How practices can handle hospital sales calls

The dynamic between physicians and pharmaceutical sales reps may be changing, but that doesn't mean practices have become pitch-free zones. In fact, many of the 30,000 drug and medical-device reps who were laid off during the past five years still visit medical offices regularly, but now on behalf of hospitals looking to drum up referrals, American Medical News reported.

While former pharma reps are certainly well-suited to reach physicians with information about a hospital's service lines or how to make referrals, many such physician liaisons intentionally avoid traditional sales-rep tactics, such as catered lunches for office staff.

"It's not sales," said Lyle D. Green, associate vice president of the physician relations department of the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. "Our approach and general philosophy in building relationships is educational," he said. "Then once they make the referral, we're the customer service people. We call it referral assistance."

Nonetheless, experts warn physicians to use caution when listening to anyone attempting to influence their medical decision-making. According to Eric G. Campbell, director of research at Massachusetts General Hospital's Mongan Institute for Health Policy in Boston, doctors should require liaisons to provide objective data to back up any claims about patient outcomes.

Moreover, physicians should remember that, regardless of the approach, hospital reps are indeed looking to market a service that they want you to recommend to your patients, noted Roy Poses, clinical associate professor at Brown Alpert Medical School in Rhode Island and president of the nonprofit Foundation for Integrity and Responsibility in Medicine. "You have to be very, very vigilant so as to protect the patient's interest," he said.

To learn more:
- read the article from American Medical News