Conversation with Manuel Bosch, Corporate Director of Innovation and Technological Development of Ribera Salud. August 2021
The Ribera Salud group — 90% owned by the American insurer Centene — created FutuRS back in 2019. This tech subsidiary based in Madrid already has 260 employees of more than 28 nationalities and is located on Vía de los Poblados, near Ifema, while Centene has a central office on Calle Serrano. It is there where Manuel Bosch, director of innovation and technological development, welcomes Madrid Investment Attraction.
Madrid, explains Bosch, is for the company “the center of operations of Europe. Not only for the technological part, but also for the management of hospitals”. In this interview, the manager tells in detail what led them to consider Madrid to grow and attract more talent. “It was our natural choice,” he advances.
M.I.A .: What presence does the Ribera group have in Madrid?
M.B.: Ribera Salud, Centene’s Spanish company, manages eleven hospitals: in the Valencian Community, in Elche and Torrevieja; in Madrid, the Torrejón hospital; three in Galicia, two in Extremadura and one in Murcia. Although the operations center is still in Valencia, the neuralgic centre is in Madrid. Whenever we have to gather professionals or hold meetings, we do so in Madrid, be it in these offices or in Torrejón, where the most clinical part of our operations is. The technological part is in Madrid, we moved it there a year ago. In Madrid there are companies like SAP, IBM, Microsoft… It is easier to access them with an office here.
M.I.A.: FutuRS is the tech subsidiary. What projects are you currently working on?
M.B.: We have several projects on the go. The first is to develop solutions for hospitals and healthcare in general: electronic medical records, patient portals, videoconferencing, data management. All the hospitals of the Ribera Group are paperless hospitals, fully digitized, where the patient can make videoconferences, speak with their doctor or use a messaging app. That is the central part of the business.
The second part is artificial intelligence and advanced data analytics. Ribera has amassed structured data for 25 years, so now we can carry out advanced analytics. If we take the last 25 years and analyse why, when and from where people come to the emergency room and we add information like the dates of football matches or the weather, we can predict with a certain accuracy when we will have more or less emergencies in hospitals or when awareness campaigns will have more impact. We have also worked with Microsoft on a model of worsening COVID. All patients underwent monitoring and we were able to predict, with algorithms, if that patient was going to end up in the ICU within 48 hours. With an early warning you could change the treatment or intubate. We have several models. We work with health economists, data scientists, and universities to try to improve patient health while being more efficient. Because if a patient doesn’t get sick, you avoid further treatment.
The last part is operations and cybersecurity. We have a team focused on security, data protection and critical infrastructure protection. It is something that never seems to be given the importance it deserves. And 50% of the team works on it!
M.I.A.: Did you consider any other city for FutuRS’s launch?
M.B .: No. We were all clear that the natural destination was Madrid. We have our technology law firm here. Our partners are here. The airport: when we travel to the United States, there is a direct connection. We knew that if we left Valencia, we would be here.
M.I.A.: Of all the features you mentioned, which one would you pick if you had to choose one?
M.B.: With something intangible. I am from Valencia and I visit Madrid almost more than my own home, but I feel as much at home as there, even if I have travelled to many other places. That feeling of being in your second home is highly valued. Once the basic changes have been overcome, if you like the neighbourhood and the house, it is a very welcoming city. You also have to take into account the rest: communications, people, talent … Both the City Council and the Community of Madrid have always been very good to us. Madrid is a Spanish city, with good weather, shows, open and fun. It has everything. It’s a great mix.
M.I.A.: What attributes should Madrid highlight to compete with other European capitals?
M.B.: I told the City Council once. I think that the only thing a foreigner thinks is better in London than in Madrid is that everyone there speaks perfect English and in Madrid they don’t. Although the younger generations are better prepared.
When Americans talk to Spanish people they are surprised. The reality is that when people who speak only English come to Madrid they are perfectly fine. And if you are looking for bilingual talent, there is plenty. It is necessary to point that out, because abroad the idea remains that this is not the case.
M.I.A.: You came to Madrid to attract tech talent. Is it easy? How did you set about it?
M.B.: It depends. In Madrid there is much more talent. Some vacancies are easy to fill, but for others there is more competition and it is more complicated. The difficult thing is to retain it. Being such a competitive market, it is not easy. There are candidates with experience that are very difficult to find outside of Madrid, because the big tech companies are concentrated in Madrid and it is normal for specialized workers to end up working here.
