In this episode of the Beyond the Shelf: Product & Packaging Podcast, Laura Foti spoke with Rod Patch, a longtime veteran in the medical device space, about the importance of keeping medical devices safe – and effective – through packaging.
For many of us, a trip to the hospital can be an overwhelming experience – it certainly was for me.
Just last week, at about this time, I was being rolled out to the recovery room at Cedars-Sinai hospital after a cardiac ablation.
I felt a lot better knowing there were a lot of people who thought about how all the instruments and equipment used in my procedure were packaged.
That’s where Rod Patch comes in.
To the uninitiated, a lot of work goes into packaging medical devices. The need for a sterile barrier to insure that everything used in a patient is safe is extremely important. And given that medical devices range from contact lenses, to joint replacements, and pretty much anything you can think of, it’s a tremendous responsibility.
For almost 30 years, Patch has led packaging engineering at Johnson & Johnson, across divisions ranging from vision care to surgical vision and medical devices.
I’ve known Rod for a few years now and I can honestly say I felt better knowing he was likely behind the scenes – and behind the packaging – that was most likely used for my procedure.
Below are some highlights from our conversation – you can listen to the full audio on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Soundcloud. And be sure to subscribe to our channel to get the latest episodes as soon as they drop.
On the variety of medical devices
“So I've had the joy and the pleasure of going through just about every single medical device business that J&J has either owned or still owns, and it's a wide range. And that's everything that we have in the orthopedic space. We have spinal devices. Ethicon sutures is a very well-known brand, and probably the leading brand in the suture space, and so that's a medical device as well. We also have some cardio projects and cardio products, and we had stents and shunts and all kinds of things that helped us give patients additional life. And we even have breast implants in our portfolio. Another medical device that I do like to talk about, and it's where I'm at with Vision, not only do we have intraocular lenses for cataract surgery, but we have one of the few medical devices in our portfolio that the consumer actually gets to select, purchase, open, and put the device on, and that's our contact lenses.”
On how eye care has evolved
“When we were doing reusable model contact lenses, some were monthlies and then some were every-two-week wear. So you needed 12 per eye or you needed 30 a year. Now you need 365 per eye. And so that has exasperated a lot of the volume of production that we need to maintain. The distribution model has also evolved for, customers want convenience, customers want to-their-door delivery, and you have a medical device that you, in the United States, can only get with a script. You have to go to a professional, get a script, get fitted, and then you have access to that product. But you can take your script, just like you can with glassware, and choose where I want to purchase that. You can do online purchasing. You can buy directly from manufacturers now. You can go right to acuvue.com and buy your contact lenses with a script. So the opportunities for finding and getting your contact lenses are multiple online models.”
On the importance of and scale of medical device manufacturing
“Internally, we like to think of our manufacturing lines on the scale of the investment that an airline company would make in an airplane. And when you're investing in a manufacturing line that's got that type of capital footprint, it needs to run. It needs to produce, and it needs to produce effectively, efficiently, and consistently. And so we cannot afford to not have lines producing products. That model has to work. And we could say this about almost any of your manufacturers, it's just the scale of investment is huge. And I use the airline analogy a little bit, because think about airplanes. You can't take them out of service. You can't afford to have them not doing their next leg, their next run. They have to continuously be flying to make the model of the financial investment work, and that's where this is. And then to compound that, we can't get the lines in fast enough for the demand that we see, that our customers are asking for in our products.”
On the changing regulatory landscape
“So I'll add to this, the landscape of regulatory requirements is getting tremendously more complex. And those requirements are putting demand on us to be able to have a product that is made for a global market and a global use, but cannot be delivered in a global packaging system without all these additional country-specific requirements being met. How do you do that? How do you do that efficiently? How do you do that in a way that's not wasteful? Those are very challenging problems for us right now.”
On the importance of digital specifications to medical device
“I'm here because I wholeheartedly believe in the mindset of having the specification right, okay? Love that tagline, love that mindset, love that approach. But it has to be in a format that's highly usable, it has to be highly configurable, and it has to be highly connected. I need to connect this data to more sources of truth than ever before, and I have more data fields to collect than ever before, okay? We gotta get out of the days of paper. We gotta get out of the days of thinking we can do this in Word, Excel, you name it. This has to be a database approach, with fields that allow me the opportunity to create the relationships with the data that I need to create. Such that I can show the evidence that we have the data and we can support the requirements.”