Meghan Scanlon, Boston Scientific’s president of urology and pelvic health, discusses the field and the challenges and opportunities ahead.
The urology specialty faces a critical moment, with 10 urologists ready to retire for every new urologist entering the field, said Meghan Scanlon, SVP and president of urology and pelvic health at Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX)
That puts the onus on medical device companies to develop faster, safer and more efficacious ways to break down kidney stones, shrink enlarged prostates and handle other critical treatments.
In an interview with our DeviceTalks Weekly Podcast, Scanlon laid out Boston Scientific’s plans to build a broad platform of scopes, imaging and AI to aid urologists.
Go to DeviceTalks.com to hear the entire conversation, including details of the company’s $1.1 billion acquisition of Lumenis’ surgical business. (We’ve edited the following excerpt for brevity and clarity.)
Why did you decide to join the medtech industry?
Scanlon: I’m a recovering mechanical engineer. In my previous life, I worked at the Gillette company designing razors, which is a remarkable job. I left Gillette to go to graduate school at MIT where I got my master’s in engineering and my MBA. That was the springboard to change industries. I graduated in 2000 when it was dot-com everything. Very few people were interested in healthcare but there was just something about helping people while still doing something technical still, even though I wasn’t planning to go back into an engineering profession.
What was your first job in medtech?
Scanlon: I spent 15 years with Johnson & Johnson in their sports medicine business. I held different roles in marketing, operations, finance, and then came to Boston scientific. I knew a couple of the leaders here, including our CEO, Mike Mahoney, and I made that jump seven years ago now. And I haven’t looked back since. It was a great move for me. I have one of the coolest jobs in the company. I have the honor of serving as the president of this division.
Most division leaders come from sales and marketing. You’re coming with an engineering background. Do you still draw on your engineering skills?
Scanlon: I love this question. I get asked it quite a bit. I will never, ever completely put my engineering skills behind me. The nice thing about medical devices is it’s very technical, both the biomechanics of the procedures that we’re doing as well as the biomechanics of how the devices work. The loads that they go under, the energy that is being deployed, it’s very technical. So my learning curve to understand the technical aspects of these procedures, of these devices and of what surgeons are trying to accomplish was quite quick. My technical foundation was poured in those early years in Gillette, but the rest of the house — the commercial part — has been built since 2000 when I joined Johnson & Johnson and it’s been, it’s been quite nice because I feel like it’s made me a very well-rounded business professional.
Urology has benefited from one of the fastest-growing technologies, single-use endoscopes. How does that fit into your business?
Scanlon: Boston Scientific created the first disposable flexible ureteroscope, LithoVue. I spent my first three and a half years at Boston Scientific working on our endoscopy business and was part of that device’s innovation journey. So I was delighted when I came over to urology and pelvic health to see the way LithoVue has just transformed the market. We launched that in 2017 and it continues to grow double digits for us. It is a huge growth driver.
How is it being received by the clinical community and what are the benefits?
Scanlon: First and foremost, it’s always ready. It’s always sterile. And urology is a specialty right now that has more demand than supply in terms of physician capacity. We’ve seen surgery centers that have moved completely to disposable ureteroscope because of just the efficiency benefit of how they’re able to run their clinical practice. It absolutely outweighs the reprocessing burden. Second, the device always works. To get at kidney stones you must torque these devices into some tight radius bends again and again. When you multiply that across many surgeries for reusable scopes, sometimes if your reusable scope is in its later stages of needing to be serviced, the last thing you want is to have to swap out a reusable scope because it can’t make that tortuous curve. So what we have found is that in complex cases, a disposable ureteroscope like LithoVue is always game-time ready.
What has happened technically that allowed for the creation of disposable scopes that have the functionality of a reusable scope for a much lower cost?
Scanlon: It’s a remarkable engineering feat, right? To be able to sell disposable scopes for a price in the low thousands of dollars (compared to $30,000 or $50,000) is incredible. If you look at the heritage of Boston Scientific, we are the masters of long catheter-based technologies, guidewires, etc. So it’s very much in our core competency. Also, imaging chains used to be the most expensive part 10 or 15 years ago. But the cost of the digital imaging chain and chips have come down so much that now so much of the complexity is really in just the precision engineering to be able to get working channels, aspiration channels, the steer wires, and all the knobs down to these small seven-, nine-French devices. But we have a legacy of developing long, skinny, sophisticated devices. But it’s a pretty great engineering feat. You get a chance to see how innovation can truly transform the way care is delivered.
Are you concerned about the global shortage of chips?
Scanlon: We have an incredible global supply chain organization. That’s done a lot to get us a secure supply base for the chips that we need. It’s obviously something we continue to stay close to.
Where will urology be in five years? What technologies will change the game?
Scanlon: We are facing a critical impasse in urology. Twelve percent of the population is going to have kidney stone disease at some point in their life. This onslaught of patient demand is not getting matched with the number of urologists. That means we’ve got to make sure we are making these procedures more efficient, more predictable, and more available to help patients. We want to create a comprehensive ecosystem of technology platforms. For example, LithoVue is a beautiful imaging device. We’re leap-frogging ourselves at the end of this year with a scope that now allows you to monitor and measure pressure in the kidney. Because when you’re in there doing a lot of work in the kidney, you’re adding fluid, you’re adding energy and the pressures can be highly variable. We want to basically be able to provide a pressure speedometer, if you will, to the physician. We also want to track fluid and monitor the energy source, the laser fiber. How do you modulate your energy source based on what you see? Kidney stones are not all the same. Some stones are soft, some are hard, some are small, some are enormous. We’re developing an interconnected ecosystem, which we’re calling intelligent intrarenal surgery, where each of these platforms — whether it be scope, fluid management or laser — can work on their own with meaningful clinical advantage. Then, we are going to work to be connecting that ecosystem through something called Stone Cloud, which allows these systems to talk to one another with the aim of speed, predictability, efficiency and improved clinical outcomes.