What Is the Medical Device Industry?

Kristie Lorette

The medical device industry supplies equipment and machines to the health care and medical industries. Some purposes for the machines and equipment include patient care, surgery, diagnosis and therapy. The medical device industry manufactures and distributes supplies that range from tongue depressors to X-ray machines. Generally, there are four primary players in the medical device industry: manufacturers, distributors, users and consumers.

The medical device industry distributes walking canes.
The medical device industry distributes walking canes.

The manufacturers are the companies that actually create and build the medical devices. Generally, a medical device company specializes in one type of machine. This is especially true for the more expensive units. Other medical device manufacturers specialize in categories, so they may manufacturer all heart-related medical devices. For smaller medical items, such as cotton swabs and tongue depressors, one manufacturer may supply a variety of items.

Hospital beds can be purchased through a medical supply house for home use.
Hospital beds can be purchased through a medical supply house for home use.

The manufacturers in the medical device industry build the machines, but tend to depend on distributors or sales people to sell the devices to the users. Some distributors may be medical device stores or pharmacies, where the retail store buys directly from the manufacturer. This tends to be for walking canes, walkers, hospital beds and other items that a consumer may buy directly from a store or pharmacy.

X-ray machines and high-end equipment that hospitals and doctors use are typically sold through a sales representative or distributor. These professionals have accounts that they visit on a regular basis to present the equipment or medical device that they are selling. The representative demonstrates the use of the equipment and tries to sell it to the hospital or doctor’s office.

After the hospital or doctor’s office purchases the equipment, the representative may even train the staff on how to use it. The users in the medical device industry tend to be medical and health care professionals. These are the customers in the industry that have their hands on the machine and are using the machines and equipment to perform their job duties, typically on a daily basis.

The final category in the medical device industry is the consumer. In the healthcare industry, these are the patients that need the machines for diagnosis, surgery, therapy or some other form of patient care. The users of the medical devices must have patients in order to put the equipment and machinery to good use.

Some experts even divide the medical device industry into two regions: European and United States. This is because there are some medical devices that become available in one region, but are not yet available in another. Primarily, this is due to the standards and guidelines that are set by the bodies in each region that govern the manufacturing and distribution of medical devices and equipment.

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