After covering hc1.com, an online tool that “aims to streamline the relationship between medical laboratories and healthcare provider,” some Medgadget readers expressed interest in learning about other medical technologies that are meant to improve the efficiency of healthcare delivery. To this end, we recently had the opportunity to discover more about a free web tool called Medtel.com that “helps doctors manage their interactions with pharmaceutical and medical device sales representatives more efficiently.” The following is our interview with Medtel.com’s Director of Public Relations, Carrie L. Carrier, that sheds light not only on Medtel.com but on the current relationship between healthcare professionals and medical device/pharma sales representatives.
Shiv Gaglani, Medgadget: In a nutshell, what does Medtel.com do?
Carrier: Medtel.com modernizes the traditional mode of marketing medical devices and pharmaceuticals to healthcare providers with an online search directory and social media platform designed to facilitate searches for medical devices and drugs as well as to optimize communication among healthcare providers and sales representatives (“sales reps”). This platform takes the frustration and opacity out of the medical device/drug selection process. An intuitive, user-friendly interface simplifies the search for specific medical devices and pharmaceuticals, a process that has, up to now, been encumbered by administrative hassles and a lack of readily accessible information for comparing different products. Medical device and pharma searches on Medtel.com can be customized and conducted across multiple dimensions, including by company, product name, therapy area, treatment, and procedure.
Moreover, the two-way search directory allows both providers and sales reps to locate and communicate with one another more efficiently and consistently over time. Beyond a simple directory, Medtel.com makes the search results immediately actionable with embedded functions and communication tools that bring the doctor-rep dialogue to the next level. Users can instantly email, message, query, and rate a provider or rep within the site to initiate contact, submit product inquiries, or request a mutually convenient in-person meeting based on posted call schedule data. The site also has a notes/clipboard feature that makes it easy for users to record their thoughts on a particular product or professional.
Equally important, the Medtel.com site provides an organizational framework in which users can retrieve, review, and compare/contrast interactions and product findings over time so that providers can allocate their time and attention to the products and reps most useful to them. At the same time, sales reps can use this data to concentrate their efforts on the physicians and practices most in need of their products and services. Unlike ad hoc communications across various sites and communication channels, those on Medtel.com can be consolidated to create a product /professional dossier of accreted data that allows for future efficiencies based on past information.
Medgadget: How will Medtel.com change medicine?
Carrier: Medtel.com has the potential to change medicine and healthcare delivery in multiple ways, particularly with respect to: creating much-needed data standards in the online pharmaceutical and medical space; improving the flow of relevant product information; enabling a more efficient use of clinician and rep time; and ultimately ameliorating the quality of healthcare delivery.
There has been a substantial, technological push across most sectors of the healthcare industry in recent years, a change that has been long overdue. What has been lacking in this push, however, is a set of viable standards that make data easy to consolidate, manage, retrieve, sort, compare, and safeguard. Medtel.com introduces these standards to the online segment of medical device and pharmaceutical marketing. Our platform provides a fast, intuitive way to conduct both broad and precise searches for medical devices and pharmaceuticals, with results that are organized and grouped by categories of your choosing, be it company, therapy area, procedure, condition, and so forth.
In creating a set of workable, efficient standards for the management and retrieval of certain healthcare data, Medtel.com has expedited the process of locating the appropriate device and pharmaceutical interventions, thereby saving clinicians time. We are all familiar with the axiom that time is money, but in healthcare, time is also potentially lifesaving.
In the long run, facilitating quick access to key information leads to improved quality of care, as reps and doctors are more easily empowered to present and select the safest, most effective devices/drugs for patients expeditiously. In economic parlance, this concept is known as “perfect information”, a necessary precursor to an efficient market. An added benefit is generated by reducing the amount of time that doctors need to spend tracking down medical device and pharmaceutical information, resulting in their having more time to devote to patients.
Medgadget: What problem is Medtel.com trying to solve?
Carrier: Three main forces coalesced to spur the creation of Medtel.com, the first two of which constitute challenges in the industry that Medtel.com wants to address. The three catalysts include: (1) increased productivity pressures on medical device and pharma sales representatives amidst winnowed ranks; (2) relentless scheduling demands constraining physicians’ time; and (3) the rapid assimilation of mobile devices into doctors’ practices and hospitals over the past several years.
