The Changing Role of the Consumer in Healthcare and Why it Matters to Med Device Companies

Healthcare used to be dictated by doctors. What doctors said, patients did. But today a brand-new breed of smart, savvy and connected consumers are set to change the way medical device companies need to do business.

Today there is a growing patient distrust in the regulators, the healthcare system, the drug and device companies. As out-of-pocket expenses increase as a result of higher deductible health plans, patients insist on knowing more about potential treatment options, demand that information be supported by real-world evidence, and want greater transparency of their health data.

The web has made medical information more accessible than ever before, boosting health literacy and connecting people around the world with similar symptoms and conditions (which can also, at times, be a double-edged sword). Consequently, consumers play a decisive role in today’s healthcare. This trend appears poised to escalate and drive further disruption in the medical device industry.

Of course, even the most well-informed patient still needs the expertise and guidance of healthcare professionals. It is not about replacing medical providers’ roles in any way; instead, it is about partnering with them. With patient-centricity and consumer disgruntlement both increasing, the medical device, pharmaceutical and healthcare industries must ask themselves: what will it take to regain consumer trust and how will these trends affect our business?

Mine Consumer Insights

Let's start by understanding what patients want and need—and how that can fuel your business success. Too often physicians think they know what a patient should have, yet time and time again, history and research shows a disconnect. For instance, patients may be willing to trade off effectiveness for less downtime following a procedure.

Med tech companies need to invest the time and resources in gaining deeper customer intimacy. By discovering key insights, companies can capitalize on the market opportunities where they can earn the right to win. This will allow them to meet and anticipate future patient needs, which in turn will drive loyalty, referrals, and revenue.

Take a "Patient as a Person" View

Patients learn and shop for treatments the same way they buy products. To be successful and grow your business and revenues, you must match the way you market your products with the way your patients learn about and shop for your products and services.

We recommend mapping the patient decision pathway from initial awareness to advocacy.

What are the questions and emotional or rational barriers they face at each phase of the journey?

By understanding the patient journey, companies can improve physician–patient interaction, treatment protocols, and the next generation of medication therapies.

Learn Their Language

More often than not, industry partners, providers and even payors speak in very technical terms when communicating with patients. 

Knowing what perspective and lexica patients have and use is critical if you want to intersect and engage with them. 

Recognize the Power of the Purse

When it comes to healthcare decisions, women hold the reigns. A report last year revealed that 94% of women make decisions for themselves, 59% make decisions for others, and 94% of working moms make decisions for others. These decision-makers comprise the industry's core consumer segment. Women are doing the research, choosing treatments, and selecting the provider.

To engage with this consumer power entity,it is imperative for medical device companies to focus on the combination of family and career responsibilities that differentiate women as the healthcare decision-maker.

In the face of market changes, the recipe for success and growth is the ability to stay in tune with what's going down and to prepare and plan for the trends that will most impact your business. To that end, one of the biggest factors affecting healthcare marketing in 2016 is the rise of the empowered consumer. In response, medical and diagnostic companies need to play a more active role in asserting its value to physicians and health systems by facilitating patient education, behavioral change, and better communication with clinicians.

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