By Scott Meacham
This second column in our series with Oklahoma thought leaders discussing the short- and long-term effects of the COVID pandemic is a from-the-trenches view of the pandemic’s impact on the medical industry.
Dr. Ryan Dennis is an Oklahoma physician, inventor, and entrepreneur. He is the co-founder and CEO of Linear Health Sciences, an Oklahoma-based company preparing to launch the Orchid SRV, a device designed to address dislodgement and disconnection of intravenous (IV) catheters in patients in most clinical settings worldwide. We have worked with Dr. Dennis and Linear Health since he co-founded the company; his perspective is unique.
Ryan is a practicing physician. He is a successful entrepreneur (with the multi-million dollar backing of a cadre of venture capitalists including lead investor i2E Management Company, Inc.) battling through final FDA approval for the groundbreaking Orchid SRV. And he is a dedicated and compassionate hospitalist in the front-line battle against COVID.
And his view on how the pandemic will change the practice of medicine?
“Telemedicine will continue to grow,” Dr. Dennis said, “especially in a state like Oklahoma with a hub and spoke healthcare model and a rural geography. From an entrepreneurial view, there is a huge upside for telemedicine applications. This pandemic has created an interesting shift. There won’t be the same resistance to change. With a new generation coming up with only virtual communications and adults having reasons not to be around people, telemedicine is going to build new efficiencies into healthcare.”
For medical devices and new therapies, how has the pandemic changed the way the FDA operates? “Everything at the FDA is being prolonged and extended,” he says. “If the statute says within 75 days, it is going to be on day 75 at 4:50 p.m.”
COVID-related therapies will continue to receive top priority and resources. That and remote operations will likely impact the FDA pipeline for all other projects for months and years.
“We have to adjust to a new virtual reality,” Ryan said. “We are doing Zoom calls about the future of our company with 20 people and we can’t see the faces of the people we are talking to. The FDA is not working on campus, so if we want to do a simple thing like send samples for them to have in hand for review meetings, there is nowhere to send them.”
And the COVID front-line battle, what is the impact on the medical industry?
“In Oklahoma, we are seeing a surge in the disease as a result of reopening and a stubborn population,” Dr. Dennis said. “The stubborn mentality of a 2-year old is part of what makes us great. I do not have a problem with free thinking, but at some point, we have to listen to adult wisdom and rational thinking.”
Treating a COVID patient, is as stressful as treating five other patients. “A day feels like a week,” he said. “That’s everyone from physicians, to nurses, to all the other workers in a hospital as cases here explode.”
Ryan’s recommendation for the future? “Elevate the science,” he said. “That is what I do as a hospitalist. I take advice from cardiology, hematology, and gastro, and then make the best decision for the patient, balancing the risk and the benefit.”
Venture capitalists invest in technology, but, as importantly, we invest in entrepreneurs. I have learned over the years to listen. Successful entrepreneurs tend to know what they are talking about.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.