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Olympus Executive Director of Marketing, Peter Crowley, on Improving Patient Outcomes by Keeping the Focus on People

The nature of our business is ultimately tied up in improving patient outcomes. Helping people should be at the center of everything we do. Peter Crowley walks the walk. He draws from his sales background, along with four key principles he has developed, to keep people, whether it is the patient or his team, at the center of everything he does.

Peter is currently the Executive Director of Marketing, Urology, for Olympus Americas Incorporated. In that role, he focuses on better patient care through innovation.

Peter has been a marketing and sales professional at Covidien/ Medtronic and Boston Scientific, covering vascular products, metal stents, biliary therapeutics, dilation and more. But describing Peter as just a marketer or sales professional explains only a small part of his experience and impact in the medical device industry. A longtime innovator, he was fortunate to be part of an internal start-up at Boston Scientific, called Endovations, to introduce a single-use endoscope and then later a single use choledoscope called SpyGlass. Additionally, Peter has several patents in his name across several specialties.

At Olympus, he is intent on nothing less than transforming the business through improving the culture and driving best in class technology.

With patients and people at the focus, Peter shared with us his four keys to success. They are: focus on improving the patient’s quality of life; manage the end users’ needs and challenges; utilize true innovation; and build and enhance his own team’s culture.

THE PATIENT

Peter’s connection to and focus on the patient goes back to his days on the road as a medical sales rep. He remembers driving hours through a snowstorm, having been called to the bedside of a patient with pancreatic cancer. The surgeon needed support and in-servicing during a procedure involving insertion of a Biliary Metal stent. Rushing to the OR, Peter was stopped by the wife of the patient.

“Are you the stent guy?” she asked.

He acknowledged he was.

“They’re going to put a stent in my husband today. How’s it going to go?”

It was a powerful moment. Of course, he couldn’t offer a medical opinion to this anxious woman, but he did his best to reassure her. The chance encounter stuck with him as a reminder that he wasn’t in the stent business, he was in the saving lives business. He left the hospital later, in a reflective state. That event would underscore a lot of what he did from that point on.

Given the impact, it is ironic that he later was in charge of marketing for the same stents business in his early product marketing career. His experiences in the field reinforced how important he knew medical devices were to patients and their families.

UNDERSTANDING END USER NEEDS AND CHALLENGES

For positive patient outcomes, Peter emphasizes the importance of understanding his products’ end users’ needs and challenges, whether that user is the physician or the patient. In thinking about the patient as the product’s end user, Peter uses an example of men living with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and how an Olympus product could provide better outcomes. “A patient has a choice between getting a new therapy with unproven procedure outcomes, often requiring a catheter for several weeks of discomfort, or undergoing the gold standard in BPH surgery, Plasma TURP. This is a real quality of life situation, and we have to think like those patients – what would they choose?” For each patient, there is a complex equation that determines what will provide the desired outcome: timing, age, potential side effects, etc. Patient education is important. Olympus directs patients interested in learning more about BPH to PlasmaButton.com to support education and identify specialized physicians in their area.

Physicians also act as important end users of Peter’s products. He discussed the importance of removing bias from everything his team possibly can, including interviews with Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). Good science, to Peter, all starts from the beginning with the way you gather information about your end users’ needs.

We all have biases and beliefs. The trick is to try and suspend these when conducting any market research. Leading questions, interviewing with an audience, forcing questions into responses without a sliding Likert scale – these are all classic mistakes in market research. Best in class is offering the evaluation with choices and then repeating the sequence multiple times with variations (blinded if possible). An example in guidewire development would be to have a physician navigate difficult strictures in an anatomical model, while adjusting core wire stiffness, flexible durometer segments and tip materials and length. Can the physician detect these subtle differences and demonstrate a performance difference?

Peter and his team are diligent about testing products and gaining feedback about products while using the cleanest possible research tools.

TRUE TO INNOVATION

With respect to technical innovation, Peter doesn’t necessarily orient toward the latest, glitziest, priciest technology. He makes a clear-headed examination of what will work best to solve the problem, even if it’s very traditional methods or technology. “Simplicity often wins over complexity,” he says. It’s part of being an expert not just in the technology, but in the disease state itself. “That’s the only way to improve outcomes and see the whole spectrum of patient care,” Peter says. “It’s about quality of life.”

