Discussions with legislators, regulators and thought leaders often brings up the question, "When physicians consult for industry, do they actually help make better products or are they just being paid for marketing?" Medtronic Chairman and CEO Bill Hawkins answers from deep experience, explaining to the press, academia, the public and shareholders that the medical device field depends on physician-industry collaboration.
"I'm hard-pressed to think of any innovation we've had that didn't come from Medtronic working with physicians," he tells The Wall Street Journal. Medtronic innovates at a rapid pace, renewing product lines in its $15 billion business about every three years.
In a Darden Health Care Conference keynote speech, Hawkins noted that the medical technology industry is unique because ideas originate at a patient’s bedside, move to the development bench, then return to the bedside. These ideas have generated more than 14,000 patents for Medtronic.
In an editorial this summer, Hawkins wrote:
Collaboration between physicians and industry remains absolutely critical to the delivery of state-of-the-art health care in this country. The medical-device industry simply cannot develop life-changing products without collaborating closely with some of the world's most highly skilled and innovative doctors and surgeons.
Physicians are the best source of ideas about how to make medical devices like artificial joints, neurostimulators, stents and pacemakers work in the human body after implant. In turn, a skilled medical-device company is the best at building the new designs. Both sides of this innovation team are indispensable in bringing new products and therapies to market to benefit patients.
Hawkins reports to shareholders that "collaboration with physicians and surgeons is vital for innovation and for the health of our industry." He adds that innovation "both starts and ends with the physician, in an ongoing and iterative cycle that fuels rapid and essential product and procedure innovation."
Do physicians actually help make medical products better? According to the head a 60-year-old global healthcare leader that helps more than seven million patients manage their chronic diseases, yes.