Edwards Lifesciences’ expertise in cardiovascular technology is highly specialized but essential for patients. The company focuses on treating critical conditions and diseases such as aortic stenosis, an unrecognized and undertreated, yet deadly, noncommunicable disease. In Asia, as few as around 2-3% of patients receive lasting treatment in the form of a heart valve replacement.
“Around 50% of patients who are diagnosed with severe symptomatic aortic stenosis will pass away within two years if they don’t receive treatment,” says Erik Ramp, director of commercial management at Edwards Lifesciences Taiwan. “That’s why we put our effort into this narrow space and hire really bright engineers and clinically minded professionals to work with doctors and medical staff.”
The company’s founder, Miles “Lowell” Edwards, invented the first commercial mechanical heart valve in 1958. Since then, Edwards has dedicated itself to fulfilling the unmet needs of patients with cardiovascular diseases and other critical conditions. By maintaining a precise focus and an innovative spirit, Edwards has made its advanced transcatheter heart valve devices the most widely studied heart valves in the world.
Edwards’ emphasis on innovation is also reflected in its investments in R&D. In a typical fiscal year, the company invests between 16-18% of its sales back into R&D – substantially more than the Big 100 medical device companies’ average R&D expenditures of around 13%.
Since Ramp joined the company six years ago, it has grown from around 8,000 to 15,000 employees globally, a trend that the company expects to continue. The recruitment process, Ramp notes, is centered on finding people who share the company’s patient-focused mindset.
“When we hire, we look for people who identify with the mission of the company and want to make a change,” says Ramp. “We want them to be excited about helping patients beyond just getting a paycheck. At Edwards, we don’t only talk about patients – we also ensure that our employees, regardless of their position, get the chance to meet patients and hear their stories.”
Edwards’ Taiwan office was established in 2000 and has been a top performer among the company’s 100 global branches for several years. Ramp notes several factors that make Taiwan an ideal market for Edwards. The first is patient needs – most patients that require the company’s products are over the age of 65, and with Taiwan on its way to becoming a super-aged society, the demand for Edwards’ products will continue to rise.
Additionally, as a highly innovative company, Edwards seeks well-functioning partnerships with insurance providers and is most successful in countries with health insurance coverage for new technology. But the most important factor for Edwards’ success in Taiwan is the many highly qualified doctors and healthcare talents on the island.
“We’ve found that many people here identify with our patient-first culture, so finding talent in Taiwan has never been an issue,” says Ramp. “In fact, many Taiwanese employees are now taking on regional roles in the APAC region.”
The Taiwan team’s patient-focused mindset was put into action in May during a spike in COVID-19 cases on the island. While the staff was working from home under Level 3 pandemic restrictions, daily cases reached several hundred, and deaths were recorded in the double digits.
“Our critical care team couldn’t go into the hospitals, but they knew from experience in other parts of the world that there was a real use for our critical care monitor devices among COVID-19 patients,” says Ramp.
The team partnered with Dr. Ching-Cheng Ho at LandSeed Hospital in Taoyuan to collect evidence of the importance of advanced hemodynamic monitoring to control fluid levels, administer medications and ensure that organs are properly perfused. They then organized educational webinars for other physicians in Taiwan and shared the information with the Taiwan Society of Critical Care Medicine.
“When 28 of the most critically ill patients were transferred from northern Taipei to Taichung Veterans General Hospital, nine of them were intubated,” says Ramp. “Dr. Chieh-Liang Wu at the hospital reached out to us because they lacked monitors, so we cut through a lot of red tape to transfer our units. In the end, all of the patients on our monitors recovered without complications.”
As for the future, Edwards Lifesciences plans to expand its business in Taiwan and bring solutions that utilize AI technology. Ramp stresses that new technology can make a vital difference in medicine, noting that the company has already developed AI that continually monitor and predict within 15 minutes if a patient’s blood pressure will drop to dangerous levels, potentially damaging kidneys and other vital organs. .
“Evaluating AI as a technology for managing patients is a big challenge among regulators,” he says. “So we’re happy to see openness to discussion and willingness to partner with industry on these types of topics in Taiwan. I think that’s why Taiwan remains such a favorable environment for us to continue to build our business.”