Three Ways Medical Device Brands Can Beat Unauthorized Sellers

Jonathan Burdette

When it comes to medical devices, an unauthorized seller can have a big impact on a patient’s health and a brand’s credibility. Jim learned this the hard way, when his aging mother fell and fractured her hip. He felt guilty because he had bought her a portable oxygen concentrator on Amazon a few weeks prior. With his purchase, he aimed to help her regain her active lifestyle, but the plan backfired.

This unfortunate situation could have been avoided if the brand had been sold through direct-to-consumer channels, or if Jim had been warned that only authorized resellers can be trusted with something as important as medical devices.

Let’s backtrack a few weeks to learn what medical brands can do to avoid such situations.

How consumers fall into the unauthorized seller trap

Jim researched oxygen concentrator options online. Prices for these devices were all over the board, and product information seemed contradictory. He didn’t trust any of these sites, but he decided to see what was available on Amazon since he shopped there often. While searching Amazon, he found a reputable brand whose website he’d reviewed on a separate occasion and decided to make the purchase. Thanks to Prime shipping, the portable oxygen concentrator arrived in two days, and his mother was using the device that evening.

Instead of feeling better, however, his mother felt worse after using the portable oxygen concentrator for a few weeks. Concerned, Jim called the manufacturer, who referred him back to their medical equipment supplier and physician, neither of which offered much help. At that point, it was clear he was dealing with an unauthorized seller.

Shortly thereafter, Jim’s wife called him at work to tell him that his mother had fallen and that the ambulance was on its way. He called the manufacturer’s customer service line again but was unable to get to the root of the problem.

Scenarios like this are all too common for manufacturers in the COPD, respiratory, and chronic treatment categories. Patients hoping to reduce healthcare costs can be confused by online product and purchasing options and put themselves in dangerous situations by buying from unauthorized sellers with the inaccurate or incomplete product or treatment information.

How to keep unauthorized sellers at bay

Controlling online channels is often challenging for medical device companies, which have traditionally sold their products through resellers. Using commerce and engagement tools to capture and cater to patients and caregivers throughout the purchase journey can result in improved revenues and decreased transaction costs. It can also avoid scenarios like the one described above.

Here are three ways important ways brands can help patients and improve healthcare while also protecting their reputation:

  • Develop advertising agreements with authorized sellers. Medical device brands need to control product information by establishing advertising agreements with authorized resellers and through product content management tools. Together these actions ensure that patients get the right product information for the conditions they treat, along with up-to-date instruction manuals and replacement parts.
  • Educate patients on the benefits of buying from authorized sellers. Products purchased only through authorized retailers or directly from the manufacturer have valid manufacturer warranties. Medical device manufacturers should clearly inform all parties that only authorized resellers can provide safe products for patients.
  • Sell direct to consumers. Medical device manufacturers should sell to patients directly whenever possible. If selling direct is not an option, medical device manufacturers should consider using a shared commerce platform to build a front-end patient commerce and engagement portal, with existing channels acting as fulfillment, distribution, and transaction partners. The medical device manufacturer can then promote awareness and sales of safe products while reaping data on consumer preferences that they can use to improve customer service going forward.

It’s important for medical device manufacturers to recognize that participating in direct online channels with patients lets them control the brand experience and improve brand image. As the saying goes, “You’re either at the table or on the menu” when it comes to online sales. Any products with sufficient demand will sell online through authorized and unauthorized sellers, so it behooves medical device manufacturers to take control of their messaging and channels to help patients live healthier lives.

Want to learn more? See how Hybris Life Sciences improves the patient and caregiver experience and enhances global health.

Jonathan Burdette

About Jonathan Burdette

Jonathan Burdette is Senior Director of Customer Engagement and Commerce for the Life Sciences Line of Business at SAP.