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Success In Medical Devices May Be Easier Than You Think – Part 1 of 3

January 31, 2017
Posted by: Joe Martinez, RPh, PDE, PPC

This is the first part of a 3-part series on strategic considerations for patient engagement, market access and promotion for medical devices and procedures. We will discuss what many times gets overlooked, de-prioritized, or lost in the gaps by well-meaning corporate teams.

The end first – “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading…” Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching. How true it is that at times our own momentum carries us down a specific path and we fail to see the opportunities for success right beside us. With this in mind, it’s critically important to have the patient’s perspective and experience as the one key factor that all other activities support and enhance.

First – it’s all about the ‘understanding’ that you impart with education, support and most importantly, training, to the patient and/or their caregiver.
Second – it’s equally important to have ‘some’ efficacy and not create more hassles for the prescriber. Please read on…

Just how important is the patient and what does that really mean? The patient is at the top of the food chain for devices and procedures. You may argue that it’s the payer or prescriber and I acknowledge that they do have clout. But from my experience as a payer, healthcare team member and patient, it’s really the total patient experience that will spell how much success you have with your ‘better mouse trap” and if the patient will continue to use it for the long haul.

Yes, of course there are different views for the physician, pharma/device company and the payer. However, with very satisfied patients supporting your device, you can dramatically alter the landscape and successful trajectory for your device.

Personal story – My personal patient experience stems from being an insulin-using diabetic that has run the gamut from syringes, to pumps and continuous glucose monitoring devices. Being diagnosed with a chronic disease (diabetes, Parkinson’s, kidney disease, etc.) that does not have a cure is bad enough. Finding out how little I really knew about chronic therapy concerns from the patient perspective was an eye-opener.

So how does the patient feel as they come to grips with their new reality. The initial feelings range from fear, frustration, anger, skepticism, hopelessness and failure. As information is learned and therapies are tried, feelings can bounce to hopeful, happy, and also joyful with fleeting moments of success.

In the beginning it is overwhelming for the patient and their family with all the information that is showered upon them and available on the Internet. This is where the smart device company can provide a patient-friendly roadmap for success to guide them through the confusing informational clutter. Considerations for this device roadmap to success include: acknowledging the disease and its impact on their quality of life as they knew it, providing a simple (not to be confused with easy) step-wise process for access, reimbursement support, device training (this is a very strategic decision that reflects the business model as well), patient support and communication.

Learnings from my ongoing journey as a patient are: 1) Be as proactive as possible when addressing issues and interacting with the patient, and realize that most doctors will prescribe whatever the patient wants, within reason. 2) Engage the patient early on to ensure ‘understanding’; this is a working knowledge of the therapy and device and includes training and answering questions in such a way so the patient feels ‘comfortable and in control’. 3) Know the many perspectives of your patient’s experience, in addition to the extrapolated results that are generated from focus groups and other market research activities. Alternatively, you may want to walk a mile in their shoes.

Lastly, listen between the lines to the early adopters and prioritize the ‘pain points’ for your device, the challenges of the therapeutic area and ‘all’ competitive treatments. A conversation early on with an investigator and clinician yielded this pearl of wisdom that I’ve always remembered to this day. When I asked him what was most important when prescribing a treatment he replied, “…Joe, I just want two things, I want some efficacy…and I want no additional hassles for me or the patient…”

So there you have it in a nutshell, your device or therapy needs to show some results, and it needs to not add any hassles, to the lives of the prescriber and the patient.

Coming up on our next Blog Tuesday, Part-2 The Payers Perspective and a Game Plan for Success.

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