Should You Keep Sales Reps Out of the OR?

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , October 31, 2013

While hospitals allow vendors in operating rooms, in part because physicians often press for that presence to ensure they are properly using the medical devices, leaders are crafting policies that place limits on such vendor involvement. The Loma Linda (Calif.) Medical Center has reduced the number of cases in which sales staff are in the surgical suites, especially for a majority of routine cases, says Gary Botimer, MD, chairman of the orthopedics department at the 970-bed facility.

"This is only for the cases that the surgeon does not feel he needs them there," he says. "There will always be legitimate advances in care [for which] it is helpful to have a company representative there, but for the routine cases [as established by the surgeon evaluation team], the presence of a company representative is unnecessary."

William Martin, PharmD, administrative director for sourcing and value purchasing at Beaumont Health based in Troy, Mich., acknowledges that while physicians are ultimately responsible for decisions on medical devices, "the device representative is there in the operating room as well. While his or her intent is to make money, there are select procedures that are complex, and it's not all negative when they try to help physicians. I think there may be some value when you are undertaking a complex revision surgery, because the device representative is incredibly familiar with the product."

For the most part, though, Martin says that the presence of the vendor representatives is "an unnecessary activity." The vendor sales staff "gets paid a very handsome wage and may live in the same subdivision as the doctors. The rep may represent anywhere from 30% to 40% of the costs of implants. It's unbelievable, and in my mind, it's what is upside down in healthcare."

This article appears in the October issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.

Comments are moderated. Please be patient.

2 comments on "Should You Keep Sales Reps Out of the OR?"

Jack Gleason (11/7/2013 at 9:49 AM)
I have personally been in over 3,000 surgical cases during my tenure as a Rep. On almost every one of those occasions I made a contribution that helped the patient by expediting the procedure or preventing/repairing a malfunction or simply offering technical assistance to the surgeon or staff. No, I am not a healthcare professional & I hold no licenses. Just a highly trained representative who gets sales by becoming an asset to the surgical team. We generally do not discuss "sales" in the OR; and we never scrub-in. Several points in this article are simply not true & seem designed to inflame the lay reader.

Jack (10/31/2013 at 2:59 PM)
Been around the OR for over two decades ,affiliated with a device company (not a rep but heavily involved with rep,doc,RN, & tech training). I'm not as knowledgable about the ortho side, but I can attest to the benefits of mutual ( company,rep,staff) device education. That is, for fast 'paced' innovation , a well trained rep is a must. They are not doctors/staff, but, their singular focused knowledge is exceptional . They study and observe hundreds/thousands of procedures [INVALID] anatomy challenges , if needed -programming issues, placement options, patient specifics [INVALID]- most of which no one doc would be able to experience with one set of devices. BTW, my own research of 200+ clinical sites ( US&Western Europe) showed a significant % of staff - MD/RN/Tech - wanted the device person available prior to and during the procedure-albeit older data. My lawyer friends like the opposite (not a study). I'm bias, but would want one in the OR for my own case. The field person,also, is able to feed back recommendations (where do you think constant innovation comes from) from all members of the OR/follow-up health team. Constant feedback from multiple resource teams, different patient bases, issues- all are musts for continual improvement of devices, implant techniques , troubleshooting and follow-up of clinical results. Oh, I thought all folks in the OR got paid. Odd statement . They have to be skilled in all facets of the procedure & follow up; education tools; troubleshooting; paper work; recalls-if called for; adverse reporting; being on call,,,,, interesting folks. Personally, I do not believe the field person can influence the staff beyond good service & solid knowledge ...... Am I all wet ?? So, when your loved one needs a new device,,,,I expect Dr.Martin to request that nobody from the firm that researched, ran the clinical, manufactured , packaged, and has followed the device, to be present ( same for older devices where the baseline data on tens of thousands of units can be of enormous value ). Makes sense ?? Good luck with the new Obama care model ,to all. Sincerely , Jack St.Ores Stillwater , Minnesota




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