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The Medical Device Industry ~ Our First Line of Defense

During the go-go ‘90s, I had the pleasure of working for STERIS Corporation. At the time, our tag line was, “The Global Leader in Infection Prevention”. Everyday, we went to work with the intention of helping clinicians lower the rate of nosocomial infections and to ensure central services’ reprocessing was in lockstep with the surgical suites it supported. To a certain degree, we all became fairly maniacal about cross-contamination, surface decontamination…and hands. Contaminated hands were the bane of our existence.

Jump 20 years into the future and here we are, staring into a global pandemic. Contaminated hands are now potentially life threatening to vulnerable populations. During normal times, most Americans don’t think that much about our industry. Many perceive us as the little brother of Big Pharma. But in this time of crisis, it’s the medical device industry that’s going to be front and center in mitigating the fallout from this crisis; long before Big Pharma can ride in to the rescue with therapeutics or a vaccine.

Medical devices, in the form of personal protection equipment, will be on the front line, protecting the health of our clinicians treating a pending onslaught of patients. The availability of medical devices, in the form of respirators, will be critical in saving many patients’ lives. And medical devices, in the form of diagnostic testing, will be mission critical in surveying, containing and isolating the spread of this disease.

Not bad, considering our industry only accounts for 3.5% of total, healthcare expenditures in the United States. Less than four cents of every healthcare dollar we spend in this country is for medical devices; from the mundane (masks, gloves, smocks) to the esoteric (high throughput screening, advanced imaging). I’d say when it comes to healthcare, medical devices are, for the most part, a remarkable bargain.

One other point I’d like to make about our industry…we care. Medical device companies have already donated more than $40 million and countless materials to combat the coronavirus outbreak. So as we all practice social distancing, and attempt to reorient ourselves to our rapidly changing environment, I’d like to give my fellow medical device professionals a tip of the hat.