The German Justice Ministry has proposed the creation of English language commercial arbitration courts which could hear international disputes on German soil, as the country aims ...
“Medtronic sees Legal as a business partner as well as a support function”
Mariana Viera, Sr. Principal Legal Counsel for South Latin America at Medtronic, a leading healthcare technology company present in 150 countries, tells us about the latest innovative projects in the company’s legal department and the main challenges associated with compliance in the healthcare technology sector.
Leaders League: What have been your main achievements and lessons learned during your time as legal counsel at Medtronic?
Mariana Viera: The most significant thing I have learned was how to be part of the decision-making process from a strategic perspective. This ability has allowed me to have a role in the growth of our operations in Chile, and also to develop a regional and global perspective to support cross-border projects.
Our team’s mission is to support and protect businesses by bringing specialized legal counseling and guidance that makes it easier for patients to live healthier. Another achievement was the development of the LATAM Contracts Center of Expertise, through which we have implemented several initiatives designed to standardize and simplify agreements and processes across Latin America and centralize the legal department’s involvement in regional projects, boosting efficiency and sharing best practices with those in other regions.
In my role as head of legal for Chile, I helped secure the post-merger integration of Medtronic and Covidien. More broadly, the legal department has helped grow the company in a very competitive and mostly direct market, managing risks and supporting the services provided to our customers and patients.
What role does innovation play in Medtronic’s legal department?
Innovation plays a key role in our legal department. In our region, we have a legal innovation team (LIT, for short)) focused on bringing innovative solutions to life. Since 2019, we have had a portal for the LATAM region, named “Legal Más Cerca” (Legal Closer), to make contract templates for the most common transactions available to our internal customers, so they can download and complete the documents. The service has brought a new level of optimization and agility to the approval process. Via this portal, our users can also directly access our contracts library and other corporate documents commonly required for commercial transactions. The latest efficiency innovation project is KIRA, our virtual assistant, which was built in-house by our legal innovation team, in partnership with and the IT team, and is available across Latin America. KIRA is the first chatbot in the department which, using AI, can provide quick and pertinent answers to frequently asked questions, which in the past would have to have been answered by our team members.
What are the main challenges for compliance policies in the healthcare technology sector in the South Latin American region?
Creating a strong culture of integrity among the different stakeholders motivates everyone to act with honesty and integrity and to speak up about problems or concerns without fear of retaliation. We actively participate in our industry’s local associations, where we collaborate in the development and advocacy of policies that support innovation in healthcare technology to address patient needs, with a strong emphasis on ethical aspects. In these associations it is essential to have a code of conduct that promotes ethical and transparent interactions between each of the member companies and healthcare professionals, organizations and patients. With regard to Chile, I participated in the drafting commission of the local industry association code (ADIMECH), which was updated last year to include additional provisions related to interactions with patients.
Which risks are the sector is most exposed to, and how do you mitigate them?
Our sector is exposed to reputational and financial risks, due to the current contingency in different countries and the constantly changing legal and regulatory landscape. Our strategy is focused on working alongside the business (that’s why we see Legal as a business partner and not only as a support function), identifying those risks, as early as possible, then analyzing which risks can be tolerated and which not, and searching for ways of mitigating their impact.
What issues are usually delegated to external law firms?
We usually delegate more specialized issues that require analysis by professionals with expertise in the matter. In general, our role as in-house counsel involves analyzing the responses and recommendations of the external advisor and adjusting them to the company's business strategies, taking the necessary steps to minimize the risks and impact that may arise from the decisions we make as a company. Litigation and arbitration matters are delegated, but we also collaborate with external counsel to define and guiding the strategy, since we know the company’s needs and expectations inside out.
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