What to know:

Patients are becoming more and more educated about their conditions and with that education comes increasing levels of engagement. Patients are now influential stakeholders in their own care, bringing their opinions about treatment to their providers. This has resulted in medtech companies increasingly engaging with patients in their outreach efforts.

Companies are taking advantage of this concept through a few different approaches. For example, many devices are now accompanied by apps that target the user in ways that support patients with their medical condition but may or may not directly relate to the device. These apps help build a relationship and a brand connection with users.

A case in point is Medtronic’s Inner CircleSM patient engagement program, which uses gamification—incorporating elements of game design—to reward diabetes patients for more time spent in an optimal glycemic range.

Another example is Edwards’ development of newheartvalve.com, a tool that was designed to route patients to facilities offering transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). As a result, Edwards was able to shift patients who may have otherwise received a surgical valve replacement to receiving TAVR instead. The website is geared toward patients rather than doctors and features minimal branding—in contrast to a similar tool on Edwards’ company site—offering patients a way to access information without overt advertisement.

More device companies are also using direct-to-patient advertising. For example, Boston Scientific released a commercial recently for its WATCHMAN device, which is used for left atrial appendage closures. Although pharmaceutical companies have been using this type of advertising for years and there are many medtech websites directed at patients, creating commercials has been relatively uncommon in the medtech space. As the top medtech companies become larger and better able to afford expensive direct-to-patient advertising, these efforts are likely to increase.

What to do:

  • Don’t forget patients in your marketing campaigns. With the new era of patient-centered care, patients hold considerable influence over their medical treatment and the technology their doctors use.
  • Make apps “sticky.” Many users are interested in apps in the short-term but fail to use them long-term. Because long-term use has the best chance of producing superior outcomes, more manufacturers are looking for creative ways to prompt continued engagement.
  • Remember that direct-to-patient engagement is a delicate balance. Surveys show that patients pushing for a particular medical treatment can be a turn-off for providers. Medtech companies need to strike a balance between keeping patients informed about their products and choices while still reinforcing the need for professional medical advice in making treatment decisions.


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