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Beth McCombs joined BD two years ago because she was impressed by the company’s breadth and scope of its impact. 

Indeed, BD is a multinational medtech company with $20 billion in annual revenue across its medical, life sciences and interventional businesses in both American and international markets. The company produces 45 billion devices every year. As a technologist, she was won over by the 125-year-old company’s dedication to innovation and willingness to change. 


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“As I met the leadership in this organization, I saw a real passion for innovation and purpose for advancing the world of health. I also saw a boldness in reinventing the company over the last five years and bringing in new capabilities and software, like through the CareFusion acquisition. I really saw a desire for impact that matched what I wanted to do with next decade of my career. In particular, the focus on smart, connected devices to drive better outcomes intrigued me,” McCombs says. “It’s matched my expectations.”  

McCombs spoke with Health Evolution about how BD innovated and altered its strategy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the emergence of connected devices in health care, and the company’s outlook for 2022.  

How has BD innovated during the pandemic? What has changed about the way you’ve used innovation as a business strategy in the last two years? 

Certainly, through the COVID pandemic, BD’s role in health care became more apparent when we looked at getting the first molecular diagnostics to China and trying to figure out what was going on with COVID. We were working with biomedical researched through our biosciences platforms to work on vaccine development and to get a better understanding of COVID. Of course, there was the COVID testing where we were able to get our antigen tests to market quickly, in weeks. We’ve gotten more than 100 million antigen and PCR tests we’ve used and more than 2 billion syringes.  

It was a call to action and strengthened our purpose. I think it galvanized our associates, even though it was a difficult time. We also learned the importance of focusing on innovation that really matters. When we did that during the pandemic, we were able to move quickly and have a tremendous impact. Over the last two years, we’ve been looking very closely at our innovation portfolio and focusing on the areas of highest need where we think we can differentiate.  

We have our durable core, the products that we’re known for that tie into most of our revenue, we’re going to continue to innovate and redefine those. At the same time, we’re focusing on three big forces in health care, we think these trends are irreversible and we can have an impact in. One is the increasing number of smart connected devices. Two is the shift into new care settings and moving beyond the hospital – through ambulatory surgical centers, long-term care, retail and in the home. We’ve been making acquisitions in those spaces. Patients want to be treated in those places. A lot of hospitals want to go there as well. The third focus is on chronic care—the breadth we have in diagnostics to therapy, how do we drive better outcomes for patients with chronic disease? 60 percent of our innovation budget is along those three pillars.  

How does a $20 billion company stay nimble and innovative compared to many startups and newcomers in health care?  

With larger companies, there tends to be more bureaucracy and innovation can sometimes be a challenge. At BD, there is very much a focus on empowering our individual units, getting close to the customers to drive the decision making for those units. It doesn’t roll up to a corporate level, where you don’t have the customer knowledge to make decisions and move quickly. We also have a speak-up culture and a servant leadership mindset. The pace of innovation is accelerating, and the answers won’t come from me, they’ll come from a diverse group of talented employees at all levels with different perspectives. Listening in and having that servant leadership mindset vs. a top-down approach of command and control is important culturally.