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MedTech POV Podcast with Scott Whitaker | Edwards Lifesciences CEO Mike Mussallem Discusses Opportunities for Getting Life-Saving Technologies to Patients

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Mike Mussallem, Chairman and CEO of Edwards Lifesciences, joined AdvaMed’s Scott Whitaker on the Medtech POV podcast to talk about policy opportunities that could improve the process of getting life-saving medical technologies to patients. They also discussed the intricate level of detail that goes into producing each individual hand-made heart valve and the dedication of the people who produce them, and the pride he feels for his industry that’s worked so tirelessly throughout the pandemic.  

During the conversation [recorded in Dec. 2021], Mussallem and Whitaker talked about the importance of leadership in managing the Covid-19 pandemic and how it highlighted even further the challenges with health equity across the country.

Throughout the pandemic, Mussallem has seen the importance of innovative technologies and how getting these technologies to patients quickly saves lives. He pointed out that one key way to expedite that process is reviewing payment rules for emerging technologies.

“There are really important innovations that are happening across the landscape and a possibility for so many more,” Mussallem said. “And why can’t we get those faster to consumers?”

Mussallem believes the answer is to structure policy in a way that makes it so that, “If something is truly promising and really a breakthrough, why shouldn’t we give it a chance and pay for it for a period of time? And then, if it proves itself out, go ahead and continue payment. And if it doesn’t, we’ll stop. But, give those important breakthroughs an arm up.”

Mussallem also talked about the importance of leadership in managing the pandemic. One thing became apparent to him fairly quickly was that he had to “loosen my grip on the steering wheel. Because, the climate was so different around the world, that we couldn’t really maintain control from headquarters.”

He and the executive leadership team worked collaboratively with and empowered the company’s local leaders. As Mussallem explained “we kind of laid out two premises and said, ‘You know, please take care of our patients, and please keep yourself safe.’ But, within those boundaries, you have to make the calls. And it turned out to be very beneficial.”

He also discussed the dedication the company’s employees showed throughout the pandemic. Primarily, the company “purposely tried to keep our foot on the gas, through the whole thing, keep our long-term R&D programs going, keep our clinical trials going.” But it went beyond that.

“Our people, unselfishly, went into work in hospitals every day to do whatever they could to support patients,” Mussallem said.

He also told Whitaker how that dedication goes beyond just working on the front lines, describing the intricate process of producing the company’s hand-sewn, precision engineered heart valves.

“It’s incredible,” he said. “So, people probably don’t realize that the tissue heart valves we make are handcrafted. And there are well over 1000 tiny sutures in each one of those heart valves. And so you actually have people that are gowned up in clean rooms, working under a microscope, putting each of these sutures in. So, it’s a labor of love.”

Mussallem talked about “one of the things that is actually so special about this business.” He explained that each heart valve recipient gets a card with the serial number of the valve. That means, “when we have patients that decide that they want to visit the company, we can actually introduce them to the people that made their heart valve. It’s a tremendous reminder for all of us about the importance of that work.”

To listen to the full conversation, including Mussallem discussing his journey from working in a steel mill in Indiana to being the CEO of a global medical technology company, download the MedTech POV podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever podcast streaming is available. Visit AdvaMed’s website for more information on the podcast and past guests.

The MedTech POV podcast is hosted by Scott Whitaker, President and CEO of AdvaMed, the world’s largest medical technology association. It premiered in April 2021 and has featured medtech and health care policy leaders such as Dr. Steven Hahn and General James Mattis. In each episode, guests and host Scott Whitaker cover the intersection of medtech and policy from every perspective, including current issues in business, policy, and current events.

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AdvaMed member companies produce the medical devices, diagnostic products and digital health technologies that are transforming health care through earlier disease detection, less invasive procedures and more effective treatments. AdvaMed members range from the largest to the smallest medical technology innovators and companies. For more information, visit www.advamed.org.