Orthopedic device companies confuse customers on purpose.
Let’s talk about the lack of transparency in Orthopedics.
Orthopedics is being made complex on purpose.
In a market where there is little difference between the products and services, companies create complexity on purpose to confuse the customers. Scott Adams coined the term confusopoly, defined as the purposeful act by a seller of confusing the buyer to make a sale.
We all know a confusopoly when we see it – credit card companies, mobile phone carriers, the legal system, car dealerships, politics, etc.
As we look inward at our own industry, we see that the Orthopedics industry is a confusopoly for hospitals, surgeons and patients. Orthopedics has been made confusing on purpose by the device manufacturers who are marketing overly-complex product features and benefits.
Orthopedics should be all about healthcare and helping people.
Orthopedics should be transparent.
Shame on us!
Let’s dive into the some of the specific areas that lack transparency.
Product performance issues are reported to the FDA voluntarily by healthcare professionals, patients and consumers. These mandatory reports from the manufacturers, importers and device user facilities are buried in the MAUDE database. MDRs can be difficult to interpret and impossible to figure out if one product is performing better than another product.
In a perfect world, hospitals, surgeons and patients could easily compare product performance to make better buying decisions.
Clinical outcomes are often collected by orthopedic companies, but results are not shared in real-time and sometimes released decades later after the implant systems have been sunsetted. Healthcare providers and patients have called for fining medical device companies who do not share clinical results.
In a perfect world, hospitals, surgeons and patients could compare clinical outcomes to make better buying decisions.
Orthopedic companies are supposed to document payments to surgeons. Sunshine laws have brought very little sunshine. Payments to surgeons are still buried. PODS (physician owned distributors) carry on with less attention paid to the risk to patients.
In a perfect world, patients could see which surgeons are incentivized by specific device manufacturers.
Product features are buried under trademark names or made confusing in long descriptions that contain abbreviations and limited information. When healthcare providers attempt to decipher features and differentiate between like products, they lean on sales rep opinions.
In a perfect world, providers could objectively compare product features head-to-head.
Product pricing is often based on “like products” and rely on device companies to cross-reference products with their competitors. Premium prices are often negotiated on complex features. When healthcare providers attempt to negotiate a best price on “like products”, they can’t because it’s all “apples and oranges” with various price points and rebate tiers.
In a perfect world, hospitals could objectively compare like products to price parity.
Come on man! We can do better than this.
I have only found one startup, named Relatable, that has developed an elegant solution for transparency. Take a look.