At one time, having representatives in your practice was considered normal. It was even expected.
But there’s been a shift and now you may be wondering if representatives should even be allowed in practices, especially in today’s environment. Keep reading to learn more!
Working with representatives
When did some doctors and administrators at practices decide that it was no longer important to see representatives? It’s puzzling because they used to bring a lot of value. But today, it may be difficult to see the value they have. Does that mean it’s a good reason to avoid all of them?
Not that long ago there was a time when physicians saw all the representatives that came to their offices. But for the most part, each represented unique products that were useful.
For many, the back door was the accepted entrance. Representatives were so welcomed; it was one of the things that made the job so great.
Office Christmas parties: representatives were there. Office picnics: representatives were there as well.
Now, there are numbers like 30%, 40%, or more of physicians/clinics who have shut out representatives partially or completely. These numbers are hard to pin down due to the definition of “see”.
“Oh, we see all the reps here”, one practice administrator told us. “They can come on Wednesday mornings and leave their brochures at the front desk. Oh, and they can also leave samples if they’d like.
We have someone go get the doctor’s signature if needed”. For our purposes, Eye Physician Network defines “seeing representatives” as allowing the face to face time with the doctor, for a least a minute. With that definition, the shut-out number may be even higher.
What happened to representatives today?
Are representatives not as smart today versus thirty years ago? Is there nothing new they can share?
It’s not as easy as one of these questions. As a matter of fact, the qualification to land one of these jobs is much more stringent than ever.
Absolute requirements of science degrees with higher than normal grade point averages are the new standards for many companies. Most companies will give prospects a personality test. “Would you rather read a book to a sick child or spend an hour in a doctor’s waiting room?”
These jobs are so coveted, and the supply is much greater than the demand.
To say only the best even get the opportunity would be an understatement. Due to the complexity of today’s drugs and the variety of devices available, most medical representatives are better trained than ever before.
So, what happened? Why has the representative welcome mat been pulled away at so many clinics, hospitals, and schools? Why have many of the ones that still allow access, restricted visits to what are essentially non-see visits?
We don’t pretend to know all the reasons but with a little research, we have come up with a few.
Representatives may be smarter and better trained than their predecessors, but are they able to communicate what is valuable to busy healthcare providers?
Healthcare has changed
Healthcare regulations placed in the past 30 years have curtailed what many can or are willing to say. Concerned with things like off-label promotion, the companies scare the heck out of them, regularly.
Most have adopted policies restricting representatives to repeat verbatim what is on the product label. From many, don’t expect to get an answer when you ask them something like, “I know it’s not approved for anything but X, but are other clinicians using it for Y”? Many are just bringing the same old thing in a new package.
Another reason for non-or restricted visits may be due to how busy everyone in healthcare is. The number of patients being seen each day along with the free time doctors and staff has radically changed.
If you have to make the choice of who to spend time with, it’s probably going to be the patient. According to an article from PharmaVoice.com, “Access comes down to value, regardless of whether the physician is specialty or primary care”, says Dan Piggott. Cited in the same article; the number of pharmaceutical reps declined 38% between 2006 and 2014.
Then there are the numbers. By this, it’s the sheer number of representatives that are cruising around your office on any given day. Detail men of the “old days” used to represent all the products their company sold, usually just bringing your practice the new and best ones.
More and more we see many represent separate product lines of companies. So, where there was one Acme rep, there are now 3. Also, over the years, companies have established minimum visits by their representatives.
This means it’s about quantity over quality, and you getting less value. You can usually recognize this by the representative that stops by your office and doesn’t even ask to see the doctor.
“I just wanted to drop this off” and then dash on to the next office. This usually happens near the end of the day when the quota has not been met and offices are near closing.
To see representatives or not
So, to see representatives or not. That is the question. Our answer is yes and it’s no.
You should make time to see the good ones. These are the ones that bring value. You should not see representatives that bring little or no value.
If everyone followed this rule, eventually the number of good ones would grow, and the number of not-so-good ones would go away.
Maybe some of the companies would get away from just sending reps out to bother you into using their product. In the end, representatives should be about helping the patients, not themselves.
Having one that asks you to try what they have only to help them out should be a red flag. This is the moment that you show them the door and ask them to leave.
It’s about helping the patient, and about helping the doctor and staff offer them better care, period. The last thing it’s ever about is helping the rep.
How to pick the good representatives to see
Representatives are not the enemy, but how do you make sure you pick the good ones?
They can share news you are looking for, but you must ask for the good stuff:
• Peer-reviewed papers
• Samples….ask for a few more of a product that you need
• Changes in indications for a product you use now
• Discount prescription plans for patients in need
• Superior outcome studies for their a product or drug
Every time you see one, ask yourself this simple question: “Did that visit help us with our business of healthcare”? If the answer is yes, look forward to seeing them again.
If they didn’t help, then don’t see them again. After all, there are plenty more where that representative came from!
Let us know in the comments if you agree when it comes to seeing representatives at your practice or if you think they shouldn’t be allowed at all!