Will Randall, ZS AssociatesI often pause in restaurant bathrooms, amused by the familiar signage above the sink: “Employees must wash hands before returning to work.” Surely everyone washes their hands. While these well-meaning but rather amusing signs are found all over the U.S., do they actually have any impact on improving hygiene practices? Probably not. But what does that have to do with medtech, anyway?
Imagine that a hospital introduces a surgeon to a new device by simply hanging a sign over the operating table with one line of instruction. Would anyone just expect that the surgeon will know how to use the device correctly and consistently in every procedure? Devices alone don’t improve outcomes. Better outcomes are only achieved when driven by changes in behaviors across the provider organization.
Upgrading hospital equipment and simply notifying clinical staff of the change isn’t enough to achieve outcomes improvements, even if those outcomes are critically important. One of the fundamental factors for medtech value propositions is “achievability”: Medtech companies should do what they can to ensure that the value that their devices are offering to provider organizations is achievable in the real world—and that the devices aren’t just a more expensive way for customers to get the same outcome as the commodity product.
How can manufacturers successfully change behaviors to deliver on these promised outcomes? Posting a sign that meets the minimum legal requirements isn’t going to have a meaningful impact on the staff’s behaviors, be they surgeons or sous chefs.
Look beyond your product and consider offering additional resources, including:
- Training protocols: Provide training and opportunities to practice under supervision, either with a representative during the procedure or at a manufacturer’s central training location.
- Support and service: Training is never “one and done,” especially when a device is widely used across a provider organization. Consider a department with hundreds of nurses working around the clock: How do you train, support and provide service to everyone on a particular device?
- Workflow guidance: Manufacturers need a structured way to support the effective use of the product. In some cases, customers also can use this approach to assess individuals and teams on their correct usage of the device and provide corrective feedback if needed.
Here’s a great example of how additional resources, such as workflow guidance, training and change management, can come together to support an offering’s value—and it even fits with our handwashing theme: Hill-Rom offers a “Hand Hygiene Compliance Solution,” a digital device that caregivers wear. It reminds staff to wash their hands regularly and monitors their compliance, allowing provider organizations visibility into handwashing compliance at both an individual and a macro level. To support the solution, Hill-Rom offers an “evidence-based, clinical change management process” and a well-stocked resource center providing relevant information in the form of white papers and a “Hand Hygiene Newsletter”—allowing provider organizations to go far beyond just posting a sign over the sink.
Manufacturers that invest in a sustainable model at launch can avoid future profitability problems. One key challenge is determining how to scale any assistance for a provider organization. The medtech go-to-market model must include ways to support the value offering. When unaccounted for, these needs can quickly create a situation that inadvertently pushes the sales team to focus on supporting the clinical needs of existing customers and maintaining existing business, rather than continuing to drive penetration and top-line growth with new customers.
On the other hand, deploying a field-based organization that can support the training and service needs of a large customer base can quickly drive up operating expenses and create cost-of-sale challenges. These challenges may not be immediately apparent, but fast-forward a few years to a scenario of slower growth, increased competition and price erosion: Are those models sustainable now? You don’t have to look far to see the longer-term pressure that these challenges create. Large joint orthopedics and interventional cardiology are obvious examples.
The value and support services provided by the manufacturer also can affect the device’s price. However, not all customers will appreciate the value of the manufacturer’s support and some may happily compromise on support to reduce the price. Other customers may push down the price without any expectation of reduced service levels. If the device’s pricing doesn’t reflect the value, then there’s limited room for negotiation on service levels and limited defense against future price erosion, and it could be challenging to reinforce value in the face of low-cost competitors entering the market and aggressively driving down prices.
With a strategic approach to medtech support and services programs, you can better justify premium pricing, drive behavior change and device adoption across a provider organization, help providers achieve the outcomes you’ve promised, and build a long-term sustainable partnership. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and wash your hands.
Will Randall is a manager at ZS Associates.