Unless you are the second coming of Rip Van Winkle, you know that US healthcare has changed and will continue to change in the years to come. Specifically, the entities that influence the purchase of medical products and services, and the processes by which those purchases occur, are in flux.
At the risk of oversimplifying the changes we've already experienced, the key dynamics have been:
- Healthcare providers, and especially physicians, now exert diminished influences on purchase decisions.
- The "buyer" is less likely to be a single care provider or institution and more likely to be a complex combination of a provider, hospital, insurer, and/or integrated delivery network.
- Each buyer, as defined above, within a given geography is likely to be different from other such buyers; a uniform buyer definition throughout the US is increasingly unlikely.
Anybody who sells into the US healthcare system is well aware of these changes and has had to adapt their sales and marketing resources and methods accordingly. However, it's less clear that folks who research healthcare markets, for whatever reasons, fully recognize what has happened and continues to happen.
Let me explain. Historically, one would conduct primary market research by interacting primarily with healthcare providers - physicians, nurses, PAs, NPs and medical technologists - because providers were the most influential customers or users of medical offerings. Since that is no longer necessarily the case, effective market research has become more challenging in two ways: (1) people with different roles in the system, differing buying criteria, and multiple geographies must be recruited as research respondents, and (2) the total number of respondents must therefore be greater to achieve representative samples.
Today's healthcare researcher now needs to understand the roles of the new deciders, what their decision criteria are, how they interact with providers, and - above all - how to reach and incentivize them effectively.
Then there's the matter of setting prices, obviously a hot topic in the pharmaceuticals space but also increasingly feeling some heat in medical devices and diagnostics. That's a whole other buying influence deserving of attention and debate.