Flipping through the duty-free catalog on a recent flight, I was amazed that the luxury watches section spanned 38 pages and touted features like triple-polished sapphire crystals, 300-meter water resistance, rotating bezels and dual faces with multiple time zones. I nervously glanced at my own Garmin GPS running watch and its blocky digital time display.

 

While the features sound impressive, I can’t imagine that they’re really all that useful to most customers—certainly not enough to justify the five-figure price tags that these duty-free luxuries command. That’s when I realized that the medtech industry has been employing a similar strategy, cramming in features to entice surgeons to buy their devices.

 

Medtech has been engaged in a “features war”: Manufacturers have been adding as many features as possible to their products. Often, those features are actually valuable to customers, such as remote monitoring to streamline patient care, increased image quality for diagnosing issues, and planning therapy and point-of-care testing for rapid decisions. But some features are there simply “because we can” and don’t provide any measurable value. New features kept the products from being categorized as commodities and gave the manufacturers a justification for higher prices, but they may not have made a substantial impact on patient care. Like the diver-approved watches in the duty-free catalog, sometimes the medtech products’ added features were never used or were only marginally understood.