10 Tips for Connecting with Customers — Medical Device Product Launch Series

Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, the post-COVID regulatory environment, market consolidation, and changing demographics, medical device market leaders are reassessing their go-to-market and sales strategies. Major drivers include corporate consolidation, evolving delivery models, and new end-customers.

Continued (but slowing) increases in R&D spending 

According to a recent RMS report, last year's R&D reached record levels of nearly 30% growth from the year prior. In 2020, it exceeded 15% as companies quickly spent cash reserves to combat COVID-19. The long-term annual growth average for R&D in the sector typically hovers around 3% to 5%. We expect only modest growth in R&D spend this year as companies look for ways to combat rising inflation concerns.

However, even modest growth year over year represents a record level of spending. We expect the trend of record R&D spend to continue as companies jockey for technical superiority and the pace of innovation accelerates. There are no viable substitutions; if med tech companies don’t maintain strong R&D spend, they risk being left behind in a highly competitive and segmented industry.

Changing FDA priorities

As FDA shifts away from the pandemic response and back to more normal operations, an increase in inspections and enforcement actions will likely follow. 

The FDA closely monitors medical devices that shift from being marketed under an EUA to receiving full market approval through normal FDA authorization. FDA issued draft guidance in December 2021 outlining the steps companies need to take: Transition Plan for Medical Devices Issued Emergency Use Authorisations (EUAs) During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Public Health Emergency. Concurrently, the FDA issued similar guidance for devices marketed under PHE enforcement policies: Transition Plan for Medical Devices That Fall Within Enforcement Policies Issued During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Public Health Emergency.

Changing end customer

It’s challenging to “follow the money” in healthcare. As John Babitt of Ernst & Young says, “Now everyone’s the payer.” Whether your system is physician or hospital-based, the end customer could be the individual, employer, health insurance company, or another party. Therefore, establishing value is essential. The question today is not simply, “Is this technology better?” According to Babitt, the question is, “Is this technology better and is it worth it?

Customer engagement is critical to generating sales, and it is often the difference between product launches that succeed and those that don’t. The bigger the company, the more difficult customer engagement becomes. GE Healthcare admits, “Customer engagement was our biggest problem. Our teams weren’t close enough to the customer.” GE worked to change its innovation model for medical devices to address this problem, which resulted in a two-year acceleration in time-to-market.

Changing demographics and disease trends 

An aging population dealing with chronic diseases will continue to drive demand for medical devices and therefore drive investment. 

According to RMS research in 2021, in vitro devices—ranging from blood glucose monitors to sophisticated diagnostic tools used in clinical laboratories to cancer screening tests—made up the largest portion of worldwide medical device sales, accounting for over $100 billion. Cardiology devices, focused on the monitoring and treatment of heart disease, are the second largest segment, at nearly $60 billion. This is no surprise; the CDC cites heart disease as the leading cause of death in the United States, followed closely by cancer.

Taking the time to connect with customers before, during, and after a medical device product launch is critical to ensuring its success. Keep in mind that not all of these tips may be applicable to every single situation—use your best judgment to determine which ones will work best for you.

10 Best Ways to Improve Your Customer Relationships

  1. Create a customer persona
  2. Conduct customer interviews 
  3. Change your customer survey model
  4. Host a VIP product preview 
  5. Follow up quickly and often
  6. Be conscious of what they are saying (and not saying)
  7. Form an Elite 100 customer list
  8. Go mobile—connect to them faster and more easily 
  9. Get social to increase brand loyalty and advocacy 
  10. Say thanks 

 

Download our tip sheet to learn more about improving customer relationships.

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