When it comes to politics—particularly during an election year—everyone seems to have an opinion. And medical device professionals are no exception. But while some industry execs have taken their gripes about the medical device tax and other pertinent issues to the media, many members of the medical device community have flocked to social media site LinkedIn to engage in political discourse with peers about pressing industry concerns.
Establishing itself as the destination of choice for many medical device professionals, the Medical Devices Group on LinkedIn, owned by medical device marketing consultant Joe Hage, boasts more than 100,000 members and serves as a lively forum for debating political and other issues affecting the industry. As expected, the most commonly discussed political issue within the group is that of the controversial 2.3% medical device excise tax, which has even prompted a movement, associated site, and petition led by Hage dubbed "No 2.3%." Touting the tag line, "kill the med device tax," the site encourages medical device professionals to sign the petition in order to prevent jobs from moving to China and medtech innovation from being crushed. The petition currently has more than 1170 signatures, though it aims to ambitiously collect 23,826 more before July 18.
Perhaps more interestingly, however, is the discussion that has taken shape in response to Hage's post inviting group members to sign the petition. More than 67 comments responding to Hage's post illuminate the polarizing nature of the tax, even within the medical device industry. Some commenters predictably are staunchly opposed to the tax and are concerned about its potential impact on U.S. jobs and innovation. But dissention is apparent as a slew of commenters accuse Hage (and the media) of "fear mongering" and espouse the need for more discussion, less bias.
This outpouring of opinions on both sides of the issue, however, raises a larger question: Do political discussions have a place in a professional group? Hage actually threw such a poll to members for their feedback; the results were a bit surprising. According to current poll results, 57% of respondents believe that there is a place for politics in the group if it is related to the medical device industry. A strong showing of 42%, however, believe that politics don't belong in a professional group.
It's an intriguing debate with both sides certainly having valid points. "I, reluctantly, voted 'yes.' Unfortunately, a lot of times, political views are stated with little more than vitriol and sound bites, the same junk stated by the talking heads. In a site like LinkedIn, we need to bring much more to the discussion, such as evidence and explanations for assumptions. If I can't understand the reasoning for anyone's point of view, I will reject it outright," commented member Paul Stein.
Taking the opposite stance was member Malcolm Taylor, who also made a fair point. "In my 60 years in engineering, in the UK and US, and in technical societies such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, ASME, etc., politics and religion are 'verboten.' Since the Medical Devices Group is a semitechnical group, I think it should take the same position," he commented.
While everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and both arguments are completely valid, I admit that I voted in favor of political discussion. The caveat being, of course, that the political discussion is relevant to the medical device industry, promotes healthy debate, and maintains some semblance of maturity. Such discussion can be stimulating and enlightening, as well as just plain fun. And, let's face it, there's a lot to talk about right now. As a community composed of intelligent, thoughtful individuals, medical device professionals need to just ensure that political debate does not devolve into namecalling or vitriol. Easier said than done, but we can do it.
If you're not already a member, check out the Medical Devices Group on LinkedIn for engaging discussion opportunities on politics and a wide variety of other medical device industry issues. --Shana Leonard