The timing does, however, offer the opportunity to consider my 2018 holiday wish list. Not for me personally (although I’m happy to share a link to my Amazon Wish List for anyone who’d like it), but rather, a type of industry-related wish list I’d like to see in the next 12 months (or even beyond). For the sake of realistic expectations, keep in mind the key phrase “wish list” while reading this. With that said, on to the list.
An Improved Image: As is thoroughly documented in Mike Barbella’s Year in Review feature (a fantastic read, by the way, beginning on page 42), the industry’s image was certainly tainted in 2018. Whether due to an episode of “60 Minutes” or a Netflix documentary, the medtech industry was not presented in the best light this past year. While some of the criticisms presented were warranted, the overwhelmingly positive aspects of this great industry and its beneficial impact on healthcare were buried in the back page. So here’s to hoping for a better showing of medtech to the masses in 2019.
Pain Management Technology Successes: This item actually couples quite well with the previous list entry. The opioid epidemic has received an enormous amount of news coverage and is on the minds of so many, from members of Congress and the President to your next-door neighbors. Questionable pharmaceutical industry practices centered around its product promotion has helped to create a monster of a problem. Fortunately, medical device manufacturers can come to the rescue in a big (and very public) way. Pain management devices have not gained much traction in the past, since pills were always viewed as the most effective and easiest method to address the issue. By now, everyone sees where that has gotten us. As a result, non-addictive technologies that help to control pain could get a serious look from doctors, hospitals, and patients—a winning scenario for all who suffer from chronic pain and some great PR for medtech.
Growth of Value-Based Healthcare: Those who are developing or selling medical devices that cater to a transactional healthcare model, where the number of procedures drives product sales, will likely not be pleased to see this on my wish list. While that’s understandable, I’d ask who they are ultimately seeking to serve: patients, physicians, or their shareholders. I don’t care who you sell to, patients in need are the ultimate customers for medical devices. And in my opinion, value-based healthcare is a much better model for them than the traditional fee-for-service system we’re accustomed to. Value-based healthcare drives efficiency and cost savings throughout the care chain. In turn, hospitals are going to seek technology solutions that help to achieve that goal. That presents a tremendous opportunity for medical device manufacturers who are already developing or manufacturing this type of offering. Companies helping doctors and hospitals more efficiently and effectively treat patients will be rewarded for their efforts—which leads to my next wish list item:
Reimbursement/CMS Reform: For value-based healthcare to truly succeed, new technologies will need to be introduced and implemented. That simply will not happen if the reimbursement system does not undergo some type of reform. By no means do I have the answers for how that should occur, but I know that as FDA review times decrease, the warts associated with CMS become further exposed. Fortunately, there are attempts to address the problem, such as the Parallel Review Pilot Program. I’m hopeful that other ideas are brought forth and implemented to address this significant problem.
Device Tax Repeal (finally): I write this a day after seeing the formation of a split Congress for the next two years. With a blue House and a red Senate, I don’t expect to see substantial legislative progress or cooperation between members of either party. Fortunately for medtech, one issue that seems to have support from both sides of the aisle is a medical device tax repeal. How that ultimately happens, I have no idea. Perhaps the bill that already passed the House in 2018 will get Senate approval in 2019 and move on to the President to be signed. Or, perhaps it will be written into a spending bill or budget proposal. I haven’t a clue, nor do I care how it happens; I just want it accomplished so manufacturers can invest those dollars elsewhere with confidence.
So that’s my holiday wish list for 2018. What’s on your own list for next year? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Happy holidays to any who celebrate and here’s to a fantastic new year.
Sean Fenske, Editor-in-Chief