There are several disconnects when it comes to the management of diabetes and the business side of diabetes. Yet one of the more disturbing comes with the toy’s patients play with. The two most popular toys at the moment are CGM’s and sensor augmented insulin pumps. To patients these toys can be life savers when they work as designed. It’s when they don’t work patients get frustrated which is understandable.
Now those of us in the business understand one fundamental truth when it comes to medical devices, like it or not these devices can and do fail or malfunction. There is no question the quality of these devices has improved dramatically over the years. However even with these improvements social media and the MAUDE database is filled with reports of devices failing or malfunctioning.
Worse for the patient far too many device companies fail in another area, customer service. It’s bad enough when a device fails but many of these companies compound this failure when they make a patient wade through voicemail hell to get help. Or let the patient sit on hold for hours on end. This too is a function of the business side as customer support is costly to the company and in their eyes does not have an acceptable return on investment.
While this is not true with every company the mantra for most is let’s sell the damn thing and worry about supporting it later. Device reps are not compensated for patient support, physicians and CDE’s aren’t paid for this either. Unfortunately for patients they are forced to endure this indignity as they no other choice. It’s not like they can just go to their local pharmacy and get a new one.
The better companies in this area may not like the cost of customer support but they understand they have an obligation to the patient. These companies understand that good customer can help sell more products as patients have become very vocal using social media as their platform to rant about poor customer service. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see pictures posted of a patient’s phone that shows them on hold for an hour or longer. It’s also common to have patients rant about poor product performance and device failures.
See for most patients they could care less that customer service is a huge expense for these companies. Nor do they want to hear that the toy they are using will not function properly 100% of the time. They expect their toy to be like their smartphone or TV, something that works when they use it. It’s like flipping the switch for electricity patients think the lights should go on once they flip the switch.
Basically, what the patient wants is the damn thing to work and when it doesn’t to be able to get help as fast as possible. The problem is these are unrealistic expectations. Listen even the “good” companies cannot produce a product that works 100%. As Momma Kliff used to say and she has been quoted by many; “Shit happens.”
This is why we have been advocating a different approach to customer service. Why not charge a patient for different levels of support? This may seem like a radical idea or even heresy, but it is a true solution. We don’t expect the cost of support to cover what the company pays their team, but it does change expectations. Just by way of example a company could offer various levels of support – go to the web or smartphone and chat that’s free – want to speak with human or have premium access that’s when the cost comes in.
This is really no different than what these consumers are already used to. Think about the last time you actually used a bank teller. Consumers have become accustomed to getting cash from an ATM and even the fees they pay for this service when they use an out of network ATM. They may not like the fees but typically they are small, and they do have the option of finding an in-network ATM.
Now this change at first like all change won’t go over well with patients. But just as we have become accustomed to ATM’s they will become accustomed to this change. Yes, we know all the patient advocates will scream bloody murder at first, but the fact is given how healthcare is paid for today and the high cost of providing quality customer support we think it’s a change that should be implemented. Amazon doesn’t seem to have a problem getting people to pony up to become Prime members.
The reality is no matter how hard they try the toys makers cannot make a product that works 100% of the time. And quite frankly it is unrealistic to except that, heck even the electricity does go out once in a while. This change to us is a win – win the patients who prefer free support will have options those who wish a higher level of support will have options as well. The companies will win as they will offset some of their costs. Again, to be clear we do not anticipate whatever the cost is to be unaffordable or come close to covering what the company pays their support team.
It’s about time everyone started looking at these patients not as patients but as consumers. These people are consumers of healthcare, not lab rats in a clinic. Consumers want options, they want choice and while not all, but we think many will pay to get what they want.