The conference

Deep in the heart of Silicon Valley, MedtechWOMEN launched the 2023 MedtechVISION conference at the Rosewood Sand Hill in Menlo Park, California. The theme: Driving Health Equity. The focus was on the state of innovation to help address persistent disparities in healthcare access and outcomes. To find ways to ensure that all women get the right treatment they need, at the right time, period.

The conference was a logistical balance of live and livestream. The conference sold out its 250 participant seats at the venue; a livestream for another 1,200 dedicated medtech professionals and advocates expanded the conference’s capacity and reach. 

The backdrop

A person’s ZIP code can be a better predictor of their health outcomes than their genetic code. In some cities, the average life expectancy of some people can be 20-30 years shorter than for people living just a few ZIP codes away. Social determinants of health, such as access to care, labor market conditions and environmental factors, can play a huge role in both physical and mental health. 

At the 2023 MedtechVISION conference, panelists focused on some of the ways we can drive the healthcare system more toward health equity. The goal was to foster an open dialogue on how we can work together to address disparities in healthcare, especially for women.  

Women who are patients often find their conditions or complaints ignored, diminished or, amazingly, explained away. The situation is worse for women who are not white, straight and/or upper middle class — and the healthcare outcomes can be that much worse. Medical innovation (and some industrywide education) has the potential to eliminate persistent disparities in healthcare, in terms of both access and outcome. 

The co-chairs of the conference, Lisa Carmel and Stephanie Jones, emphasized the need to understand the difference between equality and equity: 

  • Equality: The healthcare system gives people the ability to get access to the same resources or opportunities. 

  • Equity: The healthcare system recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the resources necessary to reach an outcome equal to that of other patients. 

Carmel and Jones gave conference attendees an ongoing assignment: to drive health equity in their part of the healthcare world. 

Patient keynote: Advocate for yourself 

It’s impossible to adequately capture the pain and passion in Hafeezah Muhammad’s story, but we can try to share her key learnings. Her story of right place/right time and wrong place/wrong time brought the audience to tears. 

Keynote speaker Muhammad shared her personal story of what happens when you’re in the wrong ZIP code and doctors don’t listen — even when you know you know your body best. Muhammad founded and leads Backpack Healthcare, which helps connect children and their families to mental healthcare.  

Muhammad was pregnant and living in Utah when she went to see an obstetrician. She had a history of miscarriages and wanted to bring this pregnancy to term. As it turned out, the doctor also saw her sisters as patients. The doctor made the connection, examined Muhammad and determined that she had an incompetent cervix — a condition in which the cervix won’t stay closed during a pregnancy, thereby inducing a miscarriage. 

There was a relatively simple solution: The doctor performed a rescue cerclage, stitching Muhammad’s cervix closed and putting her on bed rest so the baby could fully develop. Muhammad delivered a healthy baby boy. 

Her next pregnancy a few years later was in a different ZIP code, this time in Maryland. She had started bleeding, so she went to a doctor. The doctor immediately said Muhammad was having a miscarriage and recommended a dilation and curettage, or D&C. Muhammad was shocked; the doctor didn’t seem even to have considered any other option. Muhammad implored the doctor not to give up, to consider a rescue cerclage. The doctor said the baby wasn’t viable and scheduled the D&C for two days later. 

Do you think Muhammad showed up for that D&C? She did not. She went out and found a doctor who would listen to her, got a rescue cerclage and had a healthy baby girl. After the birth of her third child, Muhammad’s doctor did something that’s a notable example of health equity: He sent her home with a blood pressure cuff to monitor her blood pressure daily. This was far more convenient, for both Muhammad and her doctor, than making her go to the doctor’s office every day (with a newborn). What a practical — and equitable — plan! 

Muhammad’s takeaways: 

  • Lead with empathy 

  • It’s OK to be vulnerable 

  • Ask questions; advocate for yourself 

  • Healthcare professionals: Listen to your patients — they know themselves best 

Panel discussion: Invest in women 

One panel at the conference focused on the need to improve women’s healthcare. Women face unique health concerns, such as breast cancer, cervical cancer, menopause and pregnancy. But women face health concerns beyond reproductive health. Female patients are more susceptible to heart attack deaths, depression and anxiety than their male counterparts, and their symptoms present differently than those of men. And yet women’s health is still an underfinanced area of healthcare investment. 

In the area of venture capital (VC) funding, the panel observed that women entrepreneurs garner less than 3% of VC dollars. Black entrepreneurs in general get only 2%. But Black women entrepreneurs ultimately lay claim to a paltry 0.35%. The panel also called for equity in entrepreneurial exploration in the way VC firms interact with women entrepreneurs versus men. VC firms frequently ask men about the upside of a venture; with women entrepreneurs, they frequently ask about the risks. This bias (conscious or unconscious) makes a huge difference in fundraising. The panel urged VC firms to ask women the same questions they ask men. 


