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Your Device is Better, So Why is No One Buying It?

Your Device is Better, So Why is No One Buying It?
Market landscape studies are critical to help medical device manufacturers identify potential barriers to product acceptance before it’s too late. 

Market landscape studies are critical to help medical device manufacturers identify potential barriers to product acceptance before it’s too late. 

Jonathan Honiball

It’s hard to believe that if a better product came onto the market, physicians wouldn’t jump at the chance to provide better care for their patients. Unfortunately for product developers in the discovery phase, this is rarely true. It is an easy trap to fall into: The product is better, so why wouldn't customers want it?

The reality is that the people making purchasing decisions don’t always see the need for a better product. This is also the hardest truth for product manufacturers to accept—especially after they’ve launched their product and results fail to meet revenue expectations. They have invested time, money, and energy to create a better solution, so why aren’t sales meeting forecasts?

How Does This Happen?

Typically, manufacturers base their new products on their own knowledge, macro-level data, and possibly input from a few key opinion leaders. On the macro level, a new product’s beneficial impact is clear. Product teams do the math on market size based on the theoretical number of people who will benefit from a better product. However, physicians don't make their treatment or product choices at the macro, societal level; they make them in their own office-based experience with patients.

Market Landscape Studies

Market landscape studies can help increase the likelihood of product sales success.

Such studies have five key research objectives:

  • Understand market dynamics.
  • Explore the competitive landscape.
  • Understand the therapeutic category.
  • Assess unmet needs.
  • Obtain an early read on a new product.

A typical landscape study is conducted online with a sample size between 100 and 200 and takes about 15 minutes to complete.

Case Study

Approximately 40 million Americans suffer from some form and severity of movement disorder. One medical device manufacturer wanted to better understand how these disorders impacted patients’ lives, as well as gain the perspective of physicians who treat them, so it turned to a pair of market landscape studies with patients and physicians.

In the survey of patients, the manufacturer discovered that the movement disorders had a negative impact on the patients’ quality of life and there was a lack of treatment options. But the findings of a parallel study conducted with neurologists and primary care physicians were completely the opposite. Only in the most severe movement disorder cases did either physician group see a negative impact to their patients’ lives, and neither physician group saw the need for additional treatment options.

Why the Discrepancy? Most patients did not raise mobility issues with their physician, so from the physician perspective, it was a nonissue. Also, physicians typically saw only a small percentage of patients with movement disorders, so their issues were not seen as a priority.

Resolution. The product developers had to not only create a usable product, but also needed to create a mindset shift among physicians for their product to be successful. This involved not only product, but also marketing, sales, and physician education.

Based on this new information, the product developer was able to adjust its forecast and reset profit expectations. In addition, the marketing plan was updated to focus more on prelaunch physician education highlighting the impact of movement disorders and how to talk to patients. Without insights from the market landscape study, the product was certainly headed for disaster.

The Takeaway

Conducting a market landscape study among product buyers and key influencers in the discovery phase allows a product developer to identify potential barriers to product acceptance and usage. Identifying these barriers can help the developer make clear “go” or “no-go” decisions and optimize product positioning before time, money, and energy are spent in bringing a product to market.

Learn more ways to ensure your medical device is a market success at the MD&M East conference and exposition June 9–11, 2015, in New York City.

Jonathan Honiball is senior director of customer research at Pacific Consulting Group (PCG), a customer research and consulting firm. Reach him at [email protected]


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