Medical Device Industry And Competitive Intelligence

While it is often a challenge to find instrument-specific information, other areas of the medical device industry are well covered in the business and news literature. Advances in medical technology are happening at a phenomenal pace. Most medical devices are only about two years old, and devices are usually obsolete after five years. Health-care consumers are increasingly involved in making their own treatment decisions. In addition, the medical device industry is dominated by about seventeen large, well-funded companies who control 65% of the device market. These companies in particular regularly publish news releases about earnings reports, product launches, clinical trial results, and newly-hired executives. Major business newspapers and magazines often include articles on the medical device industry, its executives, and new technologies.

A bigger challenge is finding detailed information on private and start-up companies. Such companies are not required to file detailed financial reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), although they are subject to the same regulatory requirements as public companies. And because reporting requirements and data collection vary widely by country, finding reliable information on international (non-U.S.) companies is often difficult. A few venture capital resources are available to provide some information on device start-ups, and can be good sources for obtaining the history of an established company that started out in venture funding.

Another challenge to comprehensive competitive intelligence (CI) work is simply to identify the relevant competitors. As the device market becomes increasingly lucrative, companies already established in other industries are applying their technologies to this area. The traditional news and specialty publications may not pick up on these companies' movements ahead of time, as they too often rely on already published material.

Several publishers devote themselves solely to medical technology, while others provide broader coverage of the field. Such publications, including industry-specific newsletters, association publications, trade magazines, focused reports on specific companies, industry sectors, and countries, and market reports, are excellent sources for CI.

Other resources important to CI work regardless of industry include patents, analyst reports, SEC filings, Dun & Bradstreet and other credit/financial reports, and news. Patents are a key resource in CI, providing clues to a given company's technological focus. Tracing the patents of a particular inventor, along with the assignees of those patents, often yields clues to the areas of interest pursued by a potential competitor. Patents are also important to R&D and licen-sing/acquistion teams. In order to avoid patent infringement, a careful review of both issued patents and patent applications is required before developing or modifiying a product, or acquiring a company or technology. More details about patents and patent databases are included in the "Technology" section of this chapter.

Industry analyst reports provide insight into a company's financial situation and will often discuss specific products or markets in which the company is involved and will provide comparable information on their competitors. Sometimes included are predictions of a company's future plans or likelihood for success. Industry analysts who cover companies in the device industry can be identified from the many Web-based financial sites or from an aggregator such as Intelliscope®.

Monitoring news sources is another good way to keep abreast of recent industry and company events. PR Newswire, Business Wire, and Reuters Health are among the business wires with good medical technology coverage. Lexis-Nexis and Factiva are examples of widely used online news databases covering a large number of sources. News aggregators, such as NewsEdge, compile information from a variety of sources, and many will deliver these to your desktop in real-time or daily updates. Some may offer special services, such as a customized news-feed specific to your information requirements. Major business newspapers and magazines also provide news and analysis of medical technologies and companies. Some of the best are the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Financial Times, Business Week, and Forbes. A more detailed discussion of other sources not specific to medical devices and combination products is beyond the scope of this chapter.

Given the diverse types of information "pieces" necessary to perform a comprehensive CI review, the challenge for the information specialist is to cast the net widely. Be creative in considering the best sources to use. Become familiar with the language of the many disciplines involved in medical devices and drug delivery, and explore specialty publications and associations which cover these topics. Search regional and international news publications ... you may just find out about a new invention being developed in someone's garage in Budapest!

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