Since taking over 2 year ago, Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) CEO Omar Ishrak has become something akin to the medical device industry version of American financial institution E.F. Hutton; when he talks, people listen.
Whether via his Twitter account, where Ishrak has more than 3,350 followers, or during this week’s forum in St. Paul, Minn., Ishrak’s peers are interested in what he has to say.
On June 24th, MassDevice.com publisher Brian Johnson sat down with Ishrak amid a forum also sponsored by LifeSciences Alley and AdvaMed.
More than 200 members of the North Star State’s rich medtech community gathered to hear how Medtronic and its chief executive are navigating the medical device tax, globalization and the way that value-driven consumers are changing the nature of the industry.
On what he’s learned over the past 2 years at Medtronic: "I think, in many ways, I sense an even bigger opportunity than I thought I was walking into, and my respect for the company is even bigger for what I inherited. You don’t walk into a company every day that has market-leading products in nearly every business we’re in. More important than the share is the respect that Medtronic commands in the medical community."
On economic value and the commoditization of medical technology: "I just don’t see in healthcare in general – given the need for healthcare, given people’s unending desire for better healthcare, given the advancements in technology – that healthcare will ever mature. If someone finds a way for disease to be cured, people will want that. If someone finds a way to extend life, people will want that. If someone finds a way to reduce pain, people will want that. These are not endpoints. You can always live longer, you can always get better. These are things that will not finish one fine day. They go on forever and technology progresses forever. You put these things together and any rational thought will tell that these will not be matured. And if you do think it is matured, you will be disrupted.
I believe this commoditization thing is something we’re trapped in because of the way we’re looking at things."
On the medical device tax: "I’m a firm believer in spending my time on things I can control. If I can do well on the things I can control, I can make progress. With the tax, I’m just being pragmatic. It’s here and we have to pay it and I have to figure out a way to offset it. If I bank everything on trying to get rid of it and not deal with it I think I’m doing my company a disservice. Although I appreciate the efforts to make the case [for repeal], this has more to do with tax policy than healthcare policy. In the end, it’s linked with other forms of tax and offsets have to be found. People are working on that and to the extent that we can contribute to that we will, but in its form right now I think we have pressures coming at us from all kinds of places, everything from purchasing managers to the device tax, and we’ve got to deal with it."