Medical Professionals Suffer Medical Technology “Under-Communication”

The mission to improve “informed adoption” of new technology
Almost by definition, if you’re a clinician reading this you’ll disagree with the title, because you’re “in the loop” so to speak. The proposal we’re testing here however is that you’re in a minority and furthermore that that’s bad if, as we keep being told, new technology adoption is at the very heart of efforts to deliver cost-effective healthcare. The Medical Devices Industry “could do better” when it comes to communication, and needs to.

Medical technology…it’s the future

Still unsure of the argument? Consider this; Where do you find out about new technologies relevant to your speciality? Is it from clinical publications? Absolutely not, because again by definition peer reviewed publications are not vehicles for new product announcements. Is it from attending congresses and wandering around the associated commercial exhibition? Is it from a sales rep sharing the news with you over the operating table? Is it from your colleagues who’ve themselves got the inside track?

Honestly, when was the last time you used a “new” widget? And how did you hear about it?

Most importantly, what evidence was put in front of you to support use of the device? We’re supporters of evidence-based medicine you see, not just pushers of the next big thing.

CE Marking and all that

Let’s forget new stuff for a minute and consider what else you might need to know as a user and specifier of a medical device. After all the subject of regulatory control in UK (and therefore Europe) has rarely been higher profile than it is at the moment. What about CE marking? What does it mean to you? Does it represent a sort of “kite mark”, providing you reassurance that a product is not only legal, but also in some way “quality”?

We’ve heard clinicians commenting that their understanding of CE Marking is pretty thin, to the extent that someone once blustered that; “all these instruments are really made by that CE company rather than all you different companies aren’t they?”

Do you consider FDA regulations from over the pond to be tougher than the hoops companies have to jump through to gain a CE Mark? If a product has CE marking and not FDA approval, do you care… indeed should you care?

Do you even want to know what regulatory processes a product has gone through before it reaches your hands?

To adopt a new technology you first need to know it exists

So you’re presumably getting the pitch here. Medlatest might look like just another of the many medical devices websites, but we’re on a slightly different mission. We believe medics need better information from sources likely to be more balanced than the rep on the exhibition stand (not that we’re dishonouring that noble profession).

We believe medical device companies, especially American ones, are very good at puffing out their chests in the form of press releases telling the world how their new product has gained FDA clearance. Equally however they are often incredibly good at forgetting to tell us Europeans of their plans, whether their products are available, who sells them, why you should use them, what the evidence behind their efficacy claims are. No wonder you end up relying on word of mouth and sales reps.

Medical reps banned

An eminent UK politican once said if he ever got into power he’d ban medical reps and find them something better to do. He was talking about drug reps crowbarring their way into GP surgeries armed with cakes and brochures no doubt. But the medical device industry has a case to answer too. Companies spend a huge proportion of their working capital on expensive humans to do a wide spectrum of things, mostly involving the art of persuasion. Some, no doubt many, are indispensable team members, attending cases, organising equipment, helping guide scrub nurses and surgeons on the nuances of their system for fixing an elbow, a hip, whatever.

But mark these words. The days of the “jobbing” sales rep are numbered. As costs increase, price pressures increase, margins decrease, company reps are already “morphing” either out of existence (to be replaced by “distributors”) or into super-reps, increasingly PhD’s with huge territories and huge responsibilities. Sometimes this latter takes the form of a “trainer” by the way… still a company rep, but existing because the company has acknowledged that a good training on its gizmo is more likely to result in a good result on the table, some good air time at “training events” and resultant brand loyalty.

Better communication please

Companies need to spend a bit more of their “marketing mix” dollar on communicating through means other than a shiny suited sales person. Pretty much all medtech companies are hopelessly married to their sales teams because they are hopeless at doing any more sophisticated communicating, using the excuse that medical professionals can’t or won’t visit websites or use online social media. ¬†Well, why would you if the information out there is so poor or biased?

A valuable source of information… you can even filter to your speciality

Back full circle to our mission then. Medlatest (Europe-biased, clinician-biased medtech news resource remember) exists (yes exists!) for one reason only and that’s to play our part in improving communication about medical devices with medical professionals. That’s why we barf on about regulatory affairs, because we believe you’ll make better decisions about the products you use if you understand the way they got there in the first place (and you’ll also know more about what else is out there and what’s being mooted for the future).

We’re trying to supplement the coffee room tittle tattle, the congress “give me a pen and I’ll give you a minute” patter with something of relevance, balance and appropriateness. Medlatest unashamedly selects newsworthy items on this basis and we interpret them in order to get to the point in a way which we hope works for medics. We try to cut out fluff (not doing a very good job here admittedly!) and cut to the key information when we can get it. We’ll include US corporate stuff when its relevant, but ignore it when it’s not, because you haven’t time to sift through the information overload which the internet renders highly probable.

Please therefore read us, share us with your medical professional colleagues and above all tell us what you think and how we could improve our offering.

If you’re a medical devices company employee feel free to pitch in also. All responses to here please.

Source: campaigning medlatest staff member on soapbox