The Data Opportunity Your Medical Device Company is Overlooking

Bogdan Blaga | February 28, 2020 | 13 Min Read

Learn how medical device companies can innovate, increase device sales and broaden relationships with their customers by developing a quality management solution for providers that leverages data at the beginning of the care pathway.

We’ve previously discussed how medical device companies can create value from health data by leveraging the data their device collects to develop new product features. However, innovation and R&D teams can also leverage quality-related data within provider environments to create and offer new solutions to providers complementary to, but separate from their devices. Developing new solutions that leverage data from the top of the healthcare pathway can offer medical device companies business security within the shifting data-driven digital healthcare market and can also help maximize the sales opportunity of their legacy devices.

Let’s explore this unique data opportunity further and discuss what types of medical device companies could benefit and why.

Developing New Healthcare Solutions Using Quality Measurement Data

If you examine patient and care delivery data within any given hospital, you’ll likely find that proper protocols aren’t being followed to the same degree of consistency by staff, which can lead to data illegitimacy or inaccuracy within hospital systems. As a result, patients who may actually need treatment can fall through the cracks of the system and/or patients who don’t require certain services or treatment are recommended them when perhaps a less costly or less invasive alternative could have been successfully implemented first.

This presents an opportunity for traditional medical device companies to explore new, innovative business models by developing and offering a software solution to providers that leverages the quantitative data collected within their systems to evaluate the quality of their services and the extent to which procedure standards are being upheld. By offering a solution to providers that measures their service quality and standards compliance, medical device vendors are then able to access provider data that can identify new patients who qualify for and need specific treatment involving the use of their device. For example, a heart valve manufacturer could offer a quality management software solution to providers that helps effectively identify people who, as per the criteria set by the American Heart Association, qualify for and require heart valve surgery and would benefit from the use of their implantable device.

A Quality Management Solution Offers New Value to Providers

A quality management solution offered by medical device companies would help hospitals ensure that their clinicians and specialists are practicing, evaluating patients and documenting information in a consistent manner with a high degree of confidence. This kind of solution would also help hospital administrators optimize operational efficiency and care effectiveness by identifying 1. staff who could be performing better, 2. areas to improve efficiency in the patient care pathway (eg. identifying the proper pool of patients who qualify for treatment, thus reducing chances of readmission) and 3. patients who require urgent care so they can be treated with priority. These capabilities are useful to providers who are working to deliver more value to patients and contain costs.

Offering a Quality Management Solution Can Help Medical Device Manufacturers Create Business Longevity

For the medical device company, offering providers new value via a quality management solution helps to increase market capital and business security in the future of the competitive medical device market by expanding their portfolio of innovative products and services. But more substantially, creating a quality management solution and service for providers serves as a doorway to the following greater opportunities.

1. Sales Optimization of Your Medical Device

When a quality management solution is implemented by a provider, the potential device sales opportunity within any given customer site is maximized by utilizing their quality measurement data to ensure that anyone who would require a procedure using your device does not get missed due to human error. Unfortunately, the reality is that this happens more often than it should and it’s patient lives that are ultimately affected.

The sales results of this initiative are compounding as the quality management solution is integrated into multiple customer sites; take the number of newly surfaced patients who require treatment using your device in one customer site and multiply that result by all the hospitals you’re currently selling to. Medical device vendors should leverage their relationships with existing customers to introduce the value of a new quality management solution; it’s much easier to get someone on board an idea/product when a solid foundation of trust and familiarity has been established.

When it comes to new customers who you’re not currently selling your device(s) to, a quality management solution can still be implemented in the same way and deliver value – and it could potentially segway into a sales opportunity for your traditional device(s) down the road as the relationship grows.

2. Broader Partnerships with Provider Customers

A quality management platform can act as much more than just a software offering. It can present an avenue to broader partnerships with these customers beyond device sales. The sale and deployment of the solution often include ongoing consulting to help customer teams implement improvements based on insights surfaced by the product, then identify new insights to drive more improvement, implement new changes…and the cycle continues. It can be a very iterative and collaborative engagement that, as a result, builds greater brand trust with the customer.

3. Business Intelligence

As your quality management solution is being used by customers, collecting data over time, your team may be exposed to some data points that provide valuable product or business insight. For example, insight on the usability of your quality management solution that could help your team implement design changes for your next product update. You could also come across data patterns that spark ideas for other new products and/or services. For example, over time your team may find that it takes, on average, four months for patients to see a specific specialist for treatment after being diagnosed with “X” condition. This could be an opportunity to develop a solution for providers that helps address this long wait time.

