Painting the big picture for better healthcare launches
Tunnel vision is a frequent problem with many health and life sciences innovators. They become immersed in a solution or design and forget about the bigger picture – what is the broader problem that the innovation seeks to solve, who will benefit from it, who are the payers, what is the market like, will providers consider a new product or service, and what, and how long, will it take to gain market acceptance?
Understanding the care pathway, assessing the brand strategy alongside the payer strategy, and knowing what it will take for providers in a given market to accept your innovation are all integral to a successful launch.
Adjusting the strategy
Often small and medium-sized companies will have a single goal in mind, and they can become fixated on that point and perhaps overlook a potentially even larger healthcare outcome or objective. When we work with these companies, we try to help them understand the bigger picture and streamline or better define their market strategies, adjusted to the different expectations of each market, as well as the specific needs of the company.
For example, we worked with a diagnostics company that had commissioned us to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of a new test. Initially, they envisioned the main potential of the test as being to reduce antibiotic prescription. In the discussion with the client and experts, it appeared that the expected reduction in antibiotic prescription should be considered an intermediate outcome, whereas the impact on antibiotic resistance is the actual endpoint. This insight altered the value proposition and directed us in collecting the appropriate data to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the test.
What this demonstrates is that after assessing the big picture to determine the strategy and, therefore, the evidence needed to support the strategy, a product can sometimes have more impact than the company realised at the start. This is not only helpful when having a discussion with payers, but also when communicating with potential investors.
Adapt to market expectations
One consideration that can be overlooked by many smaller companies, especially those from markets outside of Europe, is that the expectations and flexibility of payers in each market differ significantly, even within the EU.
Each market is defined by its main stakeholders – the payers, providers and regulators – and so you need to understand who they are, what they are looking for, how they make decisions, and the different care pathways. For example, how are providers financed? How are they organised within a healthcare system? The German healthcare system is vastly different to the UK’s NHS, so introducing a new diagnostic in Germany or the UK requires different conversations and different strategies.
We work with many small or medium-sized companies, who are understandably enthusiastic about their innovations. They might have had conversations with a provider or a particular hospital and from that developed the belief that their product will gain widespread acceptance. But that isn’t necessarily the case. First, they need to know the broader environment to understand whether their product will gain acceptance by healthcare professionals or patients within that market. Start by determining who that contact is within the broader environment. Do they hold expertise within the field and are they someone others are likely to listen to? Or is it just someone who has expressed an interest in a technology?
Determine the pace of adoption
The other consideration is whether the company needs and expects a quick uptake or are they in a position to accept slower adoption? These questions will help to determine strategy and approach. As an independent company, Panaxea is in a position to conduct field research with stakeholders that companies would not be able to access, such as individual doctors, end-users, investors and payers, to get their thoughts on how a new product might be accepted within the market.
Every company’s situation and circumstances are different, it can never be a one-size-fits-all strategy. We work with our clients to determine the best approach. Sometimes that might be adjusting expectations to help a client avoid disappointment, sometimes it might be scaling up strategy for a bigger endpoint.
About the writer:
Hubertus “Bert” Vrijhoef, PhD, is CEO of Panaxea, which helps clients to make informed decisions about their healthcare innovations. Bert joined Panaxea from academia, where his research focussed on healthcare innovations to improve outcomes; integration and coordination of care; and skill mix and new professions in healthcare – all based on quantitative research, qualitative research and mixed research methods. In addition to his role as CEO at Panaxea, Bert continues his research into skill mix and task referral at Maastricht University Medical Center, where he leads the Research Team Task Referral. He is also chair of the Dutch Stroke Knowledge Network and editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Care Coordination.