When Val Asbury decided to leave nursing in the mid-80s, she was determined to join a related healthcare field.
The thought process has led to her current position as CEO of LifeScan, a leading provider of blood glucose monitoring products for the treatment of diabetes.
LifeScan manufactures OneTouch brand products, which includes blood glucose meters, test strips, lancets, point-of-care testing systems and integrated digital health solutions. Headquartered in Chesterbrook, Pa., and Zug, Switzerland, LifeScan serves approximately 20 million patients globally in more than 90 countries.
Since Platinum Equity purchased LifeScan for $2.1 billion in 2018, Asbury has witnessed significant change.
The company has introduced a new corporate brand identity and evolved its mission to deliver personalized health and wellness experiences that engage people with diabetes and related conditions.
In furthering those goals, the company announced recent agreements with Fitbit, Noom, Welldoc and Cecelia Health, companies with a digital focus.
Asbury spoke with Platinum Equity recently to provide an update on LifeScan’s progress, and she explained why Platinum’s acquisition marked a “rebirth” for the company that has been around for more than 40 years.
(Answers have been edited for clarity and length).
PE: At the time of the Platinum acquisition, LifeScan unveiled a new logo, a new corporate brand identity. Why was that necessary?
Asbury: I would say it was a choice that we made. Moving over to Platinum was almost like the rebirth of our organization. It was a huge inflection point for us.
PE: What was it about dealing with Platinum executives during that process that made you feel that “rebirth” was the proper term to use?
Asbury: It was really the passion that they had for our mission and vision and wanting to really take care of people living with diabetes. They gravitated toward it. They resonated with it. They committed to it. I can remember talking to (Platinum Partner Jacob Kotzubei) after we introduced them to a lot of members of the team and he was amazed at the dedication to the mission. We believe we have the best products and services in the marketplace, but the people really make the difference.
Asbury: (Platinum) wanted to help us be more meaningful and relevant. They saw the potential with this company and said: “We believe what you can do. We believe in your mission and vision and we’re going to fuel it.”
PE: What has changed under Platinum? Any new initiatives? Any promising developments?
Asbury: Early on Platinum brought their operational focus. There was always room for improvement, but especially when you’ve been operating as a very matrixed organization in a big Fortune 500 company, you don’t realize where the inefficiencies are. (Platinum purchased LifeScan from Johnson & Johnson).
Asbury: We’ve invested in digital. We’re now investing in continuous glucose monitoring. We’re investing in partnerships (like Fitbit and Noom). Platinum believes heavily in having the right people and teams in place. And they invested a lot in finding the right people to run the business. And it has made a real difference. They have put a lot into our digital strategy and partnerships. It’s just been so many things have changed, but I would tell you the biggest thing that I have felt from literally everybody at Platinum is truly the investment in the team, in the business and the partnership that they offer us, to be able to grow and bring value.
PE: What are the challenges of COVID-19?
Asbury: The first big challenge was we had to make sure that we could continue manufacturing. We’re considered an essential business, but our manufacturing facility is in the United Kingdom, which was shut down tightly.
PE: How did the pandemic impact your customers?
Asbury: People with diabetes were affected more than almost any other population, maybe other than those immunocompromised. Life changed for them in an instant. They quit going into their doctor’s offices. They quit going into their pharmacies to pick up their prescriptions. They were afraid of running out of their supplies that are lifesaving. We really had to get our supply chain in order, to make sure that we didn’t run out of any product.
Asbury: We had to very quickly enhance and open new channels because people just were not going into the retail environment. They weren’t going into doctor’s offices. We adapted and created instant ordering for our reps, so that if doctors needed meters or strips, they could order them instantly, get them shipped to wherever they were. Not just the doctor’s office, but if they were working remotely and doing telehealth, we sent them to their homes.
Asbury: We expanded capability in retail, and we really had to work with our national retail partners to make sure that they could send the quantities needed directly to the patient’s home when the patients were ordering from our partners’ websites.
PE: What are current ESG initiatives?
Asbury: We partner with groups who address factors of influence for people living with diabetes, including how to avoid diabetes. We do community outreach through the LifeScan Diabetes Institute, a lot of training and education. And we hold seminars and programs with partners to very specific under-served communities and populations that need training, education and support.
Asbury: On the environmental health side, we also have a strong initiative around reducing carbon, water conservation, being self-sustainable. We have set a goal of being environmentally self-sustainable as an organization by 2030.
Asbury: Our values anchor and guide how we connect and care for patients, customers and for each other. We draw from a rich pool of diverse individuals from different backgrounds, with different perspectives and living different experiences – and we are better because of this.