Smart technology for a longer life

How can a digital solution make life easier for dialysis patients, or even prolong it? How can innovative technology like this be translated into a profitable business context? These are just some of the questions that Dr. Matthias Kuss, CEO of FMC Data Solutions, deals with in his work. In this interview, he tells us how he and his team go about tackling such challenges and what he finds so fascinating about his job.

“What we do saves lives every day. Because if our solutions are more efficient, we are prolonging patients’ lives. That is what makes working with state-of-the-art technology and a wealth of data so exciting.”

You are head of the FMC Data Solutions division. What does your team do?

We develop new solutions for smart machines, or rather, smart solutions: These are machines that not only treat patients, but also analyze data and states, propose solutions, configurate themselves, etc. Basically, it is about gaining insights while treating patients – insights into data from machines, patients and entire production processes. We use these data to enable us to continuously improve the treatment we offer.

What does your work involve specifically? What projects are you currently working on?

One of our current topics is machine monitoring. The principle behind it is something like this: Based on vibrations, we can identify error sources during dialysis in a certain component, say a cycler, faster than with conventional technologies. We are also working on reducing superfluous alarms. That benefits both patients and medical staff. Fewer false alarms not only mean a quieter working environment, but also fewer interruptions for nurses, who can then respond much faster to the remaining alarms. In a company with more than 2,500 clinics in the USA, that can save substantial costs.

Another project is combining e-stethoscopes with artificial intelligence to identify obstructions in blood vessels earlier. That simplifies processes for hospital staff and increases security. Those are just some of our projects. We currently have a backlog of around 50 ideas, and the number is constantly growing. 

What is your professional background?

I studied physics in Kaiserlautern, Freiburg and Australia. I wrote my thesis with Carl Zeiss SMT and earned a PhD in Technology Management and Sustainability from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. My previous positions include Director for Digital Business Solutions at Carl Zeiss, Project Leader at Boston Consulting Group and head of the Health Innovation Center at Allianz. I also co-founded a start-up for telemedicine and video consulting solutions and am still running it today in addition to working at Fresenius.

What makes your work at Fresenius so exciting?

What we do is to give people a longer life. By making our equipment and processes more efficient, we are prolonging patients’ lives. If we can manufacture machines at a lower cost, then we are in a position to help even more patients around the world. And the demand is high: More people than ever depend on dialysis.

Apart from that, FMC is a very exciting employer. There are only very few companies with such a global presence, both in terms of geography and content. Because the company is not just a medical provider. What other medical company boasts its own hospitals, pharmacies and its own insurance? This depth and breadth offers tremendous opportunities to influence patient treatment.

What do you find so fascinating about your job?

In our Data Solutions team, we have the same freedom as we would in a start-up, but with the backing of a major corporation. That means we have a vast amount of know-how at our disposal. I also like the fact that we work with the latest technology, for example with methods of artificial intelligence such as convolutional neuronal networks, or machine learning. What’s more, our department is still relatively young, which allows us to really make a difference.

Another exciting aspect of our work is that we accompany the entire process. Let me give you an example: We are present in hospitals, where dialyzers supply us with data. We evaluate these data to improve treatment. Based on this, we consider what adjustments we can make, what other data we need, what information we can transfer to the machines, etc. Because our aim is to get even more precise results and make treatment even better. Not only can we offer advice on improving machine settings, but we can also contribute to developing a whole new generation of machines that provides even more exact results.

What personal qualities help you in your job?

I find the strategic aspect of my work as exciting as the technical one, as my background shows. One question that has always interested me is, how can I create an environment and the conditions to ensure that as many people as possible benefit from technology? As a result, I find it easier to create a common understanding among all those involved. It also helps that I don’t take things too seriously. I don’t see setbacks as a cause of frustration, but as part of the overall game. For me, they are more of an incentive.

What achievement are you proud of?

It feels good to know that whatever we do and whatever improvements we make, it all helps our patients. Every day.

Thank you for talking with us, Mr. Kuss! 

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