FACTOR 1: Regarding the first factor, medical device and drug makers are currently dealing with a host of challenges, including product pipeline concerns, reduced profit forecasts, and fewer field reps having to cover the same number of physicians. Basically a smaller medical sales force is expected to do more with less. A product like Medtel.com, which harnesses technology to expand doctor-rep communication options, streamline routine interactions, and foster relationships, represents a cost-effective solution to some of the dilemmas the industry is facing. It should be noted that Medtel.com in no way aims to replace sales reps. Quite the opposite. Its objective is to help sales reps perform their critical mission of conveying essential information, and providing demonstrations, to physicians more effectively and efficiently. Basically, the Medtel.com platform, with its social media design and features, enables reps to cultivate relationships with a larger, more targeted group of physicians within the context of an online environment that is appealing and comfortable for doctors and reps alike.
FACTOR 2: The second factor driving the demand for the Medtel.com platform is physician time, or more accurately, a severe shortage of it. Healthcare providers are straining under increasing patient loads and clinical demands that have them extended to the very brink. Doctors simply do not have the luxury of meeting with a cavalcade of marketing reps on a regular basis. As such, an online platform where doctors can perform precision searches for medical devices and pharmaceuticals, while choosing the timing and method of discourse with reps, offers a measure of flexibility and convenience that did not previously exist.
FACTOR 3: What makes the time especially ripe for Medtel.com is the degree to which mobile devices (e.g. smartphones, tablets, and ultra lightweight laptops) have penetrated not only the general marketplace but physicians’ practices. Whereas a few years ago, very few doctors regularly used any type of computing device in their day-to-day practice, nowadays the majority do. According to a Jackson and Coker report, four out of five practicing physicians use smartphones, computer tablets, and other mobile devices during the course of their workday.
Medgadget: What are the advantages and challenges that come with your online/cloud-based platform?
Carrier: The advantages are numerous, ranging from simplicity and accessibility to portability, scalability, customizability and overall convenience. Medtel.com does not entail any additional investment in IT infrastructure beyond basic high-speed and wireless access already in use today. All features are available through our private cloud via a secure platform with several layers of data encryption and user controls. Users do not have to download or install any programs. In addition, Medtel.com’s continuously updated database is always available in real-time to users.
The challenges specific to Medtel.com are not especially daunting, and all are easily resolved with foresight, research, and a knowledgeable staff capable of implementing the appropriate solutions. The first challenge that we considered when developing Medtel.com related to the security risks posed by cloud computing. Such risks were easily overcome with the design of a secure platform with multiple layers of encryption and carefully designed controls to prevent hacking and compromised data. The second challenge affecting any healthcare venture involves compliance with a byzantine set of regulatory and privacy rules. Given that our executive staff comprises experts in healthcare policy and management, we are able to remain fully apprised of such issues.
Medgadget: Can you discuss Medtel.com’s market share and goals?
Carrier: Medtel.com’s market is two-pronged. The first “prong”, or segment, consists of doctors and their staff, hospitals, group practices, and other healthcare providers. The second segment comprises medical device and pharmaceutical companies. Our goal is to be the main provider within the healthcare sector of bespoke database and online communication solutions designed to: (1) help physicians and their staff quickly find and access the most appropriate medical devices and pharmaceuticals within their specialties – all in a single search; and (2) facilitate routine interactions between healthcare providers and medical device/pharmaceutical sales reps. Presently, we are the only business that we are aware of offering such a spectrum of services on a single platform.
One of our main goals is to partner with hospitals nationwide and provide free access to the Medtel.com platform for doctors, physicians’ assistants, office managers, and hospital administrators. Medtel.com is particularly useful in a hospital or group practice setting, where the centralization of certain administrative functions, such as purchasing, is essential to successful operations. To that end, Medtel.com is collaborating with several major urban hospitals in a pilot program to showcase how its services streamline and improve the doctor-sales rep dialogue in an institutional setting.
Doctors have embraced Medtel.com because its customized, easy-to-access information, as well as its familiar interface, enable providers to interact with reps via whichever mode they prefer, be it messaging, email, telephone, or in-person.
Our second goal in the near-term is to speed the adoption of Medtel by medical device/pharmaceutical companies and their sales reps. The Medtel.com platform makes it simple for reps to find and contact doctors in their territory with only a few clicks. On the platform, sales reps have the tools they need to connect effectively with more doctors in less time. Furthermore, Medtel.com provides reps with a secure and private environment in which they can efficiently disseminate critical information about their products as well as engage with physicians and their staff meaningfully yet unobtrusively.
In sum, Medtel.com overhauls medical device and pharmaceutical marketing so that it is at once more efficient, informative, accessible, and responsive to all involved.
 “More than seventy five percent of doctors now use smartphones and tablets at work”, by Cory Schultz, October 28, 2011, in IMedicalApps: