3D Printing and what it could mean for your device

By Charles Stuart

The rise of 3D printing technology has opened up exciting new opportunities and possibilities for medicine, particularly in the medical device space. Some early game changing instances have already been reported this year, as a 3-D printed medical device was used earlier this year to save an infants life. In late May, 6-month-old Kaiba Gionfriddo was diagnosed with tracheobroncholomalacia, a condition where breathing is impaired due to soft cartilage throughout the trachea. Had Kaiba been brought into Univeristy of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s hospital a year later, this condition would have been fatal. Fortunately for Kaiba, among those handling his case was Scott Hollister, a biomedical engineer who had been exploring the medical applications of 3-D printing. When no option seemed available, he stepped in with the idea of creating a custom splint that would fit into the infants trachea. The medical team proceeded to take a CT scan of Kaiba’s chest and then create a 3-D render of the child’s trachea. From here, they designed and printed a custom splint that would be a perfect fit once implanted. Within three weeks, Kaiba had resumed normal breathing without the assistance of a ventilator.

The case is an early example of what could soon become the norm in life-saving medical technologies. While the technology of 3D printing has been around since 1984, the last five years have expanded the range of models expanding both the large scale capabilities and reach in larger consumer markets. The trend in technological development shows that as 3D printers are becoming smaller and cheaper to make, their range of capabilities are growing in depth. For hospitals and medical centers, this means owning a 3D printer could soon be common practice and no longer a privilege afforded to specialized centers such as C.S. Mott’s Children hospital.

Combined with CT Scanning capabilities, 3D printing could lead to an increased number of devices that will be created to specifically match the need of that patient. Additionally, as the range of materials that can be printed are expanded, common and frequently used disposables could soon become printed based on need, potentially freeing up shelf space and opening up inventory for items that previously could not be justified keeping on site.

Assuming the inevitability of 3D Printing devices in hospitals, it is worth predicting how this new technology could affect companies that currently manufacture the devices that could be printing. First, how medical devices are licensed and intellectually owned could be brought up into debate. As hospitals begin printing their own devices on a larger scale, manufacturers of those designs might claim licensing over their design. While the hospital would seek to save costs by printing such devices themselves, these manufacturers could charge a licensing fee as is seen in other industries. Claiming licensing over 3D printing blueprints for certain medical devices could offer manufacturers a unique financial incentive as well, potentially allowing them to evade the medical device tax posed by Obamacare. One way to think about how this system could function is to consider how we digitally purchase music today from a platform such as iTunes. While we are not paying for a physical manifestation of a song, we still pay a licensing fee to iTunes as part of every music purchase that grants us rights to play that song. Device manufacturers could lease product blue prints to hospitals the same way, charging hospitals for the rights to print certain materials.

As has been the case with the music industry, 3D printing could also lead to “pirating” medical devices. This issue has already arisen in other fields of 3D printing. In May of this year, a US company Defense Distributed produced a blueprint that could be downloaded and used to print a working firearm, spurring a new debate over gun control amid fears of unregulated gun printing. With a life on the line, it is not unreasonable to imagine a scenario where a hospital on a tight budget could turn to a pirated blueprint for an emergency device. Unfortunately, these unlicensed blueprints would have not have the same guarantees and would put a patient at risk.

Considering again the manufacturers of medical devices, one final problem 3D printing could pose is the lost of income medical device manufacturers could face as a their products become increasingly printed instead of bought in bulk. While it is easy to chalk this up to pure capitalism and claim it as an instance of new technology replacing the old, it cannot be ignored that the profits of these sales are more often used to fuel the innovation and creation of new technologies. With the sudden loss of a stable revenue stream, manufacturers could curtail researching efforts, resulting in a wide spread reduction in the rate at which new medical devices are produced.

Top 10 States for Med Device. Surprised?!

For those of us in the med device industry, we know that there are geographic pockets that seem to incubate new device technology. The fact that California is the top of the list comes as no surprise. We’ve been jetting out to Orange County and San Francisco to meet with clients for years. But the fact that more and more innovation is coming from the mid West and some of the Southern states – North Carolina and Georgia – is both intriguing and refreshing.

Top States for Medtech (Infographic)
Presented By Qmed.com

How can smaller marketing budgets be structured to create strong product launches within highly competitive markets?

