By Patricia Yanes and Meaghan Foley
The process of developing and marketing new medical devices is often an extremely complex and a risky endeavor. Conducting rigorous, systematic market research can help to reduce this risk and ensure a successful product launch. But, with increasing regulations that govern the execution of market research and the often-high costs of talking with healthcare professionals, it’s critical to ensure that efforts and resources aren’t wasted by talking to the wrong person or asking the wrong questions. Below are 5 quick tips for conducting medical device market research that will help you avoid road blocks.
- Seek to understand the needs of all users of the device
When we think of users of a device, it’s natural to immediately think of who is using the device in closest contact with the patient – often a physician or nurse. Of course, it’s usually critical to understand how these professionals use the device and what their needs are, but it’s also extremely important to explore the needs of everyone who comes in contact with the device, not just lead users. This could include maintenance technicians, inventory or storage managers, and, in some instances, even patients. In our practice, we’ve found that if the device doesn’t incorporate the needs of every person that touches it, it ultimately won’t be successful. By only talking to current customers, we miss key voices with unique needs who may give insight as to why someone is not purchasing your device today. Don’t fear, these non-customers may be easier to recruit than you think – there are many high-quality research panels you can partner with that specialize in recruiting healthcare professionals of all specialties.
- Keep in mind that different research questions may be best suited for different audiences
It is often an inclination to assume that when conducting medical device market research, we want to talk to professionals that use the device. However, depending on your specific research questions, device users may not be the most fruitful to speak with. For example, if we want to conduct pricing research to understand the purchase and decision-making process for a new medical device, we shouldn’t just talk to the clinician using the device. Failing to gain pricing feedback from administrators and procurement is one of the first mistakes we see in medical device research. Thinking through the types of questions you want to ask and who will be best fit to answer them before recruiting respondents will lead to more insightful conversations and data.
- If you can’t visit a hospital or medical clinic, consider alternative methods
Often, the goal of medical device research is to get into a hospital to watch the device or competitive devices in use. Unfortunately, due to increasing pressure from hospital administrators and stricter HIPPA laws, it is becoming more and more difficult to visit a hospital or clinic in person. When you are stopped at the door by a medical administrator or gatekeeper, what do you do? There are many ways we have found to get the respondents we need while still adhering to the restrictions on medical research. Consider, for instance, conducting research at a central facility rather than the hospital itself. Physicians often appreciate a focus group where they can share their feedback with their peers, and many nurses and nurse practitioners work off hours and are readily available to come to a central facility during the day.
If you absolutely have to get into a physical hospital or operating room, consider reaching out to hospital administrators to get approval at the top before reaching out to staff members. This could lead the way to gaining trust with the right people. Alternatively, sales and pharmaceutical reps often have special access to hospitals and might be willing to bring you along. If you’re experiencing road blocks due to strict regulations, consider some of these creative solutions.
- Don’t assume that health professionals know devices in the same way that you do
While many of our medical device clients like to think clinicians know their brands and available devices, the truth is that often they do not. In qualitative interviews and survey pretesting, we’ve found that healthcare professionals might know the brand of the device but do not remember the model, or vice versa. In more drastic scenarios, they might not know either and only be able to identify the device by its physical appearance or coloring. To combat any guesswork by healthcare professionals, and to ensure we are speaking about the same device, we use images and/or video of both our client’s devices and their relevant competitors. This way, we know we’re gaining feedback on the same devices the clinicians are thinking of and we don’t force a respondent to have to guess.
- Explore the patient journey
Most of our medical device clients routinely interview, observe, and survey the clinicians that use their products, but many overlook the patients who ultimately benefit from them. To inform our clients about the uniqueness of patient needs, we often develop patient journey maps. A patient journey map serves as a “GPS” for product development and customer experience design. It describes the various stages of care, beginning with the onset of symptoms, through diagnosis and therapy, and ending with either complete recovery or adjustment to a new way of life. At each stage, it shows the tasks patients complete —some clinical and some personal — and the needs patients feel, whether medical, emotional, financial, or relational. Among other benefits, mapping the patient journey can help to make functional medical devices that work for the clinicians using them and the patients needing care.
Want to learn more on patient journey mapping? Watch our recent webinar on-demand: