Are the decision makers for the sale of medical device changing? In my opinion, the answer to this question is a definite YES.
Gone are the days where the Physician was the sole decision maker; the medical devices & Pharma companies targeted directly the physicians, influenced their decisions by sponsoring them on luxurious holidays, present them with expensive gifts etc. With the Physician payment sunshine act (this will require yearly reporting of all physician payments over a cumulative value of $100 dollars - with the first report due by March 31, 2011 - and made available to the public by September 30, 2011) coming to play where these kinds of practices are viewed as unethical and the medical devices and Pharma companies have been mandated by FDA to report all the promotional expenditure, medical devices companies kind of have their hands tied.
Today, the environment for the sale of a medical device is changing. Companies will have to have a strategy to get the buy in of all the potential influencers for the sale of medical device. Be it the procurement departments of the hospitals, technicians, nurses, healthcare practitioners, patient advocacy groups and finally the patients themselves and their families. Each one of them have their own concerns and priorities which is making the sales process of a medical device a highly complex affair. The degree of involvement of various stakeholders and the complexity of the process varies with the kind of device the company is trying to market.
The question the medical device companies should ask themselves is that is it better to educate the potential patient directly rather than try to influence all the decision makers involved in the sales process of a device. Some of the companies are already thinking in this direction and started planning for their long-term strategies to stay competitive in the market. Again there may be certain regulations even when reaching out to a patient based on the kind of device and its category. And targeting the consumer/patient may not be a right approach for all the device categories. But definitely creating the awareness regarding the potential benefits of a device and there after building the brand seems to be the way forward for med devices companies.