Episode 21: The Win-Win-Win for Practices

Practices live and die by the trust factor of the doctor-patient relationship. Medtech companies can help or hurt that trust by how they approach their part in the relationship. Michael, Scott, and Jared discuss how each party can win when medtech companies enable the practice.

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Full Transcript

Announcer: It’s time to think differently about healthcare, but how do we keep up? The days of yesterday’s medicine are long gone, and we’re left trying to figure out where to go from here. With all the talk about politics and technology, it can be easy to forget that healthcare is still all about humans, and many of those humans have unbelievable stories to tell. Here, we leave the policy debates to the other guys and focus instead on the people and ideas that are changing the way we address our health. It’s time to navigate the new landscape of healthcare together, and here’s some amazing stories along the way. Ready for a breath of fresh air? It’s time for your paradigm shift.

Michael:Welcome to the “Paradigm Shift of Healthcare,” and thank you for listening. I’m Michael Roberts with co-hosts Jared Johnson and Scott Zeitzer. On today’s episode, we wanted to take a little different approach, and, as we’re starting off season two, jump into how we’ve observed how medical technology companies can better empower practices. Medical technology companies, they’re gonna have a lot of different needs when it comes to their marketing, when it comes to trying to communicate.

And so, some of them are just trying to focus on how to communicate with practices, and some of them are trying to communicate directly with patients. And, you know, we’ve had a lot of experience in kind of coordinating with that process and helping out that process. And so, one of the first key ideas that we wanted to throw out there, and this is kind of something we’ll start the discussion off, guys, that trust factor that we’ve observed between the doctor and the patient, the surgeon and the patient, whatever the right term is there, but how paramount that is to the success of this entire process.

Scott: I think it’s so critical. All of us who have gone to the doctor with an issue, if you don’t have trust built up between the doctor and the patient, the outcomes just aren’t as good. And we all know that. I mean, that’s just the way that it is. It’s one of the things that all doctors are taught to do is to try to build trust so that they can help better take care of their patients. I think it’s a hypercritical part, Jared. I don’t know how you feel about it.

Jared: Well, I’m thinking when we’re talking about trust, I’m always curious. I think it’s evolved a lot in the industry about the different pieces of it. I mean, people out there on the street, when you talk to them, people, in general, don’t trust healthcare organizations. But do they trust individual practices and individual providers? I think so. I think it depends on your individual experience with them. And so, in a similar way, how much does the med-tech company get involved in that doctor-patient relationship? Do they even see themselves that way?

I thought it was such a good point that you both brought up already just about how important that is, how paramount it is. And I just get the feeling that that’s not typically, like, one of the things that the med-tech company just thinks about that much. And so, I think even just bringing it to the forefront is a good thought because it really isn’t just about the product. It really is about a relationship. That’s the whole reason the patients’ coming is that they want to be able to trust that provider, so how does the med-tech company fit into that relationship? I think it’s a great thing to think about and discuss.

Scott: I think it’s an empowerment issue really from my perspective. So, what I mean by that is the med-tech company or the pharma company, but we’re focused today on med-tech, but any company basically spends most of its time marketing to try to get its product purchased, right? Or used. And so, they spent a lot of marketing time and sales time essentially trying to convince a provider that this particular product is good and will help their patients and this is why. But it’s very focused on the doctor, on the surgeon, the person who is going to utilize that particular product. It’s not so much on how it benefits the patient.

But since we deal with a lot of medical implant companies like hip companies, knee companies, a lot of the conversation, if people are interested as patients out there, is really about like, “Hey, this is either a great implant and/or this is wonderful instrumentation that will help you more precisely put that implant in your patient.” You’re talking about a very targeted kind of a conversation between the medical device company and the surgeon, right? And they’re building trust like, “This is really great for you.” That’s a very different conversation than the conversation that you’re gonna have as a doctor with your patient. You know, Michael, we’ve helped with that quite a bit.

Michael: Yeah, certainly. You know, obviously, we think of things from the practice’s perspective quite a bit and quite extensively. But thinking from, you know, if you’re the medical technology company, like some medical technology companies we work with, obviously there’s a much more direct patient appeal. Here’s clearly why this matters. But if I’m thinking of it as a patient and thinking of, like, which doctor I’m going to use for a procedure, I’m not necessarily going to be able to look at the product names and go, “Oh, is that the HIP9000? Darn, sign me up.” You know, like, “I’m definitely on board.”

