Unlimited Abilities: A View from the MedtechVision Conference


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bring new technology to market, often long before there is a body of evidence that proves efficacy. This disconnect between medtech buyer and seller was noted as one of the most problematic issues facing the industry today. According to Dr. Thompson, “CMS is thinking of itself more like a purchaser, not a payer. We want value.”

I had the opportunity to lead a panel entitled Healthcare Costs and their Connection to Innovation, which featured Dr. Deneen Vojta, senior vice president of United Health Group’s Center for Health Reform & Moderniziation; Dr. Molly Coye, chief innovation officer of UCLA Health System; and Michelle Heying, president & COO of DynaVox Technologies. Much of the discussion centered around how differently payers, providers, and product purveyors define “lower cost” and what standards are used when it comes to innovations that promise to address the rising tide of healthcare inflation. This included both how payers and providers think about the return on investment they get from adopting new technologies, as well as what medtech purveyers take into account when deciding which products are worth bringing to market. Dr. Coye noted that UCLA and other academic medical centers must reduce their cost structures by at least 30 percent in the next 5-10 years in order to survive as viable entities. This is a daunting thought for medtech firms seeking to launch new, higher cost products, even if they can demonstrate better outcomes.

Many thought that one of the most eye-opening experiences at the conference came at the end of my panel (lucky me), when I asked the participants, ” What is the most profound medical technology innovation of the last 5 years that achieved the goal of improving quality while reducing cost?” All of the panelists cited products that were actually from the healthcare information technology (HIT) world, not the traditional medtech world, as the ideas that have and will continue to make the most difference: remote monitoring technologies, tele-ICU, the iPad/iPod, and Facebook, which Dr. Vojta noted as the “biggest anti-depressant drug ever developed and better at curing loneliness.” At the cocktail party that followed the panel, there was much buzz about the rising importance of HIT, how medtech and HIT were rarely discussed in the same conference, let alone the same breath, and how woefully uninformed the medtech industry is about HIT issues that could present huge business opportunities.

The conference came to a close with a panel featuring four highly successful company founders, each of whom has seen her idea through from origination to dramatic success, both clinically and financially. Karen Talmadge, co-founder Kyphon, Denise Zarins, co-founder of Ardian, Stacy Enxing Seng, co-founder of ev3, and Erica Rogers, co-founder of Viogen and Allux Medical spoke about the interesting tensions between inventing and financing “iterative” ideas vs. “white space” ideas. It was noted that industry leaders tend to gravitate to iterative concepts while founders find wilder ideas much more interesting and attractive, even though the risks are greater.

Notably, three of the four founder panelists stated emphatically that they do not believe they could successfully bring their business to fruition today given the far more challenging regulatory, reimbursement, and funding environments.  There was a strong message that … Next Page »

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Lisa Suennen is a managing director with GE Ventures and former managing member of the Psilos Group, as well as the co-author of Tech Tonics: Can Passionate Entrepreneurs Heal Healthcare With Technology? and author of the blog Venture Valkyrie. Follow @venturevalkyrie

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  • Jaimee Mayne

    Being a women studying Biomedical Engineering and a leader of Women in Engineering at Swinburne University of Technology Melbourne, Australia, I am extreamly pleased to hear about a Women run Medtech group.

    I have been to Medtech conferences in Australia and loved every minute of it. It didn’t bother me being at a male dominated conference, but I can’t even imagin being at a all women conference.

    I am currently studing my 3rd year, and looking at a 12 month work experience in America. I am extreamly motivated and passionate about Medtech and would love to hear from anyone.

    I specalise in combining physiology and electronics with skills in signal processing, biosences and other technical skills. I also have great leadership and communication skills.