|Sales Representatives in Healthcare: Partnering to fill a need for Healthcare Organizations|
this multi-part series, we will be exploring the role and value of sales
representatives in the healthcare space as well as ways that healthcare
organizations can better partner with their local sales force to help drive
positive outcomes at the bedside.
II: The most expensive product is the
one that doesn’t work.
Healthcare facilities are different
than other business entities – they treat and prevent disease, alleviate pain
and suffering while often defying death itself, yet are still at the mercy of
the same economic, financial and market forces that impact traditional businesses. While life and health are priceless, the
products and services employed to preserve and protect them are unfortunately
not free. Further compounded by healthcare
payment models emphasizing pay-for-performance and the threat of reimbursement
reductions related to hospital value-based purchasing, this presents a unique
challenge for healthcare facilities of balancing costs with potential benefits
to patients and staff. Because of this, understanding
how products and services impact both the clinical and financial well-being of
the healthcare facilities is essential.
most expensive product is the one that you purchase which doesn’t work.
What I mean by this is even the
smallest product in the patient care setting has a purpose and drives an
outcome. These outcomes - patient safety
and experience as well as staff efficiency, safety and satisfaction relate to
larger costs than just the frontline purchase price of the intervention (think:
treatment of nosocomial infections and conditions, Value Based Purchasing
reimbursement reductions, workman’s compensation claims etc vs. the actual cost
of the product itself). For these reasons,
an effective means of measuring and analyzing the costs and benefits associated
with both new and existing products and services is essential to patients,
staff and the financial bottom line.
This measurement and validation of
products and services currently takes many forms though most current systems focus
on the introduction of new or updated products and interventions. Some larger organizations and integrated delivery
networks have assembled ‘value analysis’, ‘standardization’ or ‘products’ teams
comprised of clinical and non-clinical staff to trial and vote on new products that
are added to corporate contracts and formularies. Smaller facilities may have small groups or
even individuals making product decisions.
These groups, though essential and very
often well-run, are innately prospective in nature and very rarely have the
time, resources or access to data to measure the post-implementation efficacy
of the products they approve. For example,
a value-analysis group may approve the implementation of a new, lower cost hypodermic
safety needle without ever knowing if the product has an impact on needle-stick
injuries or the cost of any increase that was observed. Similarly, a standardization team could
approve the use of a new patient clinical chair without ever knowing if it has
an effect on patient falls or pressure injuries, staff efficiency and injury or
even linen use and the associated costs of each. While there may be a well understood
frontline cost savings associated with the cost of the actual product, the overall
return on investment or cost avoidance connected with the implementation is
often not fully understood. Combined
with the need to monitor utilization of disposables, compliance to protocol,
education and training, and waste reduction (not to mention everything else) it’s
no surprise that few organizations have the resources in their purchasing and
supply chain management departments to measure the impact of the interventions
that they implement.
Often the responsibility of
measuring clinical outcomes falls to quality, patient safety, or performance
improvement groups within the facility who are siloed away from product
decision making teams and frequently scrutinize outcome metrics independent of product
This is where an opportunity exists
for local sales representatives to bridge the gap between product, outcome and
financial and utilization data to provide a comprehensive representation of
whether or not their products are working as intended. While healthcare organizations are held
accountable to quality and patient safety standards, so too should the products
and services that they employ. In finding
new and innovative ways to incentivize sales representatives to work with
internal stakeholders and provide concrete data on how their products are driving
positive outcomes, healthcare facilities will be more able to ensure that the
products they purchase are working as intended.
In the next installment of this
series, we will discuss strategies for deploying sales representatives with
internal stakeholders to collect and manage data relating to product efficacy.