March 11, 2020 at 5:00 am ET
Right now, we are all deeply concerned with the coronavirus infecting tens of thousands of people worldwide and putting millions more at risk. Markets are reacting, travel is restricted and even members of Congress are self-quarantining. Entire countries are on lockdown.
Government officials are busier than ever, health care providers are working around the clock and charitable organizations are offering up every resource. The world is responding to the coronavirus, and so is the medical technology industry, as it always has — because medtech has built a legacy on its fast, effective and compassionate response to help people in need.
When the Ebola epidemic ravaged West Africa in 2014, medical technology companies were there with solutions. They created new hospital sterilization methods that would work in portable field hospitals and medical tents.
They also developed mapping and geolocation software to track the disease’s spread, and they used messaging alert software to share that information in real time. They delivered diagnostic tools that could confirm an infection in less than an hour.
But medtech isn’t just about innovative tools and treatments. It’s about healing the whole person.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in addition to capital and medical product donations, medical technology companies donated power generators, satellite phones, water bottles and batteries. Medtech manufacturing plants in the area — the industry employs more than 12,000 Puerto Ricans — became people’s homes, places where they could shower, do laundry, and eat warm meals. The plants even provided childcare, banking services and assistance with Federal Emergency Management Agency applications.
With this history as our guide, medtech is working hard to help fight the coronavirus. Medical technologies such as masks and gowns are helping prevent coronavirus transmission, while respirators, catheters, syringes and blood collection tubes are helping doctors provide the best treatment possible. Diagnostics innovators are supporting the widespread availability of reliable testing.
Since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, dozens of medtech companies have contributed tens of millions of dollars in medical products and cash donations to the relief effort. Those donations will continue to grow: The U.S. government is estimating it will need hundreds of millions of safety masks over the next 12 to 18 months, and medtech is already ramping up production and distribution.
Still, we can’t solve this problem alone. We must work together — industry and government, hand-in-hand — to defeat this disease. And that’s precisely what we’re doing.
The medical technology industry is working closely with key U.S. government agencies — including Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response — to expand manufacturing of and access to the medical technologies we all need to prevent, detect, diagnose and treat the coronavirus. We’re sharing knowledge and coordinating collective action. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn confirmed this close coordination last week when he testified in a Senate health committee hearing, noting that medtech companies have been “very cooperative … with respect to giving us the information we need.”
As we continue this critical work with the federal government, we’ll continue to reference our extensive experience for ideas and best practices. But more important than medtech’s track record is what that track record reinforces. It reminds us that the medical technology industry — and the global health care system as a whole — must lead with its values.
Medtech is doing just that. The medtech industry is putting its money where its mission is, because the medtech industry exists to help people in need.
Scott Whitaker is president and CEO of AdvaMed.
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