As Canadians living in the 21st century, it should go without saying that we are fortunate people. Of course, one of the features contributing to our quality of life is our access to a health care system that embraces medical research and technology.
To some extent, many diseases or debilitating conditions no longer pose the threat they once did because of advancements made by medical technology companies. Through earlier and more accurate diagnosis, less invasive procedures and improved treatment, technology has helped the health system has become more effective and more efficient.
Representing Canadian medical device industry is an association called MEDEC, a non-profit organization created to advance healthcare by accelerating access to proven and safe medical technologies. Through advocacy, education and sharing information, MEDEC has become the leading voice of medical technology companies, ensuring their interests are heard.
With offices in Victoria, Montreal and Toronto, MEDEC has members from 150 medical technology companies, all in various fields. MEDEC was formed in 1973, in response to the government wanting to deal with a body of companies rather than individuals. Back then, it was called the Canadian Association of Manufacturers in the Medical and Biological Sciences. From the very beginning, the association has lobbied the never-ending issues of regulations, as well as promoted the benefits of medical technology.
In 1987, the association decided on the much-needed name change to MEDEC, as well as a change in logo to reflect the diversity of the suppliers and manufacturers that comprised its membership. In 2002, the company rebranded one more time and has kept that logo to this day. Representing all facets of the industry, MEDEC’s members are large and small, public and private, Canadian-based and multinational. Since its inception, MEDEC has gained a reputation both in Canada and internationally as one of the leading associations in the industry.
Because the medical device field contributes significantly to the health and well-being of Canadians, organized representation is only natural. As the industry becomes increasingly innovative, the pressure mounts on health care budgets for new technology and its associated operational costs. Funding is never a guarantee, so lobbying is often necessary on both provincial and federal government levels. MEDEC is in the unique position to influence regulatory processes and is building the right relationships to get involved in policy-making.
To offer some perspective on how rapidly medical technology is evolving, Stephen Dibert, President and CEO of MEDEC, gives an example of what it’s like in the cardiovascular technology business. “If you’re in that field, about 75 to 80 per cent of sales are for products that are three years old or younger,” he says. “If you’re in a pharmaceutical company, however, 80 per cent of sales are in the last two years of their 20-year-old patents. So, technology is getting more sophisticated and the turnaround is really fast.”
MEDEC is in no short supply of positions on industry issues, whether they are broad or specific to one medical field. Right now, Dibert says the association is pushing for faster review times at Health Canada because they are declining. “It’s something we’re always striving for because it means quicker access to treatment for patients. We’re also asking for the creation of medical technology funds to help hospitals and other health care facilities,” he says. “MEDEC wants something similar to a fund that the federal government implemented five years ago, where they set aside $3.5 billion over the course of three years for medical equipment fund. That fund was really beneficial for upgrading institutions, such as labs, clinics and medical imaging centres.”
Sustaining relationships between members and healthcare professionals is another priority for MEDEC, which is why they are guided by the highest ethical standards. In fact, MEDEC members designed and adopted a Code of Conduct in 2005 to promote ethical business practices and socially responsible conduct to govern their interactions with healthcare professionals.
The term “healthcare professionals” is broad and intends to encompass anyone with material influence over purchasing decisions. The definition provided within the codes includes those “individuals and entities that purchase, lease, recommend, use, arrange for the purchase or lease of, or prescribe Member’s medical technology products in Canada.” As the interest in accountability increases, the code should respond to any questions or concerns about expectations.
The future of medical technology
MEDEC will only become more relevant as time goes on. As medical technology becomes more prevalent, the association will need to continue advocating for accessibilty. MEDEC has a bright future ahead of them and as long as they are relating to key decision-makers on our behalf, Canadians will have a bright future too.