Unlimited Abilities: A View from the MedtechVision Conference


We are limited, not by our abilities, but by our vision. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

In a world thick with healthcare conferences, MedtechVision, held September 15-16 at the Rosewood Hotel in Menlo Park, CA, stood out, both for its quality of content and for its participants.

“I hadn’t given any thought to the fact that it was theoretically a ‘women’s conference’ before I walked into the room. I’d just promised the organizer, a friend, that I would come,” said Vance Vanier, CEO of Navigenics. “But walking into the room full of women had quite an impact; I realized how much I stood out and it was worth noting. It made me realize what women experience when they go to events like this.”

Vanier was commenting on his experience as a male attendee at the conference, which was intended to provide a platform for the many women executives in the medical technology field to wield the microphone. Some 200 women and 3 intrepid men spent two days in a room hearing from some of the most influential and experienced provider, corporate, government and investment executives representing medical technology organizations nationwide.  If you are a man and reading this article, don’t run away yet. What was most notable about the conference overall was that it wasn’t for women and about women—rather it was intended to give a platform to executives who just happened to be women and who are rarely given a place at the microphone to talk about general medical technology issues that apply to the entire field. No “bikini medicine” here; this was a conference about health and business in a world where bringing new medical technology to market is getting ever more challenging.

Organized by Covidien, Abbott Vascular, and a number of other organizations with leadership roles in the field of medical technology, the conference gave healthcare executives a chance to come together to learn and problem-solve within this highly stressed and rapidly changing field. The presentations and panels covered emerging regulation and reimbursement issues as well as the challenges of nurturing medical technology companies in a rapidly changing healthcare industry. Not only was it unusual to see a conference like this where all of the experts were women, but it was also unusual to see a medical technology conference where the issues of cost and the need for evidence-based medicine were so closely coupled in the context of innovation.

Presenters and panel members, including executive representation from public and private companies, the FDA, numerous hospital systems, insurance carriers, and private equity firms, were all female, but it was their mountain of experience and knowledge that stood out, not their hairstyles. Keynote speakers included Ginger Graham, former CEO of Amylin Pharmaceuticals and former group chairman, Office of the President, Guidant Corp.; Bray Patrick-Lake, president & CEO of the PFO Research Foundation; and, Ellen Zane, president & CEO of Tufts Medical Center. Zane’s message to the audience was right on point: Providers must reduce needless variations in care, insurers must reform their administrative practices, employers must stop offering the world to employees while complaining about costs, governments must pay adequately for needed care, and consumers must take responsibility for their own behavior when it comes to their health. Without great advances toward these goals, Zane noted, the healthcare system cannot evolve beyond its troubled state.

Particularly interesting were the pairings on panels that juxtaposed people on all sides of key issues. The reimbursement panel, featured medtech executives from Sonitus and Covidien, as well as the chief medical officer of CMS Region IX, Dr. Betsy Thompson, and Robin Cisneros, national director of medtech assessment for the Permanent Federation.  A key takeaway from this panel was the rising tension between payers’ desire to reimburse only for new products that demonstrably improve health outcomes and manufacturers’ desire to … Next Page »

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Lisa Suennen is a managing director with GE Ventures and former managing member of the Psilos Group, as well as the co-author of Tech Tonics: Can Passionate Entrepreneurs Heal Healthcare With Technology? and author of the blog Venture Valkyrie. Follow @venturevalkyrie

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4 responses to “Unlimited Abilities: A View from the MedtechVision Conference”

  1. Jaimee Mayne says:

    Being a women studying Biomedical Engineering and a leader of Women in Engineering at Swinburne University of Technology Melbourne, Australia, I am extreamly pleased to hear about a Women run Medtech group.

    I have been to Medtech conferences in Australia and loved every minute of it. It didn’t bother me being at a male dominated conference, but I can’t even imagin being at a all women conference.

    I am currently studing my 3rd year, and looking at a 12 month work experience in America. I am extreamly motivated and passionate about Medtech and would love to hear from anyone.

    I specalise in combining physiology and electronics with skills in signal processing, biosences and other technical skills. I also have great leadership and communication skills.

    [email protected]