Vital Signs Blog

ACA provision may alter dynamic between docs, sales reps

Have you heard this joke before?

How do you know when a total joint implant sales rep is at the hospital? When the orthopedic surgeons' cars aren't the nicest ones in the parking lot.

This joke, or some variation of it, is told often, and mainly in confidence among supply-chain executives and staff at hospitals across the U.S. It highlights the sometimes tense relationship between the detailers employed by medical device manufacturers, physicians and the hospital employees tasked with reducing spending on the same medical and surgical supplies.

Many device sales reps and physicians have long-standing relationships, some of which are financial and social, and others that have more to do with a physician's comfort level with a particular device or product. But those relationships increasingly have come under scrutiny. The public release next year of data showing “transfers of value” between docs and manufacturers as a result of the “Sunshine Act” provision in the healthcare reform law may further affect those relationships.

Jeffrey Lerner, president and CEO of the ECRI Institute, an independent health technology assessment organization, told Modern Healthcare this year that the disclosures may “weaken the bond between the implanting surgeon and the company.”

In addition, the pressure of declining reimbursements has meant that supply-chain executives and physicians are more willing to work together to reduce supply costs to ensure the financial health of a hospital or health system.

In this week's issue, hospital executives discussed supply cost-cutting initiatives that are underway at their institutions and some of the different strategies they are using to work with physicians to ensure better utilization of medical devices.

What do you think? Have the dynamics between docs, sales reps and hospital administration changed?

Follow Jaimy Lee on Twitter: @MHjlee


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