In addition to being president of Lowell General Hospital, Jody White must be a magician. That’s the only way I can explain how he managed to pull together three of his busiest physicians to join him, and me, for a panel discussion at this week’s DeviceTalks Boston. Sponsored by, DeviceTalks Boston is an annual premier gathering of medtech companies (and the vendors who love them). We at KHJ called our panel presentation, “Hot Topics in Medical Marketing: Myth or Truth?”


Our thanks to Mr. White as well as Lowell General’s Dr. Richard Birkhead, chief of cardiology; Dr. Allan Hoffman, chief of vascular and interventional radiology; and Dr. Scott Sigman, chief of orthopedics, for their many thoughtful, honest and at times provocative responses to our questions on innovation, the sales-hospital relationship, and the changing role of the patient. A few of my favorite moments:

“You know … it’s just really hard.” Scott Sigman, MD on the challenge of practicing medicine when much of the day is spent processing paperwork. “The best part of my day,” he said, “is the few minutes I get to spend with a patient and tell them I’ve figured out what their problem is and how to fix it.” Sigman’s colleagues all nodded their heads at what to my mind was the most poignant remark of the session.

 “Those days are going away.” Jody White on the old sales model of the medtech rep befriending the surgeon and the surgeon becoming the inside advocate for that rep’s devices within the hospital. “Sixty percent of our business is risk,” White said, adding that his medical chiefs are every bit as business-minded as he is. “We need you to partner with us—all of us.”

“Show that you’re willing to share the risk.” Allan Hoffman, MD on the need for medtech companies to walk alongside the hospital. “Commit to a consignment model across all product lines,” Hoffman said as an example. “If we don’t use it, switch it out before the product expires. This frees up capital for the hospital.”

“Innovation now is only at the edges.” Sigman on the fact that most new devices are quickly followed by similar devices and that very few remain unique for very long. Hoffman agreed, noting that “A catheter going from 5 French to 3 French and pumping the same amount of contrast agent is good, but it’s not innovative.”

“Even a negative result can be seen as innovative.” Rick Birkhead, MD on Medtronic’s SYMPLICITY-HTN 3 trial for its renal denervation device, which missed its primary efficacy endpoint: to reduce hypertension in patients with drug-resistant high blood pressure. “We’re glad Medtronic did the work to find that out; now we know,” Birkhead said, adding that Medtronic still gets credit for being innovative in taking the lead on what was seen as a promising new treatment for hypertension.

Interesting? Maybe even a little surprising? We think so. We’ll have more thoughts on the talk at DeviceTalks in future posts. Stay tuned.