The release of any new phone model reveals much about where people fall on the product adoption curve. There are the camp-outside-the-store-since-midnight enthusiasts all the way to the I-like-my-flip-phone skeptics. All of us fall along the curve somewhere and we may fall into different segments of the curve ourselves, depending on the product. When it comes to the adoption of medical innovations, consumers fall into the same basic categories. This can lead to complex negotiations when one person at a facility is an enthusiast while another important decision-maker is a skeptic. What can we do to stay ahead of the curve - the most important place to be when new research and innovations can be life saving - and find a way to keep everyone satisfied?
It's not surprising that the adoption of medical innovations is far more conservative than the adoption of a new phone. When actual lives are on the line, products must go through legally mandated steps to assure safety and efficacy, often taking years and significant financial investment. While any new medical product must take these initial steps, clearing them is no guarantee that an innovation will be adopted by the medical profession. The consumer needs to hear about the product, how it works, if it works in a clinical setting, how it will improve patient outcomes, and how it will effect the bottom line. At this point, even after meeting all of these milestones demanded by the industry, the medical product adoption curve looks just like it would for any other product.
Innovators: These consumers are ready and willing to try every new product on the market, often with little research or care about cost. This may vary by type of product - Some hospital administrators may be innovators when it comes to software but more conservative when it comes to hardware investments. If you work for an innovator and want to invest in an innovative product, your path will be straightforward! Keep in mind that these consumers are quick to get excited about new things, so maintaining their interest and support may take more effort.
Early Adopters: Not quite as quick to take the leap as innovators, early adopters do more due diligence but are generally trusting about the information they read and quick to make a decision. They are considered visionaries, because they see the long-term benefits of the product and how it can revolutionize their work and patient outcomes. Proposing an innovation to these types of consumers will require you to paint a vivid picture full of the many ways this one product will impact the many areas of the healthcare facility.
Early Majority: The optimistic pragmatists of the group, those in the early majority see the benefits of the product but take the time to collect and analyze research, including medical and economic impacts. While falling overall earlier on the adoption curve, these realists demand data, testimonials, and pilot studies. If you find yourself on a product adoption committee with one of these pragmatists, prepare to back up your arguments with peer-reviewed research, independent testimonials, and even the names of a few peers they can reach out to for more details. They want to believe in the product, but they will need evidence it works.
Late Majority: Perhaps not quite pessimistic pragmatists, those in the late majority are more tentative pragmatists. They may be apprehensive about change in general, not as aware that a change is necessary, or may have been "burned" by adopting new products in the past. For example, if a hospital administrator got excited about UV technology but ended up scrapping the program due to logistics, s/he may be less enthusiastic the next time a new infection control product comes along. Working with someone in this category requires knowing what is affecting their hesitation. Try to find out if they have any preconceived notions, consider their past adoption record to learn about their overall approach to innovation, and address each issue separately.
Laggards: Just as you will find just a few true innovators along the curve, at the other end you'll find the few truly reticent, set-in-their-ways laggards. You can consider these folks skeptics, those who are seemingly always waiting for more, better data, or have some other vague line to cross before investing. This category may be larger in medical product adoption, since costs are generally higher, there are more stakeholders involved, and both patient outcomes and facility reputation are on the line. Trying to convince a laggard to invest in a new product will often require substantial adoption by the field in general. For example, they may only be willing to adopt the product if almost all the facilities in the region already have it and this is beginning to impact the facility's reputation. They may even wait until the product is considered standard of care, leaving them no choice but to invest. It will be difficult to sway someone in this category.
In a future post, we will look at how this entire process changes when an innovation becomes Standard of Care, including what is required for a product to reach this level of universal acceptance. Until then, we want to hear from you! Where do you fall along the curve of product adoption? Are you more of an innovator when it comes to certain products only? Have you worked with people at different stages of the curve and found a way to resolve your differences? We would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!