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Salespeople in the surgery room could be driving up your health care costs

salespeopleIt’s not uncommon for salespeople working on commission to be present during surgeries and even advise surgeons during procedures. Now their presence is under scrutiny.

Medical device companies, their sales reps and surgeons say there’s no problem because company salespeople are experts on particular devices, can aid with installation, and can help surgeons better use new devices they may be unfamiliar with.

Critics say device reps attend surgeries to persuade surgeons to use their brand of a device over a competitor’s.

Device-dependent procedures, such as hip replacements, are growing as baby boomers age. To help keep costs down for consumers, insurers are starting to crack down on health care costs. They’ll tell a hospital that they’ll only pay a fixed price, or “bundled payment” for certain surgical procedures like a hip or knee replacement.

In response, hospitals are taking a harder looking at the price tags of devices and the salespeople who want them to use the latest model.

When Loma Linda University Health began going “rep-less,” it reduced costs for total knee and hip replacements by more than 50 percent in 2015.

Brent Ford is a former medical device sales rep who now works for Nashville-based HealthTrust. He told NPR that hospitals are “starting to figure out what these reps make for a living. They feel like they’re making too much money, and I think that’s why they want them out.”

Do you know if a device sales person was in the operating room during your procedure? Share your thoughts with Voices for Affordable Health.