Diagnosis: Medical Device Industry Looks Healthy

March 27, 2007

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As new medical devices offer tremendous promise to the world's aging population, some global trends are directly affecting the competitive industry — particularly the increasing emphasis on design and Asia's booming role in the worldwide market.

In 2006, almost 500 million people worldwide were 65 and older, according to a recent report issued jointly by the Department of State and the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging. By 2030, that total is projected to increase to 1 billion — one in every eight of the planet's inhabitants.

Yet new medical devices offer tremendous promise to the world's aging population.

As such, expect to see the medical market grow at about 20 percent annual rate, Greg Riemer, VP of business development at Butler, Wis.-based contract manufacturer MRPC, told Medical Design magazine last fall.

The following are some trends to watch for in the medical industry, particularly in the market of medical devices:

Design When it comes to medical devices, there is an increasing emphasis on design. According to Ogan Gurel, MD, "Innovation is alive and well in the medical device industry. In addition to the economic shifts occurring, this innovation will also contribute to the shift in power and market capitalization we've been seeing from pharma to the device industry."

Writing at Midwest Business & Technology News, Dr. Gurel, who is chairman of the Aesis Research Group, notes these broad trends:

• Good design leads to product success; • Simplicity and going back to the basics are to be encouraged; • Medical product function is increasingly being driven by software, and over-engineering it can be perilous; and • Devices that can minimize or eliminate errors are most valuable.

"Medical device companies can surpass their competition — and possibly gain market share ... if they offer products whose forms are complementary to their functions," writes David Robson, director of new business development at Ximedica, an Item Group Company, in an article entitled "Medical Device Design: Learning from the Consumer Industry", which recently appeared in Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry at DeviceLink.com. "Moreover, products must be more intuitive, easier to use and visually more appealing than their competitors."

Industrial designers, engineers and manufacturers consider a combination of factors when developing products for the consumer market. These include production costs, competitive pressures, consumer perception of value, time to market, end-user research, ergonomic concerns and user-intuitive designs. Sound familiar? It should, at least to those in the medical device industry, which is increasingly being driven by these same trends that influence the consumer industry, according to Robson.

"As the demand to reduce healthcare costs increases, hospitals and medical facilities are pressuring medical device manufacturers to be more competitive, innovative, cost-effective and efficient."

Asia Particularly in China, Asia is currently in the midst of a medical manufacturing swing.

In fact, Pharmabiz.com reports that it's "boom time" for medical devices in China. The country is becoming more competitive in the realm of research and development (R&D) and manufacturing capabilities, providing a stronger outsourcing option for companies in Europe and the U.S. Chinese companies are also looking forward to doing well in the Indian market due to the growing number of mid-to-large sized hospitals there.

Further, China seems to have become a hot spot for suppliers. Medical-device contract manufacturer APEC recently announced it is opening a new 35,000-square-foot manufacturing facility called APEC Asia in Guangdong, China. The new facility will mirror the company's U.S. manufacturing operations. Although the new facility will support the Baldwin Park, Calif.-based company's existing customer base, the facility was also created to cater to the burgeoning Asian market. APEC is only one of several other companies that have set up shop in Guangdong. Others include GW Plastics and Loparex, which recently expanded its production portfolio. The region has seen an increase in activity because of its proximity to the shipping ports of Hong Kong and its large technical workforce.

The rise of labor and manufacturing costs can pose significant barriers for U.S. medical device manufacturers. As such, many companies have faith in the benefits of offshore manufacturing and have been seeking ways to make their products in countries from Mexico to China for years.

Jobs and Wages Despite ethical breaches hurting the medical device industry's reputation, the industry is showing "strong growth in job creation and compensation," according to Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry's latest annual salary survey and interviews with corporate recruiters that specialize in the medical device industry. Strong performers are taking advantage of the widely available opportunities.

Of all the medical industry professions showing salary growth and providing strong opportunities, regulatory affairs professionals are doing particularly well. Among respondents to the MD&DI survey, those in regulatory and legal affairs earn more than those in any other industry profession except general and corporate management. This is in line with a compensation study conducted for the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society (RAPS), which, among other trends, showed that "base salaries for U.S. regulatory professionals rose 9.8 percent from 2003 to 2006, compared with 7.6 percent for other U.S. workers over the same time period." (See Quality & Regulatory Compliance: Who's Responsible?)

Certain kinds of technical jobs are in high demand, leading to higher offers for those with the right skills. In laser surgery, for instance, it seems that the technicians who service and work the equipment are in high demand, and their price is going up. There seems to be significant demand from device companies for business development, sales and marketing personnel.

Moreover, Medical Search owner Dan Murray notices that "a number of companies are looking for a very defined type of engineer — someone who has at least two or three years of hands-on experience in the industry with something like a Solidworks design background. If I had 10 of them, I could place all 10. They are in high demand and are rare."

What trends do you foresee in the medical device industry? Let us know.

For those interested, MD&M East, the world's largest tradeshow for medical device design and manufacturing, will take place in New York City June 11-14.


Watch Medical Market Grow 20% by editorial staff Medical Design magazine, Aug. 21, 2006

Why Population Aging Matters: A Global Perspective by Paula J. Dobriansky, Ph.D., Richard M. Suzman, Ph.D. and Richard J. Hodes, M.D. National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, U.S. Dept. of State March 2007

Nine Trends in Global Aging Present Challenges, Says U.S. Study Senior Journal, March 16, 2007

Medical Design Excellence Awards Offer Decisive Glimpse Into Future of Health Care by Dr. Ogan Gurel MidwestBusiness.com, Feb. 20, 2007

Medical Device Design: Learning from the Consumer Industry by David Robson Medical Design magazine, February 2007

China's strong R&D, competitive manufacturing capability lures global majors to outsource products by Nandita Vijay PharmaBiz.com, Nov. 3, 2006

Outsource with Open Minds, Business Models Medical Device Link DeviceTalk blog, Feb. 14th, 2007

Ethical Breaches Hurt Device Industry's Reputation by Maria Fontanazza Medical Design magazine, February 2007

Salary Survey: A Robust Market Means Good Jobs and Good Wages by Erik Swain Medical Design magazine, December 2006

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