What Does a Kaiser Executive Think of Medtronic’s Goal To Become A Partner to Hospitals?

Posted in Implantable Devices by Arundhati Parmar on May 14, 2014

 Medtronic’s CEO wants to become a top medtech solutions partner to health systems. What does a Kaiser Permanente executive think of that lofty goal?

Medtronic’s CEO Omar Ishrak has said that his goal is to reshape the medical device behemoth as a medtech solutions partner of hospitals rather than continue to be known as a medical device company.

The distinction is subtle, yet profound.

It underscores that Ishrak can see the writing on the wall for what will befall a medtech firm that continues to see hospitals and health systems as simply a venue to push its products. He realizes that the Medtronic’s, and indeed all device firms' success in the future will depend on how successful the hospital is in managing patients and costs. Recognizing this, the company has pioneered a Hospital Solutions business to help hospitals become more efficient. It has won contracts from at least two hospitals in Europe to manage their catheterization labs.

This is smart thinking, especially given that Medtronic is a large company where achieving a significant culture change is not easy.

Given this shift, what do integrated health systems like Kaiser Permanente want out of device companies like Medtronic and others?

Kaiser Permanente’s Chief Medical Information Officer and Assistant Medical Director John Mattison, who was speaking at the 10x Medical Device Conference Wednesday in a Minneapolis had a very simple and direct answer.

Mattison explained that an integrated system like theirs has a very high accountability to members. On the other hand, the job of device companies is to “push the envelope” and move new technologies into the hospital environment.

“How do you push the envelope safely?” Mattison said. “[Kaiser and device makers] need to find alignment around values and discuss the intersection of those values to develop long-term trusting relationships.”

But then he delivered a real zinger since Medtronic’s desire to become the premier medtech solutions partner to hospitals had come up in the discussion.

“Medtronic’s reluctance to release pacemaker data to patients does not align with our values,” he declared.

That is neither an unkind nor unfair criticism. Medtronic has made an exception in the case of one indefatigable advocate of patients rights to their own, implanted device data after a public pile-on on Ishrak through Twitter. Hugo Campos, who has an implanted ICD, now does receive some of his raw device data through his healthcare provider made possible by Medtronic.

But most patients still don't get access to the data even though their device is collecting and generating data constantly.

In the near future, device makers, payers, hospitals and health systems will get closer to each other as they adjust to market realities and challenges brought to the fore by the Affordable Care Act. That will demand an accommodation of sorts from all sides included. But perhaps device makers will need to make the biggest adjustments given the set-up and assumptions they worked under that largely kept patients on the outside is now being turned on its head and patients smack dab in the middle of the healthcare conversation. 

 [Photo Credit: user Rawpixel]

-- By Arundhati Parmar, Senior Editor, MD+DI


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