How medical device makers can improve access to the quality patient insights that are essential for future growth

The clout wielded by today’s consumers is certainly no surprise to the medical device industry. We’ve all witnessed firsthand the extraordinary influence of increasing consumer choice alongside the ease with which patients can share their satisfaction, or dismay, on review sites and social platforms.

For medical device makers, the implication is clear: Success in a rapidly-evolving landscape hinges on the ability to connect with patients quickly and cost-effectively at all phases of the design and development process. Those who do will find they’hre able to keep the customer at the center of their work, create better products, and turn patients into evangelists who are more than happy to promote their brand.

The challenge is that it remains difficult to engage patients through traditional market research providers. Lengthy project timelines and fixed costs mean that medical device companies, especially startups facing even tighter constraints, choose to forgo patient insights except for the largest and most critical decisions. As a result, design and development teams have to move forward without a solid understanding of patient perspectives and preferences, leading to expensive changes and setbacks, particularly as they relate to the following considerations:

  • What do patients want? Being able to identify early on that patients are excited about your offering — and conversely, that nobody is actually interested in what your company plans to develop — is make or break information. Why spend three months on a prototype only to learn that the market isn’t interested? Knowing what patients want allows designers to confirm the validity of their product roadmap through research studies that illuminate everything from the features that will improve product performance (and thereby customer satisfaction) to which features are tied most closely to profit goals.
  • Does the product actually work for those who need it most? Usability studies play an important role in gathering continuous customer feedback as part of the product design and development process. On-demand patient insights allow teams to integrate usability testing throughout all phases of development. One of the most valuable outcomes of a more iterative research approach is that direct patient feedback clarifies internal debates regarding how customers will interact with a product. Often, it reveals functional issues that aren’t always readily apparent to design and development team members.
  • What needs to be communicated? Effective communications provide a strong foundation for establishing and maintaining trust with patients. When device marketers skip research to shape the messaging strategy simply because they believe the process is too time-consuming and expensive, they risk implementing communications that fail to educate patients on how they will benefit from a product or service. On the other hand, those that make patient insights an integral part of their messaging strategy will find that not only are they able to convert more patients into customers, they’re also able to turn customers into fierce advocates of their device.
  • How can we maximize revenue? Whether the pricing strategy is for an entirely new product, a bundled product offering, or to address a shift in the competitive landscape, making sure that customer insights inform pricing strategy is paramount to increasing revenue generation. For example, instead of raising the price of a product without any insight into patient perspectives (only to find that the company loses customers to competitors faster and in greater numbers than projected), device makers can use insights in real time to gauge reactions among patients to a proposed pricing change. Modifications can then be made to arrive at the best balance between how much a product or service costs and what patients and insurers are willing to pay.

Solutions emerge to fill the gaps in patient insights

For medical device companies that want to get their innovations to market faster and with far less risk, there are emerging solutions that have been created to fill the gaps. More specifically, rapid-research platforms prioritize quality outcomes alongside the reduction of waste and inefficiency by combining on-demand access to patient panels with intuitive, self-service tools.

Since access to the right patients is usually the biggest hurdle, design and development teams should look for an existing community of engaged, high-quality panelists when evaluating potential research partners. Most medical device companies, as well as the agencies serving them, lack the resources required to maintain a community at this level, leaving them no choice other than the lengthy — and often futile —  process of recruiting participants from scratch every time a market research opportunity is identified.

A good rapid-research platform will also be able to demonstrate how technology is leveraged to ensure panelist quality. This includes self-updating panelist profiling capabilities that automatically confirm all patient criteria are accurate. Proactive screening technology removes any panelist who provides low-quality responses or answers questions inconsistently or in ways that don’t make sense given the individual’s current health condition.

Market research friction is eliminated further when all team members, whether they are technical or not, can easily manage the design, program, and launch of surveys, focus groups, and usability studies through the platform. Self-service components built with the end user in mind offer additional support to an iterative research approach that, in turn, brings greater overall agility to the design and development process.

Finally, the ability to tap into key learnings as soon as responses are received is another defining aspect of a rapid-research platform. Clear, automated reporting reveals the insights needed to move forward, or pivot, with more immediacy, bringing the research effort full circle and allowing medical device companies to make better decisions in support of improved product, business, and, most important, patient outcomes.

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