In recent years the lines between the healthcare and retail industries have blurred – consumers seeking health information online, sildenafil opting for quick and convenient care at retail health clinics, monitoring their vital signs with healthcare apps on their iPhones.
This trend came into play during a conversation that I had earlier this week with an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) in California for a public relations campaign that I’m launching for one of my medical device clients.
I knew this ENT had been having success with my client’s technology, which is designed to perform tonsillectomy and other ENT procedures with minimal tissue damage, but I had no idea that patients were banging on his door to undergo procedures with this device.
The ENT moved his practice from Wisconsin to California just three months ago, and during that short period of time, two patients have actively tracked him down because he is the only surgeon in the area to use this particular technology – one who was willing to drive two hours to seek this treatment!
The most recent patient, an adult in need of a tonsillectomy, told this ENT that he had actively searched on the Internet to find out which technology/technique used for tonsillectomy resulted in the least pain and bleeding and the fastest recovery time, reading through clinical studies and watching graphic procedure videos. When he determined that my client’s technology was the best solution, he contacted the company to find an ENT nearby who could use the device to perform his tonsillectomy – and that’s what led him to this particular ENT.
While pharmaceutical companies and other healthcare suppliers have long known and used consumer marketing to drive patients to drive their doctors to prescribe brand name drugs, I feel the medical device industry has lagged in this area. I mean, how many consumers actively research which instrument used in a surgery will provide the best outcomes? As a PR professional working with device companies, I have to admit that I always check to see which brand of pulse oximetry sensor is on my finger when I’m in the hospital, but does the average consumer?
I’ve always been adverse to using scare tactics to drive patients to seek out a specific medical technology. I once interviewed for a PR position with a device manufacturer who notoriously used this approach to push its monitors on ORs only to have the monitors sitting unused gathering dust. As “goody two-shoes” as it sounds, I couldn’t bring myself to take the job because it felt wrong.
But I find it interesting that patients are taking it upon themselves to do the research. Particularly since my client is a rather small company with limited marketing dollars that, as the ENT pointed out, is up against larger competitors that gain market share not because their technology is better but because they speak louder and carry a bigger stick.
I guess it is one thing to force a new device on clinicians through patient pressure but another thing to have something so great that patients will actively seek it out on their own….