But there are ways that we’ve seen, and we’ve even been able to help, like highlight the fact that this brings a level of excellence. The fact that a doctor uses this kind of process, and it’s the overall process and not just that one thing, I think that’s where we see that sort of nuance around it all. It’s not just saying like, “Hey, I use the 9000,” but when leaning into that surgeon’s expertise, and this is how the surgeon approaches the surgery, this is what to expect, and this is the level of excellence from the products, from the approach, like, all of that combined together starts telling me as a story that as a patient, I feel very confident about.

Scott: Yeah. You know, Michael, along those lines, I’ve had many conversations with surgeons about some patient education material that’s been provided to them by a company. And usually, that patient education material, believe me, is perfectly vetted by the legal team, etc., and has all the caveats built-in in it. But it’s a very kind of general thing like, “This is the HAL 9000,” just to make fun, right? “It’s an excellent computer with the ability to read lips.” And so, you know, when you had that product, it’s great that they provided you with that little snippet, right, about the product. But in reality, it’s like, “Well, what does that mean for me as a patient?” And we advise a lot of our surgeons like, “Well, what’s your expertise with that? What can the patients get? Like, what are the benefits to the patient about this particular…?” You know, like, “Why did you choose this particular product?”

Because there’s a real reason behind that. It does kind of merge well conceptually with, “Hey, not everybody needs this either.” I think that’s the right balance in terms of building trust. You know, there’s two components to this. One is, “Hey, everybody, I’ve got some good information about a new product out there,” that’s the medical device company, and then the doctor, and that’s part of the doctor’s job is to say, “Well, this is gonna be good for some patients and not for others, but I better darn well know how to really expertly utilize that system so I can best take care of my patients,” right? That’s the win, win, win, right?

Jared: It really is. I think I have more of a question for the two of you in terms of how do you educate the med-tech company about understanding what the product’s benefit really is to the patient?

Scott: Michael, do you want to take that one?

Michael: I think, like, the first step in it…This is something that, you know, I’ve been thinking about a lot for just marketing and even beyond this situation, but how do you get somebody’s attention in the first place? Why does the patient care in the first place? And if I’m going to search for a hip replacement, or I’m going to search for a particular procedure…And I’m starting to learn more. You know, as a patient…Like, the patient finds out, “Oh, oh. I have a problem.” So, now I’m just like searching real general things like hip pain, you know, all that kind of stuff. And then the more and more educated that the patient gets on this very particular process, what’s the process that’s going to lead them into the discussion about what product is involved, and how much does it matter to them at that stage?

But, you know, what we’ll see sometimes is that…Like, well, people may be very focused, companies may be very focused on their product name. Like, they spent a lot of money, you know, developing that product name and figuring out the exact right thing to call it, and that’s not what patients are searching for. It’s not what they even know to search for. They’re not that far down the process yet. And so, just giving them those sort of…I’ll say more generic terms, but it’s the things like whether it’s robotic surgery or about robotic this or whatever, like, whatever the right kind of product category is or procedure category is. Like, that’s where people are starting from, and then they’re moving down that process.

So, if we can start towards some sort of, like, procedure category, re-affirm why that particular surgeon is so good at this particular category, then some kind of conversation about the product is really helpful and just further cements that idea. So, oftentimes like… And again, if I’m in the shoes of the product marketer, man, I’m just thinking of how to get the product out there, I get it. Like, let’s focus on that first, but the patients aren’t searching for it that way. The patients aren’t reassured by that product first mentality. It’s a process first mentality.

Scott: Yeah. And that is the nuance there. So, you’re right, as a medical device marketing person, you’re just saying like, “Hey, my job is to, you know, help the company sell more of these to the right doctors. And that’s great, but that’s a very different conversation than a doctor would have with their patient. And I think that’s where they need to…If you’re a medical device company marketing person, you need to kind of have a whole different process in place. And it does take extra time. I know with a lot of medical device companies, there are different depaAs you you as well theyrtments. So there’s one department which basically is the marketing department and they help market a particular product to a surgeon group or a practice group, and then there’s a separate direct-to-patient marketing group that comes up with a strategy of like, “Well, you know, how does this fit best?”

