26th January 2018
by Nicholas Price-Jones

As a leader in Single-use medical instruments DTR Medical continually assess the medical sector to ascertain our positioning, product portfolio and development strategies. Through this process we evaluate our market standing, this leads us to review our responsibility in the medical sector.  Perceptions of market leaders as dominators of total sales revenue continue. Judged by strengths in various areas, such as:

  • Profit;
  • Perceived value;
  • Promotional spending;
  • Image;
  • Worldwide presence;
  • Customer loyalty.

These key determinants are utilised to predict if companies, brands and/or products lead the market.

But are we looking at this with narrow mindedness and short-term expectations?

I ask this question during a time when leadership is again usurping management in the boardroom while market dominance remains the measure for deciding market leadership.

However, with expectations that business leaders guide us to success through empowerment, listening to employees, building teams, receiving feedback and acting in the best interest of the collective rather than the selective, are the above determinants still serving their purpose.  This renaissance in leadership has led to greater success for many companies.  As John Kotter put it:

“Because management deals mostly with the status quo and leadership deals mostly with change, in the next century we are going to have to try to become much more skilled at creating leaders.”

John P. Kotter, Leading Change.

So are we just acknowledging the status quo by determining a market leader through accumulation of profit, promotional expenditure, their carefully crafted image, or should we consider that their actions and not their positioning should determine a market leader?

In the medical device industry we continue to experience a “race to the bottom” approach in terms of price.  With cuts to hospitals budgets, tightening of national purse strings and misguided attempts to enhance budgets through purchasing cheaper variants, healthcare is walking the road to ever diminishing returns.  Lower prices leads to lack of investment in service, innovation and ultimately quality.  These three areas are the foundations for development, assurance and piece of mind.  If we only consider the price of the instrument in the surgeon’s hand we will not know the value of work that they do.  If we invest in our doctors’ skills we should provide them with the tools that do justice to those skills.

While we have shifted our opinion on those that lead our businesses, we have not on those that lead our markets.  By continually focusing on price and market share we are abandoning the responsibility we have to innovation, service and quality.  A market leader should not be those who can count the most in their accounts but those who deliver the most to their healthcare customer.

“Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility.”

Peter F. Drucker, The Father of Management Theory.

In respect of this I would suggest a shift in determining market leadership with a set of standards that are partly already being used for assessment, these could be:

  • Loyalty to the customer;
  • Commitment to innovation;
  • Product quality;
  • Employee engagement;
  • Service achievements.

These five obligations link to one another to ensure customer satisfaction, by focusing on innovation and the culture of the organisation.  Putting a customer’s best interest first as well as delivering tangible value ensures a customer driven product born out of their needs and requirements.  This turns customer loyalty, where an organisation has the potential to fall in the trap of abusing their customer’s loyalty, into the organisations priority in the customer’s welfare.  The commitment to innovation feeds the product pipeline where alignments with the clients needs are fulfilled.   Major figures of change and business revolution could see this:

“Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!'” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”

Steve Jobs

The quality of product has always been relative to the market it occupies, whilst it is a fact that fast food restaurants achieve a consistent quality product that is in demand by the general public it has also created a market for the gourmet burger experience.  With quality being relative, it should be the priority in areas such as healthcare where each instrument, device and machine should achieve the highest quality standards to ensure patient safety.  The development of the Rotating Biopsy Punch by DTR continues to this day, even though it has become a favourite amongst colposcopy clinicians the continuous improvement program strives for further quality improvements.  Many public healthcare organisations around the world put patient safety at the heart of their service delivery.  The position taken by the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is:

“Patient safety is the avoidance of unintended or unexpected harm to people during the provision of health care. We support providers to minimise patient safety incidents and drive improvements in safety and quality. Patients should be treated in a safe environment and protected from avoidable harm.”

NHS Improvement, improvement.nhs.uk

Despite this, there is still an element of “Buy cheap, buy twice” in the procurement process.  With such an emphasis on price being the priority at what stage does the quality of product take precedence?

It is well documented that when an organisation has an engaged group of employees they deliver service levels that exceed the client’s expectations.  Aristotle wrote of our habits and our actions in Nicomachean Ethics “these virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions”, Will Durant viewed it as “…we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit.”.  The habits formed at DTR Medical relate to quality, innovation and service.  Through the high level of quality control we employ by conducting inspections and dimensional checks on instruments, the service commitment to supply sterile products from stock with over 97% same day dispatch, and how have brought major improvements to our Rotating Cervical Biopsy Punch and Clearway Suction Handle, improving the standard of care for patients and customers across the world, these are the habits we have cultivated to be responsible manufacturers in the healthcare sector.  By engaging with employees, instilling positive management habits, making them emotionally invested in the organisation, they contribute more to the client’s wellbeing and the organisations success in delivery that leads us back to loyalty to the customer.

The responsibility of a market leader should be to challenge the market they occupy, and potentially those they do not, with a shift in thought and in the actions they take, not the position they occupy.  This is our responsibility; we are committed to it.