The influence of hospital Value Analysis Committees, or VACs, has created a market access risk that you must consider when assessing new technologies—before product development begins. How do you reduce that risk? One idea is to create your own panel of experts—or at the very least, interview several experts—that extend beyond the surgeon.
In his presentation at OMTEC® 2017, Thomas S. Harper, Ph.D., Senior Manager at Plante Moran, mentioned that device companies have experienced success in establishing market access panels with representatives that have previous VAC experience.
Harper provided two examples of companies experiencing commercialization or market access risk. A “world-class” company reached out to Plante Moran when it couldn’t move a line extension product through VACs, tying up revenue. As Harper explained, the company wasn’t prepared to answer the VAC’s questions. Conversely, a small device company with a novel technology interviewed 20 VAC members to gain market insight early in its development stage. Since the company launched its product earlier this year, its VAC approval rate is over 90% within 90 days of submitting its application—an exceptional timeframe, according to Harper.
Harper and his colleagues have interviewed more than 150 VAC members to understand how their roles have evolved in recent years, and to gain information on ways that device companies can integrate VAC insight into new technology development.
Here, we recap his findings.
Risk vs. Reward:
New Technology Assessment
Orthopaedic companies are good at addressing the classic risks associated with assessing new technologies: quality, clinical, financial, intellectual property, etc., according to Harper. It’s the new risks that have presented themselves in doing global business that create challenges. Here are three risk types and questions to ask for each when starting discussions about a new product.
Global Business Risk: How well do we understand global product revenue potential and adoption? How do we prioritize our global markets for secondary or tertiary product launches?
Cybersecurity/Patient Privacy Risk: Will this technology or future product have a data connectivity element? How well do we understand the product usage and connectivity environment?
Commercialization Risk: Have we discussed the technology or future product clinical and economic value with key market access stakeholders? Do we have the appropriate distribution channel and partners to be successful globally?
Know What to Expect
Hospital VACs were established to assess the purchase of new products. Increasingly, these committees analyze high-volume products and procedures. Companies like the “world-class” one mentioned above are finding that brand recognition and previous hospital history can no longer be relied upon to get their products into the operating room. VACs want clinical and economic data.
Seek Diverse Perspectives
The surgeon voice is essential to product development. However, others have a growing say in a surgeon’s use of products. A typical VAC includes perspectives from administration, finance, nursing, supply chain, surgeon, etc. They may vary in structure; for instance, Harper noted that a small hospital system may have 15 VAC members, while UCLA has four VACs with 20 to 25 members each. You should incorporate these different perspectives into your product feedback.
“If you think these folks don’t understand the science, they definitely understand hospital budgets; they understand what the potential impact could be for a product, and they could give you some great insight,” Harper says.
The more information you’re able to arm yourself with early in development, the better. The previously-mentioned small company that experienced success presented VAC members with concept boards, videos and prototypes. By engaging early and often, you’re able to adapt and change course faster.
Harper noted that this doesn’t need to be an expensive endeavor. He’s seen a panel of seven former VAC members cost a company about $50,000 total in honorariums—a small price when considering the goal is to get to market faster.
Dr. Harper has more than 25 years of experience in sales and marketing management, product commercialization, due diligence and business development in the medical device industry. His has successfully led the global commercialization of implantable, disposable, reusable and capital equipment medical devices for a variety of companies, ranging from startup to large global companies. During his career, Dr. Harper has assisted or led the global launch of 60+ medical device products while leading teams at Johnson & Johnson, Cardinal Health and over 20 global medical device client companies.