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Based on the statistics of Medtech Europe, 95% of European medical technology companies are small and medium enterprises. Moreover, following international data, a very similar ratio applies to medical companies in the US and internationally.
This means most companies cannot afford to establish a full-fledged Market Access department, mainly due to budget restrictions. And the same problem may occur with the other 5% of large companies, especially when an innovation requires allocation of resources already in use by other established products.
What should be expected from a Market Access team, especially in the earlier stages?
What is Market Access?
For medical technology, the most accepted definition is that Market Access combines Health Economics and Reimbursement with the goal to accelerate market entry and sales.
Considering this perspective, Health Economics is similar to Marketing with the only difference being in targeting non-clinical stakeholders (i.e. payers and health technology assessment) instead of doctors and nurses.
On the other hand, Reimbursement can be compared to Sales considering the same difference in target stakeholders.
Here we have two disciplines that are ideally managed by two or more professionals to avoid biased decisions. Just like Sales must work independently from Marketing, Reimbursement should collaborate with (and not be mandated by) Health Economics.
And for a great start, Health Economics and Marketing should be working closely together while Reimbursement must be in line with Sales messages.
Where to start?
There are basically two sources of knowledge: Academic and Practice. While most companies focus on the first one, which is unquestionably important, the latter is typically ignored for Market Access teams.
How many times do we see a Health Economist, with little or no experience in sales, developing “sales tools”? And how long does it take for sales teams to abandon them due to excess complexity?
Since the start, any Market Access team member should have spent at least 6 months either selling devices or joining sales teams to understand the purchasing processes, payment mechanisms and market needs.
Market Access is not a “checkmark” function designed to develop studies and please internal stakeholders. On the contrary, Market Access has strategic influence within any company and must always maintain direct contact with the market.
The expansion question
As business grows and the company expands, Market Access will be involved with other international markets and may have to interact with local distributors across different countries.
If there is one thing we know about distributors, it is that almost all of them do not have much knowledge about reimbursement. On the other hand, how to expect a small team in a medical company to know all aspects about all markets? The typical answer is to hire consultants, which is usually lower cost than hiring and training employees.
Then again, the same logic applies: do these consultants have sales experience? Can they speak the local languages and interact with local stakeholders?
In the end, what makes an effective Market Access team is the ability to execute. And that demands local in-field resources and sales experience to translate strategy into results.
Do you face the challenge to develop Market Access strategies for markets where knowledge is limited? Is your company expanding faster than the capacity of your Market Access team? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to share more insights with you.