In his e-mail, the consultant suggested doctors deserve more credit than I gave them.
Managed care has squeezed doctors' margins enough. So what if some office supplies are given to them by a drug rep? I wonder how SMDC passed along the extra $100,000 they are spending on office supplies? I'd rather have my doctor using the Internet to search Medscape for best clinical studies and articles instead of Staples.com and OfficeMax.com looking for the cheapest pen. I worry more about the quality of the interactions between patient and doctor as the doctor cattles more patients through the office due to managed care pressures.
The reality is that a pen or clipboard won't influence a doctor's prescribing. In the '80s or even early '90s, drug companies could more easily unduly influence a doctor's prescribing with larger incentives like trips mentioned in your article. Trips and other major incentives are just not prevalent anymore. Today, many honorable drug companies and reps can truly partner with a physician to improve the patient experience.
My surgeons say that since the approval of public advertising of prescription drugs, they are being constantly badgered by their patients for drugs they don't need. However, if the surgeon consistently refuses to prescribe, the patient will leave and seek a surgeon that will. Therefore, it is the opinion of many surgeons that, if the requested drug is not harmful, they will go ahead and prescribe it in order to keep their patient.
Carolyn E. Skaff, CEO
ASC Durango at Mercy Regional Medical Center
Tons of freebies throughout the facility, and different vendors were actually scheduled on a rotating basis to bring lunch on different days of the week to each of the different clinics. When food arrived, the aroma permeated the air, and made patients wonder what the priority was . . . lunch or their care, as staff members would disappear, reappear, then disappear again . . . some shoving food in their mouths before resuming duties, or bringing plates of food back to their work areas, in view of the patients.
One time, when there was an obvious schedule mix up, and one clinic did not have anyone bring them lunch, the physician director of that clinic called the drug rep he thought should have been there and told him in no uncertain terms that no lunch meant no further visits. Lunch arrived about 45 minutes later.
One provider even gave the building security access code to one of the drug reps so she could get in and out of the back door of the clinic more easily with food, without disrupting the clinic operations. Although senior management (non-physicians) were able to make some changes, the physician-owned group called the shots, and they were not about to give up their lunches. It was absolutely ridiculous to see the anger or foul words generated over schedule mix-ups or food that was not as good as the next clinic had.
Congratulations for bringing this issue forward. I think it is a long overdue lesson for everyone.