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Medical Equipment Manufacturing


The medical equipment and device manufacturing industry (often referred to as the medtech industry or medical devices industry) designs and manufactures a wide range of medical products that diagnose, monitor, and treat diseases and conditions that affect humans. These products range from inexpensive tools, such as tongue depressors, to complex, multimillion-dollar systems, such as magnetic resonance imaging systems. Other examples include pacemakers, stethoscopes, replacement joints, hip implants, miniature robots that perform complex surgeries, synthetic skin, artificial hearts, scalpels, medical laboratory diagnostic instruments and test kits, patient management software, and software that is used as a component in a medical device.

Medical technology (also known as medtech) is used in hospitals, clinics, the offices of doctors and dentists, medical laboratories, outpatient treatment centers, and any other facility where patients are diagnosed and treated. Medical technology, along with pharmaceuticals and advances in public health (sanitation, safety, etc.), has improved the quality and length of human life. As a result of these developments, average life expectancy in the United States increased from 47 years in 1900 to nearly 79 years in 2020.

Although medical instruments have been used since the beginning of human history, the modern medical equipment manufacturing industry traces its origins to the mid 19th century. At that time the medical profession became more regulated and physicians and other medical professionals sought more consistency and reliability in medical instruments and equipment. Of the thousands of medical device companies in the United States, more than 80 percent of them employ 50 or fewer workers, according to SelectUSA.

Ernst & Young reported that all publicly traded medtech companies are classified as belonging to one of five product groups: imaging technology, non-imaging diagnostics, research and other equipment, therapeutic devices, and other (products that do not fit in any of the other categories). The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Devices and Radiological Health regulates all medical technology ranging from bandages and splints to high-tech devices.

At $156 billion, the U.S. medical device market was the world's largest at the end of the decade, with a global market share of about 40 percent, according to SelectUSA. The industry and the market for its products have experienced some challenges in recent years. Following enactment of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, a medical device tax of 2.3 percent on all medical manufacturing dampened growth and profits. Congress placed a two-year moratorium on the tax in 2015. A brief lapse proceeded another moratorium during 2018 and 2019. After being repealed by both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, the tax was officially eliminated as part of a bipartisan federal spending package that President Donald Trump signed in December 2019.

Opportunities are available in this industry for people with all educational backgrounds. About 40 percent of workers surveyed by Medical Product Outsourcing magazine in October 2019 reported “bachelor’s degree” as the highest educational level they had achieved. Another 26 percent had a master’s degree. A total of 18 percent had a doctorate, 7 percent had an associate’s degree, and 5 percent were high school graduates.