By Charles Stuart

Boehringer Ingelheim and Lilly’s Tradjenta, Merck’s Juvisync, and Amylin’s Bydureon are three new diabetes drugs that launched during the past year into a market that saw a nearly 30% increase in promotional spending between the second quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012. The three campaigns have been substantial contributors to this increase with promotional spending budgets of $40.6 million, $24.5 million, and $19.3 million, respectfully. Though each marketing campaign has sought to promote a message that generates awareness for their product, they have varied in how they’ve allocated those dollars. While each approach has achieved varying degrees of success, Bydureon in particular has stood out after achieving an exponential increase in sales despite having the smallest promotional launch budget. Through a comparison of the differences in spending behavior for each product’s promotional campaign, Bydureon’s standout success is explained by devoting a much larger chunk of its budget to developing interpersonal exchanges – engaging physicians through meetings and events.

Figure 1: Promotion Spending Breakdown for Diabetes Product Launches

Figure 1: Promotion Spending Breakdown for Diabetes Product Launches

Figure 1 distinguishes the promotional spending for Tradjenta, Bydureon, and Juvisync by each budgeted area dedicated to a different media outlet. While all companies devoted dollars to each channel, product detail expenditures represented 70% of promotional spending for Tradjenta, ePromotion was a top focus for Juvisync and Bydureon spent proportionately more of their budget on professional education activities via meetings and events.

Figure 2: Increase in Diabetes Products Sales

Figure 2: Increase in Diabetes Products Sales

Indications of successes for each promotional campaign can be measured by comparing the budget allocations in Figure 1 to a quarterly increase in sales,. Figure 2 presents the first and second quarter sales of the 2012 fiscal year for Tradjenta, Juvisync, and Bydureon. Through an increased focus of the campaign’s interaction with healthcare professionals through meetings and events, Bydureon’s promotional campaign had the greatest level of success by increasing earning 423%. While focusing on product details did have positive results, Tradjenta saw only a 23% increase in sales. The promotional campaign of Juvisync was the least successful. While it did experience a 21% increase in sales, the $1.24 million in product earnings over two quarters was drastically less than the $24.5 million budget of the entire promotional campaign.

The product earnings of diabetes products in conjunction with the media distribution of their product spend suggests a possible connection between successful sales performance and budgets focused on professional education, meetings and events.

As marketers look to finalize their budget allocations for the coming year, studies like these may provide some insight into how to potentially get the biggest bang out of the proverbial buck.

If you’re looking for ideas for how to make your product launch a stand-out, contact The Matchstick Group. We’d be more than happy to share with you what we’re doing with some of our medical device clients.

How will new trends in hospital spending affect new drug and medical device marketing?

By Charles Stuart

Med device marketers – take note! If you aren’t already seeing the impact healthcare officials are taking to limit hospital spending, you will be shortly (and this goes way beyond the medical device tax). Recent reports have shown that healthcare spending has been significantly increasing over the last 10 years. And many healthcare officials believe that the current rate of growth is unsustainable. The average price of new cancer drugs alone has more than doubled within the last decade from about $4,500 to 2002 to around $10,000 today. While the prices of medical devices are in actuality rising at a much slower rate, medical device marketers are still threatened by a growing skepticism around what some perceive as excessive expenditures within the hospital setting.

As a result, leading healthcare centers have begun saying no to new drugs and treatments where the cost/benefit ratio seems off-balance. Recently, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center announced in October this year that they would not be providing a new cancer drug, Zaltrap, as a treatment option for their patients.

While studies demonstrated that Zaltrap prolonged patient lives by an average of 1.4 months compared to a standard chemotherapy regimen, the drug cost more than $35,000 during each month of treatment. Because of this, the physicians of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center argued that the slightly better benefits of the drug did not justify the associated cost.

Interestingly, while the prices of pharmaceuticals have been consistently on the rise, the costs of medical devices have remained relatively stable – increasing only 1% per year in the last decade. In fact, national spending for medical devices was about $156.3 billion in 2010, making up only 6% of total national health expenditure.

Medical centers and hospitals are taking it upon themselves to mitigate the rising prices of medicines and treatments. Medical device marketers need to be aware of hospital administrator’s preconceptions about the ongoing price of medical devices and be able to explain how the perceived cost fits within the greater picture. Now more than ever, potential leads will be analyzing the benefit of a product with its associated price when purchasing a new product. Therefore, marketing campaigns will need to stress how new products will be beneficial not only to patients’ health but the hospitals’ wallets as well.

How is the Medical Device Tax Impacting your Business?

The news has been full of stories in the last two weeks about layoffs at some of the major medical device companies; Medtronic to cut 500 jobs, 300 employees terminated at St. Jude Medical, more than 100 laid off at Stryker, untold layoffs at Boston Scientific. Many analysts speculate (and some of the companies acknowledge) that the cuts have been put in place to protect against the impact of the medical device tax.

