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Should You Keep Sales Reps Out of the OR?

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, October 31, 2013

The non-profit ECRI Institute suggests that "hospitals should be diligent about the presence of anyone who isn't a staff member in the OR because of potential risk management concerns."

This article appears in the October issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

They stand alongside the physicians and nurses. Like the medical professionals, they scrub in and wear masks before entering the operating room, where they check out the nuts, screws, braces, and other orthopedic devices.

They stand alongside the physicians and nurses. Like the medical professionals, they scrub in and wear masks before entering the operating room, where they check out the nuts, screws, braces, and other orthopedic devices. They are medical device sales reps.

Having sales representatives in the OR is a common practice, even though some healthcare leaders say it is an unwelcome presence.

"Vendors go in and tell about a new item; it's an angle they are going to take," says Larry Kennedy, CMRP, the materials management director of Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff, Ark. He says it's obvious some reps are trying to influence sales. "That's their job. But we don't allow them to push products in the OR or cath lab. We make them schedule a meeting with us."

The ECRI Institute, a nonprofit based in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., that researches cost-effectiveness in patient care, said in a July report this year that while hospitals generally do not allow "outsiders" in the OR, exceptions are "frequently made" for medical device sales representatives. That especially occurs when the sales reps can provide "assistance with a particular device."

As ECRI notes, however, "hospitals should be diligent about the presence of anyone who isn't a staff member in the OR because of potential risk management concerns and should establish policies to oversee sales representatives involved with devices."

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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