Since the launch of the Affordable Care Act in 2014 and an ever-accelerating consolidation in the healthcare market in the wake of the law’s passage in 2010, the relationship between medical device manufacturers and these new integrated healthcare systems has become increasingly complex. The new model in healthcare favors sprawling, centralized governance that is giving the major healthcare networks unprecedented leverage in shaping expectations for medical device design, utilizing usability teams that are playing an active role in the procurement process. As a result, the new healthcare landscape is leading the way in validating medical device efficacy, taking a more hands-on approach that is impacting the entire research, development, and commercialization process.
Some medical device insiders argue, however, that lost in this new landscape is the voice of medical device end users, including physicians, nurses, technicians, and even patients.
This new phenomenon in the medical device industry is yet another chapter in the industry’s ongoing struggle to better align its research, development, commercialization, and marketing efforts with end users of their products. While healthcare networks are evolving their methods to optimize procurement efforts on the buyer side, the supplier side of the industry still relies on outmoded methods for anticipating the efficacy of a medical device on a patient population. Through the use of physician consultants, for example, medical device companies have traditionally positioned a high-profile M.D. to champion a design in the marketplace and advise on a product’s viability from the patient’s perspective.
With this in mind, the over-reliance on physician consultants, together with a changing procurement process on the buyer side means that the perspective of end users of medical devices are undoubtedly being marginalized.
Crowdsourcing an Emerging Trend in Capturing the End User’s Perspective
While the new alignment of usability teams in medical device procurement and paid physician consultants are unlikely to wane in the medical device industry, leveraging the power of crowdscourcing is emerging as a next-generation approach for medical device manufacturers to benefit from valuable feedback from physicians, nursing staff, administration, supply chain managers, and even patients. These user groups have the most substantial stake in the viability and usability of a medical device: for physicians and nurses, a medical device is a critical means to an end that often guides the course of treatment. For technicians, their job depends on working with functional, effective technologies. And for patients, a medical device can mean a substantial improvement in quality of life and patient outcome.
By assembling consulting teams that include all of these groups, a medical device manufacturer can now present their design to the people and professionals whose opinion matters most and get a comprehensive, crowdsourced perspective back that provides thoughtful insight into how to improve design, value, and applicability. When this approach is integrated with efforts on the buyer side to maximize value and sales efforts to champion products through the use of physician consultants, the lifecycle of a medical device is dramatically improved from conceptualization to commercialization.
In this new world of healthcare, now more than ever, end users need to be heard. It is only through involving them directly in the validation process that medical device companies can remain competitive.