In speaking with several of our clients, those who have elected not to cut jobs still have to come up with a way to pay for the 2.3% excise tax – a task that can be daunting especially for smaller device companies operating on thinner margins. Price increases while considered by some can put companies at a competitive disadvantage and/or result in fewer devices sold as tighter pricing controls are put into place. Premier Inc. last month wrote to the Internal Revenue Service asking that they monitor device pricing practices in an attempt to minimize the likelihood that manufacturers pass the tax along to the customer.

Interim CEO at Stryker, Curt Hartman, suggests that companies will begin moving operations off shore in an effort to minimize the tax impact.
What (if anything) is your company doing?

What Do You Do When A Product Has Been Recalled?

I subscribe to FierceMedicalDevices newsletter which if you work in this space and you haven’t done that, consider doing so. The team at Fierce (whether that’s Med Device, Pharma, Biotech, etc..) do a really great job of keeping you up to date with regards to the latest ongoings in the Med Device world.
But I digress. The lead story today was about CareFusion and the recent recall of a component on the PC unit power supply that runs one of its infusion pumps. CareFusion isn’t the only company that has recently had a product recall, seems like almost every medical device company has had it’s share of system failures, recalls, etc… I’m not going to debate what happens or why or who’s to blame. My point is what do you do when that happens?
Couple of best practices from Medical Device Industry leaders – and some of these may be blinding glimpses of the obvious, but sometimes in tough times we need a reminder!
1. PLAN. If you don’t already have a plan in place for these types of situations, make one. Who is impacted? How do you let them know? What consequences does the recall have? What will the company do to resolve the issue? How long will it take? What is your plan moving forward to ensure that it doesn’t happen again?
2. COMMUNICATE INTERNALLY. Inform your sales team, your customer service team, your corporate communications team, anyone and everyone who interfaces with your customers. They will get asked the questions, so make sure they know absolutely everything – what happened, what the potential impact is, what the company will do about it, how long it will take to fix the situation.
3. COMMUNICATE EXTERNALLY. Inform the impacted account of the recall and what is being done (by when) do address the situation. It’s not enough just to note that ‘we’ll fix it’, but give your customers a realistic timeframe. CareFusion let their customers know that the issue would be resolved within 60 days which was great. Customers might not be happy about the recall, but they know that it will be resolved and resolved in a timely fashion.
4. EXECUTE. Do what you say you’re going to do to resolve the issue – both addressing the immediate swamp, system fix, etc… as well as what you need to do long-term to ensure that a similar situation doesn’t happen again.

When a recall happens it can diminish the trust that your customers and patients put in the company. However, when handled appropriately and with transparency, companies actually have an opportunity to rise above.

Update: Found a good article on MD&DI Online (Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry) by Denise Odenkirk and Tom Konzenski which highlights best practices for tracking and managing recalled inventory.

Three Ways to Use LinkedIn to Promote Your Business

LinkedIn can be an especially powerful tool for building your business or brand in the B2B space. When you look at the statistics, 96% of Americans are on Facebook so it’s no wonder that many people are focusing efforts there. But the second highest percentage of people are networking on LinkedIn and the types of transactions that are being conducted on LinkedIn are different than on Facebook. Most people are on Facebook to update their photos, checking-in to see what their friends are doing – they’re using it more for personal and social purposes (and a recent poll suggests that less than 20% of people have ever made a purchase based on something that they saw on Facebook). LinkedIn on the other hand is primarily a business networking site, so if you’re looking to network with potential customers (yes, MDs are on LinkedIn too!), recruit talent or otherwise engage in industry-wide discussion, LinkedIn is a great place to go.

LinkedIn is also a place where the playing field is somewhat leveled between the ‘big boys’ and the smaller start-ups. Regardless of whether you have a $100M or a $100 marketing budget, everyone kind of looks the same on LinkedIn. So it’s a great place where as a smaller med device start-up, you can start to build some credibility. So then the question becomes, how can you build credibility and portray yourself as an expert on LinkedIn?

Set up your company profile on LinkedIn. You can increase your exposure on LinkedIn by creating a company profile which can include your location, related companies, employees,  products and services, etc… Just as people can add your personal profile to their LinkedIn Network, they can also follow your company. This is also a great way to keep stealthy tabs on your competition and what they’re doing (!)

Join and Participate in Industry Groups on LinkedIn. It’s your job to be an expert in your field. That’s why people buy your products and hire your company because you provide a unique product, service or expertise that they need. The beauty of LinkedIn Groups is that they’re a ‘safe place’ where people can talk, hang-out and meet others in the industry. By participating in these groups and sharing good, salient, VALUE-ADDED information, you’ll generate the interest and respect of your group members. Just like in any social-networking forum, opinion leaders and experts start to rise and bubble to the top, so join some groups and participate in the conversation.

Don’t forget to ask for recommendations on LinkedIn. Recommendations are something that you can use on your website, in your marketing materials and even in your internal communications to your team. Nothing motivates a sales team more than a physician or patient success story. Plus, recommendations show up on your profile and are a great way to quickly demonstrate both the types of products that you develop and the types of customers who appreciate your work.

Post Your White Papers, Poster Presentations and Clinical Papers in a Group: LinkedIn is a B2B communication zone. People in groups want to talk and learn more. If you publish new content, post it in relevant groups on LinkedIn, and pick up new exposure, comments, and potentially new customers.

One note of caution: Keep in mind that most of the content on LinkedIn will be publically available so do make sure that you’re mindful of what you are posting as it will be read by physicians and consumers alike as well as by friends – and potential foes.

Strategies for Operating with a Virtual Workforce

New technologies are providing opportunities for completely changing the business worlds that our companies operate in. The Matchstick Group is no exception and in fact, we rely on technologies like video conferencing via Skype, file sharing via DropBox and YouSendIt, and project management systems like BaseCamp to operate virtually in a much more efficient manner. This saves us money on overhead and gives our creative teams the flexibility to work at a frequency, time and pace that works for them. All in all, we save ourselves – and our clients – time and money.

At the same time, there is something inherently human about our business. The Agency Creative teams can’t function in a silo and Agency/Client relationships that are conducted solely via email are fraught with ‘miscommunications’. People do business with people that they like and they trust and nothing builds a stronger relationship faster than a face-to-face conversation.

In this article in Return on Performance magazine, I (founder Melissa Wildstein) was interviewed by Jodi Ferguson on the ins and outs of operating with a virtual workforce. I recommend setting clear guidelines and expectations all around, communicating frequently and always going out of your way to grab a beer with a co-worker.

Read the full article here


A Business Plan Number does not a Marketing Plan Make

Companies often spend weeks if not months working out their business plans for the coming year. The presentations get written, presented to ‘The Board”, get reviewed, critiqued and then re-written. The focus of the critique and the re-write is often in relation to the BP Number – how much money the brand, the team, the company is going to make.

Invariably after some back and forth, some rethinking, and re-crunching, budgets get cut, and sales / share goals get ‘stretched’.  Brand teams are left with a bigger number to hit and less money to get there.

If this sounds familiar – you’re not alone!

The last thing you want to do in this case is write another full-blown plan.

Unfortunately now you need one more than ever, because now every penny counts. You must make sure that every program that you’re developing is going to deliver the impact that you need.  You must prioritize sales and distribution team efforts, and you must squeeze every dollar out of every contract negotiated – a daunting prospect particularly if you were hoping to hit the ground running January 3rd.

Your brand and your product positioning probably didn’t change with the business plan re-writes so your marketing STRATEGY remains sound. It’s the tactics and how you realize the strategy that needs to be reconsidered. You could write a full-blown marketing plan – or you could save valuable time and effort by getting S.M.A.R.T about your marketing goals. S.M.A.R.T goals are

Specific.          Measurable.           Actionable.          Realistic.        Timely.

  • Specific: You want very specific goals. The more specific the better. Goals are only lofty aspirations unless you know how to attain them, so be specific. This is probably the most important element when writing your marketing goals. You have to ask yourself
    • Who
    • What
    • Where
    • Why
    • How
  • Measurable: You need to be able to quantify your goals. Set up milestones over the course of the year to help you measure how close – or how far – you are from attaining the goal, and review these on a monthly basis.
  • Actionable: Frame your goals in an actionable way so that you can take very real steps towards reaching them.
  • Relevant: Your goals have to be relevant to your business. Don’t get distracted by the bright and shiny. Think about what’s really going to drive your revenue growth what will help you make that number, and stick to that.
  • Timely: If you don’t set a time limit for reaching your goals somehow success is never attainable.

‘Launch Product X’ isn’t a S.M.A.R.T. goal, you’ve got to get much more granular than that.  Who are you going to launch that product to? What tactics will you deploy to pre-seed the market and build the level of awareness? Where will you communicate your message? Why does your customer care about the product benefit? How will you measure success?

Put your thoughts down on paper. This way you’ll ensure that everyone on your marketing team, every one of your distributors, every member of your sales organization is aligned towards your common goals.

Spend some time going through the exercise, and if you need direction or help call us. We help Med Device Marketing teams develop their goals, strategies – and then execute on the tactics. From strategic planning to brochure development and video animations, The Matchstick Group understands what Med Device Marketers need – and we help spark the ideas to get you there.