One example of simplicity is Olympus Narrow Band Imaging to aid in the visualization of bladder tumors. Unlike other techniques, there are no dyes or drugs injected and there is no additional cost. The surgeon simply pushes a button on the video processor in order to see via the use of different light spectra. That helps identify areas with increased vascularity that could be bladder tumors.

“Patients can live for years with bladder cancer, seeing their urologists for regular screenings and having additional tumors removed, avoiding the more serious removal of the entire bladder,” Peter says. “Our NBI technology enables targeting of these tumors without the need for dyes or drugs. It’s less costly, more comfortable for the patient and can be used with any patient at any time.”

Also important is not falling in love with the “invented here” component of a technology. “Sometimes it’s better to build it internally but sometimes it’s better to acquire it,” Peter notes. “Is it a core competency? Do we have the skill set? Let’s make the best decision for the right reasons.”

A new technology, whether homegrown or acquired, has to serve the very specific purpose you are aimed at, or it doesn’t make sense. The same is true of all aspects of a therapeutic approach. “Is there good science behind it? Have you done your due diligence? What’s the five-year data? What’s the bench science? And ultimately, does it provide the value proposition we’re trying to achieve?”

THE TEAM

Finally, there’s the task of building the right team, internally and externally. Bringing in the right expertise extends to both the external partners you work with (such as thought-leading physicians) and the team you build around you. Peter resists the use of the verb “manage” to describe what you do with teams. “You manage finances and projects, not people. We identify the right people and give them as much latitude and trust as we can to be true owners of their business.

Boys and Girls Club
Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City accepting bikes assembled by the Urology team during a national sales meeting.

“In building a best in class team and culture, you need to focus on diversity of skills, background and approaches. We have always said that we never want a full team of traditional MBAs or an entire team of ex-sales, but a blend of skills, backgrounds and approaches that lift a team up with open minds.

“When we bring in the right mix of talent, we need to give them the freedom to inject their own wisdom. Millennials teach us something new every day! Those with years of experience can read a situation differently because they learned lessons earlier in their career.” This is the secret behind why his teams have a passion for the work they do. They experience ownership. “My job is to set the ultimate goal. The team’s job is to offer ways to get us there. We focus on positivity and potential.” Peter’s team radiates unity, respect and fun.

He sees the process as a Man on the Moon mission. “We set a clear target, define the deliverables, and set the team free.” He recalled the analogy that John F. Kennedy described of encountering a janitor at NASA. The president asked the worker what his job was. “To help get a man on the moon!” was the response. “No contribution is unimportant. We have an antihierarchical approach. Anyone can say anything, which of course makes it incumbent on me not to bias the team in advance.”

To try and foster this team unity, the team will occasionally get together for team building activities on- or off-site. “We can never find enough time for team and personal development; this is one of the traps of business as priorities add up.” Still, Peter works through the team to identify team building events like escape rooms, an activity he calls “Forest through the Trees,” or off-site charitable events. Every month, his team nominates one Marketer of the Month for the MOTH award. These add up to a culture of fun and recognition.

“We go through a lot of exploratory activity with our KOLs, whether during advisory board meetings or one-offs. We do a literature search, look at other companies in the space, and brainstorm a lot of potential approaches.” Again, this demands putting bias aside. Peter is always looking for the next question to ask: “How can we improve the test method? How can we approach the procedure differently? Do we really understand performance in the real world versus the lab? Do we understand the experience of both the physicians and the patients?” This rigor opens windows to an open and unencumbered analysis of the situation.

Above all of this is the overriding Olympus True to Life campaign and company culture, which Peter explains is built on these core values:

  • Agility
  • Empathy
  • Unity
  • Long-term view
  • Integrity

“If you have consulted the KOLs, come to fully understand the market, learned how to improve the outcomes, and minimized your biases – you will live the core values and arrive at the Ultimate Value Proposition,” Peter says.

The final step for a marketer, of course, is how to communicate the chosen messaging, through promotion and advertising, social media, print, the sales team, direct to patient, direct to physician or direct to societies. “GPOs and IDNs are also becoming more critical in our decision making, as are buyers like Amazon and technology providers. It’s a massive, complex market.”

But complexity can be navigated using a clear vision. “Promote value to patient care. It’s not about the product or the company. It’s about the patient outcomes.” Peter is proud to work for Olympus and is truly excited about the future of his team and organization.

What do you think?

Written by hsandm

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