By John Mitchell
The medical device market is among the most complex in the world. Products take a long time to bring to market and must meet the exacting scrutiny of expert users: doctors and nurses. In other words, there is little margin for error. Therefore, when choosing a market research consultant to help you understand customers, it is critical to pick a partner with the right experience. But what makes a good partner? In conversations with our clients about how they choose, we hear a few common themes:
First, a good research partner must understand the clinical specifics. While it is rare to find a consultant with the same subject-matter expertise as someone on your team, you should expect them to understand anatomy, how diseases are diagnosed, common and uncommon procedures, and the roles of different clinicians in providing care. Helping a vendor learn the basics of your category can be a waste of time. An experienced partner ensures that you spend your time developing the right questions and reaching a deeper level of understanding where it matters most, with your customers.
Second, a good research partner can keep your plans grounded. Unlike most consumer research, which can be fielded inexpensively and where the number of customers is effectively infinite, medical research is much more difficult to execute. Some clinical specialties are comparably small, with only a few thousand physicians. It may be infeasible to expect to interview or survey more than a handful of them, especially those considered key opinion leaders (KOLs). An inexperienced partner may promise the sun, moon, and stars at the outset of a study, only to have those plans crash on the rocks of reality as research plans prove wildly overeager.
Finally, a good partner should keep you out of regulatory trouble as a matter of course. Research in the medical category is governed by numerous federal and local laws governing both the handling of protected health information (PHI) and compensation and reporting of payments to clinicians (similar “Sunshine Act” laws exist outside the United States). Some actions are prohibited outright while others provoke disclosure requirements. A vendor who does not understand how to conduct customer research in compliance with these rules can expose your company to considerable embarrassment or legal liability.
Regardless of your own experience conducting market research in healthcare—for medical devices, diagnostics, or pharmaceuticals—it pays to work with a research consultant whose own healthcare experience is well-established. To learn how Applied Marketing Science can help ensure your next study will be a success, contact us today.