The medical device industry: keeping face with patients

  • Posted on 05.06.2014

The medical device industry: keeping face with patients


Alexandra Wyke

CEO and Founder, PatientView

patient feedback

For a 3rd year in a row PatientView has published its study on “The corporate reputation of the medical device industry – from the patient perspective”. As in the past the reputation of the medical device industry and specific companies are measured by hundreds of patient groups from all over the world. In the latest survey, conducted in March-April 2014, we gathered the views of 428 patient groups, with diverse specialties, from 54 countries. Also, as in previous years, there was strong European representation among these groups in latest study—86% come from Europe. The bias is intentional, but also reflects the fact that the patient movement is rapidly expanding in that region. 

The good news

For the very first time, the medical device industry ranks as the most respected of all healthcare sectors, outstripping even retail pharmacy, which came first last year. With 60% of respondents saying that the medical device industry has a “good” or “excellent” reputation in 2013-2014, that places the medical devices ahead of retail pharmacists, private healthcare services, biotechnology companies, generic drug manufacturers, multinational pharma companies, and insurers (not-for-profit and for-profit) —from the patient perspective. 

Reputation of the medical device industry—compared with other healthcare sectors
How do you think your organisation’s members (or the people you represent) would rate the corporate reputation of the following healthcare industries in 2013-2014? Percentage of respondents stating “Excellent” or “Good”

The other piece of good news for the medical device industry is the continued perception by the great majority of patients that manufacturers of medical devices continue to remain strongly innovative, producing high-quality products, while at the same time ensuring patient safety. 

Not such good news after all 

But despite this positive feedback there are signals that not all is well in the medical device world. When asked an entirely different question on the reputational status of the medical device industry over the past five years, and how that reputation has changed, patients (patient groups) in 2013-2014 take a more negative view, than in the previous year (see chart below). It is worth noting, too, the reason why medical device industry can claim first place for reputation in 2013-2014 (patient perspective) is because the sharp fall in reputation suffered by retail pharmacists in the same year.

Reputation of the medical device industry 2013-2014—compared with previous years
What do you think your members (or the people your organisation represents) believe has happened to the reputation of the medical device industry over the past years? Its reputation has …
Percentage of total responses

 Results explained 

Looking at the data there appear no significant differences in the performance of the industry over the past two years. However, clues emerge when comparing performance over a three year period: 

  • The integrity of medical devices companies in 2013-2014 does remain lower than reported in 2011-2012. 33% of the respondent patient groups state that the medical device industry was “Excellent” or “Good” in 2013-2014—in 2011-2012, the figure was 42%.

  • Only 28% of patient groups see the medical device industry as “Excellent” or “Good” at managing adverse news about products in 2013-2014. Back in 2011-2012, 41% of patient groups thought the industry was “Excellent” or “Good” at this activity

As mentioned above, PatientView also assesses the individual performance of medical device companies based on six indicators mutually agreed between industry and patient groups. The six are: I. Having a patient-centred strategy; II. Providing high-quality information to patients; III. Having a good record on patient safety; IV. Providing high-quality, useful products; V. Being transparent with external stakeholders; VI. Acting with integrity

This year 28 companies profiled in the 2013-2014 report are: 

3M Healthcare l Abbott Laboratories l Alcon l Bausch + Lomb l Baxter International l B. Braun Melsungen AG l Becton, Dickinson and Company l Biotronik International l Boston Scientific l Coloplast A/S l ConvaTec l Fresenius Medical Care l Hartmann Group l GE Healthcare l Johnson & Johnson l Kimberly-Clark l Medtronic, Inc l Mölnlycke Health Care l Novo Nordisk A/S l Olympus Medical Business l Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, Inc l Philips Healthcare l Roche Diagnostics l Sanofi l Siemens Healthcare l Smith & Nephew l St Jude Medical l Toshiba Medical Systems Corporation

The overarching results do indicate where some of the difficulties and challenges may lie for medical device companies seeking to improve their reputation with patients. In general:

  1. Companies that produce implantable medical devices (or products that will be very familiar to patients) post a better performance for corporate reputation than do manufacturers of heavy hospital equipment.

  2. Companies focusing in niche therapeutic areas, post a better performance for corporate reputation than do manufacturers in multiple therapeutic areas.

However, there is no evidence that the smallest companies always do best. On the contrary among the top ten companies ranked for having the best corporate reputation from a patient perspective – six are large multinationals. 

You may wonder why patients views matter so much today …

Today, regulators are increasingly reluctant to approve high-priced medical products, even if the products promise significant improvements in quality of life, or life expectancy. Increasingly, regulatory consideration is being given to the value that patients place on products. At least that was one of the conclusions in the Eucomed commissioned study from The Economist Intelligence Unit, “Future-Proofing Western Europe’s Healthcare” on the future price-regulatory framework for the European medical device industry. (1)

Decentralisation of healthcare budget, is another compounding factor. Decentralisation has also forced doctors/hospitals to be more cost-conscious and ask themselves tough questions: whether it is better to treat all their patients with a cheaper off-patent device, than just a few patients with an expensive, more effective treatment. As one UK pharmacist succinctly put it, “Whichever decision they make, they risk contradicting one of the fundamental tenets of medical practice—that the doctor should not knowingly do harm to the patient.” (2) – This is why patients take an active interest in the activities of medical manufacturers and why the medical device industry should be concerned about patient views. 

For the full press release about The Corporate reputation of the medical device industry- the patient perspective, 2013-2014, click through

For further information or for a full copy of this report contact [email protected]

(1)Source: Future-Proofing Western Europe’s Healthcare”, The Economist, September 2011

(2)Source: Omar Ali, Formulary Development Pharmacist, Surrey & Sussex NHS Trust, PatientView’s Engage Health Conference, London, 29th March 2012.




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