We spoke with Tania Sherry, European Market Development Manager (PillCam Colon Capsule) at Medtronic, to discuss how her company overcomes the challenges of identifying a strategic, structured approach to launching new technologies. One of these technologies with the help of ValueConnected has replaced esophagectomy as the lead treatment for high-grade dysplasia for patients in the NHS today.
How did you get started in the medical device industry?
I was working as a pharmacist in a Psychiatric hospital where patients were being treated with an advanced technology called deep brain stimulation. For many years deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been established as a highly-effective therapy for advanced Parkinson's disease (PD) and acute movement disorders. It was then being investigated as an intervention option for treatment resistant depression. At the time, I was working with a patient who was not at all responding to medication and for whom this device was responsible for dramatically changing her life for the better.
Throughout that experience, I became close with the sales and technical team for this technology and, with their support and guidance, made my transition into the field of medical devices. My first job in this sector was with Boston Scientific (BSC) in Cardiac Rhythm Management (CRM). I was the first person in Ireland to support Boston Scientific CRM devices, which included pacemakers, ICDs, defibrillators, and CRT devices. I transitioned into a technical role, where I remained for 2 years, and moved on to become a territory manager for 4 additional years in Ireland. After that, I was offered a position overseas as product manager where I acquired European projects for the UK & Ireland CRM team.
Through that opportunity, I got in touch with the European Sales and Marketing Director for Barrx, who then brought me into his team in a sales and marketing role. I was with Barrx, who had just been acquired by Covidien (Medtronic Minimally Invasive Therapies), until January 2014. Since then, I have been on the European Market Development team responsible for PillCam Colon Capsule at Medtronic.
What are your roles and responsibilities at Medtronic?
I am responsible for market development in the Western European markets for the PillCam Colon Diagnostic tool. PillCam Colon is in an Early Technology portfolio at Medtronic and, although it has been around for a number of years, it still faces many challenges for wider adoption. There are still many barriers for PillCam Colon to overcome for it to establish itself as a standard of care for diagnostic colonoscopy. My remit is mainly to try and find the best country specific patient pathway and support needed so that this technology will be adopted more widely.
In your opinion, what are the main difficulties medical companies face when launching products into the market?
There are so many challenges to face today in the launching of innovative technology. These are usually country specific, but generally speaking, we need to show value-based medicine. We need to show that we are able to bring innovative technology whilst also delivering excellent care. That is the key. You need to have both the clinical evidence and the economic model to understand how to implement that technology inside of the current factors in the different markets. You must be able to demonstrate how the technology not only affects the patient but the health care system and all the stakeholders that feed into that.
What was the challenge you had when you first approached ValueConnected?
During my previous role with the Barrx team I worked with Radio Frequency Ablation technology, RFA, in the treatment of Barretts Esophagus. There was a large capital investment towards bringing this technology to the market which could really change the landscape of those suffering with this pre-cancerous condition. Thanks to our technology, an esophagectomy is now a procedure of the past for the large majority of high-grade dysplasia patients. Nonetheless, it was a substantial challenge for hospitals to find the capital investment they needed to set up the service.
We asked ValueConnected to compare our technology to the current standard of care of esophagectomy, which included an invasive operation requiring a surgical procedure and leaving the patient in the hospital for up to 5 days. With that, ValueConnected helped us build an economic model to show hospitals their break-even analysis so they could understand how much the new technology could reduce costs at certain intervals, not just on a long-term basis, but also what would this mean for the patient outcomes, the hospital, and for the team that is needed to drive the resource. On top of that, the model was adaptable to any customer-facing discussion around capital equipment. We were able to share this with all stakeholders, from the payers to the hospital manager, and the procurement team to the clinician.
What were the reasons for choosing ValueConnected? How was your experience working with us?
My Sales and Marketing Director met Ernesto, the owner of ValueConnected, at a conference, where he realized a collaboration could be a great opportunity. ValueConnected really understands the landscape that we face today and the dynamic environment, as well as what is happening at the country level. There is no such thing as a pan-European approach towards technology adoption. For example, even though technology and innovation acceptance for a specific disease might exist in some European countries, this does not mean that technology or innovation will necessarily be accepted in the country where that specific disease is more prevalent.
The NHS, where we ultimately launched the economic model, is a fantastic healthcare system but also one of the most challenging ones to work in, because it uses a very structured, strategic approach. To tackle the challenges, we needed ValueConnected. We needed their attention to detail, resource-driven, evidence-based, analytical background to be able to build a model that was up to the scrutiny of the toughest hospital CEO and the most challenging commissioner in the NHS.
What were the results of the work with ValueConnected? How did your customers react?
ValueConnected advised us to engage our customers and key stakeholders when building the model, which really helped us with its validation. When we then went on to use the model in routine practice we were able to directly address the customer’s needs with the voice of the customer throughout the model. As a result, the sales team felt more capable and able to have discussions about upfront capital cost and investments resulting in realizable benefits for the patient and the hospital. This model supported the team to start new ventures and engage with hospitals to better understand the RFA business case.
Although this model was pre-populated with all the reference-based costs, which ValueConnected had researched, we could adapt the model to the real-time costs of the hospital. You could say to the hospital, this is exactly what you spent last year and this is what you would need to invest to deliver a RFA service and a new patient pathway. Most importantly, here are the results that you will see for your particular patients and your particular team in return.
Would you recommend ValueConnected to your colleagues? And why?
I consider ValueConnected a key industry partner, their understanding of the various complex healthcare markets, their attention to detail and their turn-around time on projects are unique in the industry. When I know ValueConnected are working on a project, I am fully confident with the material because I know I can trust that the statistics and the references when presented to the toughest CEO or most challenging NHS commissioner.
Do you have upcoming challenges you would like to tackle with the support of ValueConnected?
Yes, we will. As the landscape changes, we are seeing the need to understand how we can offer value-based medicine for every stakeholder. Today’s market required us to develop key advocates across clinical, patient and political groups. The physicians’ voices are becoming once again important and more often the voice of the patient. Together with ValueConnected we are going to have to find new ways to address the physician, the patient, as well as the hospital managers and hospital business and local government leaders.