The last decade has seen the unprecedented growth of innovative and improved medical technologies. In turn, this has led to the development of a new generation of state-of-the-art medical devices, and accelerated the growth and importance of medtech to patients’ health and to the wider healthcare industry.
Unlimited potential but higher barriers
The potential for further progress in medtech seems almost unlimited but, driven by the need to manage costs, healthcare payers have become more selective about the value of what they will pay for. In turn, regulatory barriers, in the form of medical device directives requiring stronger clinical evidence, have been raised. No longer is a CE mark sufficient; now, more data is needed to prove the value of a device. As a result, medtech companies are working hard to expand their thinking beyond innovation to health economics.
New skills for a new path
These changes in the regulatory environment and growing economic pressures from payers have created a demand for new skills to manage the path from R&D to market, and ensure that new devices are given commercial market access. This is a growing challenge for medtech and applies at every level. International, national and within country – healthcare systems vary so much and ensuring a positive reimbursement decision is as important as proving safety and efficacy. When a reimbursement decision in one market can impact so heavily on decisions in other markets, it’s important to be able to address the challenges at every level. Market access professionals with experience in local, regional, national and international markets are critical to success. This experience also becomes invaluable when translating data generated in one market to the needs of others. If this is not done well, no positive reimbursement ensues and innovative products don’t reach the patient, or at best, have their potential severely limited.
Pharma couldn’t supply the talent
Medtech companies have quickly found that the skills they need are in short supply. First stop for them was the pharma industry, which plugged part of the gap for a while at least. The problems with this approach were two-fold: pharma didn’t have enough market access specialists willing and able to move to medtech and, when they did arrive, they didn’t always have the right skills and frequently went back again. It’s possible to find people with expertise in pricing and health economics, but there simply don’t seem to be enough people with a relevant track record who can prove that they’ve done it before.
Market access needs to be at the top table
In turn, this has led to significant internal debate about the role and importance of market access in the medtech sector. Market access sits at the heart of the organisation as the new lynch pin between R&D, clinical, regulatory, sales and marketing. It governs product development strategy from an early stage as well as driving decision-making about potential asset acquisitions. It also combines health economics – including health economics modelling, outcomes research, pricing and reimbursement, external affairs, key opinion leader engagement, HTA, advocacy and governmental lobbying.
Larger companies will break down market access into its component parts and have responsibility by product within a Commercial Franchise. SME’s are likely to require people with all the skills above but across a portfolio.
As such, many people now argue that market access professionals should have a seat at the top table, either alongside the Chief Commercial Officer (with their marketing and sales experience) or indeed as the Chief Commercial Officer. Conceivably, it’s more important, or at least as important, as the sales and marketing functions.
What skills do this new breed of market access strategists need?
The key talent is to be able to understand the requirements of all the other functions to ensure the right data, for the right submission, at the right time. The goal is to gain the best reimbursement possible by having the ability to influence diplomatically across the entire organisation, at all levels. It is not only a pivotal facilitator position, but also one that educates the organisation about the value of market access.
Specifically, the expertise to engage with KOLs at the earliest opportunity is vital for getting the backing of the KOL community to advocate for your product. Also, the ability to engage with internal teams from R&D, clinical affairs, sales and marketing, is essential. The most successful market access professionals can take information from all these internal functions, wed it to the information gathered from the external environment, and create comprehensive and impactful value based dossiers to ensure successful reimbursement.
Externally, it’s vital that the market access professional understands his or her target audiences – at Government, regional, local and hospital level – being able to get across the value proposition.
The future is bright for the medical technology industry, and perhaps arguably even brighter for market access professionals who tick all the boxes I have identified here.
With significant experience in both permanent and interim placement of market access professionals in medical technology (and in biopharma), The RSA Group continues to lead the way in the identification of key talent through comparative analysis and data driven due diligence. I would love to hear your views on the changing nature of the market access function and if you’d like to speak further about how The RSA Group’s approach can add value to your recruiting strategy, please don’t hesitate to contact me.