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Andrew Cleeland

Best Practices: Medical technology innovation must be at the heart of everything we do

By Andrew Cleeland
From the March 2017 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine

A recent report from the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) sounded the alarm: The future of the American medical technology industry is at considerable risk. For more than two decades, our industry has been suffering from an ongoing, steady decline of entrepreneurship and venture capital funding, which has resulted in nearly a 60 percent drop in new med-tech startups. This statistic is particularly foreboding, when you consider that startups are typically the bedrock of innovation, developing breakthroughs that lead to significant health care cost reductions and more effective and efficient patient care.

Cardiovascular medicine, in particular, is a field that directly benefits from innovation due to its rapidly changing dynamics. Great strides were made in the 20th century in the efforts to manage cardiovascular disease, which directly improved morbidity and reduced mortality. Deaths from stroke have been cut by almost 60 percent and fatalities from heart disease have been cut by more than half.

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While these advancements are impressive, more needs to be done. Heart disease remains the leading cause of death and among one of the most expensive conditions to treat. As this field moves toward less invasive therapies and a stronger focus on prevention over treatment, we need to work together to ensure that we strengthen the innovation ecosystem to foster the cost-effective development of new technologies that benefit patients.

Early-stage startups, in particular, are the most fragile as they are burdened with an inordinate number of obstacles, which hinder the development of new ideas. In addition to challenges involving technology, market and fundraising competition, med-tech companies must also endure unpredictable regulatory agencies, nontransparent reimbursement decisions and a significantly more difficult fundraising environment.

To ensure that life-saving devices reach physicians, hospitals and ultimately the patients, we need to create an environment where early-stage startups are given the support to become self-sufficient. Here are four proven ways to do so:

Education and mentorship
Education and mentorship are two of the most valuable resources for entrepreneurs and vital to effectively bring medical devices into the global marketplace. Through the guidance of experienced physicians, young innovators can move faster and avoid many of the common pitfalls that frequently plague startups. Cardiovascular physicians are particularly well suited to provide guidance, given the range of clinical needs they are faced with on a daily basis and the field’s robust history of embracing medical innovation.
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