BIOMEDevice had a particularly distinguished guest this year, brought to you by MassMEDIC: Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker. I made sure to secure a seat long before he arrived so I could hear him properly and snap a few (unfortunately blurry, because my phone’s camera is terrible) pictures. But nonetheless…
Governor Baker has a surprisingly extensive healthcare background for a representative—he had previously been the President of Harvard & Pilgrim Healthcare for ten years. As a result, he had quite a few interesting things to say about Massachusetts’ involvement in medical technology as well as the business landscape overall.
Governor Baker opened with a few glowing words about the fertile landscape for medtech development Massachusetts (and Boston, particularly) provides because of its wealth of universities and range of medtech startups and corporations. He then expressed his disdain for the Medical Device Tax, one of the provisions to the Affordable Care Act, saying he’d like to “get rid of the device tax once and for all” and that it was a “bet [he] would have taken that the device tax of the ACA would be reconsidered.”
He continues to be correct, because the device tax has still been suspended.
Governor Baker had a number of practical things to say regarding the regulatory landscape, which as we all know is one of the biggest hurdles manufacturers face in getting a medical device to market. He emphasized particularly that the regulatory landscape should be reworked periodically, “much like cleaning out the basement every so often,” he added with a laugh.
But what stood out the most about Governor Baker’s address was the optimism he showed for the digital health initiative. He believes that it has significant consequences for personalized healthcare, and supports facilities that will invest in data analytics and technology development. “It will completely change the way we view devices and diagnostics,” he said.
His main reason for supporting the digital health initiative is the belief that healthcare currently takes a binary approach—you have to fit neatly into an illness category to receive the proper treatment. Because of this approach, he added, health problems, especially those related to chronic illnesses, aren’t addressed until a crisis arises.
Governor Baker suggests that health issues, especially those arising from chronic ailments, should be addressed while they’re “trending negative,” (i.e., with enough time before an adverse event occurs) citing connected wearable health monitoring devices and analytical software as a potential starting point for proactive treatment. “Not only can we tackle problems before they become crises,” he said, “it can also save patients quite a bit of money.”
While the outlook of digital health movement looks good with Governor Baker at the helm, he also urged patience:
“If you follow the digital health initiative in the short-term, you won’t be impressed,” he added. “But it will eventually allow a more rigorous approach to health than ever before, and will completely change the way healthcare can relate to patients.”
After an outing like that, I would pay close attention to Massachusetts legislation regarding digital health. Let’s hope the rest of the U.S. follows Governor Baker’s lead!