Beyond Tribal Knowledge: Sales & Marketing Strategies for Medical Device Manufacturers

Sales and marketing professionals in non-retail healthcare are always looking to improve physician targeting. In fact, as a senior vice president for a medical device company recently told me, “Typically, my reps rely on tribal knowledge with all its inherent shortcomings for short-term execution and long-term strategy. Traditional decile ranking doesn’t seem to go far enough either.” That’s where medical claims data can help.

Here’s an example, involving a knee prosthesis company. After isolating all orthopedic surgeons, volumetric segmentation ranks each surgeon based on relative number of knee replacements. Applying statistical methodology, we determined the absolute volume of knee surgeries for each physician and saw a sharper delineation in rank. The difference between an 8 and 9 ranking didn’t seem significant until we looked at projected totals: There we saw a greater disparity than what a single rank differential implied.


“Peeling back the data” can do more. In this case, it involved taking the company’s sales data and matching it to each surgeon’s total volume in a de-identified claims database. Calculating market share (MS = units sold/projected total knees) produced compelling results. A decile 4 surgeon turned out to represent no growth opportunity because he already used the company’s knee 100% of the time. Surprisingly, a decile 9 surgeon did: He used the company product only 8% of the time. This step helped the company adjust its priorities beyond volume. There is also the opportunity index (OI), which represents the surgeons with the greatest potential, regardless of volume. Surgeons may have the same decile rank, and even similar projected volume totals, but when you layer on market share, you quickly see where the true opportunity lies. The OI simplifies insight for distributed sales teams who traditionally must digest multiple data points before taking action.


Marrying the medical claims database to a provider masterfile (including, for example, information on 5.1 million HCPs, 450,000 unique organizations and their affiliations) lets the marketers uncover where a surgeon operates and shows whether the surgeon is a “splitter,” i.e. uses different facilities or is loyal to one facility. This is important: facilities may be part of Integrated Delivery Networks (IDNs) that are more favorable to your product or limited by contractual agreements. Overlaying IDN membership for each facility and factoring contract position with the IDN can quickly show how spending time on a practitioner who has no control over device choice at a given facility is time wasted. That time is better spent targeting upstream physicians who refer surgeons to a favorable facility for your product.

Successful targeting happens when you can assess physician-level volumes and rankings and measure the impact of IDNs on the decision-making process. Once you understand the referral pathways, you’re on your way to improving sales sizing and structure, developing better call plans and pinpointing opportunities with laser-like precision.
Email your question to Zach Henderson, our physician markets expert, for the answer.

  • Zach Henderson

    Zach Henderson is vice president, Corporate Strategy, at Health Market Science. Since joining Health Market Science in late 2007 as head of marketing and product development, Zach has led Health Market Science to seven innovative product launches and has created numerous strategic partnerships to continuously further the growth of the company. As VP Corporate Strategy, he currently leads the company


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