Guest Column | June 3, 2022

3 Lessons I've Learned: 2 Decades In The Medical Device Space

By Meghan Scanlon, SVP and president, urology and pelvic health, Boston Scientific

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The medical device industry has played, and continues to play, a leading role in the patient care continuum, whether through improvements to existing clinical best practices or the development of novel technologies to help physicians treat their patients in new ways. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend more than two decades in the industry, and it has allowed me to pursue my passion for helping patients while also leading, serving, and collaborating with high-performing teams.

I’ve treated every experience – positive or negative – as an opportunity to grow and learn, and some of the resulting takeaways have served as my guiding principles over the years. The core pillars of my personal and professional philosophy are that you have to listen to learn, that working smarter is more important than working harder, and, finally, that continuous growth is key to expanding access.

Our work in the stone franchise in particular is a great example of how these strategies can be implemented with successful results. Kidney stones are increasingly common, with about 12% of adults developing kidney stones at some point in their life, and while stones can pass naturally, the process has been described by some as being far more painful than natural childbirth. Given a growing and projected shortage of urologists, the prevalence of the condition far outstrips the number of procedures that can be performed, which makes it critical to develop solutions that are both effective and efficient.

1. You Have To Listen To Learn

Hearing diverse and unique perspectives has made me stronger as a leader, and it has also taught me that you don’t need to be, and really can’t be, the expert at everything.  By listening to, observing, and learning directly from our urologist community, we’ve gleaned deeper insights that allow us to develop better and more efficient solutions, treatment options, and innovations that fit their needs.

What we’ve learned is that the majority of urologists are 55 years of age or older, and for every new urologist that enters the field, 10 will retire. At this rate, the United States is projected to have 32% fewer urologists than needed to meet the high patient demand by 2030. While these stats may be shocking, I have encouraged my team here at Boston Scientific not to simply take information at face value, but to listen to and closely observe urologists and their teams to learn why the issue persists to ensure we’re addressing root problems. By first understanding the issue before pursuing a solution, we can avoid developing products in a vacuum and create innovations that bring about actual change.

This philosophy was a guiding principle behind our new and evolving StoneSmart Solutions platform, which features peer-to-peer education, case studies, and products and resources that we know urologists need and desire. The platform is intended to empower surgical decisions, enhance the provider experience, optimize patient care, and, ultimately, advance the treatment of kidney stone disease globally. StoneSmart is something we’ll continue to build and evolve based on continuous feedback. Without understanding the largest pain points felt by urologists and their staff, the platform would risk becoming a misguided solution that flops.

2. Work Smarter, Not Harder

Procedures to remove kidney stones can be highly unpredictable and can run anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours, which presents a challenge for planning and scheduling that ultimately limits a specialist’s ability to see every patient. For these procedures, many specialists rely on reusable ureteroscopes – devices designed to examine the kidney stone in the ureter.

However, the intense cleaning and sanitization process for a reusable scope is time-consuming and inefficient, and scopes undergoing reprocessing are unavailable for extended periods of time. That being the case, a hospital can only complete a finite number of procedures in a given timeframe with its reusable device inventory. Reusable scopes also create an operational burden for hospitals, as device reprocessing and repairs of broken devices tie up staff and inventory for extended periods, and this requires significant financial and time-intensive investments to adequately train and credential these employees on the process.

We worked to address many of these inherent inefficiencies when we developed the LithoVue Single-Use Digital Flexible Ureteroscope, which we designed to be a disposable ureteroscope packaged as sterile and developed to work like a reusable device. The efficiencies of a single-use scope are intended to eliminate the significant operational burden that reusable scopes create for hospitals without sacrificing sterility, functionality, or performance.

3. Continuous Growth Is Key To Expanding Access

As a leader, I continuously look for ways to evolve our organization and make market insight and data-driven decisions that ensure physicians have both the skills and devices they need to improve the quality of life for their patients, today and well into the future. From strategic acquisitions to in-house innovations, we continuously examine how we can broaden our portfolio and foster scientific discourse with clinicians with the end goal of helping more patients worldwide.

A great example is our recent acquisition of Lumenis Ltd.’s surgical business and its Holmium Laser System with MOSES Technology. Lasers are one of the most critical tools for how surgeons treat kidney stones, and these acquired technologies integrate with our existing portfolio of kidney stone offerings and can ultimately yield shortened procedure times and optimal treatment outcomes for patients.

I chose a career in medical technology because it affords me the opportunity to work with incredible people to help patients every day by enabling truly meaningful innovation. Central to that goal is to make sure I’m always learning, growing and striving to deliver at my best. This goal extends to the teams and people I work with and serve. As a leader, I consider it my responsibility to ensure that our teams and our employees can learn, grow, and strive to be their best to continue to change lives for patients around the world and play an important role in the success of our businesses.

About the Author:

Meghan Scanlon is the SVP and president for urology and pelvic health at Boston Scientific. Prior to joining Boston Scientific, she spent nearly 15 years in leadership roles within the Johnson & Johnson medical device business following an early career as a design engineer for Gillette. She is a member of the Global Council for Inclusion and serves as the executive sponsor for the Boston Scientific PRIDE employee resource group, a network of LGBTQ+ employees and allies that fosters inclusiveness and professional fulfillment through corporate and community programs and initiatives. She holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Tufts University and both her M.B.A. and M.S.M.E. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.