Where I’ve seen it work best is when there are two different teams working towards slightly different goals. That’s where it’s very important.

We can talk a lot about “don’t get siloed, don’t be on an island so that you make sure that that conversation is taking place.” You can also talk quite a bit internally about, “Hey, let’s be the good guys. There’s more than enough business out there. We do not need to market this particular product to everyone. It needs to go to specific people.” And, you know, we’ve seen where a lot of trust is lost because companies get too aggressive. There’s more than enough that we can name.

Thankfully most companies are just trying to get their product in the right hands of the right people or the right doctors, so that those doctors can find the right patients. And I think it’s critical to reinforce that. And if you keep that white hat on, well, what’s in it for the patient? You know, if we provide this particular product, whether it’s an implant, whether it’s some sort of pain reduction device, whether it is a brace, the real win is describing the benefits which are separate, nuanced and different between that product for the doctor and then that product for the patient.

Jared: So, Scott, then I think that leads us to an important place about just…you mentioned it, and I think it’s another mindset shift of realizing that this really is about getting the right patients, not just pushing new tech on to everyone. I know it’s something that you share a lot about on social media lately about that thought, that the whole world, not every single person, not every single patient needs that exact device or that certain piece of tech. It’s really just getting it into the hands of…I guess it’s really about just getting it to the right patients, and there are…

Scott: Yeah. It’s a matching game, right?

Jared: Yes.

Scott: It’s a matching game. I think wherever I see people fall and we read about it, like in the “New York Times,” and the “The Wall Street Journal,” etc., it’s when people get greedy and they try to push it to everyone. Everybody could use this, whatever that is, you know? Especially on the healthcare side. You know, good healthcare is about matching the right patient with the right doctor and about the doctor being empowered to make good choices about matching up the right device, drug, etc., therapy, to help solve that problem that the patient has. And I think where medical companies do a very good job, when they do a good job, it’s when they accept that, when they come up with a way to figure out that really good balance between getting that right match. And that’s where the win occurs.

We work with a lot of companies that are smaller. They’re not one of the larger companies. They’ve come up with an interesting niche product. They are trying to get the word out that, “Wow, man. We really came up with this great thing, and it’s gonna take care of this particular issue.” Now, not everybody has this particular issue, and this is where Michael goes back to like, “Hey, how do we find those patients?” If you’re a doctor or if you’re a med-tech company because it’s a blue ocean but it’s a smaller ocean, you know, using that old book, you know. Michael, that’s where you talk about like, “Hey, how do we those right patients?”

Michael: Yeah. It’s funny, you know, thinking through what a lot of today’s marketing technology is trying to do, you’ve got all the AI that’s out there, you’ve got all this machine learning, like all these different processes that are out there to try and replicate what small companies are, like, already set up to do well.

Scott: You’re right.

Michael: You know, which is like pay extra attention, show a different level of, you know, customer service, of care, of…really attention to the…like this doctor’s patients, this very specific process that…Again, like, you think about the difference between, just totally getting out of healthcare for a second, but why do you go to the local bookstore as opposed to just ordering something on Amazon again? And it’s that level of attention that you can get from going in the store, right? So, thinking about this from the healthcare angle, what is it that a small company can bring to the table that other larger companies can’t? You may have even very similar products.

And so, when you start thinking through, like, the whole concepts of differentiation and trust, like that’s something that everybody in marketing is trying to solve right now. How do I make my thing, my product, my service stand out enough? And then how do I set up enough trust so that you care and that you want to engage in this? And that’s where small companies can have an advantage if they lean into it, or if they’re really paying attention to, “Hey, Dr. Smith, you handle these procedures in particular. Let’s talk about how this specific product can help you tell that story even better.”

Scott: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, Michael, along those lines, it’s basically what we do as well. I mean, there’s tons of companies where they can create a website on the fly. It may not be–so, you can say, “Check, I’m done. I made a website,” or, “Check, I’m done. I’ve done SEO.” But in reality, did you really make a website that’s going to help get you found? Did you really do search engine optimization, SEO, sorry guys, that’s going to help you get found for that specific procedure? It’s like leaning in and understanding better about what you’re trying to accomplish is what separates us from, you know, just large-scale factory kind of marketing companies.

