Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak tweets with a strategy in mind

More than a year ago, Medtronic Chairman and CEO Omar Ishrak decided it was time to start tweeting.

It was a big decision to make for Ishrak, CEO of a global medical device company that booked nearly $16.6 billion in revenue during fiscal 2013 and close to $3.5 billion in net earnings. Ishrak travels around the world fairly often, finding himself far from Medtronic's ($MDT) Minneapolis, MN, headquarters. Time is at a premium. But, Ishrak told FierceMedicalDevices, Twitter (through his handle @MedtronicCEO) has helped him enhance his role as Medtronic's leader and an influential opinion maker in the healthcare industry.

"It allows me to send out my thoughts," Ishrak said during a telephone interview on Aug. 20, the day Medtronic released its fiscal 2014 first quarter earnings and one day after returning from a whirlwind weekend in Bangladesh. "Depending on those thoughts, I can get informal feedback to some of the directions we are taking and what interests people, employees and the public at large."

Ishrak said he tweets 4 or 5 times per week--almost one per workday, depending on events, or when there is a topic or relevant story he finds interesting. As of Aug. 21 at 5 p.m., he had composed 429 tweets and followed 132 people or organizations, such as AdvaMed, various healthcare experts, and journalists and publications including FierceMedicalDevices. He also follows some interesting choices outside of the med tech/healthcare industry, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.K. billionaire Richard Branson. He also tracks other healthcare CEOs who are prolific tweeters, such as Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini.

"Like me, he goes out there with his employees and shows his opinion," Ishrak said.

So far, Ishrak has attracted 3,802 followers, and his Twitter page also features links to various videos and photos from industry events he attends, plus his general travels.

"I find I like to tweet a lot about distinct areas," Ishrak said. "I travel around the world, meet with customers and employees, and tweet about the healthcare systems in those countries. I also tweet about my interaction with my employees I meet around the world." Another favorite topic: the evolution of healthcare systems globally and in the U.S., where the Affordable Care Act has accelerated the movement toward more of a "pay for value" system and away from "fee for service."

Ishrak said that Twitter has served him well, beyond giving him a quick way to stay in touch with what is going on in the world. And it has particularly helped with a basic, fundamental skill.

"One thing it does is it continuously creates an ability to encapsulate what you want to say in a very summarized fashion," Ishrak told us. "That ability is one that someone can only improve on over time. But if you state the essence of an event or opinion, it is a very good skill to acquire."

So how does he rate his own tweeting ability?

"I'm still growing," he said. "I am still learning. I am beyond a passing grade, I think, [but] you continue to learn as you go forward, to make things more efficient. … I rate myself as somewhere in the middle."

-- Mark Hollmer (email | Twitter)

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