Medtech Execs On Changing Market: Does Anybody Know What the Hell's Going On?

 

There is a term for the seismic changes occurring in medtech and the broader healthcare marketplace today: I call it the "Atlas Shrugged" moment.

Atlas of course is the Greek mythological figure charged with carrying the planet on his shoulders. Imagine him shrugging: If he does, the old world together with all its comfortable assumptions comes crashing down.

That analogy seemed even more apt after an interview with Shaye Mandle, the new president and CEO of LifeScience Alley, a respected industry association in Minnesota that is attempting to reinvent itself just as its customers - medtech firms - adapt to the changes wrought by the Affordable Care Act. 

Shaye Mandle, President & CEO, LifeScience Alley

"The biggest challenge in the medtech industry right now is the complexity of it all," Mandle said in an interview Thursday.

It is not just one thing in isolation such as the 2.3% medical device tax or the pricing pressure, but the bewildering array of trends and market realities executives are being forced to reckon with. Here is the laundry list of why medtech has it so tough these days:

  • In the U.S., companies are being asked to "quantify a value proposition that nobody has defined." The value proposition is a combination of improved clinical outcomes and lower costs, but "nobody is saying if you are going +3 on outcomes and -1 on cost, that’s the magic number. Or if you are -5 on cost," Mandle declares.
  • The customer has changed from the doctor to the hospital administrator and medtech sales reps don't necessarily have the financial knowhow to talk to purchasing administrators who are looking to cut costs. 
  • The cost of doing business is getting less predictable. "The only thing that is predictable is that it is going to be more expensive," he says.
  • At the same time, to achieve growth companies have to look to sell abroad. But the challenge there is "the range of their regulatory environments, their healthcare systems are all over the board. So it's trial and error there."
  • Medtech companies are cutting R&D and growing through acquisitions. That means having to integrate "new technologies that aren't consistent with their own product lines," he explains.

All of this has medtech executives up at night. Mandle talked about a recent closed-door conversation he had with Minnesota-based life science executives and Brian Quinn, author of Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs. Quinn, principal at Doblin, the innovation consulting group of Deloitte, was a speaker at a Lifescience Alley event in late May. Here's how Mandle described the discussion:

[The complexity of the marketplace] is what everyone was talking about. It was kind of like, 'We are the leaders in the biggest, innovative companies in the world and everybody kind of looked at each other and said, “Does anybody know what the hell's going on?” '

I think the biggest challenge is the complexity of the millions of different variables and choices that executives have to make and it’s the fog of war right now. The most disruptive technology in the marketplace today is the marketplace itself.And that’s why these companies are like, 'Oh my God. I have built this for the past 40 years and all of a sudden that isn’t going to work."

 [Photo Credit: LIfeScience Alley]

-- By Arundhati Parmar, Senior Editor, MD+DI
arundhati.parmar@ubm.com

 

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