M.I.A.: FutuRS is Ribera’s technological subsidiary, which operates in the health sector. What roles are you looking for?
M.B.: There are three main groups. The first is systems engineers who are one hundred percent bilingual, because they work with people in the United States. The second group is the data people in general: mathematicians, software engineers, statisticians. Specialized workers, who not only know about technology but also about health models. The third are software development and cybersecurity professionals. In Madrid there are many, but it is a complex market.
M.I.A .: Are there workers who are specialized in both technology and health or did you have to train them?
M.B.: Yes there are. There are tech consultants that already have health clients. But you need a mix. First you have to hire and train workers with your corporate culture. And at the same time you must have a good relationship with universities, research and development centres, to tell people who are doing other things that these can be applied to health.
M.I.A.: Are the solutions that FutuRS develops only for Spain or are they also meant for the United States?
M.B.: They are solutions that we develop, test and use in Spain, and then take to Europe and England. We try to take some examples to the United States, but it is complicated because the regulation is different. We also do the opposite: Centene is bigger and has more technological capacity than we have in Europe, so sometimes we bring solutions from there.
M.I.A.: You have an agreement with Lanzadera. What does it consist of? Could you share a specific example of collaboration with a startup?
M.B.: A year and a half ago we realized that many of the innovative things we do are fine, but we neither know nor can we do everything. How do we keep up to date? By creating an ecosystem where it is not just us, but we have people to reach agreements and collaborations.
Lanzadera are our eyes and ears when looking for that talent. I’m interested in voice issues, for example: they (Lanzadera) scour the market and present us with options, we choose and we sit down with them to discuss matters. We are interested in telemonitoring, so that patients do not have to go to the emergency room: because you have to find someone who has certified and easy-to-use devices. We are working with a startup called Human IT Care , which does remote patient monitoring. It allows us to receive early alerts and avoid hospitalisations. If it works, they can sell it in other markets.
Another example: we have an Alexa type virtual assistant. Her name is Lola and she is designed by the Tucuvi startup. She has been calling all mild COVID patients for months. She can call 9,000 patients at a time. She has called every day, asked if they had a fever, if they had a cough, if they could breathe… And so when the doctor arrived he knew exactly which patients needed a special follow-up, because otherwise it was impossible. We have reached an agreement to extend it to other hospitals.
M.I.A.: Is there something similar to Lanzadera in Madrid? Would it work?
M.B.: Telefónica has a similar accelerator, Wayra. Wayra is perfect if you are Microsoft or Telefónica. Ribera has a turnover of 600 million, it is a large company but it is not Telefónica. Lanzadera is a better fit for us; but we work with Wayra in England and it is very similar.
M.I.A.: When you arrived in Madrid you went to ask the City Council for help. How did they help you?
M.B.: We told them about our project and asked them several things: that they gave us promotional material for Madrid to show people in the United States the potential of the city and if they had a softlanding agency to help people find a flat, get to know the public transport network, or get advise on how to get children to school, etc. We also asked them to put us in contact with universities and companies so that they knew that we are here. We want to hire people, so if we can collaborate with universities or other companies when it comes to internships, then great.
M.I.A.: Was it a good service or do you feel there is room for improvement?
M.B.: We are very happy, not only with the City Council, but because Madrid is a welcoming city. It is true that it is complicated by the high rents and other things, but it is a cozy city. We live in a time when considering city changes is difficult, but we are laying the foundations.
M.I.A.: What opportunities do you foresee for your business in the medium term, both in Madrid and in Spain?
M.B.: From a technological point of view, we want Spain to become Centene’s international centre of excellence. It is important that the search for talent and innovative projects can be done here. That would be the technological part. And to continue to grow as a company, supporting Ribera and creating hospitals.
M.I.A.: Is it easy to convince Americans that Spain can be a centre of excellence?
M.B.: It is not easy. But unless it gets spoiled, Spain is for them a pleasant, friendly place. It is the feeling I have after many years: that Spain has gone from being a vacation spot to a place where there are very good people, a centre of business and excellence at the level of other European cities’. Both aspects are combined. If you take into account that bilingual talent is also available, they begin to wonder: why don’t we do it there?
If we maintain these good conditions, we have a great chance of attracting talent and competitive projects. Right now, 20% of the workforce is providing services to the United States. The idea is to expand that, to be able to pay more and build loyalty better.