Last week, we began exploring the benefits of 3D Printing in regards to the Medical Device Industry — With 3D Printing, Medical Devices Are Cool Again, pt 1. Continue reading for the second installation, Medical Devices 101
Medical Devices 101
Despite its overall size, the medical device field has a disproportionately long tail, making it unique compared to other healthcare segments, which are characteristically dominated by large, heady incumbents. Of the 6,500+ medical device companies in existence in the U.S. today, more than 80 percent are small businesses with fewer than 50 employees.
These companies are leaner and meaner than most any venture-backed software play, especially considering the overhead involved. Think of device companies as risky, capital-intensive hardware plays. But instead of beaming Netflix to your TV, or tracking how many miles your car has driven in a given week, they’re healing wounds faster with liquid-free, thermo-regulating circuits that anyone can administer, dramatically reducing sepsis with smart catheters that guard against infection in ways never before thought possible and treating acne painlessly with the press of a single miraculous button.
It’s an exciting time to be working in devices, for sure. But any market overview should in fairness also detail the challenges facing the device community in equal measure.
The annual survey conducted by Emergo Group in January enumerated the top three challenges currently faced by medical device companies. Regulatory issues, access to funding, and the new product development are the biggest pain points for medical device innovators. The study confirmed what any entrepreneurs in our sector knows firsthand, but it was nice to see it validated empirically.
Product development, despite being No. 3 on the list, is where we need to focus if we’re to dramatically increase the odds of success for device companies and get more devices into the hands of patients who need them most.
The rate of new product development within the healthcare industry overall is too slow at a time when we need change more than ever. Devices are just the tip of the iceberg, but they’re a wonderful place to start. Devices are where speedups are most welcome and least political.
As innovators, however, we’re quick to gravitate towards sexy use cases. In so doing we often glaze over the first, and in many ways most important, phase of device innovation: prototyping. And that conveniently brings me back to 3D printing.
Source: www.techcrunch.com; Dr. Michael Patton; December 13, 2014.