Engaging Stakeholders

by | 14 Mar, 2024 | Blog, Business, Business development, Commercial

“Stakeholders” – another piece of industry jargon that is frequently thrown in the faces of entrepreneurs. “Who are your stakeholders?” “How will you engage them?” you are asked on training courses and funding rounds. Now, I grew up as a member of a family of commercial flower growers. This is what a stakeholder looked like to me, and to be honest, someone who had been holding stakes all day was probably the last person you wanted to engage with!

So what does it mean in healthcare innovation, and why is engaging with these people so important?

Identifying your Market

Again, a market means different things to different people. In healthcare, there are many potential options: Primary Care, Secondary Care, Tertiary Care, Community Care, Ambulance Service, and Mental Health. 

Then, within these options, you may choose Secondary Care but know that your product would only be used in A&E, and it could also be used by the Ambulance Service. You have identified your product’s position in the UK market. 

However, remember that overseas markets are different and that healthcare is delivered using different models and pathways. Just because you know your position in the UK market, it may be different overseas.

Identify your Stakeholders

Stakeholders can make decisions about your product or influence decisions about your product. When considering who your stakeholders will be, think about who will use it, who will use data or information that it may generate, who could be impacted by its use, who will make clinical decisions about its suitability and who will make financial decisions about its purchase. While going through this exercise, also consider your long-term goals for selling your product. Could you impact a wider sphere of customers by talking to people “higher up the food chain”? 

If your product could be adopted by one GP practice, would the Primary Care Network be interested? If you are selling to a hospital, would the commissioners of hospital services like to know about it too?

Why talk to Stakeholders?

By understanding the needs of your stakeholders, you can ensure that your products align with them. It is also important to realise that we are all individuals. If you don’t talk to multiple stakeholders, you could end up with expensive product development for something that is of little use or interest to the majority of your customers. 

Most importantly, don’t forget the patient. 

If you are creating a product that is used with patients, it has to work for them. There is no point, for example, in creating a small device with intricate technology which is going to be used by elderly patients with arthritic hands.

What to talk to Stakeholders about

The insightful and useful information that you can gather from talking to stakeholders before, during and after product development includes:

  • Fit with current treatment pathways
  • Practicalities of use
  • Considerations for transport and storage
  • Staff who would use your product
  • Staff who would order or prescribe your product
  • Any special requirements for purchase, implementation or maintenance
  • Key influencers who you may not have considered, e.g., members of decision-making committees
  • Decision pathways for purchase and implementation
  • Budgets
  • Acceptable pricing
  • Internal targets that could be positively or negatively impacted
  • Key messaging that works for different stakeholder roles and responsibilities

Early engagement should be the start of building strong long-term relationships with people who could champion your product in the future, complete the business case for its purchase, and advocate for its purchase at committees. They will also tell their friends and colleagues about you and your product (so make a good impression). Early engagement creates a fertile bed for trials, sales and mobilisation.

For more information about stakeholder engagement and how we can help, contact us.

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