Despite the Medical Technology (‘MedTech’) industry being worth billions across the globe, evidence indicates that many may be further ahead with product innovation than they are with effective customer care. In a fast-growing, competitive space, this is precisely where companies can either lose traction or outpace competitors.
So where to begin? Firstly, by understanding that your target audience are not simply consumers; they are patients with particular concerns and needs. Secondly, by knowing how to instill trust in your brand and product (thereby encouraging device adoption). And finally, by creating a user journey that meets the specific needs of this demographic.
Read on to discover the insights that will help you understand the unique needs of MedTech consumers in order to encourage device adoption.
1. Patients are not consumers by choice
When a consumer buys a new Apple watch or a Fitbit, they have already committed to that product because they want it. When a patient buys a MedTech device, the purchase is only the beginning of acceptance and adaptation. At the same time, patients are trying to balance the need to manage their illness while simultaneously not impacting their lifestyle more than necessary. For these reasons, the criteria patients use to choose a MedTech device will always be very stringent.
In researching potential devices, patients consider several elements:
The management of diabetes is a good example. A device in this context performs not only a functional role in the life of the patient – i.e. monitoring blood sugar levels – but an emotional and social one, too. It is extremely important for MedTechs to take this into consideration (ideally, before the launch of a product) as your target audience will certainly consider these aspects before adopting any new device.
Elements patients consider, using this example, include:
- Functional: “How will this device fit into my life?”
- Emotional: “Finger pricking might be inconvenient, but I am used to it; will another device be as easy to use?”
- Social: “Will people see me wearing a sensor on my arm? I don’t want people treating me differently because of it.”
By being sensitive to these concerns, MedTech companies will be better equipped to design an empathetic patient journey.
2. Trust is key for device adoption
Patients will quickly abandon a MedTech device if it does not meet their expectations. For this reason – as research has confirmed – a positive onboarding experience for new patients is critical when it comes to securing device adoption.
The onboarding stage is where the patient will start comparing their expectations of the product to their actual experience. Research shows that proper onboarding leads to increased levels of trust, which can then be enhanced by the sense of empowerment achieved when mastering their device.
Research also demonstrates that trust is a key determining factor in company growth and profitability, with Edelman’s annual brand study revealing that trust is only second to price when considering a (re)purchase.
So, we’ve established that trust is at the heart of winning patient trust. But what can MedTechs do to enhance the feeling of trust patients experience?
MedTechs need to focus on three key elements to gaining patient trust:
Your website and brochure play an important role in a patient’s decision making, but the information they contain will never be considered all-encompassing. Patients will always do further research and seek other sources to investigate your products.
That’s why it’s essential to validate the information that is published and to ensure consistency across all support channels. For example: If a YouTube video contradicts a message on your website, this uncertainty will quickly erode patient trust in the product or brand.
This also happens when several versions of products are being supported and the customer (inadvertently) reads information pertaining to the wrong version. With extra consideration to cross-channel planning, MedTechs can avoid errors like this.
Patients will research their condition, but most of them aren’t medical professionals. That’s why it’s best to avoid use of medical jargon, technical terms, and too many abbreviations in your support material. Patients have enough on their plates; understanding how their device works should therefore be as stress-free as possible.
So how to achieve the right balance between accuracy and simplicity when it comes to supporting your patients? Testing different language with users can help you find a style that is both clear and legally, medically accurate. Lemonade, a Dutch insurance company, is a great example of this. They redefined the so-called fine print of insurance with plain, easy-to-understand writing, as seen on their website. Companies like Lemonade prove that it’s possible to cater your language to the consumer without sacrificing important details.
Lack of transparency is one of the quickest ways to lose trust with patients. When it comes to MedTech products, marketing enthusiasm needs to be carefully balanced with a more grounded outlook.
What does that mean? To start with, be transparent about your product’s limitations. If it has shortcomings or limitations, mention them openly. Hiding this kind of detail could introduce distrust at a critical stage of the patient journey. Instead, suggest workarounds or create opportunities for the patient to engage with other users who know how to bypass limitations.
3. The patient journey requires a different approach
MedTech consumers are often still coming to terms with their diagnosis; a process often characterized by anxiety, fear, and self-doubt. For this reason, the patient journey requires much more careful and empathetic planning – especially in the early stages.
Careful planning is good for you and the patient
The stages of the patient journey are not all equal: Some require the absorption of a large amount of information, such as the initial research and onboarding stages. Some are quieter periods from the patient’s perspective, such as waiting for the product to arrive or the initial adoption of a new device.
With careful planning, you can time the dissemination of information more appropriately across the journey, creating a better, less overwhelming experience for the patient. For example, use quieter periods to educate the patient rather than overloading them with information during a period of high intensity. Improve the overall experience by triggering the provision of new information so that frequently asked questions are answered just before the patient (typically) needs to ask them.
Timing is everything
Patients need to digest the right information early in the orientation phase of the journey. MedTechs should clearly and timeously describe or – even better – visualize the entire device adoption process so that patients have a better understanding of where they are in the journey at any given moment. This can help the patient understand which choices or options are time-sensitive and which can be deferred, empowering them to pace themselves. A deterrent would be creating an onboarding journey where patients feel they must choose between two undesirable alternatives without knowing that they have the option to opt out or modify their choice further down the road.
Onboarding is not the time for legal disclaimers
If carefully planned, the onboarding stage can be used to build a foundation of trust with the patient. While the nature of MedTech products necessitates the inclusion of legal agreements, planning where and when the patient needs to address these is just as important as the agreement itself. Flagging everything that could possibly go wrong just before the patient is about to use the product for the first time will not enhance the patient experience. Instead, be transparent and introduce the agreement earlier in the onboarding process.
A positive experience generates loyalty and brand advocacy
When you provide the right support at critical times in the user journey – for instance, during onboarding, or periods of potential stress – your patients will reward you. A truly positive patient experience will encourage not only customer loyalty, but brand advocacy.
A brand advocate is likely to educate other patients about your product and the positive experiences they have had. They often become ‘product experts’ and can answer practical questions better than medical experts. A peer’s voice can help eradicate other patients’ insecurities, and can bring assurance to an entire patient community.
There is a lot of potential loyalty up for grabs in the MedTech space, with plenty of innovation and new entrants disrupting an exciting market. But with patients’ health mixed into the equation, the stakes are that much higher. MedTechs will win trust and even encourage advocacy by taking the time to truly understand who they are selling to, which means ensuring they take the necessary steps to create supportive, meaningful patient journeys.