There had to be a strong reason to draw cardiac products industry veteran Paul Kelly out of comfortable retirement after stepping away from the industry in 2015. In fact, there were two.
Firstly, being invited to consult to Hydrix providing insights into the cardiac products market reignited a passion for the industry he had recently left. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, he had recently had a heart attack. Insights from this event helped him realise that he had unfinished business in improving patient experiences and outcomes.
Paul was initially engaged by Hydrix, a leading developer of medical devices, to guide the introduction of a cardiac monitoring device into Asia-Pacific markets. This role rapidly expanded to encompass management of Hydrix’s Cardiac Products Division, exploring new product and market opportunities and more recently, being appointed chair of Hydrix’s Medical Advisory Board, a role for which he is eminently qualified.
“With more than 40 years’ experience in the cardiac industry there aren’t many people in high places I don’t know.” he said. “If we are working on a product where we need to analyse/assess the clinical application, the commercial applications, the health economics, I can assemble a team who can make sure that the paths we pursue are appropriate, not just for our health system, but for multi-jurisdictional health systems.”
A career in cardiac innovation
Paul’s career commenced with a nursing role at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne where he became involved in neurosurgery and cardiac surgery. He left to pursue a MedTech career, first with artificial organ specialist Travenol Laboratories, later to become Baxter Travenol, and then to Medtronic (Australasia) where he lead Asia Pacific distribution. It was here while managing a portfolio of products including cardiac pacemakers, heart valves and implantable nerve stimulators, that Paul identified a market need. His partner, Dr. Harry Mond, had need for a Holter monitor, a portable device for ambulatory cardiac monitoring, but was frustrated by endless delays in gaining access to a device through the public health system, which for the most part was the only way of obtaining this test in 1984.
Paul’s insight was that if this was his friend’s experience, it would be many others’ experience too. After purchasing a Holter monitoring system, Paul’s next innovative step was to identify and develop a novel distribution model, partnering with a large, established pathology company. This gave Paul instant access to doctors, and the pathology company a new revenue stream.
Cardioscan was born, initially providing Holter monitoring services, then expanding to ambulatory blood pressure monitoring and ECG analysis for cardiologists and GPs. By the time Paul sold Cardioscan, it had grown into a substantial network of 3,000 collection centres Australia-wide, providing ECGs for reporting with an average turnaround time of 45 minutes, 24-hour ambulatory BP monitoring.
Beyond Cardioscan Paul has been involved in game changing innovation throughout his career. We asked him to identify his top three innovations:
“I was there at the very beginning of angioplasty and coronary stents, which were a quantum change for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. I was at Getz for 16 years and this was the biggest MedTech advance they introduced. Prior to this, everyone was doomed to have their chest cut open. It then became a small puncture in the groin, and everything was, and still is, done by catheter in the coronary arteries. It really has revolutionised the treatment of coronary artery disease.”
Number two on this list is the Amplatz system, a device used for closing atrial septal defect, a common congenital heart defects found in infants. Paul was instrumental in launching this in Australia while at Getz. “We were able to deliver a closure system, again through the groin, and go back up into the heart and deploy the system. So successful has this been that there are almost no surgical closures of hole-in-the-heart done in Australia anymore.”
“Grafts such as endoluminal grafts are used for the treatment of aortic aneurysms allowing surgeons to ‘re-sleeve’ the aorta, using a catheter mounted system delivered via the groin. Similar to coronary stents these systems preclude the necessity for major open surgery in many patients. Instead of needing months to recover and extensive hospitalisation the patient can go home in a few days and within a short period of time resume normal activities”.
So, how does someone with 40 years cardiac experience have a heart attack and not know it for two days?
“Yes, it’s true, and even harder to explain when you consider I have a daughter who was a cardiac nurse and a son-in-law who is a cardiologist. Self-diagnosing a heart attack is difficult. You make excuses, you put it down to something else. I assumed my discomfort was due to an injury I thought I’d suffered doing some gardening.”
“And maybe that event, and my inability to identify my medical emergency, is the key element that drew me out of retirement! Our first cardiac product for distribution, the AngelMed Guardian, is an implanted device that will warn at-risk people like myself of an impending Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) event, which includes heart attacks and unstable angina. It removes the uncertainty, and more importantly, it will alert you to a silent heart attack, an event where there are none or very mild symptoms.
“Developed and manufactured by Angel Medical Systems, the Guardian device would have been ideal for someone like me. If I could have had a Guardian System beforehand, I might've been able to just have an angioplasty and avoided a heart-attack altogether."
“I guess it’s these sorts of advances in medical technology that keep me engaged. It is just fascinating, and I love being able to contribute in bringing new products to market that will help save a life.”
Hydrix develops innovative medical devices and technologies for markets including cardiac, wearables, monitoring, neurostimulation and orthopedics. Clients choose Hydrix for its technical know-how and ability to offer the complete development journey, from blank sheet of paper to product distribution (APAC). This comprehensive offering is augmented with in-house specialists to guide clients in quality systems establishment and strategy, regulatory approvals and clinical trials strategy and guidance. Hydrix is valued by clients for its collaborative approach and strong commercial focus.