Medtech POV Blog

How a Leading MedTech Company Created a Rapid Response to COVID-19

As the novel coronavirus began to spread across the globe in early 2020, many looked to the medtech industry for guidance and solutions. For Tom Polen, the pandemic struck just as his tenure as CEO at BD began, in February 2020. However, he knew that BD had the team and resources to help in the fight against the pandemic. 

How the BD Team Came Together to Respond to the Pandemic 

Thanks to his leadership and the work of BD’s 70,000 associates, the team was able to develop and launch COVID-19 diagnostic tests in just 90 days, Polen shared with MedTech POV host and AdvaMed CEO Scott Whitaker. Once the pandemic hit, Polen recalled that BD team switched gears immediately, noting that “we were focused heads down on ramping up and creating diagnostic tests, molecular tests, ramping up collection swab production.”  

Although BD had utilized similar technology to develop tests in the past, the process usually took around three years. However, Polen and his team knew that patients had an urgent need for COVID-19 tests. “Every resource and asset that the company had was focused on solving this problem, and that sent a very clear message across the organization.” Some employees even relocated to new countries to provide their services, while others traveled the world in search of antibody samples to test and research. 

“We set a principle from the start that we were going to do this and work through this pandemic and the impact it was going to have on our company as a team.” 

––Tom Polen, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President, BD

While employees turned their attention to manufacturing and distributing devices related to COVID-19, Polen and the BD leadership team were also focused on protecting their associates’ health and safety. To prevent layoffs, Polen and the rest of the leadership team took a pay cut. BD also made investments in the safety of the two-thirds of associates whose jobs required them to come into work during the pandemic. “I couldn’t be more proud of the selflessness of our associates who we consider heroes that were supporting the frontline healthcare workers and coming in every day.” As a result, BD was able to successfully launch their COVID-19 tests in only three months. 

Polen also credits cross-sector collaboration for the rapid development of BD’s diagnostic tests. BD worked closely with the FDA in the U.S., but also coordinated with governments abroad to ensure that manufacturers could continue making essential pieces for medical devices used by COVID-19 patients. “It’s a positive for humanity when in literally every one of those cases, governments around the world supported keeping those suppliers open” noted Polen, whose team helped secure exceptions so that they could continue servicing patients. 

What Medtech’s COVID-19 Response Means for the Future of the Industry 

At the heart of BD’s response to COVID-19 is a passion for helping others. “I, and many of my colleagues at BD, we got into healthcare because we have a passion about making a difference. We’re really proud of the impact BD has made.” The sacrifices of BD employees and frontline workers were all with the goal of advancing technologies for patients.  

Polen and Whitaker agreed that the pandemic has shown just how capable the medtech industry is at rising to the occasion and expect to see even more rapid advancements in the near future. As noted by Whitaker, “it’s going to be amazing to see what happens in medtech in the next ten years. It’s going to be a different world that we operate in – not just with COVID-19 but because of the speed of innovation, and no one’s doing it better than BD is right now.” 

To listen to the full conversation, stream the MedTech POV podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever podcast streaming is available. 

Hear Patient Stories

The Story of Medtech empowers patients to share their experiences with medical technology in an effort to educate, inspire, and create community.