Business Implications of Leveraging Data to Become of Software Company

There are three different moments where data could be collected and leveraged to develop a new software solution: before the medical device is used, during its use and after its use. Most companies in the medical device space are immediately drawn toward leveraging the data during and/or after device use because it can be used to demonstrate product efficacy – a direct connection to device sales. For example, a MedTech company specializing in cardiovascular surgical equipment may develop a solution that collects and displays important real-time data to surgeons while they’re performing procedures to help guide their technique and reduce complications post-surgery, like acute kidney injury. Patient recovery data collected by the health system can then be analyzed to compare patient outcomes when one device is used vs. another.

Other organizations, some by accident, others by design, choose the proactive route by utilizing data and studying the patient journey through the entire continuum of care. In doing this, emphasis is placed on the top of the care funnel and data is collected that can be used to measure the quality of services being provided, to evaluate protocol compliance and to help providers understand their patients and their care needs better.

treatment timeline quality management solution

In either model taken, your business is being transformed from a traditional hardware-only device company to a more holistic hardware and software medical technologies company. Entering the world of software solutions will have implications on your business and it’s important to note your team will need to consider things like:

  • Developing a new business unit: You’ll need to put together a team and establish key partnerships to support the development, deployment, management, and commercialization of your new software solution and service.
  • New pricing models: How will you price your software product? Will pricing change when bundled with your device?
  • New service models: Who will perform integrations with your customers’ varying systems (you, them or a third party?) and what level of customization will you provide? Who will maintain the software including bug fixes and updates?
  • User adoption: What will you do to help increase the adoption of your new solution and system amongst hospital staff? Will you need to provide training for your new product?

Medical Device Companies Who Would Benefit from Offering a Quality Management Product

If at this point you’re wondering if developing a quality measurement solution would make sense for your business, here are some scenarios where medical device companies may find it valuable:

1.  If you operate on a Pay per Patient model (ie. valve, disposables)
If you’re looking to optimize the number of patients receiving treatment that involves the application of your device, a quality management solution will help provider customers identify all the possible candidates who are in need of a particular procedure.

2.  If you are a manufacturer of Implantable devices
With implantables, it can be difficult or impossible to collect data post-intervention. In this case, a quality management solution would help identify the right people who would need an implantable device.

3.  If the use of your device is dependent on a diagnosis that is:

  • Based on well-defined measurement thresholds. For example, the American Heart Association defines the measured values that deem someone as having a “Severe” Aortic Stenosis, which would qualify them for a procedure. In this case, you would want to ensure that all clinical staff is evaluating patients using the same judgment criteria and to the same degree of effectiveness, so as to ensure all patients who need care and would benefit from your device are being identified.
  • Based on regulated tests. For example, when taking a cardiogram, at least four different measurements must be taken in order to qualify the test as compliant. A provider quality management solution would help ensure all specialists are following protocol and are producing compliant tests that will accurately diagnose patients.
  • Subjective. Diagnoses that rely on the medical expertise of a physician can be more informed and less variable between practitioners with the implementation of a quality management solution that provides a more well-rounded picture of the patient’s overall health and needs.

4.  If you are a medical device company that wants more influence in the selection of candidates for your treatment.
This could be to broaden the candidate pool, narrow it, or simply help care providers refine the criteria.

Put in Practice: A Leading Cardiovascular Technologies Company

We recently worked with a leading MedTech company specializing in heart valves, as well as critical care and surgical monitoring technologies for structural heart disease to develop a quality management solution that helps their provider customers achieve the following:

  • Identify the right patient candidates for treatment, specifically valve replacement – not everyone who currently qualifies necessarily requires treatment.
  • Capture more of the people that qualify for treatment.
  • Prevent people from falling out of the care funnel (people who somehow get filtered out of receiving the proper treatment they require)
  • Quickly triage the candidates not eligible for treatment and the patients that need urgent care so that clinical staff can optimize their time and focus.
  • Increase the velocity of people moving through the care pathway by leveraging data to help prioritize cases, highlight key diagnostic inputs and call attention to cases that are falling behind because of delayed or missed activities.
  • Highlight inefficiencies in the hospital care pathway by identifying variability and quality issues in diagnostic inputs, variability in diagnoses and by monitoring quality metrics such as time to diagnose, consistency between findings, etc.
  • Demonstrate the differences between radiologists’ performance and procedure effectiveness, surfacing where they can improve in their practice and collect more accurate patient measurements.

