The successful medtech executive and former Shockwave Medical CEO fully expected medical device makers would see Avail Medsystem’s telemedicine system as a more efficient way for sales reps to sit in on surgeries.
By Hawkins’ projections, Avail’s system would eliminate much of the time sales reps take traveling from operating room to operating room by allowing them to communicate with surgeons via camera and audio connections.
But Hawkins still didn’t expect demand for the system to come this quickly because no one could have predicted a pandemic.
“We would have been where we are today in three to four years,” Hawkins said in an interview with MassDevice. “What COVID-19 did was speed it all up … COVID put a white-hot spotlight on a problem that was already there.”
Avail’s solution is creating a communication network to connect medical sales reps to operating rooms. To build this network, Avail is providing its Avail System — a self-standing unit equipped with a camera to capture images surgery and a monitor to give surgeons access to information and input from outside the operating room —to hospitals at no cost.
Medical device reps, meanwhile, can connect with surgeons inside the OR using their tablets and an application created by avail. This week, the company also announced the launch of Avail Portal, a web-based system that allows users to manage schedules and communicate with surgeons.
To access the network, medical device companies will need to subscribe to Avail’s network. Avail would charge it member companies for each minute of communication. The hospitals would pay no fee.
Hawkins started Avail in 2017 after identifying what he sees as a weak spot in medtech sales. Hawkins says medtech’s large sales force – anywhere between 100,000 and 110,000 people — spend more than half its time on “logistics, driving to, flying to, waiting for and returning back from procedure.”
Hawkins anticipated the pressures on sales reps would only increase as hospitals began pushing more procedures to smaller, more remote ambulatory surgery centers. This growing demand on sales reps — who Hawkins says he sees as invaluable players in surgery — convinced him medtech companies would be eager to find more efficient ways to keep their sales reps connected.
He doesn’t see Avail’s telemedicine system as a reason to reduce headcounts. “I didn’t start this company for the purpose of, and I don’t have any interest in being, the stone that the axe is ground on. Zero interest,” Hawkins said. “What I’m more attuned to is the basic notion that there is an enormous investment in resources that are put out there to introduce new technologies, train physician and support procedures.”
Hawkins says the company is receiving significant interest from customers. Avail has raised $25 million in a Series A from Baidu Ventures, Coatue Management, Lux Capital, Playground Global, Refractor Capital, and Sonder Capital,