Medical device Orthopedic surgeons

Do medical device companies understand orthopaedic surgeons?

It’s relatively easy to create a brochure, website or exhibition describing your medical device product — list the technological innovations that make the device safer, easier to use and better-performing. Although these features are important, focusing exclusively on communicating them may not actually be convincing surgeons and administrators to purchase and use your devices. Websites, brochures, journal articles, exhibitions and more are all part of the marketing mix — and all can be excellent methods by which to get your message across. If your message is the one surgeons and administrators want to hear.

However, there are a number of factors creating an increasingly difficult economic environment and interfering with what used to be easy purchasing decisions:

  • A stricter regulatory environment, with long review processes and a tightening of the rules governing product approval
  • Increased competition, shorter product lifecycles and market maturation have made customers more price-sensitive
  • Austerity measures implemented by governments across Europe have resulted in budget cuts for health services.

It’s therefore critical to tailor your marketing materials to the specific needs of surgeons and administrators, ensuring that the messages about your devices break through the noise and the systemic obstacles.

What HCPs say

But how well do medical device companies (MDCs) understand what these healthcare professionals (HCPs) really want? A recent analysis of factors affecting purchasing in Europe surveyed orthopaedic device companies and HCPs, and found some stark differences between the two groups’ views for 11 factors. Here’s some surprising insight the survey revealed regarding four of those factors:

  1. Proven outcomes — HCPs were almost twice as likely to rank proven outcomes as ‘very important’ than MDCs (93.0% versus 56.5%), and every HCP described proven outcomes as either ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ important. Of MDCs, 8.7% believed that surgeons saw outcomes as neutral, and 2.2% thought they were ‘not very important’.
  2. Cost-effectiveness — MDC employees significantly underestimated the importance of the cost-effectiveness to HCPs — 34.9% rated this factor as ‘very important’, compared with just 13.0% of MDC employees. None of the HCPs thought cost-effectiveness was ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ important.
  3. Company opportunities — HCPs were significantly less likely to value company opportunities than MDCs believed). In fact, HCPs were not only less likely to see such opportunities as ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ important than MDCs (53.5% versus 78.2%), but also more than three times as likely to rate them as ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ important (18.6% versus 4.3%).
  4. Surgeon recommendations — HCPs focus a lot less on the recommendations of other surgeons than MDCs think. Over 82% of MDCs believed these recommendations would be ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ important to HCPs, but only 62.8% of HCPs agreed.

Compare and contrast

There are clear differences between HCPs’ needs and MDCs’ views of those needs, both in terms of the importance placed on individual factors when deciding on a medical device and/or supplier and their order of priority. Better patient outcomes are the force that drives HCPs in practice and purchasing alike. In addition, with steady growth projected in annual orthopaedic volumes, cost-effectiveness is vital to HCPs, who are responsible for containing healthcare expenditures. If a device improves outcomes and can be cost-justified over the course of care, you’re on to a winner in customers’ eyes.

The relative unimportance of surgeons’ recommendations to HCPs might surprise MDCs, as there is a strong focus on so-called key opinion leader (KOL) marketing. But the research suggests it may be an outdated concept. Differences in the way company opportunities are viewed may be attributable to two factors. First, the level of reimbursement for doctors working with companies on product development has reduced in recent years and, second, rules around benefits in kind and ‘gifts’ have been tightened dramatically, changing attitudes accordingly. The survey findings indicate, however, that attitudes among MDCs lag behind those of surgeons.

For HCPs, patient outcomes and system efficiencies are critical decision-making factors, alongside medical education — while MDC employees largely assumed that personal and career factors were more important. These results are important on two levels. First, they suggest that MDCs see their products more as something to be sold to surgeons rather than a means of helping surgeons improve outcomes. Second, MDCs might be missing out on ways to engage HCPs in their language.

Creating opportunities

To bridge this gap, MDCs need to reframe their marketing materials as HCP resources, rather than sales pieces. Websites, brochures, journal articles, exhibitions, educational courses and more must communicate in a way that shows you understand your customers’ needs. Specifically, MDCs should focus on a more market-oriented strategy that emphasises proven outcomes and product cost-effectiveness, alongside more traditional aspects such as innovation and medical education. This philosophy will help the customer perceive value. That is, the MDC will be seen as a partner in helping HCPs gain a sustainable competitive advantage.

It’s important to note that it’s unsurprising that MDCs aren’t as attuned to HCP thinking as they could be — an extensive literature search yielded no studies on this topic. However, the full analysis of the report summarised above is available for download here.

Get your copy today, for insights into the minds of HCPs.





About Wesley Portegies

Wesley has over 10 years' experience as a marketing manager in the medical industry. He has successfully launched several products in the medical device market and has a great passion for sales and marketing.
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