Thursday, April 7, 2016

Pivoting Towards the Future -- Perspectives from the 21st Annual Medical Technologies: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange

By Venkat Rajan
Global Research Director
Visionary Healthcare

Frost & Sullivan

As I was flying into San Diego for the 21st Annual Medical Technologies: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange, it dawned on me that this would be my 10th year of participation in the event.  I thought back to 2006, when, as a recently hired analyst within our medical devices practice, I was able to head up the peninsula for the event which was then in San Francisco.  Despite being in the midst of having to revise months of research on the cardiac rhythm management device market due to the surprise announcement of the Guidant-Boston Scientific merger, I couldn’t pass up this unique opportunity to interact with a truly diverse group of strategy leaders across the industry.

Despite the changing topics and speakers, I think one constant over the past 10 years is that there is no better place to share ideas and learn from peers in the medical technologies industry than this event!

Because I never delete anything, I was able to pull up the agenda from the 2006 event. I thought it would be interesting to see how the issues and topics our industry is currently discussing have changed over the last 10 years. 

Among the key agenda items in 2006 were:
  • Innovation and the Evolving Relationship Between Small and Large Companies
  • Best Practices in Outsourced Relationships
  • Best Practices in Account Based Selling
  • Smart Strategies for the Changing Reimbursement Environment
  • How to Win in Europe
  • Driving Value and Loyalty via Physician Education and Training
  • Competitive Product Differentiation and Technology Strategy

It’s amazing how some issues such as regulation and reimbursement are ever-present, while others which might have seemed like a crisis at the time quickly abate.

In fact, what was a very product-centric view of competitive strategies focused on technology iterations and advancing late stage treatment options in 2006 has now shifted to more preventative support tied to information and service based solutions.  That shift was reflected in the 2016 agenda, where we heard from thought leaders on subjects such as artificial intelligence, consumer engagement, new business models, data privacy, cyber security, wearables and the emerging retail healthcare environment.

That’s not to say that the need for product innovation is diminished. Keynote speaker Randy Hamlin, Vice President & Segment Leader, Philips Healthcare,
Was able to capture how ideation and innovation is occurring in different ways. The revolutionary Lumify technology that was covered in Randy’s talk required not just product innovation, but process innovation and business model innovation too. Failure to execute on any one of the three areas of innovation could have dramatically impaired this product from reaching the market or achieving sustainable success.

Another striking shift over the last decade has been the changing definition of ‘customer.’ Sales and marketing efforts that were primarily geared towards the physician and specialist have now shifted to the patient.  Dr. Peter Antall, Chief Medical Officer, American Well, brilliantly captured how a digital transformation that has disrupted other industries (transportation, social interaction, entertainment, hospitality) is now changing healthcare.  A care model that was historically built on the convenience of providers is now converted into one that places greater importance on the patient.  The premise he shared emphasized that telehealth was not necessarily a replacement to traditional care delivery, however a solution that could be integrated and enhance the ability of how and where care expertise can be provided.

One of the more provocative discussions was led by Alex Hurd, Senior Director, Product Development, Growth and Payer Innovation -- Health & Wellness, Walmart, who was able to lay out the retailer’s vision for becoming the front line of chronic disease and primary care in the US.  Intriguingly, the company’s concept of healthcare extends far beyond pure clinical services, and includes diet and well-being. In an industry that is moving towards more focus on population health, it is hard to argue that there is any other company in the world that employs or interacts with more people than Walmart. Expansion of the concept of retail healthcare creates market demand for new types of medical technology tools and support services.

An aspect of the event that I found fascinating was the sheer comprehensiveness of stakeholders across the entire healthcare continuum.  Panelists such as Bakul Patel, Associate Center Director for Digital Health, FDA, Dr. Jay Rajda M.D., MBA, FACP Medical Director, Aetna Innovation Labs and Dr. Maulik Majmudar from Massachusetts General Hospital were able to respectively provide context for how regulators, payers and providers view the potential impact of emerging technologies.  From the financing side, the Sand Hill panel had some intriguing perspectives on where Venture Capitalists view the greatest opportunities for market growth in Healthcare.

Change can be a bad thing when an industry is resistant to it or rigid in its approach, yet in the case of the medical technology industry, if the lively discussions and novel ideas I heard being discussed are reflective of the broader industry I foresee some truly exciting things in store for us.

Lastly, I would close with mentioning one of the more inspirational talks at the event, from Amy Dixon, Vice President, Glaucoma Eyes Organization.  She helped contextualize how the innovative solutions being explored impact patient’s lives on a personal level. One quote that stuck with me was her comment that, “There is no better time in human history to be a visually impaired.”  That is an interesting way to look at the diseases and conditions that afflict every one of us and our families.  It is astounding to think about what we can now do with medical technologies in patient care and disease management, as compared to the past. Outmoded care models that were inefficient and unreliable are giving way to novel approaches enabled by analytics and connectivity.

When I see you in 2017 for next year’s event, I would love to hear how some of the themes and topics covered this year impacted and were acted on by your respective organizations. Or, feel free to contact me at

Venkat Rajan, Global Research Director- Visionary Healthcare, Frost & Sullivan,
heads a global program focused on disruptions and transformations occurring within the healthcare sector. He delivers content via interactive analysis of ecosystem maps and diagrams, scenario planning, best practice case studies, market monetization  and models, and also addresses related topics in a converging marketplace.

1 comment:

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