Mar 19, 2021

Lessons Learned

Here are the top five things Medtronic learned from the pandemic and why we won’t forget.


When news of a mysterious, pneumonia-like disease spreading in China first broke in early 2020, few realized life was about to change for everyone. But that’s exactly what happened as cases of COVID-19 erupted everywhere and caused a global health pandemic.

Businesses around the world had to adapt quickly to meet unprecedented challenges created by the pandemic. At Medtronic, that meant finding new ways to work safer, smarter, and faster to meet the staggering demand for some of the company’s life-saving medical devices — such as ventilators, remote patient monitoring technologies, pulse oximeters, and more.

Now, one year into the pandemic, Medtronic is thinking beyond business as usual. The company is applying the lessons learned during the pandemic to find new ways to support patients and providers around the world. Here are the top five lessons Medtronic learned during the pandemic and how those lessons are guiding our company today.

1. Problem solving requires partnership — No individual, company, or government can fight COVID-19 alone. So during the early days of the pandemic, company leaders reached out to collaborators and competitors alike to meet the exploding demand for life-saving medical devices. After Elon Musk tweeted an offer to help manufacture ventilators, Medtronic ultimately formed a partnership with his company SpaceX to temporarily produce a critical valve. Vingroup also agreed to manufacture components for Medtronic ventilators when demand was at an all-time high. Today, Medtronic remains committed to protecting the global supply chain and ensuring patients continue to have access to the company’s life-saving medical devices and therapies. 

2. Staying connected is key — Physically distancing ourselves from one another is a crucial way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But in doing so, we can lose important connections to friends, families, co-workers, and customers. Medtronic leaders quickly realized the company could leverage its size, connections, and technologies to help everyone stay connected and focused on providing quality healthcare. For example, the company and the Harvard Business Review (HBR) sponsored a three-part virtual forum series that brought together more than 100 executives from the top health systems in the United States to share best practices. Medtronic also made sure that employees stayed safe and connected virtually, which fostered teamwork and the resolve to keep working through the crisis.

3. Technology holds endless potential for more efficient healthcare — From Bluetooth-enabled heart devices to ventilators that can operated remotely, Medtronic devices are helping clinicians deliver quality care, from virtually anywhere. During the pandemic, Medtronic helped bridge the gap between patients and caregivers through the company’s telehealth technology. By giving clinicians the power to remotely assess and monitor patients both at home and in hospitals to avoid direct exposure, Medtronic is helping keep everyone safe.

Geoff Martha

4. In times of crisis, people look for leaders to lead — When the pandemic hit, former Chairman and CEO Omar Ishrak was just weeks away from handing over the reins of Medtronic to Geoff Martha. The two leaders worked together to ensure that Medtronic met urgent patient needs, often by making bold, historic moves like sharing the design specifications of one of the company’s portable ventilators. Likewise, they pledged not to raise prices or pit customers against each other in a bidding process for critical components. While managing the crisis, Martha also kept a laser-like focus on the company’s long-term growth, continuing to invest in its pipeline and people. Despite the pandemic, the company received more than 200 regulatory approvals over the past year, and executed several key acquisitions that will enhance artificial intelligence and data capabilities at Medtronic. As a result, the company is emerging from the pandemic stronger than ever, and remains committed to moving with speed, agility, and impact.

5. Putting people first is always the right thing to do — How a company responds during a crisis speaks volumes about its culture and core values. When the pandemic hit, Medtronic acted swiftly to protect its 90,000 employees by providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to those who could not work from home. Financial assistance, mental health resources, and other services were extended to employees facing hardships created by the pandemic. We demonstrated to the world that Medtronic can be a force for positive change, not just within our own company, but in the communities where we work and live. To date, Medtronic and the Medtronic Foundation have given more than $46 million to COVID-19 relief efforts, including food assistance, PPE donations, and health worker grants.

The past year has been undeniably difficult for everyone. But it has also given Medtronic the opportunity to accelerate innovation, finding new and better ways to serve patients, healthcare providers, local communities, and employees. Today, Medtronic is in a strong position as a partner of choice due to the trust we forged during the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic will end, but the lessons learned will help shape our future.

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