As I sit here reaching for one more stale holiday cookie, mulling the merits of spiked eggnog vs. spiked hot cider, I realize it’s time to make some New Year’s resolutions. Ugh. I much prefer hiding under the covers in blissful denial, but activation is required before the situation turns dire. Similarly, the medical device industry, still a bit complacent and bloated from the good old days, needs to confront the new reality of the lean, mean healthcare marketplace and take action.
So here are my New Year’s Resolutions for medtech companies, big and small; a little menu of aspirations for the 2014 company plan (if you don’t have a 2014 company plan, getting one should be resolution 1a):
1. Stop whining
Last I checked, the U.S. spends over $7 trillion on healthcare every year, and this vast sum is only going up, albeit at a slower but still unsustainable rate of growth. The global regulatory environment, while tightening up, is also becoming more transparent and predictable. Investors that never had the stomach or appropriate time horizons for healthcare are getting out, but others are stepping into the breach and M&A deals are still happening. Things could be a lot worse – remember 2008?
2. Truly disrupt, even yourself
Leaps in processing power, unprecedented data capture, and globalization of R&D should all be catalyzing the innovation revolution required to truly bend the cost curve of health care. The device industry should be leading the charge for technology- and information-based solutions to address the biggest cost juggernauts in healthcare – labor and infrastructure. Incremental improvements and defense of the status quo are ultimately failing strategies.
3. Invest in the data
Increasingly, there are no shortcuts to market adoption for new technologies, and existing devices are far from secure if they don’t demonstrate a clear benefit in terms of outcomes and/or economic savings. Unfortunately not much has come along to disrupt the cost of clinical trials (and we’ve been looking), but no amount of modeling and hypothesizing can replace rigorous human data when making the case to health systems, payers and clinicians who are increasingly employees of health systems. Patients, who are bearing more and more of the cost of healthcare, are “Googling” for evidence, too.
4. Know your customer better
Medtech companies traditionally excel in engineering, and also in roll-up-sleeves sales. Between invention and commercialization, though, there is often too little customer input into product and clinical development; a surefire recipe for an anemic market launch. As difficult as it may be to raise that extra money and/or spend that extra time to get solid feedback from the real world during development, it is even harder to do once a product is commercial and not hitting the mark.
5. Inspire and train the next generation
Anyone who has lingered in the medtech industry as long as I have will agree that it’s a small, almost incestuous little community, and (let’s admit it) an aging one as well. In many skill areas much needed by medtech, such as manufacturing, quality systems, regulatory affairs, clinical development, and yes even marketing, the pool of experienced professionals is often insufficient to fill our org charts. Medtech companies need to take an active role in enticing smart people to enter our industry, which has all the makings of a rewarding career (challenging, multifaceted, global, opportunity to impact on many lives). We also should commit resources to training promising talent in the specialized skills necessary for our long-term success.
Dismounting from my high horse now, a hearty pat on the back to all of the medtech companies out there confidently riding the waves of change and gearing up for a spectacular 2014!