  • Women’s health involves more than reproductive health issues 

  • Get more women into trials for better demographic representation 

  • Women know their bodies best; listen to them 

  • Women’s health issues affect more than just women themselves; they affect families, employers, communities 

Ferolyn Powell Leadership Award: The heart of the matter 

Julie Tyler, senior vice president of Abbott’s vascular business, was MedtechWOMEN’s recipient of the Ferolyn Powell Leadership Award for her work in advancing awareness of cardiovascular disease in women — the No. 1 killer of women in the U.S. Tyler works to advance diversity in the clinical trial space, encouraging the participation of diverse doctors, diverse clinical investigators and diverse patients. Her work has become a blueprint for expanding access to underserved populations. 

Tyler left conferencegoers with a few key points as food for thought: 

  • Only 56% of women recognize that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women 

  • Personal stories can have more impact than statistics 

  • Challenge the status quo to advance diversity — among trial participants, investigators and doctors 

  • Remember that everything that happens in medtech ties back to a patient, a family, a community; it’s not just widgets — it’s people

Panel discussion: Importance of inclusive design 

The panel on driving inclusive design as the gold standard for healthcare looked at the state of medtech solutions and how the medtech industry can better serve patients. Panel members pointed out that the best path to health equity is to incorporate inclusive design at the conception stage — before the design process even begins. The panel pointed to the case of the pulse oximeter, which measures a person’s oxygen saturation through a sensor placed on the patient’s fingertip. 

Initially, the device worked fine on people with lighter skin but gave inaccurate readings on people with darker skin tones. Eventually the devices were refined to get accurate readings across a full range of skin tones. The lesson here is that by incorporating inclusive design early in the process, medtech companies can design products that serve a much broader patient population — and save themselves expensive retrofitting and redesign.  


  • To achieve inclusive design, medtech must make it a top priority 

  • At the end of the day, we all are or will be patients 

  • Workplace diversity transforms into product diversity 

  • Recruit experts in specific areas to help design for health equity 

Executive interview: The role of medtech in healthcare equity

Jyoti Gupta, president and CEO of Women’s Health & X-Ray, GE HealthCare, is confident that medtech can go a long way to getting us to healthcare equity. She shared her vision of the future of healthcare: 

  • Personalized medicine: getting the right diagnosis and the right treatment to the right patient at the right time 

  • Decentralization: moving from acute hospital settings to wherever the patient is, including primary care, a local clinic or the patient’s home 

  • Healthcare needs to become more preventive and proactive rather than reactive and acute 

  • Synergy of medtech and consumer tech will result in better products 

Gupta said social aspects largely determine health equity: income, education, nutrition, housing. When hiring, medtech companies should draw from a diverse pool of candidates. This, she said, will lift society as a whole and contribute to the resolution of health equity issues. 

Gupta said AI (artificial intelligence) will also play a role in healthcare by fulfilling several roles: 

  • Reducing the administrative burden on healthcare providers 

  • Helping with diagnosis and treatment 

  • Contributing to product development of connected devices 

Beyond that, AI could contribute to virtual clinical trials, help draft regulatory submissions, automate legal contracts, and create sales and marketing content. All this technical support can translate into more time for the patient — a win-win. 

Biggest challenges with using AI in healthcare: 

  • Trust 

  • Transparency 

  • Reproducibility 

  • Bias 

Panel discussion: Better healthcare access = better ROI 

There seems to be no incentive for insurance companies to invest in health equity. Data on disabled, sick and underrepresented patient populations indicates they’re a risk to insurance companies, so the companies would rather limit their healthcare utilization. Where do you find the intersection of better healthcare access and return on investment (ROI)? In strong clinical outcomes. 

When medtech companies can show the benefit, the insurance companies can benefit as well. But it’s a delicate dance of developing medtech that insurance companies will pay for, designing for the lowest possible cost to still make a profit. 

There are several other points for medtechs to consider in their quest for acceptable ROI: 

  • Investing in women and diverse teams actually increases ROI for companies 

  • For health equity, design for the world in between the most and least affluent 

  • Underserved populations are not necessarily socioeconomically disadvantaged 

  • The best patient advocates in the medtech field are the people working in the medtech field 

Parting thoughts

Driving to health equity is not a small problem, and it won’t be easy to solve. Everyone who works in the medtech space, from manufacturing to marketing, R&D to distribution, startups to long-standing institutions, can make an impact. 


  • Don’t treat health access like a niche plan; make it part of your main business plan. If you embed it into the cost of doing business, it just becomes part of doing business. 

  • Talk about diversity and inclusivity in the workplace, even if it’s uncomfortable. 

  • Stop calling women’s health issues “just” women’s health issues; women’s health affects everyone around them. 

  • Statistics are great, but you need to interpret them in context. Who is included? Who is excluded? What works? What’s missing? 

  • When developing products, remember the human element. 

MedtechWOMEN and MedtechVISION 2024 

MedtechWOMEN is focused on highlighting and promoting underrepresented medtech leaders, inclusive of all races, ethnicities and gender identities. We aim to connect, educate and inspire leaders who will develop solutions for the future of medtech.  

As we work toward our vision of a time when medtech leaders represent the diversity of our served populations, we are excited to continue the conversations at MedtechVISION 2024.  

We hope you can join us on September 10, 2024! 

For more information about the state of medtech, visit L.E.K. Consulting’s Healthcare Insights Center

L.E.K. Consulting is a registered trademark of L.E.K. Consulting LLC. All other products and brands mentioned in this document are properties of their respective owners. © 2024 L.E.K. Consulting LLC

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