Med-tech Marketing: Think differently in the Evolving UK Landscape
Read IMed’s Med Tech Commercialisation Specialist’s guidance on marketing medical software products, as Steve Eames kindly shares his expertise on how to position your product in evolving Healthcare markets.
For med-tech start-ups, or even for larger companies launching new solutions, marketing and commercialisation can seem like the final hurdle; especially after all the pre-market investment and highly technical quality & regulatory work that’s already been completed. In med-tech, once you’ve dotted every ‘I’ and crossed every ‘t’, that’s when the commercial journey starts.
It’s the crucial final step to get your device out there, but what approach should you adopt? Many take the traditional sales channel route, using networks and relationships, combined with conventional ‘marketing awareness’ methods: website, literature, attendance at events and clinical congresses. What’s most important to remember is that your challenge in healthcare technology and devices, is exactly the same as that of every business with a product to sell; the ‘transfer of good
One of the common pitfalls in medical device marketing is to assume an introverted perspective and focus entirely on your product’s ‘Features and Benefits’ messaging. This often happens because the skills of the people involved are more technical or because they’ve become entirely consumed in the product after years of personal investment. This is a natural and understandable course for a business owner, but to incorporate the commercialisation professional’s viewpoint, it’s important to consider the following two points:
- It’s not just about ‘Features & Benefits’, this should be extended to Features/Benefits = VALUE and
- What does that ‘value’ look like in the context of wider health care?
For example, a single use telescope, of specialised design, which allows a clinician to look inside a patient in either an outpatient or clinical office/treatment room environment.
The temptation here would be to focus on the product’s superior optics, ease of use and applications. Then, in classic fashion, to prepare yourself for a clinician ‘objections’.
BUT – the wider health values are also significant;
- can receive treatment sooner in a routine environment
- suffer minimal pain
- avoid a hospital stay
- Preserve valuable OR space/time
- Reduce number of patient stays and utilisation of hospital beds
- Faster return to normal health
- Maximise available workforce
- Maintain economic performance
Obvious, right? However, it’s surprising how few companies implement this ‘value to health’ based approach.
Best practice using this value method, should include a sample business case, which emphasises the total value, not only to the hospital, but to the wider care continuum.
This holistic value-centric approach has never been more pertinent than now. We are about to enter a period of change within the UK healthcare system, the most significant since 2012. The new Health & Social Care white paper, published in February 2021, in a nutshell includes:
- A shift away from the old legislative focus on competition between health care organisations towards a new model of collaboration, partnership and integration through Integrated Care Systems nationally.
- Giving local health and care leaders the freedom to make decisions based on the needs of their local population.
- Ministers to take greater control of national decisions about the NHS.
It is, in some ways, quite a decisive step away from the coalition government’s 2012 reforms.
Furthermore, these proposals, if implemented, will be in the wake of the most catastrophic global pandemic in recent history, and during our nation’s recovery. On the upside, the pandemic has served to fast-track technologies at an unprecedented rate. It is not surprising therefore, that we have seen a catalysis-to-market of technologies which enhance healthcare efficiency. For example: the adoption of new software/app-based technologies to allow information access, interaction with primary care services, and technologies that allow clinician to patient communication and clinician to clinician communication.
Post-pandemic it is unclear whether this unprecedented pace may continue. But what is clear is if you have a solution which benefits patients and health economics, now is the time to get your value proposition right.
For a large number of companies operating in the medical device sector supplying direct to hospitals, the ‘customer’ is changing. Previously, you might prioritise working with, for example, foundation trusts or university hospitals, in gaining early adoption and ‘endorsement’. Moving forward there may be an opportunity to work with the wider stakeholder within integrated care systems. Even if your device is primarily ‘sold’ to (and used by) hospitals, it will more likely see success and funding if you can demonstrate not just the ‘immediate value’ in its intended setting, but the ‘holistic value’ to the wider healthcare system. Integrated care systems are the new way that ‘care’ and ‘cash’ will flow.
Additionally, compared with 10 years ago, there are more mechanisms in place now to assist with market access. An example is the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSN’S). Across England there are 15 AHSN’s which ‘connect NHS and academic organisations, local authorities, research and industry’, and ‘are catalysts that create the right conditions to facilitate change across whole health and social care economies, with a clear focus on improving outcomes for patients It is intended to assist innovation to access UK healthcare’.
If your technology is, for example, a surgical device which competes with another’s surgical device, then your target customer remains the traditional one, but it doesn’t mean still focusing on the ‘features/benefits’. Rather, it’s understanding what value your device brings compared with alternative products or forms of treatment. Why focus on ‘faster’, ‘clearer’, ‘sharper’, if that is exactly what other companies are saying?
Consider the term ‘value wedge’. Your value wedge is that unique characteristic of your device; it’s ‘sweet spot’ or stakeholder advantage that can be clearly tied back to a user pain point. Even better if you ‘add value’ in a way which offers clear advantage to the hospital or entire healthcare system.
Think in terms of ‘outcomes’. What healthcare outcome does your solution offer?
The sooner we start to think in terms of healthcare outcomes, the sooner we become more aligned to our healthcare system AND become a true partner to it. By getting your value proposition right and, forming partnerships with healthcare providers on that basis, you are well on the road to a more robust marketing strategy and delivering sustainable growth.
If you need guidance or support with your med-tech marketing or any other related queries, please get in touch with us. Contact IMed now via Al Mills, our Business Development Director, on +44 (0)1295 724286 or email email@example.com.
Director and Principal Consultant, Chorley Consulting Ltd