April 23, 2013

Doctors and New Technologies – Part 2

Part 2 of 2 Parts

This part covers the wished for options and information about medical devices.

What I’d like to see on the websites This is what the doctor would like. While I can agree with the list as a valuable list, there should not be a segregation unless the device is for mainly clinicians. If the device is primarily for patients and caregivers, then everything should be applicable to the clinician, patient, and caregiver. I will go one step farther by saying that often the website for most devices are for sales only and of little or no value for clinicians, patients, or caregivers. Most are all hype and have little usable information and then we know that the device is of little value. The more hype, the less value the device has.

Have a section formatted for clinicians in particular. If the device is primarily for clinicians, then I agree. If the device is for all, then the website should get rid of the glitz and hype, and cough up valuable information to let the customers know what the product can do in the real world, not the hyped world. Again, I have found that the more hype, the less value there is for the usefulness of the device.

Have a “how it works” section with screenshots and concise text. While many people seem to love videos, too often, they miss the points and the videos leave us wondering about why all the hype. And, this I mean sincerely. We are consumers and want information about a device, not glitz and hype. Whether the person viewing the site is a clinician, patient, or caregiver, we want to know what the device does for the patient, and what other devices it may communicate with to make it more useful. Videos are great for entertainment, but not so great for information. If you are a visual learner, great, but don't force non-visual learners to constantly replay a video. This will only drive them to abandon the website and your product.

Provide a downloadable brochure for patients/families and another for clinicians. Now if manufacturers want to make separate downloadable brochures for clinicians and one for patients/caregivers, I will not object as this could help both. I do strongly agree with the doctor on this point, brochures are easier to read and mark up than many PDF files. Both may be easily forwarded, but the brochure will be the easiest for the patient to understand.

Include information regarding the relevant evidence-base supporting use of the product. Yes, this would be nice for both the clinician and patients. The more hype we have to read the less likely we are to consider the device.

Include information on how valid/accurate the data collection is compared to conventional clinical practice. This would be appropriate for most devices, especially since the specifications will probably be not as restrictive as devices that are used in the proper way in a lab setting. Most clinicians will need to realize this to understand that the devices are not for use in a lab, but out in the real world by real patients trying to help themselves. Most websites are not properly set up clearly to explain what clinicians are seeking and often not what patients are seeking. Often there is so much “feel good” hype and glitz that patients and clinicians can find little useful information. This will lead both to look elsewhere and maybe overlook a device that could be very useful. When will manufacturers learn?

Offer a free 30-day trial. This is purely a sales pitch and why a doctor would suggest this is hard to understand. The reason many companies offer this is because they know that if people order something, they are seldom going to return it unless it is so bad that people are angry with the product. Even then some people will not return the product and companies are counting on this and know the sale has been made.

Summarize how the product is different or better than similar available products.
This is also a sales tactic and we see this done when a company feels they have a superior product, but be careful, as often this is done to hide weaknesses as many are familiar with in software products.

Summing it up. The doctor has in general done her homework and offers good advice to manufacturers. Like many products, medical devices will be one product that doctors will often be called on to give an opinion about. Some doctors are blogging about devices and some patients are doing this. Should we rely on the information? This is difficult to answer, as not everyone is honest about relationships they may have with a manufacturer.

Some doctors are very reputable and will clearly state if they have any relationship with a manufacturer. In general these devices can be relied upon. Most patients are also very clear that they have a relationship with a manufacturer or if they are speaking from experience with the device. If they are actual users speaking from experience, generally these reviews can be relied on.

The weakness is that there is seldom a database of device reviews and everyone is not privy to the reviews that have been made. As much as we want to have information we can rely on, I seriously doubt this is a priority for manufacturers as most are only concerned about sales and will continue to put out all the hype they can to “convince” consumers their device is what they need.

Maybe the doctor was engaging in some wishful thinking, but until enough people speak up, we will not have reliable information for most devices. Until manufacturers understand what may drive sales, we will continue to have hype, glitz, and very little information of value. If people, doctors, patients, caregivers, and others will refuse to promote medical devices from manufacturers that have poor glitzy websites and refuse to give the information needed by all concerned, then we have lost and hype will continue in device promotions.

Yes, I have been overly expressive about hype and glitz, but from experience, this is the biggest turn off for me about the few devices I have investigated. Websites that say “This is a must have for your peace of mind,” or similar statements have made me leave the website and look elsewhere for something similar. My peace of mind is knowing that this is probably the poorest product available.

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