Few patients being rolled into surgery for a hip or knee replacement are aware that a sales rep is often in the operating room during their procedure, aiding the surgeon and nurses with decisions about instruments and sometimes influencing the kinds of products that will be used.
Now, a small number of hospitals around the country are collaborating with manufacturers to replace this model. One is Loma Linda (Calif.) University Medical Center, which trains hospital staff to set up the OR and assist surgeons during joint replacement procedures. The payoff for Loma Linda is a 50% markdown on the prices of implants, which cost on average about $4,320 for a total knee implant and $4,820 for a total hip. Overall cost savings data were not available.
“Sales reps have created this necessity for themselves with the surgeon, and we’re saying it’s not as necessary as everyone thinks it is,” said Justin Freed, Loma Linda’s executive director of supply chain.
The rep-less model is part of a broader effort by hospitals to cut medical-device costs and improve clinical quality through greater standardization in the devices used. As part of that, hospitals have worked with physicians to limit purchasing of physician preference items.
“A lot of the (healthcare providers) today are beginning to recognize that the rep is not a ‘free’ service,” said Donald Casey, CEO of Cardinal Health’s medical segments business. “It’s actually part of a bundle that results in prices that they may or may not want to evaluate.”