Medical Device Makers: Design a Prius not a Lamborghini

Despite the pressures facing industry, Stanton Rowe is optimistic about the development of new medical technologies. The point he wants to make is that the way technologies are developed has to change.

“I think about my wife’s new Prius. It has high quality and is serviceable, and feature rich. And it is low cost,” he said at the keynote presentation during MD&M West conferences. “Then I think about a Lamborghini. It is also high quality, feature rich and serviceable. But it is not low cost. If you translate that into medical device terms, you have to consider that hospitals want Priuses, not Lamborghinis---and then you have to design products around that principle.”

“We have to change the norm," Rowe said. And doing so is not easy task. He related the story of how he and others pushed the design and development of the percutaneus heart valve. He and the scientists behind the development of the technology received numerous rejection letters from journal publishers, for example, during the early 1990s. They also heard from physicians on a regular basis about why the technology wouldn’t work and why it was a bad idea. “We were about 15 years ahead of our time.” The lesson in that, Rowe said, is that the medical community doesn’t always know what it wants, or what it needs. “Innovation is often a lonely sport.”

Nevertheless, Rowe is impressed with the types of products he’s seen in development from start-up firms and other companies. Those of use dedicated to innovation go home every day and have to acknowledge that this isn’t a job. It’s a privilege.”

--Heather Thompson

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