It was great to be back in person at the AdvaMed Medtech conference in Boston! Clearly we are all sick of zoom calls as the conference had over 3400 participants, the largest ever! It was so fun to reconnect with old friends and feel the energy from participants in an industry that is so meaningfully affecting patient lives.
As big as AdvaMed was this year, a record 3400 participants, it still felt very intimate and collegial. Relationships run deep and even the big time CEOs are very accessible and approachable.
There was lots of wisdom shared at the Medtech conference this year in Boston especially at the CEO Unplugged sessions. Leaders brought their perspectives on the state of the industry, some of the threats, particularly around data privacy and security risks, but also the development of many new devices, smart and connected care, the shift to new care settings particularly the home, and a need to focus on improving outcomes for chronic diseases.
We were privileged to hear from General Jim Mattis, former Secretary of Defense, who talked about the rapid pace of change, the inflection point we find ourselves in as a country, and the fact that geopolitical challenges were dominating economic challenges. He was asked, ‘how do you lead in such uncertain times?’ He shared that in the military you “careened from one crisis to the next” and that “the same old way” doesn’t work. In his words; “crisis is a race between time and knowledge.” He compared COVID to walking on a tightrope; “if you move too fast you fall, but if you stop you fall.” During times of crisis you need competent leaders who can share empathy. Leaders who can give hope to their troops and manage fear that can “bleed motivation.” Leaders need to “absorb the fear and exude hope and confidence” and “work with allies with whom trust has been built.” He shared that nation’s with allies thrive, while those without them wither…and he suggested that companies behave the same way. He encouraged us all to listen with the willingness to be persuaded…and to keep learning. Stay curious and not to get judgmental early.
We were reminded by Geoff Martha, CEO of Medtronics, to “innovate with a purpose” and suggested that they are always looking for companies that could bring value to healthcare. There was great pride shared by Mick Farrell, CEO of ResMed, and others at how the mdedtech industry came together around COVID, shared resources, worked with each other to build respirators, testing kits, manufacturing and distribution resources and more…and did it incredibly quickly!!
It was also talked about that people want innovation without risk…and that that just isn’t possible. There is a need to move fast, collaborate with the FDA, and advance things quickly but carefully. Trust is the hallmark of the industry so when there is a data breach, the whole industry suffers. The “relay race” is from companies to the FDA, to CMS, and to payors but the handoffs need to get better.
FDA Commissioner, Robert Califf reminded us that we are the world innovators…but in the process our life expectancies in the US are 5 years less than other civilized countries…and suggested that they are using our innovation better than we are.