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Buying Medical Devices Online Shouldn’t Be Hard — How To Make It Easier

medical device illustration
By taking advantage of new technology, medical device companies can more easily navigate and overcome hurdles that once held them back from selling directly to consumers. [Macrovector/Adobe Stock]

Demand for medical devices has never been higher, but it's harder than it should be for patients to buy them online. Here's what healthcare companies need to know.

Demand for medical devices, particularly for remote monitoring, home healthcare, and wearables, has never been higher. But buying medical devices online is harder than it should be for patients. That’s changing.

Healthcare companies bring life-changing medical devices to market every day, but ironically, outdated, fragmented technology and ordering processes can keep patients from reaping their benefits. And patients are begging for an easier experience. According to one survey, 81% of U.S. patients say shopping for healthcare should be as easy as shopping for other common services.

Creating streamlined, compelling online ordering experiences requires thinking outside the box of legacy systems. By taking advantage of new technology, medical device companies can easily navigate the hurdles of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance, infrastructure updates, and first-party data collection — barriers that once held them back from selling directly to consumers.  

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Buying medical devices online is a fragmented experience 

The pandemic undoubtedly accelerated the digital transformation of healthcare. New analysis from McKinsey indicates that telehealth use in July was 38 times higher than before the pandemic. But what happens after your virtual appointment? If you have a diagnosis that requires treatment or monitoring with a pulse oximeter or other medical device, the next steps are nowhere near as easy as logging in to Zoom. 

The process often involves navigating a tangled web of services and providers including insurance, billing, claims, and more. Patients report spending hours on the phone, repeating the same information to multiple people, coordinating their own care, and deciphering medical jargon and insurance policy details. Sixty percent of consumers say they have had to manage their own care between different parties. 

Nearly 70% of consumers say they expect connected experiences — and when brands fall short, satisfaction plummets.

salesforce connected healthcare consumer report

This fragmentation has a seriously negative effect on patient satisfaction. Nearly 70% of consumers say they expect connected experiences — and when brands fall short, satisfaction plummets. When you consider that patients with better care experiences often have better health outcomes, the issue becomes even more urgent. 

Help patients be healthier with a full device-buying experience

It’s time to make it easier to get medical devices to patients’ doorsteps with hassle-free ordering. Patient health depends on it. Timeliness of care, active monitoring, and patient experience are key indicators of positive health outcomes, all of which can be affected by the length and ease of the ordering process.

The solution? Give patients flexibility in how they interact with your brand and create direct-to-consumer (D2C) experiences that connect back-end data with order management, marketing, and service while extending interactions to partners and communities. 

The patient experience doesn’t end once their medical device arrives on the doorstep. In fact, order fulfillment simply marks the beginning of the next part of their journey: device setup and use. A D2C experience enables value-driven educational content that can help with this part of the process. This includes easily accessible resources about how to choose a device, video content that guides patients through setup, related health articles, and more. These additions improve the patient experience — and will likely mean fewer hours on the phone with customer support.

Improve patient support with a common view

For patients, customer support is one of the most fraught and disjointed parts of the journey. It’s a great place to start if you want to make a positive impact on patient experience and health outcomes. Seventy-six percent of consumers who have used a medical device in the last five years say that good customer support is very important. Make it easy for customers to connect with you by adding support channels on your website (many will bury it at the bottom) and monitoring your Customer Effort Score. 

80% of consumers report that the experience a company provides is just as important as its products or services.

salesforce state of the connected consumer report

Consumers are used to purchasing most things online, and patients have come to expect the same level of service and convenience from healthcare companies. In fact, 80% of consumers report that the experience a company provides is just as important as its products or services. Pro tip: Make it easy for customers to help themselves with a self-service option.

To transform patients’ experience, you’ll need a platform that securely connects all sources of data from existing systems — across marketing, commerce, fulfillment, and service — to deliver a unified experience on preferred channels. With a common view, you can proactively engage customers and patients who use your devices daily. This will allow you to connect directly with patients to coordinate onboarding, insurance verification, and copay programs, and to deliver ongoing support to improve patient satisfaction, all from a single view.

Use artificial intelligence to personalize the patient journey

As digital natives age, personalized experiences are no longer a nice-to-have. Consumers appreciate digital channels that make care more accessible, like instant messaging, video chat, and patient communities. In fact, 82% of consumers say it’s important to offer personalized web portals.

Delivering individualized experiences at scale while keeping costs down and response times prompt requires smart, powerful technology — like artificial intelligence (AI). For example, AI-powered chatbots can help filter patient phone calls and refer them to relevant resources quickly. And a process that once meant waiting on hold and getting rerouted to multiple departments is now a seamless, automated experience that uncovers needs and delivers pertinent information at speed. 

The moment a patient views their prescribed device or wearable, AI can also recommend related products, anticipating future needs. For example, if a patient adds a glucose monitor to their cart, AI can recommend testing strips. Aside from product suggestions, this powerful tool can even suggest related articles and resources to get ahead of support and service requests and proactively answer patient questions.

The pandemic has turned doctor visits on its head, with telehealth visits becoming more common. Our prescription: digitize the healthcare processes that support these visits, including the purchasing of medical devices. With a digital experience, patients can feel better — both with the medical device buying experience and with their health. 

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