Three innovations changing the medical industry

An interview with David Cassak, Managing Partner at Innovation in MedTech LLC, on the future of the industry and the patient services movement.

You are exposed to a lot of innovative thinking. What are innovations you foresee for this industry?

I think innovation going forward will take one of three very different and distinct paths. The challenge for companies will be to meld these paths of innovation into something unique or take a singular focus and pathway but be truly disruptive with it.

The first path is the traditional technological/clinical innovation which has driven this industry for the last 20 years and has produced breakthroughs in areas like interventional cardiology and spinal surgery. These are primarily defined by their ability to deliver greater clinical outcomes.

The second innovation path is all about systems innovations and driving efficiencies, which look at the health systems as a whole and help drive out inefficiencies and the high costs of healthcare today. These innovations will take the form of new devices or device related services that help to reduce recovery times, allow procedures that are less invasive or help reduce the use of costly facilities by shifting the site of care.

The third path is emerging and is called digital health. This type of innovation will lead to new market entrants such as Google and Apple, as well as the expansion of services from traditional MedTech companies trying to capitalize on new sources of data, mobile applications, bio-sensors and other advanced methods of digitizing health records and data.

What are your thoughts on the patient services movement towards more integrated healthcare solutions and connecting with the new customers in MedTech?

I think generally it’s difficult to think about patient-centric services in MedTech because medical devices are, for the most part, tools in the hands of physicians. That being said, in the new climate of health care reform, MedTech companies are being forced to think about chronic care – rather than the episodic care. Orthopedic implant companies, for example, will have to think about total joint replacements not just in the context of the intra-operative procedure, but in the broader context of the total patient experience. Zimmer’s new Personna knee implant is a good example of this.

Digital technology companies like Medtronic are now offering remote monitoring of patients through sensor-based technologies, which can transform how, when and where doctors interact with patients to manage cardiovascular care and monitor cardiac rhythm patterns on demand.

You interact with and interview executives across all shapes and sizes of Medical Technology firms. Are there any small or midsize companies you are tracking for growth?

I don’t know if you would consider Edwards a mid-sized company, but I look at the success Edwards has had in recent years and the way it has pushed to the top of the cardiovascular pack and can’t help but be impressed.

Hologic is another example of a company that has a nice growth trajectory under the leadership of a new CEO and can really exploit the tremendous opportunity and potential in the women’s health sector.

I would also cite Zimmer, a strong player in orthopedics with a singular focus on ortho.

But the big question is - will any of these companies do what it takes to become the next large MedTech player, in a league with J&J or the new Medtronic/Covidien combination. The other interesting play that is worth watching closely is in the digital health space. Some see the medical device industry of tomorrow being dominated more by companies like Apple, Google and Qualcomm. I am not completely convinced. These players will need to move well beyond some of the entry level services and applications they are currently.

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got involved in the MedTech Industry?

When I was a child, my father actually owned and ran a publication that went to a hospital supply distribution business. I have been writing about the hospital supply/medical device industry for the bulk of my 30 year career. Most recently I have started a new publication which will be launching in the fall called the Med Tech Strategist.

What accomplishment are you most proud of in your MedTech career?

At IN VIVO we were able to create something of a forum in the medical device space that was embraced by the industry. I got to rub shoulders with some really brilliant entrepreneurs and investors with enough foresight to really change the thinking in the industry. I’d like to believe we created something pretty special in that publication and that’s what we hope to duplicate in our new publication.

What about this industry keeps you inspired?

I am inspired and humbled by talking with executives at big companies, but particularly small start-up companies, people with great ideas and truly innovative products and solutions working against tremendous odds to get their products to patients in order to save lives. There really isn’t anything more inspirational than that.