Lessons from @IntuitiveSurg – Don’t sell your device, sell your program

1024x1024As hospital systems consolidate, and as more physicians become hospital employees, the business side of the hospital has taken control over the acquisition of new procedures and technologies. For medical device companies, the days of driving sales via physician champions is over.

Each time I seen an announcement like the new Bridge Clinic at MGH or the new bladder-cancer detection system at Intermountain Medical Center, I am reminded that providers are fundamentally regional service businesses.

For providers, acquiring an innovative new medical device means offering a new service to patients. For a provider, the decision to acquire a new medical device is a business decision to grow the hospital’s service share. The more novel the service, the more business risk faced by the hospital, and the more complicated the purchasing decision. Philip Kotler’s book “Strategic Marketing For Health Care Organizations”  gives an example of the new reality:

A hospital is considering adding a sports medicine program to its portfolio of services. Before deciding whether to launch such a program, it plans to do market research to gauge the size of the community need, discover which competitors already offer such a program, consider how it will organize and deliver the program, understand how to price its various services, and determine how profitable the program is likely to be.

Medical device sales and marketing needs to adapt. Intuitive Surgical shows us how.

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Big Data Is Coming To Medical Device Marketing and Sales

big-data-infographWhile you might be sick of Amazon telling you that customers who bought product X also often bought product Y, Amazon knows what sells more products. I’ve used the same technique in medical device markets. Last year I wrote about medical device market segmentation using procedure data – finding prospects for your procedure X based on customers who perform procedure Y. Why target interventional cardiology as a whole, or so-called “early adopter interventional cardiologists,” or community hospitals versus academic medical centers, when you can specifically target sub-segments based on actual device use, e.g. IVUS users, chronic total occlusion specialists, or high volume stenters?

In 2014, big data powers marketing in consumer and tech, and it’s coming to medical device marketing and sales. Applied well, big data can focus sales efforts on the likeliest adopters, identify prospects that you never knew existed, and uncover market segments with unique product needs. If you don’t already know the power of big-data-driven marketing in the consumer world, read the recent (chilling) US Federal Trade Commission report on data brokers.

Medical device customers are consumers too. Here’s how I used big data at Candela in 2009 to re-imagine our marketing and sales approach.

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Hospital System Consolidation: Will Your Medical Device Sales Model Adapt?

A physician visiting the sick in a hospital, G...
A physician visiting the sick in a hospital, German engraving from 1682 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About two years ago I noted “The Looming Impact of Healthcare Service Consolidation.” That consolidation ramped up this week, as the second-largest U.S. hospital chain, Community Health Systems, announced it would buy Health Management Associates (which operates 71 hospitals) in the largest hospital acquisition since 2006.

Consolidated systems standardize practices across hospitals and centralize purchasing of new technologies. Yesterday’s physician-champion-decision-maker is being replaced by tomorrow’s hospital-exec/technocrat-decision-maker. Medical device companies can learn a lot from enterprise IT sales.  Will your medical device sales methodology adapt?

US OIG Warns on Physician Owned Distributors

USDOJ Office of the Inspector General Seal

In 2011 I urged extreme caution for medical device companies considering  selling products through physician-owned distributorships (Caution: Physician-Owned Distributorships Ahead).  This week, the US Office of the Inspector General (US OIG) issued a fraud alert for physician-owned distributorships, stating that “OIG views PODs as inherently suspect.”  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Medical Device Marketing – Segmentation With Procedure Data

Portrait of Jan de Doot and the kidney stone h...

Ask most medical device marketers about market segmentation, and you’ll get an earful about physician specialty (and subspecialty), hospital/facility size or type (academic, ASC, for profit, large system, etc), or adopter type (early adopters, followers, and skeptics). Unfortunately, these approaches rarely help companies identify customer groups that are differentially addressable – i.e. best served by different products or services, different price points, and/or different marketing channels and sales techniques.

Contrast the typical medical device approach to the sophisticated techniques of consumer product firms. Are you a Barry, Jill, Buzz, Ray, or Mr. Storefront? Best Buy’s in-store staff segments you with a few questions before steering you to the products you’re most likely to want. Amazon suggests possible purchases for you, based on your clicks plus the buying history of other customers who bought the same products you did. Target buys your demographic data to combine with your Target purchase history to create custom coupons for you.

Medical device firms can do much, much more to understand and better serve their markets. Even back in the 1980’s much more could be done. Let me explain how I approached market segmentation twenty-something years ago.

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The US Medical Device Sales Model is Changing

US healthcare system consolidation, and the increasing percentage of US employment of physicians directly by healthcare systems, are dramatically changing the US medical device market, as I’ve previously discussed here, here, and here.

This week, Evan Anderson presents a first-hand view of these changes in a great article on the Stanford Biodesign Alumni blog.   Highly recommended.

Bringing your medical device to the U.S.? Start in Massachusetts

Mayflower Harbor
Image via Wikipedia

I’m fortunate to live in one of world’s great medical device hubs, so I hope you’ll forgive this unabashed promotion. Massachusetts is home to hundreds of innovative medical device companies, and we are well known as a source of med-tech start-ups. What’s less known is that Massachusetts is the best place for European and Israeli companies to set up their US operations.

Andover Massachusetts (population 33,201) is practically the United Nations of medical devices, hosting Switzerland-based Straumann, Netherlands-based Philips, Germany’s Draeger Medical, and UK’s Smith & Nephew.

Last year, Syneron merged with Candela in Wayland MA, becoming the largest Israeli medical device company in New England. Israeli start-up Odin Medical located its US HQ in MA prior to its acquisition by Medtronic, and Israeli start-up rcadia has their HQ in Newton, MA.  EarlySense is the most recent Israeli company to locate here.

Ireland-based Creganna, a leading provider of medical device contract R&D, set up its first US location in Massachusetts and later expanded to locations in California and Cleveland. Ireland’s Shimmer Research, designer of new devices for wearable health sensing, set up their US operations in Boston.

I’d love to see more European and Israeli companies set up shop here. If you are developing a great new medical device outside the US, and thinking about entering the US market, you should be thinking about Massachusetts. Here’s why.

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