This quality management solution we developed with this medical device vendor helped position the company as an owner of the entire episode of care when it comes to structural heart disease and treatment, as opposed to a leader in specific moments in the care pathway (see diagram below for how medical device vendors can position new solutions and services). Not only did this new solution make the company “stickier” amongst their customers by offering an additional value stream, it also indirectly works to optimize the sales opportunity of their heart valves.

Solutions services medical devices McKinsey

Image Source: McKinsey & Company

With the quality management solution being sold as its own product separate from their other offerings, this medical device company can benefit from an additional revenue stream that is not reliant on traditional device sales. Most importantly, the new solution provides another avenue for the company to reinforce its mission to improve patient outcomes and enhance patient lives.

Leveraging Partnerships to Develop A Quality Management Solution

Collecting and leveraging ecosystem data to develop solutions and services that deliver new value streams is unfamiliar territory for many med device teams operating in a traditional design-build-ship business model. Often times teams lack the necessary expertise in healthcare software development, data science and user experience design to deliver or simply don’t have the resources to build a team in house.

This is when it becomes advantageous to leverage the various experts and partnership opportunities around you to develop a product like a quality management solution that is distinct from your device.

Partnerships with Digital Health Solution Experts

Consider the skill sets and expertise required to launch your new solution. Perhaps you need a design and development partner who deeply understands the MedTech product development process and can help fill in the gaps on your team. Or, perhaps you’re not completely aware of all that would be required to develop a quality management solution, with software not being your domain of expertise. We’ve worked with a variety of MedTech companies to create digital and connected health solutions using novel technologies like machine learning and voice interfaces to increase patient engagement and improve the quality of care delivered. From developing initial design wireframes to strategizing on security infrastructure and regulatory compliance, to developing a complete market-ready product – we offer a variety of services that allow us to build collaborative partnerships with medical technology companies that will help them achieve their business goals.

Partnerships with Consumer Health Product Companies

The goal of developing a solution for providers that enables them to measure service quality is to paint a more thorough picture of what a patient experiences in the care pathway and surface points where that experience can be improved. Partnering with a consumer technology company (eg. wearable devices, health applications) could be a strategic way to access supplementary data that would provide additional context on patient health before they enter the care pathway (eg. blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose levels, sleep levels & patterns, etc). This kind of data can be used to inform diagnoses and the treatment approach. To highlight an example, Medtronic has partnered with Fitbit to integrate health and activity tracking for diabetic patients. A mobile app collects data from continuous glucose monitors and Fitbit activity trackers which allows patients to manage glucose levels and helps physicians optimize therapy.

Partnerships with Data Experts

Data Science isn’t your domain? Consider partnering with organizations that can take your quality management solution to the next level with increased data capabilities. To illustrate, Siemens Healthineers and IBM Watson Health entered a strategic partnership to bring value-based care solutions to hospitals. With their alliance, Siemens leverages their network of hospital customers as well as their deep understanding of clinical workflows and taps into IBM’s big data expertise in population health. Siemens offers its own devices bundled with IBM’s Population Health Management solutions and services to help providers deliver better quality care.

Don’t Become a Commodity

“If today’s manufacturers fail to stake their claim in the evolving value chain, they risk being caught in the middle and becoming commoditized.”

This quote from the KPMG Medical Devices 2030 Report sums up the stakes for today’s medical device vendors perfectly. The age of leveraging digital tools and analytics to support value-based care initiatives and healthcare cost optimization is upon us. Are you evaluating your business model and product portfolio, thinking of how to embrace digital technology to support these initiatives and create new value, be it via a quality management solution or some other digital offering? Or are you positioning yourself to become a commodity at risk of being replaced by more cost-effective competitors?

With our extensive experience collaborating with medical device vendors who are playing in the connected health space, we are fully prepared to help your team leverage emerging technologies such as machine learning, IoT and data science to develop solutions that will help patients receive better care and help your customers increase efficiencies.

If you’re thinking about new and innovative ways to expand your product/service portfolio and help providers deliver more effective care with new offerings such as a quality management solution, contact us today to explore how we can help you on this journey.

Want to learn more about how you can leverage data to create new value for your customers? Check out our eBook below on the Applications of Data Science for Medical Devices.

Download: Applications of Data Science in Medical Devices

In this eBook we demystify the domain of data science, articulate what’s involved, dive into the two main approaches to applying data science, and review the most common pitfalls experienced by teams that lead to failed data science initiatives.

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