And the same thing goes with medical device companies when they have that particular niche product. It’s like, “What are the differentiating factors?” Excuse me. And what is it? Like, I get it. You probably have it worked out very well between about that particular device and the surgeon, now let’s take it to the next step. What does that mean for a patient, for a well-informed and well-trained surgeon using your product? What are the benefits for the surgery? And if you can’t figure out what that is, well then, you’ve got an issue because you’re not going to be able to sell it to the doctor or surgeon either, right?

Jared: Just do it all on billboards. I mean, that’s how we build trust, right? SEO is too complicated.

Michael: Repetition, that’s the key.

Scott: Yeah. You know, I’ll go back over and over, you know. Michael, you really say it very well. It’s differentiation and trust. The differentiation is taking the time to step back when you’re talking about direct-to-patient marketing about what is it about my product that’s gonna help patients with a particular need? And that’s where that trust comes, right? That second line, with a particular need. Making sure that you’re matching the right patients with the right medical care providers, with the right product. That’s the win. It’s not about getting it to everybody.

I mean, we look at what’s going on in the paper with the opioid crisis. I can guarantee you that opioids have their place in taking care of certain pain modalities. There is no doubt about that. But the fact that they tried to just slam the entire market that everybody needs it whenever they have any pain whatsoever, well, that’s the beginning of the end there, right? So, don’t get greedy, guys. Match it up well, and you’ll be successful, and you’ll build trust, and you’ll be on the market for a long time. Get greedy, and you’ll end up like those guys.

Michael: Tying some of these thoughts back to, like, the provider’s side, so you’ve got…Here’s a company that they’ve got the product, they’re trying to get this information out there. They share it, and this is an interesting, maybe, dilemma for some of these larger companies is like at some point you have to relinquish control over that experience, right? The practice is the one that owns that relationship more than anybody else. That surgeon, doctor, and the patient, they are the ones that have the relationship.

And so, there’s a level of trust that even medical technology companies have to demonstrate to say, “Okay, I’m enabling you as much as I can. Here you go, doctor. Here you go, practice. You know, kind of take it from here.” But for the practices side of things, like, I think it’s so critical that they own that. Like the practice, you have that opportunity to own that in a way that nobody else can.

Scott: So, there’s a couple of layers here. So, if you’re not involved in this industry, number one, medical device companies, pharma companies cannot market a medical practice, cannot help in any way. That’s inappropriate, of course, from an ethical perspective but also from a legal perspective, Medicare fraud, Sunshine laws, all those things come into play, and so finding the right balance is the key here.

I’ve noticed some medical tech companies will basically say like, “You know what? I don’t want to be involved at all. I don’t want to touch this with a 10-foot pole. I just have ads for surgeons, and if a surgeon wants to do something, cool, that’s great.” And that is, by the way, I guess it’s safe, but it really doesn’t help their customers, the surgeons, the doctors, help their patients, which I think is a real miss.

And then Michael, to your point, hey, if you build good information so that you can empower the doctors to go do what they need to do to go market their practice, you’re right. You’ve got to let go a little bit. A lot of it, you know, like, “Here’s the information, man. Now, go work with somebody or work on your own if you have your own team. We’ve given you good basic information. But I got to let go now, you know, both for medical, ethical, legal, and I don’t own that relationship. It’s not even appropriate, right? On so many different levels.” It’s coming up with that right balance to get the good win is where I advise all the companies, the med-tech companies that we work with, about how to position their product. When they come out with something new, I always get like, “This is gonna be great. We’re going to help so many people. What do we do?” It’s like, “This is what we need to do.”

Jared: That’s a great place to start because…I do. I agree that marketing materials are kind of step one, right? And they really are just part of it, and it’s all in how we see them. If we just see it as us blasting information out there versus what you just said, Scott, of how are we helping the patient? That in and of itself is a great way to remind practices of how to own the patient relationship right then and there instead of, “We’re just gonna clobber you with all this information and, of course, you’re going to trust everything we give you and that you’re gonna become a patient.” No, it’s a completely…it really is…it’s another paradigm shift. It’s another mindset difference in how things have evolved. That really does set us up to truly own the patient relationship.

