Remembering the Consumer
One of the most useful sessions at the 2007 Neurotech Leaders Forum in Newport Beach last month [see conference report, p7] was a consumer/end-user panel discussion led by Jennifer French of Neurotech Network. In the session, French quizzed representatives of the Southern California neurological disabilities community about their attitudes and awareness of neurotechnology devices and therapies. Their answers shed considerable light on some of the challenges facing our industry in the years ahead.
In response to a question about sources of information about their condition, the users all said they relied on the Internet to stay informed. Several Internet resource services were named, but every panel member agreed that they use multiple resources, including news sites, disease/disorder-specific sites and Internet discussion forums to remain updated and learn about medical and technological advances. Other sources mentioned were peer support groups, association magazines or newsletters, local and national condition-based societies, and participation in clinical trials.
One panelist mentioned hearing about neurotechnology advances, such as brain computer interfaces and cochlear implants, in the media. Other panelists agreed that a media story could impact awareness, but that they then take that information and investigate it on the Internet, with a physician or a support group.
Regarding reimbursement for neurotech therapies, the panel offered some useful information to help make a case with insurers. For example, how the device or technology would reduce long-term care as well as cost-benefit analyses, are critical pieces of information. One user of an FES system mentioned that the ability to do home therapy is valuable. Another panelist spoke of the need for data to show increased independence, increased function, and increased ability to return to work. The ability to track costs was mentioned by an audience member. A neurotechnology device might not allow a person living with a disability to return to work but it may provide enough independence to allow a caregiver in the household to return to work. True daily costs of a person with a disability are not necessarily known or understood by third-party payers.
The information gleaned from these end-users highlights the useful role they can play in the design, development, and marketing of a new neurotechnology device. Vendors who take the time to cultivate this strategic resource will most likely find an essential partner to help them over the life cycle of a new product or therapy.
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