As I mentioned in an earlier post, this weekend I attended Medtronic’s first Internet forum in sunny Lausanne. This was my first in-person encounter with Big Pharma and while I would dearly love like to report that Medtronic are evil, cruel to infants and regularly drown puppies (especially as I know they will be reading this!) they did in fact seem to be very genuine and interested in what us mere patient-scum had to say.
As you’ll know from my wonderful updates on Shoot Up’s new twitter feed, I arrived on Friday and met up with Mike from everyone’s second favourite Spanish diabetes website and Yoan – everyone’s second favourite eMarketing Specialist from Medtronic – for a spot of lunch and a tour of sunny Lausanne. Yoan was very patient, given he had to put with Mike and I for an afternoon (Medtronic clearly don’t pay him enough to put up with that kind of crap) and he let me have a go on his fancy new iPad (possession of which demonstrates that he’s clearly paid far too much by Medtronic).
Anyway, we headed back to the hotel and met up with the rest of the delegates and Medtronic’s great and good for a spot of dinner. As usual with these sorts of things, the chat and discussion over a few glasses of wine was the best bit. It was very interesting to hear from our webby colleagues from around Europe and to have a chat / bitch (delete as applicable) about recalcitrant doctors, the availability of the latest equipment and all the other irritations of diabetes that appear to be all too common the world around. I did, however, feel slightly sorry for Justin – brand new to Medtronic and diabetes – who was given a very thorough and detailed crash course in the intricacies of living with a broken pancreas!
The next morning, after consuming a vast pile of carb-encrusted croissants, we headed off to Medtronic’s lair. While I was looking forward to being received in a hollowed out volcano or similar, we were driven to a fairly ordinary building on a non-descript Swiss light industrial estate. They did, however, have a turfed roof, which was exciting.
Anyway, getting into the meat and two veg of the forum, it quickly got interesting with details of the new equipment they’re developing and their plans for the future. We were, understandably, non-disclosure agreemented up to the max, so I can’t really tell you more than the fact that their next pump is nice and shiny. Going forward, they’re planning a whole bunch of incremental improvements across their range in an attempt to make life easier for us diabetics. Exciting though the equipment was, it was depressingly academic – due to the inevitable NHS waiting lists we probably won’t get our hands on any of this fancy new stuff until 2025 or so – a major and interesting feature of our discussions.
The day moved on with wide ranging conversations on what we patients thought of Medtronic and their products, what we liked about said company and products, what we hated about them, how they could better communicate with the diabetic masses and so on.
Either Medtronic staff are extremely good actors or they were very genuine and interested in what we patients had to say. They were very frank with us and quick to admit where they had been less than good. Given that all of the diabetic representatives in the forum have access to a large audience of potential customers, I thought that Medtronic were both refreshingly forward-thinking in soliciting our opinions as patients and also somewhat brave. As we all know, patients are very often at the bottom of the pile of priorities, so hats off to Medtronic for actually giving a toss and talking to us.
Finally, after much useful and informative discussion, the forum concluded with a tour of Medtronic’s facilities and we were privileged to have the first opportunity to see Medtronic’s brand new, 15,000sq ft state of the art puppy-drowning facility – now over 1,500 adorable, big brown-eyed Labrador puppies can be mercilessly drowned per day. Hurrah for Medtronic!