Scott: I’ve seen where some med-tech companies do nothing at all, and they wonder why the surgeons get frustrated with them. I’ve seen it where the med-tech company provides all the advertising and marketing materials that they were providing to the doctors, you know, to try and get them to use the product to put on their websites, etc., and it’s like that’s a complete fail because that’s not a patient story. That’s a doctor’s story. It doesn’t explain why it’s gonna help the patient.

And then I’ve also seen it where, “Hey, we made this thing for patients, but we gave no explanation.” Michael, we’ve dealt with a lot of practice where they’ve got all this patient education material. Forget about whether it is associated with a particular device or not. It’s just, “This is a total knee.” It’s like, “Well, that’s nice,” you know, that you’re talking about what a total knee replacement is, but it’s not gonna build a lot of trust, right, Michael? It’s not gonna tell about the doctor.

Michael: Yeah. I especially think of the practices that, you know, they’re so small, they’ve got the practice manager that handles everything, right? And so, a rep gave the surgeon some sort of information. The surgeon tells the practice manager, “Let’s just get this on the site somewhere,” and it just kind of that’s it. That’s the end of the process. And so, weaving it into that narrative of trust, again, every company, everybody out there that’s doing any kind of marketing has to establish, but practices have to be thinking this way too. And it’s especially hard when you don’t have anyone that’s dedicated to that sort of thinking for the practice.

Somebody has to step in and help out with that process. Obviously, we like to do that, our self plug there. Like that’s kind of something that we help practices with, and we think through that, but it is a problem that we notice a lot when people are just checking off the boxes, right? And whether it’s the med-tech company, whether it’s the practice, everybody has got so many things that they’re supposed to be thinking about and here’s one more responsibility. Somebody has to slow the train down a bit and go like, “Hey, are we happy with this? Is this helping us? Is this actually moving us in the right direction?

Scott: Right. Why am I doing this? Or why did I do this? And, by the way, is it helping? I’ll never forget, I think it was about a year ago, I was on the phone with a practice and the office manager, again, not a marketing person, a very competent office manager said to me, “I don’t need marketing. I have cups.” I really had to pause for a second. I said, “Cups?” And she said, “Yes. We hand out cups to the local little leagues, and it has our name and phone number on it, so I don’t need marketing.”

And I was like, “Wow. All right. I think we need to take a couple of steps back.” And I said, “Well, how do you know that that’s working?” And there was this long pause, and she says, “I don’t know.” And I said, “Well, you know, I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I don’t think cups are the lead way to get new business.” Nor do I think billboards either, but that’s a whole different conversation. But yeah, we can have an entire podcast just on how overtaxed office managers are and setting appropriate expectations about how well they’re gonna market.

Michael: Yeah, I think back to, you know, talking with Terry from the practice and just already dealing with it and so I’m trying to just throw in one more thing. It definitely tips over the line there.

Guys, I want to go ahead and wrap up this show with just a few notes. Like, you know, all of this, we keep coming back to this core idea. This process comes down to differentiation and trust. For the surgeon, for the med-tech company, for all of the different players that are out there, this process of differentiation and trust is something that all of marketing is struggling with right now and is looking for ways to incorporate more effectively. And this is a way that the healthcare process can move towards that, the surgeons, the med-tech companies.

And, you know, making that more specific, you know, if you’re a med-tech company, look at the ways that you can enable the practice. There’s a lot of nuance there. There’s a lot of legal there. Pay attention to all that. Talk to your lawyers, all that fun stuff. But enable the practice where you can.

And for the practice itself, own that relationship. Own that patient relationship. Don’t let anybody get in the way of that. Don’t let one more piece of marketing material or one more thing that’s on your plate get in the way of that patient relationship. That patient experience is so critical for just effective care, and then you can think about all the other things on top of it later on, but that’s the critical piece of all this.

Guys, thanks so much. I think we covered a ton of stuff here. I’m really excited to be kicking off season two with this episode, really looking forward to it.

Scott: I agree. Michael, Jared, great talk, and I hope everyone listening enjoyed the conversation back and forth.

Jared: Yeah, thanks, guys. I think you guys brought up so many good points. It’s great to continue this journey with you two, and to understand all the different ways that we really can help med-tech companies better empower practices and vice versa. So, great conversation today.

Announcer:Thanks again for tuning in to the “Paradigm Shift of Healthcare.” This program is brought to you by P3 Inbound, marketing for ortho, spine, and neuro practices. Subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.