It would be difficult to come to a healthcare conference of any kind and not talk about overall trends – past, present and future. Ian Morrison, PhD, who bills himself as a “healthcare futurist,” was a plenary session speaker during Heart Rhythm 2005.

An author and consultant specializing in long-term forecasting and planning focused on healthcare, Morrison had good news to share for the device sector.

In a recent survey of American satisfaction of different industries, respondents placed “a very high value” on medical devices and equipment such as pacemakers and stents, Morrison said.

“People appreciate the value they get from devices,” he said. That’s certainly a positive given that public sentiment is completely opposite for pharmaceuticals. “Pharmaceutical companies are right up there with tobacco companies as the most despised in America,” he added.

While that news is encouraging, it should be taken with a grain of salt.

Morrison said people surveyed had a basic knowledge of pharmaceutical companies, their names and their products. Overall, the public doesn’t know many specifics about device companies.

“The general public has no clue who the device companies are,” he said. If they did, he predicted, their impression probably still would be more favorable than that for drug companies.

Morrison, a native of Scotland, who now lives in California, by way of Canada, noted: “Americans love technology and innovation.”

The love of technology comes with a price, he suggested. “Countries outside the U.S. have done fairly well when it comes to reducing costs,” he said. “This speaks to concerns about what we are getting for the enormous premiums we in the U.S. are paying, compared to other countries.”

He noted that much of the onus for driving change in the cost and delivery of healthcare will fall to consumers, and healthcare will have to respond as any industry would to stay in business and survive.

“As we shift more of the burden to consumers, delivering and demonstrating value will be increasingly important,” Morrison said. “The reasons Americans haven’t had a raise in the last 10 years, on average, is because so much extra is going toward healthcare.”

There has been three years of double-digit growth in insurance premiums. “That is an astonishing and unsustainable trend,” he said.

— Christopher Delporte, Washington Editor