condition management at home. Medtech companies must continue to use all available technology to serve patients but critically, focus on privacy, cybersecurity, and the interoperability of the technology among patients and providers. “We have to be stewards of those data and keep it private, keep it secure, and only use interoperability when the patient gives us permission to give it to their doctor or to their phone or to their health care provider,” Farrell said.

“Aristotle stated, ‘Once the brain has been stretched with a new idea, it never returns to its original size.’” 

––Mick Farrell, CEO, ResMed

Know When to Work With Competitors

The COVID-19 demand for medtech products, including ventilators, and supply chain disruptions, including a severe semiconductor chips shortage, created opportunities for medtech companies – including competitors – to work together, Farrell said. AdvaMed convened members toward common cause, such as conveying to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo the need for medtech to receive priority for semiconductor chips. “I just love the fact that there was partnership across the board, even with competitors sitting there, with lawyers in the room obviously to make sure that we’re not saying anything that we shouldn’t but making sure that we addressed the crisis as best we could,” Farrell said.

Hire the Best People and Empower Them with Resources, Strategy

The higher in the company, the more removed the CEO from the processes that ramp up ventilator production to meet a surge in demand or navigate supply chain shortages. A CEO must be confident in the company and his or her employees, hire the best people, and empower them with a strategy to move the company forward and meet unforeseen challenges, Farrell said. The CEO must be humble, watching in admiration as, for example, supply chain experts analyze and anticipate needs. At ResMed, Farrell said, in his words:

Use Your Position to Serve the Community

A public company CEO must return value for company shareholders and stakeholders – a return on investment, ROI. Serving the community offers a return on soul, ROS, Farrell said. Being in a corporate position, having an established presence in a city, San Diego in ResMed’s case, allows support of Father Joe’s Villages, serving unhoused residents with food, shelter, and a path out of homelessness. “It’s about, hopefully, changing a paradigm within 30 miles of my place,” Farrell said.

Seek Words of Wisdom

Farrell cited Clayton Christensen’s “How Will You Measure Your Life?” as his favorite book. The author applies a long lens to business decisions and life planning. “If you come down to every individual decision, you know what the right one is to do. It’s often tough because you’ve got to go out and talk publicly (about difficult decisions) or talk to your peers or talk to your friends or talk to your employees. But tough news traveling at the speed of light actually is transparency and genuineness and leads to a happier person in your personal life and a happier CEO,” Farrell said.

For Farrell’s full interview, listen to the episode. Learn more about the MedTech POV podcast.

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