Historically, patients haven’t gotten too involved in selecting products to be used for their medical treatments—patients have generally deferred to their doctor to select an appropriate drug, knee implant, or cardiac rhythm management device brand. But this seems to be changing—patients are increasingly wanting to be involved in their own health care. This can at least be partially attributed to the rise of the internet, which has allowed the general population more and easier access to information on diseases, possible treatment routes, and various brands of pharmaceuticals or medical devices. Online, people may also find information on other patients’ experiences undergoing a particular treatment or using a particular drug.
So what does this mean for medtech? Basically, medical devices need to be manufactured with the end user—the patient—more firmly in mind. It’s not just about functionality and safety anymore; research has indicated
that patients may choose more comfortable or easier to use devices, even if they have to pay a bit extra. This trend can be seen, for example, with growing demand for implantable ports, which allow patients to swim and exercise and are more aesthetically appealing. Similarly, demand for low-profile gastrostomy devices will continue to grow. Manufacturers can help this trend along by actively marketing to end users so that patients are better aware that these options exist, ideally spurring them to request a particular brand from their doctors.
Another example of patients becoming more involved in health care is the recent case involving a man requesting to have access to the data stored in his implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. Manufacturers have been a bit hesitant to freely pass out this information, arguing that it is highly complex and might be difficult for patients to interpret. Both Medtronic and Boston Scientific
have, however, indicated that it is a question that they are looking into.
As medical apps gain popularity and as patients have more of their health information at their fingertips, medtech companies will have to accept the growing importance of their relationships with patients, not just physicians.